Conceived by Kurt Fulton and Michael Kraus
Directed by Kurt Fulton
Choreographed by Michael Kraus
Created and performed by Inga Borg, Tracy Darin, Kurt Fulton, Chantal Germain, Leah Goldstein, Kim X Knowlton, Michael Kraus, Iris Rose, Maggie Siena, and Allan M. Tibbetts
Original music by Joshua Fried
Bulgarian concert folk music performed by The Trakia Ensemble and The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir (processed by Joshua Fried)
Setting and costumes by James Siena

PS 122, NYC      September 1988

First green
Watchface: The Dance Project

New Born

Kurt Fulton, coming from a background and training in both dance and performance, was very curious to blend the methods of Watchface movement creation with those of traditional choreography. Choreographers of dance take their inspiration from any and all stimuli, only bounded by their own imagination and experiences. The same can be said for the ideas
that inspired the movement in Watchface performances, but how those ideas translated into
the eventual choreography was more specific, as described in METHOD.

Encouraged by the Chazz Dean-James Siena-Joshua Fried collaboration, The Music Project,
in which they combined Watchface techniques with those of music composition, Kurt
reached out to friend, dancer, and choreographer Michael Kraus to work together on a
performance that would merge Watchface methodology with Michael’s more traditional
approach to choreography. Michael’s background and experience were in ballet and
various modern dance techniques, as was Kurt’s original dance training. Michael’s only
previous knowledge of the Watchface style was viewing a performance of Sin.

Kurt’s interest was not only in mixing the methods of movement creation, but also mixing
levels of movement ability. He wanted trained dancers to perform the compositions created
by Watchface and the Watchface members to interpret a more technical dance
vocabulary. The similarities and differences in physical styles would add yet another layer to
the ideas behind the choreography.

Michael gathered a cast of dancers who were interested and invested in experimenting with
a more organic process of creating movement, rather than simply being given steps by a
choreographer. They were Inga Borg, Tracy Darin, Chantal Germain, Leah Goldstein, and
Allan M. Tibbetts. Michael knew the dancers from the ballet studio where he was currently
taking classes, with the exception of Allan who was a friend of Leah’s from SUNY Purchase.
Kurt invited the members of Watchface to take part. Maggie Siena and Kim X Knowlton
joined the cast and James Siena agreed to design the set pieces and coordinate costumes.
Kurt invited Joshua Fried to add the accompanying score. In addition to his original
compositions, Kurt asked Joshua to include the sound of Bulgarian women’s traditional
choruses. Kurt felt their primitive, often wailing sound would be an appropriate aural addition
to the subject matter. Iris Rose had already agreed to participate when she was only a few
months pregnant with her son, Joseph Foster Siena. Kurt very much wanted her point of view
and presence in the piece since it was Iris’ pregnancy that had inspired the motivating
premise of the performance – birth. First green was the chosen title, an expression
representing the start of spring. The “g” in green was left in lower case, to evoke the phrase
and its meaning, not an abstract title.

With the concept of birth and beginnings also come the matters of death, sex, and the
complete cycle of life. Kurt and Michael wanted to include these ideas, both
conceptually and anecdotally, through the experiences of the cast members. Various
questionnaires and writing tasks were given to them, with the requests directed toward
their role and point of view in the performance. Materials were gathered from the
assignments and used as spoken text or ideas that fueled the various performance
techniques used.

The performance included eight sections, each with its own idea and movement point of
view, either Watchface-driven or through Michael’s choreography – or a combination of
both. Iris began the piece with a monologue she was tasked with writing about her
relationship with death. She equated death with a twin she was – that we all were – born
with. Death script For all of Iris’ moments in the show, she remained seated in a chair,
designed by James, placed downstage. Her seated position was not only dictated by her
advanced pregnancy, but she also acted as the anchored earth mother in contrast to the
often frantic movement and verbiage around her.

With no music or text, the segment that followed represented sex and included the complete
cast, executing movement coming from both Watchface methods and Michael’s
choreography. The six women then combined to create three simultaneous duets about
pregnancy and impending childbirth, with Iris depicting the hopeful expectant mother,
Maggie as the woman wary of pregnancy and its complications, and Kim portraying the
woman resentful of society’s assumption that all women want to be mothers. This was
followed by the four men performing an aggressive movement and text section
characterizing the male role in conception. Chantal danced an evocative solo about
motherhood; Kim and Maggie then embodied both the romantic ideals and the messy
actualities of a new life. To Joshua’s original score, the six dancers performed an abstracted
mating ritual ending with Michael and Leah personifying conception. The final section
depicted the perpetual cycle of life, with illustrative gestural movement over text of personal
experiences of birth, death and transition.

Kurt and Michael were thrilled with the score that Joshua composed. The integration and
processing of the Bulgarian choirs into his original music elevated the work. His new score
added modernity, while the moaning harmonies of the choir music grounded the dance in
an earthiness that would have been hard to attain otherwise. Joshua’s music notes The set
pieces designed by James consisted of four benches and three chairs that lined the outside
of the stage area, where the performers sat in view of the audience until it was their time to
enter the action. The chairs were also part of the staging, taken on and off by the performers
who used them. Costumes were an eclectic mix of styles and cuts of everyday clothing, all
in white, as were the chairs and benches – white representing the purity of all things new.

First green was performed at PS 122’s Stomp, PS 122 press release a semi-annual presentation
of new choreographers. Stomp poster Other choreographers on the bill were 2nd Hand Dance and Karl Anderson. Stomp program The mix of new performers with Watchface was stimulating
both creatively and socially. Michael and Leah were cast in Watchface’s White less than a
year later, and Allan joined Kurt in the revival of Sodomite Warriors in 1994, performing Chazz
Dean’s role.

Stomp was the only presentation of the show. The additional cast of dancers had their own
projects and priorities. To get all ten cast members together again would have been
logistically improbable. And Iris gave birth to son Joe less than three months after the PS 122
engagement in early December 1988.

As described in a review by Deborah Jowitt in the Village Voice, “There’s scarcely a quiet
moment, but scarcely a dull one either. The piece seems to end suddenly, in the middle of
nowhere, but, then, lives do that these days.” Kurt and Michael dedicated their
collaboration to friends who had recently passed: Michael to William Carter and Kurt to
Stephen Reichard. Stephen, a professional publicist and promoter of the arts, was a friend
and Watchface supporter. He was also the owner/landlord of the Franklin Street building
where Iris, James, Kurt, and Kim all had lived at various times and where the rehearsals for
the first Watchface shows were held.