For me movement connects the innermost sentiments to the physical body. This dramatic expression is visceral, forcing emotions to flood the mind and intoxicate the entirety of the being. Music verbalizes feelings – of yearning, nostalgia, fury – and its melody inspires movement. My movement fuses classical ballet technique with an instinctive physicality. Deeply personal sensations are private as well as universal, and exploring the individuality and unity of them is an aspiration of mine. In performance the difficulty becomes the ability as a performer to not only embody the proper emotions, but also to convey them to a viewer who can then recognize and sense them. The image of an internal struggle reveals a sense of pain and anguish – everyone has experienced suffering, albeit in dissimilar ways. My movement strives to compel dancers and viewers to acknowledge these feelings and confront memories, separately and collectively. A question I constantly grapple with is how can a dancer express internal sentiments on a stage in order for an audience to feel? Aside from a specific movement quality, individuality and commonality can be depicted through solo or group movements, as well as spatial positions and lighting variations that illustrate these themes. My movement indicates a constant play with these elements. I find myself fascinated by how studio artist Kiki Smith approaches the concepts of death, morbidity, and resurrection with an ease that forces the viewer to confront their own discomforts. Moreover, renowned contemporary dance choreographer Pina Bausch also inspires me to explore movement that invigorates diverse and intense expressions of humanness.
I recently found this song and, unbeknownst to my dancers, have been exploring my movement alongside its musical qualities.
Also, I’ve also been considering titles for my piece.
“If You Forget Me”, “If Suddenly You Forget Me”, “Si Tú Me Olvidas,” “Your Voice Still Echoes”, “Smoke and Mirrors”, “Making Mirrors”, “Maybe I’m Only Making Mirrors”, “Reaching Towards It, Drifting Backwards”, “Let Me Occupy Your Mind”
Any comments in regards to music and a title would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Here’s a video recording of my current piece on Mathers stage from my rehearsal tonight. I’m showing in class on Wednesday – so I’d like to ask certain questions then – but I’ve changed the music. Please just let me know how you respond (as generally or specifically as you’d like) to the movement with the new music. N.B. I realize I ended up off-center for my solo section, but I still have placed myself between Jess and Jillian.
Song: “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem (I shortened it)
Rehearsal, 1 April 2012. The first video is of my two dancers and I running through the nearly complete choreography for my piece. There’s one section that hasn’t been arranged yet, and that’s Jessica and my movement during Jillian’s solo section (toward the end). Also, I apologize for muddling up one part! Feel free to comment on anything you see – I strongly considered the comments I received from the in-class showing last week. Perhaps keep in mind the guides I shared previously: 1) Response to music in combination with the movement 2) Sense something or just watching dancers express something 3) Unison v division 4) Spacing – useful/effective or distracting 5) General response/feedback
The second video is a solo run-through. I filmed myself doing mainly my own part, although I included Jillian’s recently added solo. Hopefully you can see my personal expression in the movement. I added this because I received comments last week about being far more expressive than my dancers, and I have since been working on improving our unity in that regard. If you would like to comment on this video and share methods on how to work on it with other dancers, please feel free!
N.B. I tried to fit everything in the video, so I apologize if any of the dancers are out of the screen or if there’s extra shuffling around to try to fit in the screen.
The Last of the “Gathering” Period.
This is a video of the sections of movement I’ve gathered throughout the first half of term. Although the video is continuous, the four sections are broken up with pauses in between.
Below is a recording of a sample arrangement. I gathered and then taught my dancers the movements, putting them together to one song. This is not to say I’ve chosen this song or selected this arrangement pattern, but rather this became a straightforward method of stringing the movements together both for my dancers to learn the parts and for me to gather – it was just convenient and coincidental (and definitely a discovery in my choreographic process). I made sure to inform my dancers of my method.
And then, about a week ago, I experimented with different musical qualities in order to explore their effects on the movement and its meaning. Here’s one example:
The Last of the “Gathering” Period. After watching the last videos and reading the last articles of the “gathering” period, here is my response to the material:
Eleanor Antin’s approach to making art, while she describes herself as a dictator, is very unlike my own approach. She seems certain in her visions – like in her series, “Last Days in Pompeii” – and I found it impressive; though I could not relate. I may find a single inspiration that initiates a project, but most often I find inspiration from my development or process. That may entail personal explorations and considerations or collaborations with others. However, I was most drawn to Antin’s approach to humor as a exposure of human experience, as she described in her perspective of classical ballet and her “100 Boots” project. I also was fascinated by Antin’s explorations in identity and narrative, as in her “Being Antinova” series. Her play with persona seem somewhat similar to my own current investigation with certain aspects of femininity (as this is the “gathering” period, I haven’t yet defined these ideas circling around my head).
In regards to David LaChappelle’s art, I did not find his pop art style shocking, as the news report did. Instead I was very attracted to his exposure of commercialism and consumerism through a surrealist perspective with applications of bright colors and somewhat brash presentations. His approach and artistic style are very unlike my own, but I still enjoyed the debate over his “Rape of Africa” piece. The negative response it provoked from the If She Cry Out blog surprised me. LaChappelle’s art understandably incites controversy, as he depicts famous figures and/or contentious issues with his pop art style. The blogger’s response to piece was acceptable; however, I wasn’t convinced she had properly researched LaChappelle’s approach to creating “The Rape of Africa.” Though her points were valid, in his explanation of the piece, LaChappelle discusses the importance of beauty in art. He argues that beauty attracts viewers to art, whether or not the subject of the piece is meant to emulate beauty per se. He refers to Picasso’s “Guernica,” which applies beauty to the illustration of the tragedy and destruction of war. LaChappelle says the same of his “Rape of Africa”: he explains how he used the concept of beauty to first attract viewers to his pop art piece and then to consider his depiction of the crises occurring in Africa.
I was initially shocked by Vanessa Beecroft’s “Pantyhose Art.” With so many women practically nude save for sheer pantyhose, I agreed with audience members that the confrontation of nudity was initially a little awkward. Beecroft plays with cultural norms, as she exposes the discomfort of looking at nudes while the viewers are clothed, the embarrassment between the nude women and viewers looking on, and the gradual change from seeing these nude woman as sexual beings to just simply humans in the flesh. I wondered though, how long these nude women should stand exposed for in order for viewers to realize these sentiments. I also loved Beecroft’s perspective of women and female psychology in visual art in the David Hickey article. I agree that women are complex and complicated, albeit incredibly fascinating as well. I’m drawn to explorations of femininity, despite the heavy meanings behind applying women to visual and performative art.
I loved the collaboration of Vanessa Beecroft and Kanye West in his “Runway” video. I’m glad I saw this because I’m quite attracted to that song! Nevertheless, I most enjoyed the application of classical ballet to a popular rap song. The juxtaposition of popular music with contemporary ballet – or “balletic modern” as I like to describe it – is quite similar to my own choreographic efforts, though of course, my attempts do not compare to this impressive, creative collaboration of two artistic geniuses. The video was definitely inspiring!
Week 5. I’m posting the videos of the movement experiments with my ongoing “choreography” in a separate post because the recording of my dancers doing it broke off in the middle, so I’ll have to record it the next time we all meet – huge bummer.
After our class Wednesday with Andrew Simonet from Headlong Dance Theater, I became immediately inspired to explore some of the choreographic activities he taught and described to us. After being split into groups, we had to work on specific written assignments. Mine told me (more or less): “Your body is having an argument with itself. Express this through movement.” It also requested that I combine my movement with another’s (in my case, Hannah Helfman) and consider moments of unison. A few others had this same assignment, but we weren’t aware until after viewing the collaborative pieces. I left class – with an outline in conducting choreographic activities from Andrew – actually a bit excited.
In this post, I’m showing my own experiment with this very same activity with my two dancers and myself. The idea of “your body having an argument with itself” exhibited the precise movement quality I’ve been exploring, and the success with the activity in class promised similar success in rehearsal. I gave Jillian and Jessica separate pieces of paper with the same assignment written on it. As suggested by Andrew, I didn’t want to tell them what I wanted them to do, as my oral explanation could very easily affect their perceptions of what I may be looking for in their movement. I gave them fifteen minutes to choreograph something and then asked them to perform separately (I also included myself in the activity).
Here’s Jillian’s movement:
Here’s Jessica’s movement:
Here’s my movement:
After we each shared our choreography and exposed the purpose of the activity, we worked collectively to discover moments of unison and similarity in order to combine the separate pieces into one. Below are recordings of the collaborated pieces – once without music and then again with a song chosen via shuffle on my iPod. Though our actual unison is a bit off – we didn’t spend too long on trying to make it perfect, only presentable – I am thrilled with the result of the choreographic activity experiment!
I plan to work with their movement, as well as our combined dance, in order to incorporate certain qualities into the ongoing “work.” I’ll discuss more of the current choreography exploration soon.
Week 4. I had my first rehearsal this past week and recorded some parts of it. Unfortunately, two of the exercises I did weren’t filmed properly (the camera stopped?), but the material I saved I think is sufficient inspiration / gathering material for me to work with.
I taught them the two bits of choreography that I’ve been working on. There’s a beginning and an end, but the middle section of this part of the music hasn’t been ‘set’ yet, so I let them move to the music as they wanted. Again, this work is not a set piece – the movement or music – but rather it demonstrates a continuous project. I have some ideas floating around behind it, but nothing is actually complete, of course. We ran this section multiple times. Obviously, so they could get the movement in their bodies, but also, I asked them to focus on certain qualities as they performed it (ie. gaze/head placement, what personal feelings you may have in touching your body).
I then had them watch the music video for Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know,” which has been an ongoing inspiration for me since August. I asked them to examine the visuals, lyrics, rhythms, musical and vocal qualities as they watched. I then played a cover of the song and asked them to improv to it as a reaction to what they watched and heard from the video.
Though I don’t have the video recordings of the other activities I did with my dancers, I did two more improv explorations: one with a song similar to the Kimbra song that they learned the movement to, and another to a couple of songs that helped provoke feelings I discussed with them beforehand. As I don’t have definite ideas for a solid piece yet, I explained my current mentality and some ideas I have floating around. I didn’t want to say too much or claim that those ideas were going to define the final piece, as I’m still gathering movement, music, feelings, interpretations, and ideas from my dancers and myself.
Week 4 and a Half. I didn’t want to complete this post until after the Salon last night. I recorded Jillian’s choreography she performed (Thanks for the added inspiration – I love my dancers!) and then, the two parts I presented as my “open rehearsal.” The first is the choreography I taught them in our one and only rehearsal (one of our rehearsal times was actually at the same time as the Salon..) and then one of the improvisation projects we worked on that I found so inspiring. What was particularly different this time though was that I 1) I danced with them and 2) I gave them permission to interact with one another. N.B. The choreographic bit has a first part and second part, so the part in between is currently improv.
I’m working by myself tomorrow morning at the Site and holding rehearsal on Sunday afternoon – I’m hoping for some serious choreographic inspiration (especially after our class with Headlong Dance and the contact improv ESP class this week)!
Week 3. After watching the reading Robertson and McDaniel’s article and watching the videos of the four featured artists, I tried to understand their perspectives of understanding and working with the human body.
As I watched the video on Janine Antoni and she said, “So much meaning is in how we choose to make something,” I felt a strong connection with her process. Her pieces emerge from a very personal level, and while she remains strongly connected to each work, she allows leniency in how it’s viewed and understood. She explained at one point,”The viewer’s coming in on the scene of a crime, and I’ve left all these clues for them to uncover.” While we struggle to remove ourselves from our dance pieces – as Benjamin Farrar referenced last week – it is important to still place yourself within the piece’s meaning and movement. Whether or not the audience recognizes your motivations, your creative choices and personal expression can form a sense of mutual understanding between the choreographer and dancers and audience.
“Art is something that moves from your insides into the physical world, and at the same time, it’s just a representation of your insides in a different form.” Kiki Smith’s work didn’t move me in the same way Antoni’s did, but I was drawn to her idea of trusting your intuition, even if doesn’t seem to be going anywhere yet. She also explains that much of what artists do is edit and fix things, and creating is only a small part of the process. In regards to choreographing, these ideas help me realize the importance of exploring one’s unconscious thoughts and intuitive movements in order to define ideas and distinguish movement qualities.
I loved Lorna Simpson’s application of a rather simple memory – doesn’t every ADD kid want to also be a part of the audience while they’re performing on stage? I enjoyed watching the result of her exploration of the memory of her first performance. First, I noticed that Lorna Simpson seemed to pick three different parts from the memory: performing, observing, and waiting. Underneath the more overt reenactments of the memory – the uniform costumes, simple pirouettes, three-sided stage – some elements I could see she played with were: perspective (ie. where dancers faced), individuality (ie. the dancers’ different bodies and technique), timing and repetition (ie. how long they twirled or stood for), and interpretation (ie. the dancers expressed their own interpretation of Simpson’s ideas) in order to create a dynamic and multidimensional piece.
I thought Mariah Robertson’s exploration of the reversal of traditional gender roles fascinating and her application of it in a somewhat humorous way revealing. She admitted she’s afraid of public nudity and understands that today much of America (I think Europe’s a bit more comfortable with it, according to my experiences) find male nudity very inappropriate. While female nudity in the arts has reached a comfort level for most, male nudity is seemingly less acceptable. I loved Mariah’s personal sentiments in combination with her boldness to explore a publicly contentious subject. I did however, begin to wonder if she ever experienced one of her male models suddenly get excited.. How would that be understood (I mean more so in an artistic way, but also her personal reaction)?
Week 3. I tried to really let go (not entirely though, as I have an injured knee) with the improvisation to the music. The songs are inspirational at so many different levels and I want to be able to explore them with my body and not just with my mind. I liked the experiment!
Improvising to music, part I:
Improvising to music, part II:
The movement I’ve been exploring currently: