I’ve been offering a workshop that I call “Weirding,” which is a braiding together of meditation-, movement-, and performance-based practices, ritual, reading, and discussion. This space comes out of years of experiential research—including in collaborations with other artists and weirdos like Lea Kieffer, Tomislav Feller, Eli Nixon, and Erica Dawn Lyle—and thinking with the work of people like Erin Manning, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and Valentina Desideri and Stefano Harney.

Being seen as “weird” is not typically sought-after in normative culture.  People and behavior labeled “weird” are usually perceived as annoying, inconvenient, undesirable, immature, less-than-human, and even as so threatening that they/it must be eradicated. Humans are expected to move, speak, touch, and perceive themselves, each other, and the world in limited ways according to cultural values and hierarchies. Bodies out of step with these values and hierarchies (neuroatypical people, trans people, Black people, to name a few) are noticed and frequently punished directly and indirectly for their “failures.” But the etymology of “weird” is from the Old English wyrd, “having the power to control fate” or “that which comes.” It also has origins in the Germanic root wer, “to turn, to bend.” So, “weirding” is a creative, collaborative, and experiential space for wondering: what can a body do? For proliferating possibilities. For creative resistance and restoration. For exploring what kinds of feelings, thoughts, and perspectives might be accessed when we are invited, challenged, and propelled outside of the shape, rhythm, duration, and quality of bodily-ness most typical for us in our day-to-day.

Many cultures/spiritual traditions made/make spaces, rituals, and techniques for this kind of moving beyond day-to-day thinking, moving, relating, and perceiving. I did not grow up with a culture or tradition of practices for this, so I have spent time seeking ways to unlearn unequivocal faith in knowing, naming, and achieving in a normative sense and move towards the unseen and the weird. I have learned cues and clues from practices outside my ancestral lineage (notably Buddhist philosophy and practice) and within queer and trans social spaces and experimental dance and performance lineages (some of which draw significant influence—knowingly and unknowingly—from Asian, African and other creative and spiritual traditions) that I have been a part of. I also make up my own approaches under the influence of teachers and in collaboration with human and more-than-human companions.

I long for, as I know so many of us also long for, ways to move beyond the normative and become available to/for the strange and unseen in ourselves and the world. We need creative techniques, discipline, boundaries, encouragement, collectivity, and solidarity (with humans and more-than-humans) to undertake this process. We need these things because it can be hard to find the way out of boxes that we’re in, because opening to the as-yet-seen can leave us too vulnerable and disoriented to function, and because it can feel challenging and even scary to move, feel, and think in unfamiliar ways. It is important to find ways to do this in integrity, including seeking out practices within our ancestral lineage and divesting from cultural appropriation, and so many of us do not have (immediate or obvious) access to that. I am wondering and thinking about this so much right now, in community, in accountability, and I am exploring what is possible in the absence of access to those things. I notice that moving towards confusion, chaos, vulnerability, and even boredom care-fully and on purpose is part of this work.

I don’t think “weirding” is a definitive way or the only way to reach a more “authentic” or “better” way of moving, being, or thinking. I question the notion of “authentic” and rigid hierarchies of value in the first place. I see dancing and engaging other body/consciousness/perception expanding/destabilizing practices as doing philosophy, but a kind of philosophy that is more concerned with questions than answers. In fact, dancing and the practices contained in “weirding” are in large part ways to learn greater ease with not knowing, ways of becoming more skilled at being disoriented alongside others/in the world. This can be fun and cathartic and erotic and can help us to generate new kinds of creative work, but I also want to be clear that there is a socio-political-spiritual longing and prayer behind the proposals and practices of “weirding” and that is collective liberation in our lifetimes. I don’t think “weirding” is how we get there, but it might be a strand in/held by/accountable to a huge collective tapestry of longing for radical change, healing, and equity. So, I wonder what is it to practice living in unknowing and daring to be weird, while also being diviners and coaxers of weirdness and the unknown for the goal of collective liberation?

Hana van der Kolk is a queer dancer, artist, and facilitator living on unceded Mohican, Mohawk, and Haudenosaunee lands (Hudson Valley, NY). Hana works across pedagogy, performance, celebration, and personal and collective restoration and transformation, collaborating with many including Erica Dawn Lyle, Tomislav Feller, and Angela Beallor and Elizabeth Press (EP). More at hanavanderkolk.com