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She remains adamant that a straight woman wouldn't make the kind of no-holds-barred work she creates. "The whole nature of how you ordain your life as a lesbian is just organically, physically different," she says. Besides the obvious marker of the love duet, Gadwa has also noticed that gay and straight female choreographers use space differently. While hesitant to generalize, she thinks straight women "take charge of the space less, and their work is more contained."
But Carlson, whose performance work often defies categories, configures her sexuality as just one part of an array of influences, meanings, and ideas. "There's much more fluidity around gender and sexual identity than is readily nameable."
Monson, too, sees cause and effect flowing both ways: "I experience the world first and primarily as a dancer. All these other identities are a part of that." Like Johnson, Monson never fit into the conventional mold, and throughout the '90s sought a gender-neutral movement vocabulary for her company. Looking back at an era defined by the political urgency of the AIDS epidemic, Monson remembers also choreographing pieces such as Lesbian Avengers Pounding Dance, in which 25 to 30 women lay on the floor beating out contrapuntal rhythms with various body parts.
"I was part of a community that was out in the streets and in the theater claiming our right to live," she says. "Being a lesbian choreographer meant making a certain kind of work."
Recently Monson, now 42, has prioritized process, site, and abstraction. "I'm involved with a much more complex investigation of the body," she says. "It's definitely influenced by my physicality, which is influenced by my sexuality. But in dance you can express this in a more complicated physical language."
Still, she recognizes that sexual identity is inescapably political. "As a lesbian you perceive the body as a place where power gets played out," she says, "because you're defined as Other. It really is about your body and who you are when you walk down the street."
"Other Voices" by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Anne Gadwa's work appears at the HERE/Dixon Place "FUSE NYC Celebration of Queer Culture" on June 16, and at WOW Café Theatre June 26 (with Jennifer Monson), 27, and 29. Jen Abrams can be seen at HERE on June 17. Visit here.org and wowcafe.org/monste for full details.