Erica Buechner’s “underlie” dancers at Art Produce / Photo by Doug McMinimy
Erica Buechner’s “underlie” dancers at Art Produce / Photo by Doug McMinimy

This post has been updated.

Erica Buechner has been playing with the intersection of stories and dance for a long time. She’s been trying to get a Creative Catalyst grant for a while, too. Her successful 2018 application — her second attempt — partners with Art Produce, a nonprofit art and community center in North Park to produce “underlie.”

Creative Catalyst grants are provided by the San Diego Foundation to a small group of artists to foster collaboration and community engagement. Each artist applicant must partner with a local nonprofit that will either act as a fiscal sponsor or full collaborator. And the latter is what Buechner sought with her partnership with Art Produce’s Lynn Susholtz and Nikki Dunnan, both of whom Buechner has collaborated with in the past.

“Whether we got [the grant] or not, we were going to uncover something. Something was going to come to fruition,” Buechner said of the beginning stages of her partnership with Art Produce.

North Park Art Produce / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Buechner pulled two chairs into the middle of one of the performance spaces in Art Produce, starkly empty at the moment, awaiting installation for this weekend’s shows. This will be the room where participants in Buechner’s workshops — specifically intended for non-dancers — will perform dances crafted around recorded messages of a truth or a lie.

“If we share stories, that’s how we build relationships that are more meaningful,” Buechner said. “The stories that are underneath the surface really make us who we are, but we don’t share them.”

Erica Buechner / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Buechner isn’t new to crafting dance from written stories or texts.

“I’ve always loved working with words,” she said. In fact, it’s become a staple in her work. Examples include her “The Dying Swan: Revisited/Re-envisioned,” and several years ago, Buechner was part of a summer-long intensive education program with TranscenDANCE in National City, which used creative writing instruction and resilience training to empower youth dancers how to tell their stories and choreograph them into expressive movements.

In that instance, the choreography Buechner taught ranged from sweeping narrative concepts and emotions to specific meditations on single words.

With her Creative Catalyst project, “underlie,” Buechner focused on a method more in line with that specific model, which she taught in a series of workshops at Art Produce since landing the grant last spring. She encouraged her workshop participants — ranging from seniors to refugees — to break down and choreograph every single word, somewhere between semiotic critical theory and … charades.

“The goal is really to keep each word as a new idea,” Buechner said, moving her arms while seated to demonstrate an example sentence (“they said it was just a phase”) before ultimately standing up to dance.

“I love the slightly disjointed feeling that it creates. There’s a tension in it that isn’t related to emotion,” she said. “It’s just there. It doesn’t lull you. I love that.”

In this gallery room, throughout the weekend, the dancers will express several truth or lie sentences in this manner, including potentially doing some “on the spot” choreography for audience participation.

Underlie dancers with texts. / Photo credit Doug McMinimy

In addition to a fully produced performance by professional dancers outside, attendees will also be greeted by an aerial performer suspended from the front gallery’s ceiling, with words written directly on a cloth to be unraveled by the aerial artist. Videos, visual art and participatory projects will fill the entirety of Art Produce’s space.

For Buechner, her biggest hope for the project is to trigger conversations in the community that has raised her as a dancer. As a child, she studied in a summer workshop Jean Isaacs held in her hometown of Ramona, and moved on to dance classes at Palomar College and SDSU. On being rooted in San Diego, ultimately, she asked herself, “Is this OK, just to be here?” Her answer was yes.

“Underlie” takes place Thursday and Friday at Art Produce with performances and self-guided tours beginning promptly at 7 p.m., with an additional performance at 9 p.m. on Friday. Saturday’s show has been canceled due to forecast rain.

More Dance, Fiction Podcasts and More News for the Culture Crowd

Ephrat Asherie Dance / Photo by Matthew Murphy
  • Even more dance! The beloved Beyond Babel show is back with a second season, through March 30, in its Sherman Heights project space
  • San Diego writer Mike Sakasegawa is currently trying to fund Likewise Fiction, a podcast of underrepresented voices in modern literature. “I want to create a new space for voices that have traditionally not been included in the literary world, and to be able to share the wonderful stories that have mattered to me so deeply as a reader,” Sakasegawa told me. The first season already has some amazing talent lined up, including Brandon Taylor and Esmé Weijun Wang. (Kickstarter)
  • The word “genocide” was recently spray-painted on a statue of Columbus in Discovery Park in Chula Vista. Blood-red paint was also poured atop the figure. According to clean-up crews, this isn’t the first time damages have occurred. (Fox 5)
  • An evening of scientists doing storytelling? Yes, please. Friday at UCSD.
  • Also at UCSD: Open Studios offers up the work of more than 40 visual arts MFA and Ph.D. students. It takes place all day Saturday, with a performance in the evening. Learn more about some of the artists here. P.S. weekend parking is free!
  • CityBeat’s cover story last week was an in-depth look at longstanding fears of budget cuts at the city level and how they’ll affect arts and culture funding.
  • More news from Art Produce, paper artist Bhavna Mehta was recently announced as a 2019 resident at the gallery, beginning May 31 with a collaborative performance with Monarch School students.
  • An all-womxn pop-up fair, “FEM MADE,” is this Saturday at La Bodega Gallery.
  • And the San Diego Vintage Flea Market happens this Sunday in the North Park Observatory parking lot. I feel like everyone’s zeitgeist-fueled clutter purging is going to make for some sweet windfalls in flea markets and thrifting.
  • Waxahatchee plays this Sunday at the Irenic, which is always a nice place to go if you want to fill a vaguely holy room (and also your heart) with loud and lovely raw sounds.

Closing Soon

Food Beer Booze Cannabis News

  • This article is so full of shade that even the URL contains SEO shade (“upscale-yuppie-craft”). R.I.P. Small Bar as we knew it. (The Travelers Club San Diego)
  • Thorn Brewing commemorated the Cutwater Spirits and Anheuser “$150 million per day” Busch deal by publishing a handy list of local independent distilleries. Cutwater news notwithstanding, I for one am appreciative of this handy to-do list.
  • Maybe I’m a pessimist but I feel like we all knew this was going to happen. The legalization of cannabis has made pediatric medicinal therapies harder to come by, and harder to insure. (CityBeat)
  • Part miniature mountain history lesson, part restaurant review. Grand Ole BBQ expands way, way, way east and is worth the drive. (Reader)
  • This is … a lot of pink. Get your Crema insta filters ready! (Eater)
  • I’m currently penning an upcoming feature on beer writing in San Diego and why it’s so great. If you have any memories, favorites, counterpoints or anything noteworthy to share, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

  • Next-level “pop-up” culture: A beached whale corpse was towed to sea, and sunk as a pop-up habitat. This New Yorker feature on a Scripps’ Institute of Oceanography scientist’s attempt at giving a whale found in Point Loma a burial at sea (a “whale fall”) is morbidly fascinating and quite beautiful. Even the part about “remarkable bone-eating worms.” Remarkable! The richness of detail also includes how the Italy vs. Costa Rica match was on the control room TVs at the time, which is descriptive writing I can appreciate.
  • If you haven’t been listening to Claire Trageser’s KPBS podcast series, Dr. J’s, about a 15-year-old crime in southeastern San Diego, do it.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect changes to the “underlie” performance schedule made after this post originally published.

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