the maker is
an extension of bodies
the vehicle for expression
for framed intention
a site for experience
the maker is
an extension of bodies
the vehicle for expression
for framed intention
a site for experience
As we move into the fourth week I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the first few sessions as Next Choreography. The last three weeks have laid the foundations for this course; in the first session we had an in-depth discussion on the definitions of choreography, and in the second session we created choreography scores in groups, taking inspiration from the methods Joseph Burrows used to devise Speaking Dance (2006). Notation, or dance scores, can be a great method to trace and translate choreographies, and it was very insightful to see how each group built on Burrows’ principle to develop unique rhythmic structures. We shared our work with each other towards the end of the session, providing an opportunity to take on honest feedback for our own development as choreographers.
At the end of last week’s session, we were all invited to participate in the work OK Future by dance artists, Lucy Suggate and Connor Schumacher. The work has toured the UK and Europe where every performance space has been different. Different participants, different settings, different movements. This idea, in part, points towards one of the questions OK Future probes at. How do social environments control behaviour? In what ways can movement and consciousness be manipulated by the presence of unpredictable, human activity? Why do we let other people mediate the way we want to move when, paradoxically, we can’t be certain how they will move themselves? OK Future looks at the inner anxieties that bodies experience when we feel socially exposed. The work challenges the existence of social etiquettes by creating an alternative performance space which does not let us conform to predetermined, behavioural codes. Very exciting stuff!
I would like to share some of my personal reflections just here. I don’t really want to divulge too much information about the piece, so if you haven’t seen it then please read past this bit. My very rough, post-performance notes include:
The illusion of the inflated silver balloon… what was it doing?
At what point did you stop caring or feel unawkward?
The role of music in the piece – its trance-like, somatic purpose.
How did other people react to my movement?
Did we have full agency in the piece? What was the role of the voice-over?
Party? Release? Bonding?
What is the boundary between dancer and spectator?
The NC festival rehearsals are in full swing, with only 3 weeks to go ! We have be running all over the Siobhan Davies building: from dancing in the lift, the changing rooms, the parlour and even outside in the court yard (let’s be grateful for the sunny weather over the past few days !). The Festival is looking to be a busy day, with a huge variety of choreographic pieces, art work, soundscapes and installations. The audience will also be welcomed to get involved with a workshop and several participatory pieces.
The NC cohort have also been working on an ensemble piece with guest artist Martin Hargreaves. This is focussing on the principle ideas of Signature, Theft & Translation and to what extent are these possibilities or what happens when we use these ideas within dance or choreography. Martin asked us to all devise a short phrase of movement, words or drawing which represented each of these words. Surprisingly, the greatest challenge for us as we approached this task was defining these words. Many of us soon realised that our personal ‘signature’ within movement, is perhaps also theft; we acquire gestures and habits from others and subconsciously are always ‘stealing’ – we can never dance in a vacuum, as such. ‘Translation’ we decided felt less intentional or destructive than ‘Theft’, which to us symbolised taking movement or art that isn’t ours. Not simply copying, but also claiming ownership of it. Problems surrounding cultural appropriation were also stirred up with the idea of ‘Theft’ and how certain dance styles become appropriated by the mainstream media, with little regard to the original origins. Subsequent to devising our individual three pieces, we then worked in groups to combine our work. This lead to even more layers of watching other groups, recreating, remembering and recollecting their work, until we had several ‘meta’ works, all of which are intricate copies, translations and memories of other people’s work. And yes, it made our brains ache too when we did it!
The NC team have one more rehearsal with Martin this thursday before the dress run in two weeks time. I am interested to see how the piece will be finished, and if there are any more layers can add to the piece. By it’s nature, the spontaneity of the piece is a key element, so I am hoping that it won’t be a ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ piece as such, but rather a continuous exploration, even on the day itself.
If you’re keen to see this work, or simply have a passion for creativity, dance and community make sure you come to the NC Festival on Sunday 9th July at Siobhan Davies Dance.
Look forward to seeing you there !
tripping on words to make movement – second session
In the second session, we started by making some poetry ourselves, thinking about placement of the words in space and the rhythms implied by that. We also considered the process of extracting/highlighting/choosing information, in making blackout poems.
I handed out word cards, newspapers, black markers, and scissors, and these were some of the results –
and a dreamy video of the blacking out that Fran and Bethany were doing –
We found especially interesting Maisie’s approach, moving into the 3 dimensional, and Fran’s idea that a piece of text, divided into sections, could be understood in different ways according to the arrangement of the sections on the page.
We then took our cues from the reading+listening experiment we had done in the first session, and chose to try the following:
One of us would read a piece of text – we chose to use another one of Caroline Bergvall’s, and the reader ended up being myself – and the others would be assigned a semi-often occurring word each (in this example, the words were ‘point’, ‘close’ and ‘face’) and a corresponding gesture. Whenever that word was heard, the gesture would be acted out. By doing this, we were trying to make visible the act of listening, and of processing information.
Here is an extract of the video documentation.
To perform this task was more difficult than expected, but we decided to go a step further:
The gestures would stay the same, but instead of a word, the performers would listen out for sounds – we chose
‘r’ (we noticed that would be relatively easy to pick up on because I pronounce it a bit differently than the others, in American English)
We also used a different text: A page from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a novel well known for its close- to-complete incomprehensibility.
James Joyce, in Finnegans Wake as well as in Ulysses, plays around magnificently and irreverently with sounds, words, meanings, associations, insider jokes, and notions of counts as intelligible and what doesn’t.
The fact that this was such an exhausting thing for listeners to act out was the crucial bit for me – I am really interested in that heightened state of paying attention and how the immersion and the struggle is made visible by embodying the process via gestures. I also consider this a live act of translation.
tripping on language to make movement – starting point(s)
This was the mind map Stephanie and I ‘started’ with – having discussed, filtered, connected a lot of material before we even started the first session with Fran, Maisie, and Bethany.
We were trying to find out how our interests in gesture and body/text relations, respectively, could merge and play off each other – it was a process of figuring out how to name/ describe these inherent connections that we instinctively felt were there.
Caroline Bergvall in her book of poems Fig: Goan Atom 2 plays beautifully with fragmentation, sounds, multilingualism, especially in her piece 16 Flowers.
Bergvall’s book was one of the first things the dancers became transfixed by in the examples of poetry I had brought to show them. We did a few experiments reading this piece of hers [extract]
vagrant rOse paths compressed
hover matin l’aRose in- Mers
a-glimp th ornful umineuse darKorolla
faint Fur st special irrésistible
Lansoft -goRous elovelash petals absorbed
smallred Vibrant lovegash pétales embedded
White throated flatfanned dressLash lovétale
PINkdraw -inGirls lovcrest pétalent Bedded
I was fascinated with the different ways each of us interpreted the ‘rules’ of this piece, and with the effort apparent in the reading of it. It felt to me like people were performing the task of poetry right in front of me.
I tried to further the relationship between the body and the process of comprehension in the listeners by asking the performers to tap a pen on a surface, making a sound, every time they thought they had heard and understood a word. (Bear in mind that it is harder to do when you don’t have the text in front of you.)
This required immense concentration on behalf of the listeners, and produced unexpectedly divergent results – people’s habits of understanding were not in sync at all.
The last part of this endeavor was to try and translate the text into gesture as we were listening – at which point, interestingly, performers sometimes made the same movements upon hearing a certain sound without having paid attention to what each other were doing. It looked like they were faking speaking sign language.
This is the edited recording of the readings and our reflections.
After this first session, Charlotte gave me her observations and, the points I found most useful to take on were:
To be more clear when giving instructions – have clear in your own mind what the structure and plan is, and where there is space for deviation.
How do I make the relationship between body and text ‘readable’ (haa) to an audience?
In general, what is the audience experience? So communicating framework and context and thinking about relatability.
Since my project is so process-based, my role should be in guiding that process – so I should do more watching and responding to the performers responses – also keeping an eye out on who responds how to the exercises I propose.
Take the luxury to concentrate on one thing and investigate it deeply, rather than trying to do as much as possible in as little time as possible.
Especially for the audience related questions, the Young Artists Feedback Forum will be very useful – and the other points, about guiding a process, I think I will be still learning about for longer, as I go and keep making work beyond this project.