A return to the Fishtrap

A map of our process from Day 1, drawn by Paloma McGregor. Photo by Ricarrdo Valentine.


This week is full of so much excitement, nostalgia, questioning, and reflecting for me, and much of it centers around the return to my own relationship with water and art making. The catalyst for all of this activity at Dance Exchange is the hosting of Paloma McGregor, who joins us this week as part of the Green Choreographer Research Residency. Paloma is a dynamic artist who wears many hats. Some of you may know her from other work she’s done in the DC area and with Dance Exchange; this week she’s in residence to facilitate and crack open her own processes, which look at our relationship to water and water sites, and explores how the body is a site and container of memory.

Matthew and Laurie M. Taylor in Building a Better Fishtrap, performed in the Bronx in 2012.

This is work that she’s been doing for a few years now, whose genesis is rooted in questioning her own relationship to water and legacy, called Building a Better Fishtrap. Paloma is from St. Croix, one of the Virgin Islands, and comes from a history of fishing. We’ll have a chance to hear Paloma speak about her own story in a few days, so I’ll not speak for her. But this work has taken shape in a number of places around this part of the world and in a few different ways; in fact, prior to joining Dance Exchange, I was a part of the Fishtrap. And that’s one of the things that has been really riveting for me this week. As we talk about memory, and work together in remembering and retelling of stories, I can sometimes feel very visceral responses to those memories. In remembering my time in the Fishtrap, the work we did along the Hudson River, and the performance we had in the Bronx I can feel that movement and those ideas still living in my fascia and tissue and swirling around in my body. Almost like the ghost of dances past. When I start to think of my own growing up near the Gulf of Mexico, and the many trips taken to the Galveston Bay I feel something much deeper. More rooted. In the pit of my stomach, that travels up my spine.

Paloma and collaborators visit with Fred, the Riverkeeper, along the Patuxent River. Photo by Matthew Cumbie

So far this week we’ve shared movement practices, generated material (both written and physical) in response to stories told, chanted, played memory games, and traveled down to the Patuxent River to visit with the Riverkeeper there named Fred. We’ve tuned our attention and listening, we’ve mapped the process each day, and we’ve had some really powerful conversations. For me, it’s been both a grounding and unsettling process. I feel even more rooted in my interests of art making and community engagement, but have found new questions that show me there is more work to be done.

Rather than continue on and on about what I’ve found exciting, I encourage you to join us and do your own digging and discovering! Paloma will be discussing and sharing some of this work, and her larger body of work, at our HOME event this week.

Things kick off at 7 pm on Thursday, March 20, and won’t last past 9. She’ll also be facilitating FRIDAY Class this week, from 9:30 to 11:15 am on Friday, March 21. I hope to see you there!

About Matthew Cumbie

Matthew Cumbie (Associate Artistic Director) is a dance artist and collaborator who currently lives in Washington, DC.