Created by artist, Brendan Fernandes, Clean Labor was a contemporary dance performance that made visible what is too often overlooked: the work of hospitality workers and cleaning professionals whose contributions ensure that our homes, offices, schools, hotels, and public spaces are safe, clean, and livable. Fernandes collaborated with six dancers and members of the housekeeping staff at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to design an original, contemporary dance inspired by the movements and routines of their work. The resulting performance explored the similarities between the graceful and methodical movements of maintenance and those of dance, establishing a dialogue between the two physically demanding professions and making witnesses all the more aware of how our bodies shape and are shaped by the work we do. As the artist notes, “On stage, dancers enact romantic gestures of grace and virtuosity perceived as effortless and ephemeral, whereas in reality, these efforts leave a permanent mark on the body in the form of muscle memory, altered physicality, and injury.”
hroughout the performance, the movement artists engaged with and activate the spaces of numerous spaces of the Wythe Hotel by reproducing the gestures of maintenance as contemporary dance. Even though the piece was rehearsed and scored, the live performance relied on improvised movements, taking inspiration from and engaging with the spatial elements of each site, and the social/psychological environment introduced by spectatorship.
Clean Labor included performances by Christopher DeVita, Charles Gowin, Madison Krekel, Erica Ricketts, Oisín Monaghan, Khadijia Griffith with Wythe Hotel housekeepers: Angie Sherpa, Tenzin Thokme, and Tenzin Woiden. Special thanks to Eric Shiner, and Amanda Jane Graham for their work as key consultants.
Photographer, Chester Toye
Produced in collaboration with More Art