Effie Bowen looks people in the eye. She draws her viewers with her, deep into mysterious, glittering atmospheres. Performing her own choreography or that of regular collaborators like Jen Rosenblit and Kim Brandt, Bowen’s projects tend toward performance art. She boxes, reads aloud, jigs, falls asleep, rolls on the floor, strips, and jogs, ever wielding an impish wisdom and seductive humor. Through both action and language, Bowen presents provocative reflections on queerness and gender without apology.
Rhythmic precision and sharp musicality saturate Bowen’s movements. With steady demeanor, she flies backwards and into exact, coiling turns as though controlled by high-strength magnets. And like magnetism, her movement seems both dense and completely intangible: it is of the earth but in no way earthy. Her dances exude the cool, grounded lizard and fierce, buoyant hummingbird all at once. She balances these paradoxes atop her head, which remains improbably still.
Leslie Allison (Rail): What do you envision when you move?
Effie Bowen: I don’t begin a process by collecting concepts but by collecting actions. These actions happen in the studio, at my job, in the club, or walking down the street. After amassing movement situations, then I can more clearly recognize the concepts that emerge and that hold the work.
Obviously, my dance-making is impacted by the art and films I see, the books I read, and the conversations I have, but I rarely transpose my experience of looking at a painting into a dance phrase. I get easily obsessed with music and I will listen to the same song over and over, and I do the same with dance moves or improvisational structures.
Rail: What are two words that are on your dance-mind of late?
Bowen: Embarrassment and believability.
Rail: What is the role of your face while you are dancing?
Bowen: My face is a part of my body and I’m not shy about using it to convey emotions. I’m aware of my facial expressions as a very readable performance—people know when I’m angry, when I disagree with someone, when I’m in a dance show I don’t like. In my work, I don’t need my feelings to be clear to the audience, so my face often disrupts the audience’s assumption about what “experience” I may be having.
Rail: How would you describe your internal rhythm?
Bowen: My body feels very hyperactive. I remember watching a film of myself dancing and thinking that it was digitally sped up but it was not, so there is definitely a fracture between the way my body looks and feels in motion.
Effie Bowen’s next performance will be in a shared evening with Tatyana Tenenbaum, November 5th at Dixon Place, as a part of BRINK curated by Alice MacDonald. Her writings on dance have appeared in BOMB, Interview, andMovement Research Performance Journal.
LESLIE ALLISON is a writer and musician. She composes choral music for performance collaborations with Francis Weiss Rabkin, and her illustrated chapbook of poetry about Martha Stewart, MARTHA, will be released in April 2015 by Ugly Duckling Presse.