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  • Tristan Koepke

Thoughts from I AM IN A BASEMENT

I AM IN A BASEMENT premiered on December 3, 2020, presented online through the Virtual Performance Series at the University of Maryland School of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.

The people that have danced for me have informed, and furthermore, haunted, my dances. Collapsing the inquiries from two earlier dances, Hana with Gabi by Tristan (2019) and Long Division (2020) upon each other, I developed this new solo project as an attempt to translate and reiterate two choreographies into one subject: me.


I've often avoided solo work; group collaboration is at the heart of why I continue to give so much of myself to dance and process. But the COVID-19 pandemic paused ongoing in-studio collaborations with other dancers, and the only way for me to maintain consistency and regularity for my creative practice within a studio was to enter it alone.


I AM IN A BASEMENT unfolded a process of inheritance, memory, and an intertemporal reflection of the dancers, rhythms, and architectures that haunt my work. I built small accumulations of memory, emergence, and iteration, connecting across vast distances to echoes of collaboration. I rehearsing and filmed the project in a basement studio, equipped with a fallout shelter and plenty of clanging radiator pipes, with the help of Minneapolis artists Joe Tennis and Maggie Zepp.


The development of this work has been instrumental for the current direction of my ongoing research into hauntology as a critical lens for my choreography. In I AM IN A BASEMENT, I began investigating myself as a haunted subject, sedimented by specters of the past, filled with a longing for lost utopian retrofuturities.

This is a story about ghosts. I am about to be what was supposed to be. What would have worked then, and doesn’t quite work now. The floor is dirty.


People. I am not a solo. I feel feelings. I make sounds.


This is a story of ghosts, and the spaces they inhabit. I am in the space. The space is in me. So, this space. This whole space. The whole earth. Tombs. Immediate. Repeated. Underground. And them, the ghosts. Impressed upon me. Longing. Belonging. Deep. Deep. Deep. Deep in your bones. Is this too heavy? Is it heavier than a pound of butter? Am I bigger than a bread box?

“Even when orientations seem to be about which way we are facing in the present, they also point us toward the future. The hope of changing directions is that we don’t always know where some paths may take us: risking departure from the straight and narrow makes new futures possible, which might involve going astray, getting lost, or even becoming queer.”[1]

--Sara Ahmed

[1] Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006), 21.