POSSE is a dance and reading circle that first started in Stockholm in February 2017. During the last year it has taken place at c.off, hosted by different practitioners from the field of dance and choreography. POSSE is right now organized by Alice MacKenzie, Austeja Vilkaityte, Klara Utke Acs and Lisen Pousette. We asked them what POSSE is and how it will develop.
POSSE is a gathering for dancing and reading that takes place on a regular basis. It is an open-ended study circle and each session is hosted by a different practitioner within dance, choreography, visual arts, mime, philosophy and other fields. We like to think of it as a gathering point: you know someone will be there, but never exactly who.
How did you come up with the idea and what were the needs that led up to it?
Initially, the wish to create a space for gathering around text and dance came from a proposal by Tamara Alegre. This was in 2017 when Tamara, Klara Utke Acs and Lisen Pousette were studying at DOCH and Chloe Chignell was living in Stockholm. What then came to be POSSE emerged from a collective wish for an informal context where you could share ideas, materials and spontaneous inputs related to both reading and dancing. We felt that there were other contexts where you could share practices, by which we mean: something you as an artist have spent a lot of time and work on, with others or by yourself. Due to this, we felt there were few or no contexts where you could share text- and dance related ideas that were not expected to be highly articulated and/or have a certain degree of academic/professional weight. This does not mean we wanted a less serious form of gathering – rather a space to gather where we could seriously approach the un-articulated together.
We felt a need for a space where it was possible to share everything from an abstract idea to something you’ve tried once or a 10-year practice, with an emphasis on the doing-together with the people that are there.
POSSE started out as an extracurricular activity and a way to parasite on DOCH’s space. Several dance studios were often left empty in the evenings, but impossible to access if you’re not a part of the institution. Later on, we decided to initiate the collaboration with c.off and ABF, to make it more accessible for people who weren’t necessarily studying at DOCH and to see what POSSE could become in a different context.
POSSE evolves around both text and dance/choreography as a point of departure for each session. What methods do you work with to engage with the material and in what ways can the textual and choreographic elements overlap and intertwine?
Yes, text and dance is really the basis — it’s what we gather around. We think that POSSE is as much about reading and dancing together — to explore what that could be — as it is about the choices of materials. Since each session is hosted by a different person the kinds of materials and approaches change. As organizers, we have set up the time frame and the idea of a dance and reading group and the hosts define for themselves what this could be. The host makes a proposal in terms of the material and a method to engage with it. Examples of readings could be to read an article on hair and magic whilst braiding each other’s hair, to listen to a text through feeling the vibrations of another body, who is reading it out loud, or simply, to sit in a circle and read a paragraph out loud one at the time. The method of approaching the dance material also varies just as the kind of dance material itself varies. Whether it is a dance phrase, a score, a meditation, lip-syncing, growling or doing drag, the idea is that the host proposes and then we all figure out how to deal with that proposal together.
Have you discovered any expected or unexpected synergies (connections, co-operation, liaisons) over time when pursuing this type of practice with a repetitive format.
During the time of organizing POSSE we have been building an archive of the texts and dances that have been proposed. This was not a clear intention in the beginning, but has happened through time and it is something that we have really come to appreciate. In contrast to the simple nature of the format that POSSE proposes, the text and dance archive that is continuously unfolding offers an incredible richness. This would have been impossible to plan or imagine before starting. In addition to being a record of texts versus dances, the collection has become an overarching POSSE archive, where themes connect, threads intertwine and interests overlap. Rather than deciding on the kind of content in advance, POSSE has been building a discourse through doing and according to the interests, curiosities and desires of the ones that have taken part and proposed. None of us has participated in every single POSSE, however everyone that has participated in POSSE — to whatever extent — has their own references according to the sessions they have been part of. It is like an open-ended web of knowledge.
Do you have any specific ways of dealing with the selection process for the content of each session?
It varies between us asking people to host and people proposing themselves. The idea is that the host has attended a POSSE before. Even if they decide to host the POSSE in a very different way, it is nice to have a reference to how someone else has done it and to sense the vibe of POSSE. It creates a discontinuous cohesion to the sessions. Either people that have participated in a previous POSSE have an idea and propose to host a POSSE on a particular date, or we encourage and ask colleagues to host. It can be a good excuse to read that text that you never get to read on your own or to learn a dance from your favorite music video. Sometimes, we also ask people that are passing through Stockholm but are not based here, even if they haven’t participated in a POSSE before, but are familiar with the format.
From time to time, we have discussed whether we should make a more clear outline and direction in terms of the content. We tend to read feminist, intersectional and critical texts whether they are articles, song lyrics, stories or poems. However, we want to insist that how we read the texts and engage with them is as important within POSSE. So if we read a text that has problematic aspects we deal with it in an explicitly critical way.
What are your plan and vision for POSSE in the future?
For now we will see how the current format and way of organizing ourselves is working. We recently changed from meeting every Tuesday to meeting two Tuesdays per month, and now we are testing to see how that works and if it creates the kind of cohesion and consistency that we would like POSSE to have. We are also discussing the format in terms of sustainability and relevance. The weekly POSSEs are driven entirely voluntary by both us as organizers and by the hosts. We need the format of POSSE to serve us rather than us serving the format. Spelling P0$$€ with a zero, dollar signs and euro like we did initially was a wink at the fact that we are voluntarily organized, were not paying for space and free to attend.
A number of POSSEs have been started in other cities by people who spent some time in the Stockholm version. It is very exciting to see how the POSSEs in Copenhagen and Melbourne unfold and what questions and aspects that will arise in these contexts. At the moment there is also a discussion about starting one in Montreal!
The next POSSE is taking place at c.off on Tuesday November 5th and will be hosted by Ellinor Ljungkvist. The following POSSE sessions will happen on November 19th, December 3rd and December 17th.
To see who is hosting and to access the archive of POSSE in Stockholm, you are welcome to join the Facebook group