Author: Jill Kimball

In ‘Parallax,’ women’s issues are human issues

This joint MFA dance recital explores the many facets of feminism

Women contain multitudes.

Pouting cover girls aren’t just pretty faces. Feminists don’t always eschew dresses and jewelry. And women of color are scholars, CEOs and intellectuals—not just men’s fantasy objects.

That’s what MFA candidates Samm Wesler and Bonnie Cox want to impress upon those who attend their joint dance concert, “Parallax.”

As the title hints, both works deal with the way women live multiple, often conflicting, truths. Wesler, for example, identifies as a feminist and also puts on a full face of makeup every day, something she’s been accused of doing to please men. And Cox, a Chicana immersed in the scholarly world of ethnic studies, has a hard time identifying with the stereotypical hypersexualized Mexican-American woman portrayed in the media.

“A parallax is this idea that truth can exist in a giant sphere, and depending on where you are in that sphere, you’ll see a different thing,” says Cox. “Samm and I have very different experiences; we identify with different groups. It’s about our individual perspectives on truth.”

Cox’s piece is the culmination, she says, of a three-year investigation of her own identity as a woman of color. The four movements, which contain elements of modern, contemporary and Latin-American social dance, explore personal and political borders, the impossible expectations placed upon women, and the ins and outs of tribe mentality.

“It’s all movement generated from the emotions the dancers and I feel about the assumptions people make about us,” she says. “It comes from a very raw, vulnerable place.”

Wesler’s piece, too, is an exercise in vulnerability. As an undergraduate in tiny Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, she believed she was a model feminist—but in recent years, she’s realized how much more she still has to learn, and she’s grappling with that through dance.

“My knowledge of feminism was so small but so groundbreaking there,” she says. “Then I moved to Boulder and realized, ‘Everyone’s a feminist here; this isn’t my thing anymore!’”

As she delved further into the study of feminism, she found just as many revelatory theories as she found prescriptive restrictions.

“Sometimes the academia of feminism was restraining to me,” she says. “I like to embrace my femininity and sexuality, but often, feminism is telling me I can’t. That doesn’t feel inclusive.”

Wesler believes no one can or should conform to anyone else’s rules, because we all want to express ourselves differently. Each movement is named after a layer in the ocean, because she believes people are like the sea: “There’s so much we know and we see, but there’s also so much hidden below that we have no idea about.”

She’s plumbing the depths of her own hidden insecurities in this solo piece—all the better to practice what she preaches.

“I had the realization that to choreograph this piece for other bodies would be a kind of cop out, that if I wasn’t doing it myself I wasn’t really facing it,” she says. “I question the choice to do a 25-minute solo in the round in my underwear every day, but there’s no turning back now!”