Note from the editor (Jeso): AUNTS is one of my favorite dance groups in New York City. Everyone and all are welcome to perform, be involved, attend, drink, shop, interact and, most importantly, dance at an AUNTS event. To me, AUNTS are a throw-back to the art “happenings” we read about in art history (and that I so wanted to be apart of). I am beyond thrilled that AUNTS will be taking over the PS122 Season Launch Party next Tuesday (9/24) at Issue Project Room. If you haven’t been to an evening hosted by AUNTS, I’d suggest you get on their mailing list quick. An entirely different world awaits you.
Don’t know what a non-familial AUNT is? Here’s a great Q & A that the leaders, Laurie Berg and Liliana Dirks-Goodman, did with Time Out New York some time ago. I clipped it to make it shorter for the blog, but you can read the full article here.
Time Out New York: When did you discover AUNTS?
Laurie Berg: I remember going to an AUNTS show in 2005 or 2006 in Williamsburg and thinking, Oh my God—why didn’t I know about this? I’d been living in New York for a couple of years, trying to figure out how am I a dancer, where do I fit, and what am I supposed to be doing here? I felt like there was this community of all these young people that I related to, and it got me really excited, and somehow I started helping Jmy and Rebecca with events. They would dress me up in an outfit, and I would stand at the door and check people in; I started inviting all of my friends to come to the events.
Liliana Dirks-Goodman: I think at one event, I was like, “Oh Jmy, this is so cool—I love it. I want to help or do something,” and so I started helping too. I’m a visual artist, and I went to architecture school. When I first started going to AUNTS, I was working as an architect. I really liked the freedom and the playful atmosphere that was going on there. My mom’s an artist, and it was kind of like all that art-happening stuff that I always thought should exist and I knew did exist, but I hadn’t seen it yet. It was an easy way to interact with people that wasn’t just hanging out and drinking—it was dancing and being weird.
Laurie Berg: I also remember seeing people that I was taking classes with at Movement Research—and seeing my teachers. They were performing alongside their students. It wasn’t necessarily intergenerational, but people at different stages of their artistic careers were interacting. That was important.
Time Out New York: When did you take over?
Laurie Berg: In 2009, when Jmy was still running AUNTS, we helped with an event for the Movement Research Festival called Factory/Market. We also helped with “Team One,” which was at the Chocolate Factory.
Liliana Dirks-Goodman: And I helped with “Populous,” which features ten simultaneous performances, depending on what the space can take. The audience also occupies a place on the stage, even though there’s not really a traditional stage; the audience has a designated space that’s similar to how the performers have a designated space. We came up with ways to almost draw this map of boundaries on the floor.
Time Out New York: What do you want AUNTS to be now? How has it changed ?
Laurie Berg: I think that one of the most important things is that it’s always a place for the community; the community will shift and morph, but it always needs to be open so that it never becomes an insular thing. Also, that it stays interesting for us as artists creating events—and this sounds bad—but not making other people our experiments. It needs to be about the community and not about our ovearching ideas. To me, that becomes choreography, as opposed to an open-forum event and structure. That’s interesting to think about. But I don’t want AUNTS to be that.
Time Out New York: There aren’t a lot of opportunities for artists like this, right?
Laurie Berg: No—not that are open. Maybe there are opportunities, but they’re focused in a certain direction and this is more about, you pick your direction and we’ll provide you with space.
Time Out New York: What do you think of the New York dance world right now?
Laurie Berg: That’s a huge question. Since I’ve been here, I feel like it got lost, but it’s coming back around—maybe it’s constructing itself again. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but it does feel like it was trying to process too much, and now it’s like, No—we’re a community; we’re going to look at dance again. It became very ironic and afraid to be what it is. Now people are going back to that idea of, I love to dance, and it’s an important facet of art, and I’m a valuable part of society. I deserve to be here. Dance is reasserting itself. And this dance community in New York—for all the things people complain about, it’s kind of amazing. You go to an AUNTS event, or to a party or a performance, and you see people, and you’re like, Wow—you’re my cousin, my sister, my brother. Maybe it’s not unique, but it feels unique to me. It feels like you have this crazy family.