I once saw Schpando edit an MFA thesis.
The alter ego of Dancemakers Local Artist in Residence Andrea Spaziani, Schpando is also the performer of the upcoming work This Desiring Pony. The aforementioned editing took place in a performance last April titled Unbecoming Ego, at the outset of which Schpando stood at a laptop and typed her first comment “fuck shame. Take that word out.”
According to a blog post, Schpando’s existence was first publicly documented on October 15, 2015. “The genesis of Schpando was moving and talking to myself for long periods of time,” Spaziani told me in an email. In one video documentation, SCHPANDO illuminated, a camera facing a mirror records such a dialogue: a body exhausted by movement asks repetitively of her reflected image, “who are you” and “what do you want,” drawing out the moment of encounter with this string of intimate, unanswered interrogatives.
Spaziani describes exploring “personal history, dreams, unthunk thoughts, and unsaid saids,” in a process that led to her enigmatic other self: “a personal, affective collage, using words to somehow frame her engagements.” Indeed, language seems a recurring theme for Spaziani, and for Schpando. In her artist statement for This Desiring Pony, the former writes of the latter, “She is constantly morphing and slipping out from under the constraint of language.” Indeed, language feels too strict, Spaziani tells me, with all its rules and syntax. “The combination of dance and language is dubious.” Words themselves might be freer. “Words … can just exist. And yet they are still contingent to flow, like my rusty plié.”
Words are also central to how Spaziani, and we as onlookers, might understand Schpando’s presence. “I like to think of Schpando more as a verb than a noun,” she explains to me. “To Schpando is to maneuver, and ignite sensitivity and complexity. To Schpando is to dismantle an axis by erecting one first.” To Schpando might also be to struggle with a cluster of metallic helium balloons, like in the video Schpando: Unitard in situ, rolling erratically and heaving a leg in protest before coming to rest, tangled in their gleefully coloured ribbons.
With This Desiring Pony, Spaziani notes, “The most pressing question is how to find the courage and energy to affirm the present and to keep going on.”
It’s a funny thing, the present. In so much theory of performance, it’s been vaunted, held up as the singular time in which it all happens. And aren’t we always told, by sources from pop psychology to parents, “to be in the present”? Of course, the argument can swing the other way too. Performance certainly lives in more than the present, with the longevity promised it by everything from Vimeo, to online reviews, to our memories. And many of us may shout back, that amid socio-economic precarity, being only in the present is not always an option, Dad.
Yet Spaziani, with Schpando’s help, seems to address the present anew. Not in isolation, not as all there is, but rather as something that is, with more to come. In This Desiring Pony, Spaziani writes, the present might be “a satisfying bruise,” a feeling “of chronic low-grade emergency,” or the “bondage of a brand new ‘you.’” It might be composed of “tension, the rotation of an axis, levitation and ferreting out blind spots,” Spaziani tells me: “the physicality of courage.”
The present might start now; it might start when we all get to Dancemakers. Either way, Spaziani and Schpando ask us to feel it, and to feel what comes next, and maybe to “let go of [our jaws] for just a sec.”
This Desiring Pony by Andrea Spaziani runs on December 15 and 16 at Dancemakers Centre for Creation.