We were joined by the incredible Rod Harris on 10/26/16 who carefully captured some gorgeous moments, documenting one of our very last light-filled rehearsals at Studio @ 550. The piece, featuring Katie McGrail & Katharina Schier, will debut Nov 11&12 at the Boston University Dance Theatre as part of Luminarium's Portal: Stories from the Edge.
A few strung together journal entries in attempts to find an ending to my newest performance-based creation.
Some time around the end of spring 2016 I decided I wanted to make something based on communication. I had a visual in my head of two active figures moving amidst a group of maybe five passive individuals that would serve to occupy space and observe, but not interact. Since August I've been working with Katie McGrail and Katharina Schier - both incredibly engaged performer/participants - to make this come to life.
As these things do, my thought has been evolving and deepening since August as the piece decides where it wants to go.
I’m making a piece for a November production that will be built on the idea of two dancers communicating and interacting through various movement vocabularies and physicalities. The work is currently about communication and its difficulties, as well as the management of personalities and relationship. In my thinking about authenticity, artifice and spectacle I’ve been intrigued in exploring the use of the word histrionic and its identity as a label in various contexts over time. I’m even more interested in exploring what a ‘histrionic’ movement vocabulary might look like. The work will feature two performers utilizing solo work and partner-heavy duet work in addition to an ensemble that serves mainly to watch the piece onstage since listening and observing (or lack thereof) are a huge part of communication. -From my MFAIA Study Plan
In rehearsals and my own thinking I am digging into how the two active performers, Katie and Katharina, are connected. On a basic level, what would happen if the only other person that you can communicate with was someone you loathe or someone with fundamental differences of opinion? Yes, we have to work to understand each other, how far should one go? How do you act when you aren’t heard (if you act)? I’m also considering communicative ulterior motive, manipulation in communication and as a device, and fluidity in self and relationship. I communicate as the person I am at present, a different person than I was in the past, so what happens if we speed transformation up onstage and the feeling between the two individuals is allowed to evolve? I realize there is a lot here, but as I explore with the dancers I think we will isolate what’s most important to the specific statement we end up making.
Since this is a nonverbal piece, amusing since it’s about communication, instead of words I am building a language from movement and interaction. Yes, dance-makers do this in most every piece we build, but I'm treating this instance differently. It’s very important that both movement and interaction are very authentic— genuinely conceived and executed with minimal superfluous choreography. Throughout the process I've made some material for Katie and Katharina that requires some form of decision making, be it in how they interact with each other, how they choose to physically absorb the material, or how they outwardly present the movement they possess.
Rehearsal footage demonstrates our beginning efforts to make movement that speaks. In Manipulation Sketch 1 I tried to make the movement dependent on the genuine interactions; the phrase can only really advance with the moments of touch and those instances are real reactions instead of purely choreography. Manipulation Sketch 2 lets the dancers rotate through a pattern of floor work, the dancer not completing the choreographed movement acts as a manipulator before rotating into the set movement, at which point their roles switch. The floor work is set in advance, the counterpart-reaction is purely impulse based. Solo Phrase 1 is an attempt at setting movement that speaks. It isn’t as partner dependent as the other two rehearsal videos, but I tried to give each action cause for happening and gave the dancers autonomy over delivery of the movement.
Last week’s rehearsal primarily consisted of discussion. I tweaked one small moment that was bugging me, and we joked that was all we were able to accomplish, but it was great to sit with Katie and Katharina and get their feelings, input and opinions about the piece and process. Ideas of importance are considering ways to keep the movement present and how we can prevent the pathways of risk taking from becoming stale or comfortable. Another concept to keep present are the idea of the observers joining them on stage, what does that entail and ultimately mean. The themes of surveillance, observation, and power mentioned in group study are intriguing, as are the noted moments of resonance (such as the chin tap) in comparison to their physical experiences. We danced the work one more time to cap off the rehearsal and I feel like it gained both a new dimension with additional understanding and also a sense of clarity.
The first six minutes of this piece have presented a consistent feeling through struggles with power dynamic, all considerations of relationship and tempo and I feel that it’s due for a shift. Compositionally I feel that Katharina has been pushed a lot in the beginning segment of the work and her presence needs to change. I feel a sort of defeat coming for her, a withering up of sorts, so that Katie can discover that there’s no interaction or communication without someone on the other end. Perhaps stripping some of the communication back to find vulnerability before building back into a duet will be the direction I go.
Saturday, August 13
We left Charleston after a final explore on Saturday, August 13 and started our drive to Durham, North Carolina. The drive was a reasonable five hours, at least in comparison to the day before, and accompanied by nearly 70 wacky and fairly insensitive billboards for an aging tourist attraction called ‘Pedro’s South of the Border’ as we progressed up the highway. Billboards advertising pralines and canned goods, okra, mainly, started tapering off as we entered the northern of the Carolinas. While Durham was brand new to me, a friend and fellow MFA candidate had been singing its praises since they day we met (shout out to Amy Unell who also provided an unbelievably comprehensive list of Durham attributes and took us on a killer tour of Duke the next morning), and I was excited to see what we could fit into a condensed stop.
Happy to be out of the car by late afternoon we walked for hours by indulging our curiosity all over the city, trying to make some sense of the layout and mostly failing. Durham sprawls, it is wide open, there is a lot of diversity in building heights, minimal signage, and what isn’t brick is very light stone. It’s an excellent city for getting lost and the experiences that come from wandering without purpose; at one point we walked into a cupcake shop's birthday party and were welcomed to stay (southern hospitality is definitely a thing). Yet again it was incredibly hot outside, temperatures were in the high nineties with no sign of breeze, and the only signs of city life were a long line snaking down the block outside an ice cream shop that didn’t pop up until after dark, a trickle of individuals headed into a Lyle Lovett concert at Durham Performing Arts Center and the distant roar of a large group of people at a minor league Durham Bulls baseball game. Perhaps that’s where everyone was.
I had several thoughts wander through my head as we traveled and took in our surroundings. In efforts to understand the prevalence of bulls everywhere we stumbled upon the history of old tobacco and wandered through the converted tobacco buildings. I am torn with how intrigued I was with the old brick buildings and compounds, despite their origin in the needs of a terrible industry, but their history was alive and I couldn't help but feel a sort of attraction to the old brick buildings. Towards the end of the evening we were approached by a homeless man in a three piece suit and hat asking for money. I was taken by surprise both by his level of dress and the amount of clothing in relation to the extreme heat, but remembered that the man we encountered in Charleston asking for money was also fairly formally dressed. I’m very curious about this trend, but didn’t feel that it was my place to ask about his attire out of the blue. The next morning, after some incredible avocado toast that deserves special mention, Amy and her pup Luna drove us around Duke. As we saw some of the more iconic sites of the University, the Duke chapel among other landmarks, I wondered about the aesthetic and function of the college town. It felt so much like Amherst in a Southern way, perhaps there's a secret formula for developing such towns. Additionally, Durham felt fairly liberal and I know a lot of fantastic open-minded individuals that live or lived in North Carolina. How do such small liberal pockets easily exist in a state that can otherwise pass such atrocities as HB2 (the bathroom bill)? I collected these thoughts, questions and observations, unable to dive in to any of them with brain that was rapidly becoming saturated, and hope to revisit them as I continue breaking down my travels.
Durham was where I had one of my most meaningful connections and performance experiences of the entire trip. Amidst our long walk all over the city we found a mural in an empty lot. Sitting across the lot, staring into the mural, was a man in ripped, dirty clothing, speaking to himself, who identified himself as homeless. I was interested in the swoopy simple lines on the mural as a sort of dance language, and asked if it would be ok if I filmed a quick dance at the site. As I performed movement that was awkward and clunky as I tried to move in heat and sandals on gravel, he sat rapt by my improvisation. Upon finishing he enthusiastically expressed how much he enjoyed the impromptu performance. I was excited by the fact that perhaps I enhanced someone’s day-to-day experience with my project. This felt like progress, despite not having specifically defined sub-goals to accomplish during the trip.
For video click here.
What feels like a million years ago we showed a glimpse of my new work, rabbit hole cycles, at the Luminarium Gala. At that point I knew what the work was about, knew roughly what I wanted to accomplish, and knew the deadline to find a stable stopping point (yikes). More on the content of the work another time, though.
Since the gala, I started a grad program to work on my MFA (as you probably know) and continue to work away at this new piece. I've never been so actively aware of my process, and as I reflect on my work I've been generating a series of screenshots from rehearsal footage to take snapshot assessments of where I'm at! In case the world is interested, one of my major goals was to house this piece in multiple worlds, all located in one stage space. I am differentiating these worlds through the use of light, so it's vital that each has a very unique look and feel, while the light-source/technique is fully integrated into the work so that it doesn't feel gimmicky or extraneous. The piece is also designed to repeat endlessly (with the dancers' roles switching), if only we had concurrent stage spaces. Someday...
The images below are really rough and experimental, of course! Most looks involve cheap clamp lights as placeholders (there's only so much a gal can haul through Central Square), and other makeshift equipment. I'm SO excited to show off the polished lighting and other scenic elements of this wacky piece but you'll have to come check out Spektrel if you want to be the first to see it! Tickets here.
(click on images to view larger)
World I: Multidimensional Shadow
World 2: SIlhouette vs Shadow Interplay
World 3: Stripped. Hanging Bulb/Mobile Light Source
What do you think? Curious enough to come fall down the rabbit hole with us?