Wherefore Art Thou Polymath?
I recently decided to make a shift with what I'm calling my performing company/collective vs. my educational outreach. For a long time, they were synonymous under the Tap Awareness Project, but I'd been tossing some doubts in my mind about whether that was what I really wanted. One of my favorite contemporary choreographers is Michelle Dorrance of Dorrance Dance, and I have a working theory/superstition that part of the reason her company has become such a success in the last 7 years is because her company name doesn't immediately reveal itself as a collective predominantly made up of tap dancers. It's odd to say, but I really do believe that as soon as you say the words tap dancer that audiences expect something specific from what you create, and if you don't align with a mainstream notion of tap dance that they'll be disappointed.
I know this is kind of crazy... but just listen to some of these company names:
Tapestry - Tappening - Chicago Tap Theatre - Capital Tap - Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble - North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble - The American Tap Dance Orchestra (later became the American Tap Dance Foundation) - Syncopated Ladies - The Copasetics (named after a term coined by Bill Robinson) - Sarah Reich's Tap Music Project - Not Your Ordinary Tappers
This is not to say that these tap companies are A) not successful, or B) not well named. I guess I'm just curious why there's a general trend of tap dancers forwardly revealing their identity. Whereas many other dance companies tend to be a choreographer's namesake:
Dorrance Dance - Martha Graham Dance Company - Abby Z and the New Utility - Mark Morris Dance Group - Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company - STREB/Ringside - FDANCE - Giordano Dance Chicago - David Dorfman Dance - COCo. Dance Theater - Battleworks - Alvin Ailey Dance Theater - Alonzo King LINES Ballet - Batsheva Dance Company - Doug Varone and Dancers - Merce Cunningham Dance Company
I wasn't sure that was a trend I wanted to follow either... my work is obviously rooted in my interests, but I've never wanted to create a performance group under the label of my name. So I went looking for something else. I've always loved words that are unnecessarily epic sounding (just look at the titles of my work). I stumbled upon the word Polymath from a Facebook post by David Parker, a choreographer based in NYC. He used it to describe a group of people that he was surrounded by at the time, and I immediately became fascinated because A) I didn't know what it meant, B) it sounded epic as fuck, and C) because I respect Parker's work with The Bang Group (modern dance meets tap dance - duh). I came to find out that the word means many (poly) knowledges (math), and fell in love with the concept immediately. Tap dancers are inherently working with many knowledges because they function as both dancers and musicians.
I knew that I wanted to be surrounded by Polymaths. I knew that together, we'd make a larger, more complex Polymath.
So, I decided that the Tap Awareness Project would become a separate offshoot from my artistic work. My dancers and I will spread the joys and complexities of tap dance, while the collective will create work that defies singularity, and in some ways unification. We'll work to deconstruct the notion of borders between genres through our hybridization and translation of knowledges across bodies, space, and time. We're not just dancers. We're not just musicians. We're not just writers. We're not just visual artists. Where not just humans. I believe we will be something entirely new.
Polymath also sounds like the name of a prog metal band to me.
Added bonus - OOO is oddly similar to PPP.
I think that's all for now. Long Live Polymath Performance Project!