NOT for reTALE | Emily Smith

Emily Smith is the Artistic Director of NOT for reTALE, creating kinetic sculptures and performances. She and Elena Rose Light co-produced and curated Fête, in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former member of the dance company Leimay, premiering their piece “Borders” at the BAM Fisher in 2016. Emily also was a member of Layla Mrozowski’s “BAAD” Bicycle Awesome Adventure Dance Tour, and spearheaded the DIY national dance tour “Six and Four Articulations”. She currently works as a metal fabricator for Carol Bove, performs for various projects including most recently Alex Romania’s JERK, and is working on her own Series Polite structures.

Artist Statement:

My interests lie between performance and sculpture, between aesthetics and social comment, between material driven research and the ungovernable impulse of a surreal sensibility. Dance focuses attention on the body, only the body — a specificity which in ordinary life would seem inappropriate. This depersonalization activates a unique kind of intimacy — an intimacy which my work mines. My performer’s bodies have been stripped of their daily cadences but not of their longings, hungers, thirsts, and needs. I also make sculptures for my performances — props which blur the line (wherever there is a line, there is a blur) between costume and set. The concept for Polite Structures is embedded in and generated organically through these objects. I’m particularly interested in the life a sculpture takes on after its birth — after the making is over and done. For me, that life is takes place in a visceral present tense — in performance.

Social Media:

Instagram: @smith.egssmith

Polite Structures:

Polite Structures is a performance series which incorporates movement, sculpture, and sound to create an immersive, uneasy, sexually charged atmosphere. The female performers are hobbled by exaggerated, sculptural leg braces which I cast, welded and shaped in aluminum and steel. These contraptions are both provocative and uncomfortable to move in. Each time a dancer tries to take a step forward the braces drag her feet to the floor — such that progress can be made only through labored half-steps. Their calves are elongated, the line of their upper thighs extended, and their movements become muscular even as their feminine forms are emphasized. These tensions, both physical and aesthetic, result in a movement-score that is full of physical intensity and disturbing visual beauty.

Formally and normatively my structures might be considered a warped evolution of the high heel. Heels originated during medieval times when they were worn by both men and women as a sign of elevated class. They also elevated their wearers above the muck on the streets. The heel’s role in the contemporary mainstream can be attributed to the nascence of mass market pornography and the industrial revolution, which made steel and prurient fantasies similarly cheap commodities. My own heels, which look something like metal appendages supported by armatures, are likewise a confluence of romantizations, contradictions and literalizations. They both sexualize and diminish, elevate and invalidate, and they give physical manifestation to social constrictions while granting entirely new powers of movement. My work is informed by my own participation in a labor force that both taught me to weld and devalued those skills as secondary to my sexual identity.


“Polite Structures 101” Promo Holo and Berlin

“Polite Structures 101” Early Stages:

Sound Pic – Up Test Videos:

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Polite Structures 101 from Prague:

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Polite Structures 101 from Holo Brooklyn

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“Polite Structures 102” Designed with Artist Pei-Ling Ho

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Polite Structures 103

I’m working on this third Design NOW and will perform with this third design with a live pre-recorded video on May 4th.

Here are some drawings and in process pics.

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Tests with Projector on Fiber Glass

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Back to 2020 Performance Mix Festival

Support New Dance Alliance and Performance Mix Festival 34: Remotely Yours