TCT: We know you’ve previously acknowledged how growing up in Louisiana’s football culture has influenced your art; how has that changed since you moved up north to Chicago?
VB: I think the influence of football culture is ingrained in me. The crowds, the fanfare, the virtuosic performances, the pure scale of it all, the systems and rules, the logistics of a stadium… I suppose what’s changed since coming to Chicago is that I have a more conscious understanding of why I was so fascinated with all these things to begin with, of the theory behind it all, of how to apply it in my own work on a different scale, in different terms—but it’s still from that same originating place, the Saturday night game.
TCT: What inspired you to start your Instagram account @vebradford?
VB: I think what you’re asking is what inspired me to start posting #neighborhooddances to Instagram on my vebradford account—which for all intents and purposes makes up the bulk of the posts there. So if that’s what your asking, I think I can answer pretty clearly. I was 34 years old, and without a plan, I packed my things on a truck, put myself on a plane, and headed home to Louisiana. I felt compelled to return. I felt it was time. I had never intended to stay in Chicago, and at some point I realized I was just coasting. I needed to fail better than that.
Moving home meant moving in to my parents’ garage apartment. Meant losing my independence and sense of adulthood. Meant losing my space to work and community within the arts. Meant getting lost again, a hard reset. Where to begin?
I didn’t even feel like dancing, but I decided to try. The only place I could figure was the driveway at my parents’ house. It was March. I probably danced there in that burgeoning heat, on that wedge of concrete, neighbor’s fence in the backdrop, for months before anything changed… My movement felt tired and stunted, I wondered whether my body was the vehicle with which I should be speaking anymore, but I kept on dancing waiting for something to turn.
One day I walked to the front of the house, on the path to the front door, and set up a shot for video there. I captured it on Instagram and that became Neighborhood Dance #1. Following that I was still tentative, moving from front to back to side of the house—eventually, the neighbor’s yard seemed feasible. Then the whole neighborhood came into view and I began to realize the potential.
I danced the first 165 days, never missing a beat, failing at so many other things but at least finding my way through for fifteen seconds each day. I still have questions about where I should be and whether home can truly be a home for me again. But I’ve lived the questions out in every dance, marking space, searching and trespassing, excavating my body in relation to its surroundings.
Now I’m back in Chicago, nearing 400 dances, no end in sight.
TCT: What’s next?
VB: I’ve got several projects going…
The first is just a week and a half away, part of an ongoing project called Skirts (skirtsfordancing.com) in collaboration with Jessica Cornish and Lia Kohl. We’ve created some experimental videos for use in a live performance on November 12.
Second is that I’m not done with Neighborhood Dances. I’m continuing to dance every day myself and I’m planning another workshop for the spring at High Concept Labs. But I’ve also asked some of the workshop participants and my sound collaborator Ryan Packard to continue working with me on the performance we devised for Defibrillator out of the workshop this past week. I feel like that was a rough draft and a week wasn’t nearly enough time to realize the work fully, so we’re going to keep working it.
Third is I’m heading back to Louisiana in late January for a week with artist Amber Ginsburg to do a weeklong residency in my hometown of Lake Charles. We’ll be staging performative interventions in which we communally and incrementally create an object in people’s homes over the week’s duration.
Finally, I’m working with the Neighborhood Dances archive to develop a database of movement vocabulary. This will provide for systems of ordering, choreographic structures, and visual frameworks, and so on. I plan to work with a programmer in the coming months to realize the data points I’ve been gathering and begin generating new outputs.
TCT: What is your dream project?
VB: To choreograph the pregame shows for an entire college football season (in the SEC).
TCT: Tell us something no one knows about you.
VB: Sometimes I wish I could go back to wearing a uniform every day like in grade school.
TCT: How would you describe yourself in 80 characters?
VB: A smart, strong, intense, and frenzied woman with style, wit, charm, and talent.
TCT: Musicals, love or hate?
TCT: Coffee or tea?
TCT: Love or friendship?
TCT: Ice skates or roller skates?
VB: Roller skates.
TCT: Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
VB: Game of Thrones.
TCT: Records or MP3s?
By April McCallum