Remi Harris + Mark Schmidt
Yes! Yes! Yes! Manifesto
By Mark Schmidt + Remi Harris
“The first and most persistent demands of gay activists were to get cops out of our spaces…and off our dance floors.”
-Mel Cheren describing post-Stonewall New York in his book “Keep on Dancin’: My Life and the Paradise Garage.
“At the Haven and the Sanctuary, we used to have a light system where green was: The cops are nearby. Red was they’re at the door. White…they’re in!”
-DJ Steve D’Acquisto in conversation with DJ Francis Grasso in Maestro by Josell Ramos
“One of the dangers and pleasures of social improvised dancing is its trivialization within “rational” postindustrial societies: those dance floor darlings are almost always suspect in some contexts.”
–Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World Making by Fiona Buckland
Yes! Yes! Yes! Is inspired by a shared love of house music, composition, and club culture. Informed by our combined lived experiences in improvised social dance, it explores notions of democratic dance space, the ethic of freedom, and the club as an adult playground. The work finds a play between camp, performance and joy in movement while attempting to capture the parallel and intersecting paths of a dynamic creative process that includes going out to the club and creating in the studio. We value the ephemeral, social interactions that emerge on the dance floor and view that physical space as a site where dancing bodies re(produce) cultural knowledge and values.
The parties that have informed our improvised social dance practice and creative work are part of a genealogy of parties that date back to first archetype underground clubs of the post Stonewall era. Yes! Yes! Yes! takes into account the crucial social, cultural and political role of two spaces in particular from this time period in dance music history, the Loft and the Paradise Garage. Within the post Stonewall context, these two parties served as dance sanctuaries for many lgbtq, black and latino New Yorkers (and their friends). As cultural security zones, they became archetypes for what we know as club culture today. Within this historical context, Yes! Yes! Yes sees dance as a political act of resistance; Stonewall is the point of departure with the Loft and Paradise Garage appearing on the same continuum. Beneath the camp, pageantry and play found in Yes! Yes! Yes there is a deep understanding and acknowledgement of the history of policing dancing bodies (bodies of color, queer bodies, female bodies). We consider the house party not only as a site of social bonding and community building but as a site of resistance.
The Party/The People
The performance sets the tone for what later becomes a central component of our production: to get people dancing, collectivising, and making real human connections. In this way, Yes! Yes! Yes! decolonizes art spaces. It centers music celebrated by people of color and queer folks and encourages the audience to reclaim the dance floor from the “professionals.” We offer viewers an opportunity to revisit those moments of shared joy, the discovery of a space to be completely themselves surrounded by others in affirmation. Yes! Yes! Yes! is an exercise in visibility and a celebration of marginality, key components in underground dance music culture and history.
At the very core of our project, the notion of community building is deeply tied to the history and function of underground dance music culture. As dance artists and choreographers, we are equally interested in fostering relationships as part of the creative process. In the past, this has happened in the form of offering open sessions about process with local community members, residencies, classes to students of all ages, and creating inclusive dance parties. What we’ve discovered is that centering joy is not only a radical form of protest but something deeply needed right now.
As an interdisciplinary creative team we pull from various backgrounds including dance making, sound design, set design and djing. Yes! Yes! Yes! offers us an opportunity to share our collaborative process as artists who bonded through a common love for club and social dance culture. We bring a changing yet vetted awareness to new areas: our landscapes, our unions, our bodies, our voices, our histories and listening. We build moments from these places, and of these places. The improvisational nature of the work harvests the regenerating daily truths in the room of the individuals present. The bodies work in harmony or in opposition to each other and the music. The process allows us to sculpt, form or surrender to chance. We give in to pleasure and create multiple versions of ourselves. We also witness each other make these choices, these excavations and vulnerable acts that proclaim our existences. We seek joy.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Media
Y3 by Shaheen Malek, b-side films
Conceived and shot by Shaheen Malek. Shot on Bolex, 16mm black and white film. Choreographed and performed by Remi Harris + Mark Schmidt. A cornerstone of the piece has always been collaboration. Shaheen is a long time friend and a very talented filmmaker. When she approached us about being featured in her 16mm black and white film, we immediately said yes. This was filmed over a few hours on a hot Saturday at the East River Park Amphitheater. We recorded our voices a few days before pulling text from rehearsal notes to use as a score. Sha set up the shots and we improvised!
Memorial Day Performance Party
Hosted by Naomi Elena Ramirez
Bushwick, Brooklyn May 2019
Yes! Yes! Yes! Is inspired by a shared love of house music, composition, and club culture. Informed by our combined lived experiences in improvised social dance, it explores notions of democratic dance space, the ethic of freedom, and the club as an adult playground. The work finds a play between camp, performance and joy in movement while attempting to capture the parallel and intersecting paths of a dynamic creative process that includes going out to the club and creating in the studio. We value the ephemeral, social interactions that emerge on the dance floor and view that physical space as a site where dancing bodies re(produce) cultural knowledge and values. The work always had a DIY feel to it; much like the parties and spaces we both frequent. Naomi invited artists to perform at her annual Memorial Day BBQ and it was a great opportunity to test out new material. We are constantly refining ways to get people dancing with us by the end of the piece.
Experiment in Bushwick at Starr Bar
Hosted by Dance in Bushwick June 2019
Special thanks to Joanna Frutal and Dance in Bushwick for this performance opportunity. We were fortunate to share the stage with some wonderful artists creating exciting work in the Bushwick area.
Bring It Home
Bring It Home, American Dance Asylum Artist Residency
Corning, NY. Curated and coordinated by Lois Welk September 2019
The week long Bring it Home residency provided us with rehearsal space, housing, and opportunities to connect with the larger Corning community. This residency afforded us invaluable resources that really shaped the direction of the work
Bring It Home Artist Residency Closing Party
Guest Artist Teaching, Hofstra University
Guest Artist Teaching Hofstra University October 2019. Hofstra University alum Remi was invited to teach a master class to dance majors. We incorporated house dance basics, social dance exercises, and improvisation techniques that culminated in a big social dance circle.
We made a line dance! Suitable and accessible for all ages!
Split Bill #34 at Triskelion Arts
Tiffany Pilgrim (aka DJ Krunk Pony) Split Bill #34 at Triskelion Arts December 2019.
Mark created a transportable custom DJ booth with spray painted milk crates in hot pink and gold.
Flyer for Split Bill #34 at Triskelion Arts, Brooklyn December 2019.
Following the lead up to the December performance, Tiffany Pilgrim aka Krunk Pony created a unique flyer reminiscent of parties from the past.
Creating Remotely: Moving Through Adaptation
Adaptation is an improvisational exercise we developed in our creative process that combines compositional techniques with elements of the movement dialogue exchanges between dancers commonly found in house music venues. One dancer “takes the stage” as the other patiently observes, supporting either verbally or through physical gestures of affirmation. The observing dancer then takes over, incorporating the other’s movement into their repertoire either through imitation or adaptation.
Top 5 Favorite Dance Tracks
- “Follow Me” by Aly-Us
- “Deep Inside” by Hardrive
- “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust
- “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite
- “Percolator” by Cajmere
- “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention
- “Love is the Message” by MFSB
- “Hot Music” by Soho
- “Rose Rouge” by St. Germain
- “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads
Favorite Dance Parties
- Papi Juice is an art collective celebrating the lives of queer and trans people of color. They have been throwing parties at Elsewhere in BK. I love their no tolerance for hate policies and for creating spaces specifically for black and brown bodies.
- 718 Sessions: Created by legendary DJ Danny Krivit, 718 sessions brings together old house heads and the younger crowd. The music always melds funk, disco, and tribal beats with a sophistication from DJ’s that have been spinning since the 70’s.
- Nowadays: Located in Ridgewood, NY this huge outdoor space, founded by the Mister Sunday party team, features DJs from around the world. The outdoor parties are great for all ages with no shortage of kids grooving with their parents and I especially love their “no phones on the dance floor” rule.
- Soulciety: Hosted by Joann Jimenez, creator of the former Brazilian house fusion party Alma and former promoter for Body and Soul, this party features the music of DJ Antonio Ocasio, founder of Tribal Winds. Antonio’s music is heavily influenced by Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms, with a spiritual foundation. This very underground, word-of-mouth party attracts a predominantly mature crowd of old school dancers, yet is kid and family friendly. Souciety feels more like a family gathering or barbecue.
- Soul Summit: Taking place at Fort Greene Park in the summer and its new winter home at Nowadays in Bushwick, Soul Summit is one of the largest ongoing outdoor house music events in New York. Very diverse and very Brooklyn, the party attracts house heads, hustle enthusiasts and African dancers alike. With a seamless mix of deep house, Afro house and soulful house, expect to see fierce, ecstatic dancing on the floor.
- A Night at The Baths: The Illustrious Blacks (Manchild Black/Monstah Black) host this very queer disco dance party at C’mon Everybody, reminiscent of the gay bath houses of the 1970s. Expect an eclectic mix of disco, underground, funk, cheap drinks, gogo boys and Afrofuturistic-psychedelic pageantry.
- House Head Sessions @ PMT House of Dance: While technically not a party, House Head Sessions is a weekly practice jam hosted by Jimmy “Cricket” Colter, founding member of the house dance crew The Crazy Natives. Held Friday evenings at PMT in Chelsea, this freestyle dance session is an ideal environment to practice your moves or learn from others. Truly intergenerational, you will likely be sharing the floor with some legendary house dancers like Conrad Rochester of the Loft Practice. Live DJ and baby powder provided.
Remi Harris is a Barbados born and Brooklyn bred dance artist and performance curator exploring the intersectionality between dance, new media and black female representation. Under dbr projects, her work manifests in movement improvisation, choreography, site specific work, movement for video, and performance curation. Past projects were featured at Abrons Art Center, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, Danspace Project, Triskelion Arts, The Actors Fund Theater, The Brick Theater, Thalian Hall, Center for Performance Research and several site specific areas in NYC. Her video and virtual reality films have been presented at the Spark Dance Film Festival, Triskelion Dance Film Festival, and the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington N.C. Curatorial work includes the Adaptable Apple series with visual artist Michelle Golden, Danspace Project’s Food For Thought series and the 2019 Dance/NYC Symposium. She is currently the Programs Manager for CPR-Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, NY.
Mark Schmidt is a choreographer, performer and educator who first found solace on the dance floors of New York City’s underground house music and queer club scene in the 1990s. His recent work explores these unique social dance spaces as cultural security zones that simultaneously function as sites of resistance and community building. In addition to studying at The Ailey School, Mark holds a BA with a concentration in Cultural Studies from the New School for Social Research and MFA in Performance and Choreography from SUNY Brockport. As a choreographer, he has presented work at Dixon Place, Kraine Theater, Triskelion Arts, Sia Gallery, Chen Dance Center and Center for Performance Research in New York, and the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, Bol Theater, and ArtLabJ in Detroit. Mark is a cabaret law reform activist and previously served as the Curatorial Committee Vice Chair at Dance Parade Inc. from 2014-2018.