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Nicole Harris: It’s so exciting to have you back to NACHMO! We have certainly undergone a lot of changes since you were with us in 2020. What have you been doing during that time? How do you feel your practice has changed? What things have you discovered to be vital to you and your work?
Jo Troll: It's exciting to be back! NACHMO 2020 was actually my last live performance before the lockdown. I think that's the real change that's happening. I struggled a lot during the pandemic and had to refocus much more on my teaching instead of performance. In terms of creation and performance, I feel like I'm just coming out of a multiyear hibernation.
This pandemic has taught me a lot in terms of the value of virtual work in terms of accessibility. I never thought that I would teach only on zoom, and yet, I see how much the virtual world has allowed more people to be able to access dance. Now, I'm trying to bring these lessons into my solo creative practice as well. I'm playing a lot more with video and the idea of performing live in a virtual way. I've been thinking a lot about space recently - my main rehearsal space is still my bedroom. So what does it mean to see a space differently or experience a space when we're not physically in it?
N: You have a background in a variety of traditional percussive dance practices. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be working on for NACHMO this year?
JT: Nothing noisy or virtual! I'm working with Irish light shoe dancing, which can feel very percussive but doesn't have the accompanying sound.I'm not quite sure what it is I'm actually doing yet, but it seems to involve a chair. I've always been fascinated by how music for dance can change our perception of time and that has been my main starting point. I struggle between the desire to simply dance and the need to say something with my dancing. I'm a trans, aroace, disabled Irish dancer and if I don't frame my work, someone else will do it for me and usually miss something important. But sometimes, I just want to put on good music and dance. I think that tension is an underlying theme in my work at the moment.
N: Your practice focuses on building connection and community and creating safe spaces for queer dancers. How can programs like NACHMO help support this goal for you and others?
JT: NACHMO already does a lot of great work in terms of just being able to build connection with other dancers. I'm really excited to see the new (to me) peer mentoring system, as just a great way to build connection. Similarly, I'm impressed by building up the diversity of mentors. Feedback is such an important thing for creators and can become so fraught because it becomes so tied up in personal aesthetic and identity. NACHMO has done great work in building up a body of mentors who have the experience and skills to serve a large group of dancers.
The main way organizations can support queer artists, particularly trans dancers, is not to settle. You have a trans choreographer? Awesome! What about two or three? And, more importantly, are they happy? Can you make their time here more comfortable? As someone who has been the "only one", nothing makes me more uncomfortable than being the excuse for an organization not to continue working on queer inclusion. And of course, queer dancers are all around doing incredible work for our dance community. How can you support the work already happening?
N: Monkeyhouse and NACHMO Boston believe that we wouldn’t be here without the support of our community. Who is one of your favorite local choreographers and why?
JT: Choosing one is very hard, but Kieran Jordan, my teacher, has always been at the top of my list. Kieran has been central Irish dance for so long and done such incredible work in that time.