I bring all of who I am into expression when I choreograph – my genetics, experience, and ways of perceiving. I spent my first seven itinerant years in Burma and Japan (my mother’s ancestral home); my first language was Japanese. Although caucasoid in appearance, genetically and experientially, I am a hybrid of both cultures. I spent the next ten years in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Friends School. My self-directed open classroom education blurred the distinction between work and play and any subject matter became an excuse to discover my world (I remember growing crawfish in a child’s inflatable pool and recording the results). My interest in science led me to Johns Hopkins University as a pre-med student where, strangely enough, I discovered dance. I returned to New York City to study dance and there began my quest in the art and science of perception through choreography.
My philosophical basis in Buddhism believes that an individual’s inner life is reflected in the environment; hence, my fascination with creating structured environments as a way to probe one’s internal world. We all have perceptual frameworks, such as biases and assumptions, that limit or filter how we interface with the world. In my work, I use large abstract props to create altered metaphorical spaces that the dancers must navigate in the same way that we, as individuals are limited or guided by our own mental models. By rendering these models visible and concrete on stage, my hope is to inspire awareness of, and reflection on, how we interpret and express being in the world. I call my choreographic work, “Movement Architecture.”
From a choreographic perspective, instead of pulling the viewer out of oneself with virtuosic athleticism, my work draws the viewer into a meditative state evoked by the scenic “atmosphere” and sustained or intensified through movement. Sometimes I pull the viewer down the rabbit hole and enter a skewed reality. Sometimes I create a physical mantra and through repetition, I cycle the viewer into a different kind of focusing. Many times, I create a dystopia.
Interview with Deborah Jinza Thayer on her choreographic philosophy.