Roundabout: Reflections on Alternative Access Routes

New England Dance Fund Deadline: September 15, 2023

Image Description: Three white women, Nicole Harris, karen Krolak, and Neve Harrington, smile and scrunch together for a selfie as the sun sets through the bare trees behind them at Jacob’s Pillow.

[Wake up at 4:30 AM. Fumble for the phone. Double check the time in the UK. Realize you did not factor in Daylight Savings Time. “Sing” a few verses of Kenny Rogers’ deep cuts. Snooze for an hour. Proceed through coffee rituals. Seek the charger. Plug in. Attach clips from pain management device to ear lobes and begin.]

At the moment I am lounging in the unceded land waters of the Penacook Pawtucket and the Massachusett now known as Malden, MA. I am working or rather imagining being a remote worker for Satelliser: a dance for the gallery created by J Neve Harrington and coworkers. In all transparency, I have never actually experienced a Satelliser performance in person. Neve describes the durational events as an intergenerational group of co-working artists cycling through labors of moving, speaking, listening, and resting over the course of a day in an art gallery. As I type, Neve’s crew, in dayglo vests, are kicking off at the Arnolfini in Bristol, England.

view of a fresco ceiling featuring light green drapes around a golden eagle
Image description: A painted fresco ceiling that greeted the international cohort of artists in Simone Forti’s Logomotion residency when we awoke each morning in our sleeping bags on the ballroom floor in Orvieto, Italy. The elaborate trompe l’oeul mural gives the illusion of a golden eagle flying above a window to the sky with four pistachio-colored draperies encircling the center.

Wait, now that I am reflecting on being a virtual worker, I realize that this weekend Kimberleigh Holman’s* Common Circus is streaming through the Providence Fringe Festival with the option of listening to it with my audio description. Having spent so much of my professional life in motion, there is something quite delightful about being able to multitask this way while sitting still on my sofa.

[Detour to the end cusp of the Aughts.]

Neve and I met on the eve of International Women’s Day in 2008 during a Nutella fueled, Logomotion residency with Simone Forti in Orvieto, Italy. Artists from Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, England, Greece, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, and the U.S. gathered in a ballroom with a trompe l'oeil ceiling fresco to weave text, sound, and dance into improvised structures. Several of us left with amazing haircuts from Katherine Ferrier* and promised to stay connected.

[Tap the brakes to recall the time just before the cadence of my days became set to the intervals of pain episodes.] 

A pair of hands on a notebook; the right hand holds a pen and is making a note.
Image description: Neve’s hands clutch a pen as she perches in thought during a moment in one of SomArts studios during Alternate Access Routes. They rest on sketches for new models of touring in a large unlined notebook.

Neve returned to the UK and nudged me to learn how to Skype. As my hair morphed from chestnut to birch bark, we continued following each other’s creative projects online. During the pandemic, changes to the New England States Touring grant guidelines provided a way for Monkeyhouse to screen Neve’s believe/been video essay about her Screensaver Series at regional events. Our audiences were captivated by how Neve centers neurodivergence in her creations. We are eager to bring more of her projects to New England. (If you are interested in joining this effort, please email me or find me at the 2023 Idea Swap on November 13 in Nashua, NH.)

Last fall, Neve and I dedicated 10 days to discussing, digressing, and dancing around Massachusetts as part of Alternative Access Routes. This intensive experiment explored ideas about access, touring, and collaboration and was funded in part through the New England Dance Fund. Monkeyhouse hosted pitch sessions with regional presenters and Evolve Dynamicz invited Neve to lead a private workshop. We walked and rolled through the labyrinth on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, toured Jacob’s Pillow, brainstormed with LROD, improvised together at a SomArts studio, and shared several memorable meals. As we engaged with different people and places, we circled around questions of time, unseen labor, equitable pay, caregiving, loss, connection, and space travel.

[Abruptly pause to meet with a contractor who showed up unexpectedly on this Saturday morning to discuss the siding saga that has sidetracked everyone in our house for months.]

Yikes. Knowing the rest of the schedule for today, this will have to wait until Sunday’s Satelliser shift to get finished…

[Merge into a hectic weekend schedule. Rush out to ASL class at DEAF Inc in Allston. Be extremely grateful that Jason Ries can drive you and that Cassandre Charles can assist you during class when pain jolts you into the fetal position. Bump into Wendy Jehlen* picking up her daughters. Swap stories about recording a recent essay for insights from Cassandre’s research on ASL for ballet and her experiences working with Abilities Dance*.

Return home to find Nicole Harris unpacking from her vacation to Canada. Slowly fade into a nap in a chair.

Startle awake in time to join Dark Room Ballet’s Audio Description workshop. Meander to the front porch as people debate the nuances of describing dance versus television or theater. Savor the smell of soil as rain overwhelms it.

Fast forward to rolling into the Arts and the Armory for OnStage Dance Company’s 360° featuring at least seven artists that Monkeyhouse has mentored through aMaSSiT at The Dance Complex or NACHMO Boston. Catch up with Jessi Stegall as you find a seat and set up pain management device. Chat with Mira Göksel  and Lynn Modell until Holly Stone whisks Ruth Benson Levin off for an impromptu ballroom dance. Marvel at the ease between Jen Kuhnberg and Teresa Dominick as they welcome people to the concert in English and ASL. Notice how choreographing in the round clarifies ideas that both Brett Bell and Libby Bullinger* have been exploring in their works recently. Hold onto the strands of a possible epiphany as the sound system and pain management tool interfere with each other and things go wonky in my body…]

These bracketed descriptions of my activities are a stylistic device that I began in Winding Up, an essay for Neve’s and an unexpected outgrowth of Alternate Access Routes. They began as a way to illustrate how my unpredictable, intermittent pain episodes shape my creative output currently. Being interrupted by the contractor and continuing the essay on another day prompted me to catalog nuances in my activities that often get overlooked and observe how many artists and organizations I interact with regularly. Even with all the Creative Ground links I included, there were at least a dozen more left out due to the word limit for this piece. Recalling all those details the next day revealed the interconnectedness and spirit of reciprocity growing within our local arts ecosystem.

[Back up to reroute the ideas in that paragraph multiple times. Return days later to edit and rewrite earlier sections. Ponder the “possible epiphany” as a way to conclude.]

What was the idea percolating toward articulation at the 360° concert? My fingers want to form the various ways to sign “circle” that we reviewed in class Saturday morning.

[Pop over to another window to research roundabouts.]

According to the United States Department of Transportation, “Roundabouts are not only a safer type of intersection; they are also efficient in terms of keeping people moving.” Even though they often provoke drivers to mutter or swear, rotaries reduce crashes because they require drives to slow down and circulate. What if we applied this logic to how we envision our career paths? 

When I wrote my New England Dance Fund application last summer, I wanted to propose the most important idea to push my creativity forward. Too often grants ask us to examine what we need to fuel our momentum or to launch ourselves through an important juncture in our career. I was nervous that Alternate Access Routes would feel too simple or too open ended to be funded. To my surprise, circling back to a friendship forged under an al fresco sky with support to move at the speed set by our embodied realities pulled me out of my artistic rut. Perhaps the key to a more sustainable life in the arts is inserting more roundabouts for ourselves and by measuring our progress by the ripples they create over longer spans of time.

So as I continue to revolve, I invite you to reach out if you are feeling stuck working on this year’s New England Dance Fund application. Monkeyhouse’s Buttress mentoring program with funding through the Somerville Arts Council, the Boston Cultural Council, the Miner Nagy Family Gift Fund, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Innovation Fund has already helped artists raise $135,000 in grants in 2023. Please contact me to learn more about my experiences with regional grant opportunities.

2023 New England Dance Fund

New England Dance Fund application deadline: Friday, September 15, 2023, at 11:59pm EST


For questions about the program, eligibility, application process or grant form:

Indira Goodwine-Josias
Senior Program Director, Dance

Cheri Opperman
Senior Grants Manager, Dance

Kristin Gregory
Program Manager, Dance


*Previous New England Dance Fund Grantees



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