Thursday, March 5, 2009

Updates 2009

Originally the purpose of this blog was to share tools learned from the Dance Exchange. This was a means for me, not only to offer them to other facilitators or creators who may be interested in such methods, but also a means of archival and and personal process.

It's been two years since my period of research with the Dance Exchange, and I feel an update of where I'm at in terms of integrating their work into my own is long overdue. This is not a list of the only work I'm involved in, but rather just those projects that specifically integrate ideas and tools from the Dance Exchange.

The Critical Response Artist Series
Was a great success! For 10 months I ran this series at the memelab, presenting approximately 10 artists from varied disciplines (fashion design, sculpture, photography, dance, theatre, music and digital media) to approximately over 100 different participants.
The evening was offered as a cross over between a community workshop, and informal presentation series. Artists were offered an opportunity to try out new work in front of an audience who work shopped how to give feedback in a supportive way by using Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process.
I'm currently looking into possibilties for starting up this series again, in a larger space. If you're an artist interested in receiving feedback and sharing your work in this kind of environment I would be eager to hear from you.

The Tools - Community Workshops on Dance Creation

- Co-Artist In Residence (with Sara Coffin), Sunshine Coast Dance Society,
September 2008
Sara and I not only offered a week long dance creation intensive for adults, we also created two new works, and put on a full evening performance in a week. Whew!

- Smithers, International Teen Exchange Project, March 2009
I will be working in Smithers in March, facilitating teen and adult intensives with Miriam Colvin. This is part of a larger project linking teens working with the Dance Exchange in DC, as well as facilitators and teens in Israel, South Africa, and India.

- International Dance Day, Teen [be]longing[s] Intensive, April 2009
Exploring ideas of being, belonging, and having belongings, this workshop will also be linked to the Dance Exchange's International Teen Exchachange Project.

The Tools and Personal Creative Process

- Performance/Creation
"fragments and other leftovers" is a solo that began in the Dance Exchange studios that was then performed at 12MM, Dancing on the Edge, and as part of the Sunshine Coast Dance Residency. As my first real solo work, using the tools was both challenging and extremely refreshing.

- Movement Research
Dance Lab, February 2009
I worked with multidisciplinary artist Andrew Milne on ideas exploring and integrating creative process and tools across disciplines. This research may develop into a new work for 2010.

If you are interested in either the Critical Response Artist Series, or in movement/creation workshops in Vancouver please contact me here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Taking the Meaning Out – Putting it Back In.

How do you avoid the ‘acting it out’ syndrome? I.e: You are working with creating movement from text and feel limited by your first impulses that have you embodying the story. Movement becomes more interesting when it is about making a shape without any meaning attached to it. The meaning is more authentic and believable – and the shape more interesting if the shape comes first and the meaning evolves out of that.

In our work with ‘ambivalence’ this is exactly what we did using parameters. The final product perhaps resembling, or having nothing at all to do with the source.

In fact, most of the tools accomplish ‘taking the meaning out’ quite successfully.

Your phrase: ‘punched in the stomach’
Do the action. Script what you just did: i.e: Forcefull shove, two body parts collide, fall back.
Then create a new movement according to the script.

Your word: Ambivalence.
Create a movement.
Have someone else physically describe what you just did.
Find the opposites.
Choose three, do and improvisation using those as your sources.

Postcarding (this is my own term, I think Liz would call it Detailing)
Phrase: ‘A sink full of dirty dishes’
See the image (postcard)
Put the wall paper pattern in your arms.
Be the bubbles.
Be the soap dish.
Create a phrase by vascilating between the person standing at the sink washing dishes, and movements from details in the postcard image.

New tool: Acting it out?
Allow your self to act out the prompt, and then take the meaning out.
Ex: Prompt: She tried the shoe on in disgust.
Do: You are trying a shoe on in disgust.
Then , hold the shape but change your expression. Change where you’re looking. Then try the shape again, still feel like you’re ‘acting it out’? Change one more thing, a leg, an arm, a finger, whatever. If you need to, even take a detail from the room and place it in your spine.
Now you have a movement free from imposed meaning and ready to take on something else.

Limits Give You Somewhere to Go (haven’t I been here before?)

Having Liz Lerman in the room is always exciting. It’s like turning up your listening anttena so high you even take notes on the static. Everything is interesting and discussing the material the day before seamlessly links to a new area of discovery.

To illustrate that limits give you somewhere to go, we did a quick Detail exercise.

See something in the room you haven’t noticed before.
Put it in your hand.
Put it in your spine.
Shape it with one arm, one leg, and your head.
Trace it in the air.
Trace it on the body.
Trace it on the body somewhere else.
Put it on the floor, or on a wall.

We then took this idea and made it into an Equivalents exercise by using the three column writing from the day before. We placed the writing on the floor and were free to move around capturing words or phrases in movement. Working with self imposed limits – choosing one word, one limb, tracing in space, amount of time for movement, etc. Provided easy to follow direction.

In our work the day before someone pointed out they really enjoyed adding the ‘physical descriptors’ to the story because she was able to pick out details from the wall paper she never would have thought of.
This is an important skill that is always available to you – trick yourself into seeing something you don’t always see. By tricking yourself, you may find new meaning. Look outside, look around the room, go back to the phrase. Let your imagination wander, look for new details. Every image has wallpaper.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Fabled Shout

Again, these exercises were led by Peter Dimuro in the Mixed Abilities Institute - July 13 - 18th 2008.

A New Approach to Walk & Talk

Walk & Talk is an excellent tool for developing interesting text. Because you’re walking, your approach to creating a story is different. Also, in large groups, it’s freeing to be surrounded by voices all working at the same task. Similar to a free writing exercise, the tool asks you to freely speak, and tell a story (following a prompt) within a certain time limit – either one pass through the room, two or three, or just half way.

Prompt: Describe a time when you wanted to shout or whisper.

1 Pass through the room: tell the story.
1 Pass through the room: describe the image of the story. (Physical descriptors of the place or room).
2 Passes through the room: physically describe one item from the story.
1 Pass through the room: describe the anatomical experience of the event. (Anatomical physical descriptions: what was your breath, were you sweating? What was your throat doing?)
1 Pass through the room, tell the story again.
1Pass through the room, if you wish, tell your story to a partner.

Discoveries: the physical descriptions exploded the story. Suddenly, in order to include the juicy details that interested me, I had to forgo entire aspects of the story, putting aside it’s narrative arc, allowing it to become prose like.

One result:

The sun is shining.
Her voice continues and my thoughts ram unrepentedly against the inside of my skull.
The words come out shoved. Squeezing them through clenched teeth.
I want to smile. The chalk on the grass hits some leaves and misses others.
I wonder what the rules are to those children’s games.
I have ended the conversation, but the tension in my chest continues to build.
Slowly my surroundings come back into focus.

We then went further and incorporated the stories into Three Column Writing.
Column 1: Personal Story
Column 2: List of Physical Descriptors (environment and anatomical).
Column 3: Favorite Fairytale

Discoveries: Trying to write a fairytale in five minutes is difficult. Entire story parts are omitted and many things are made up as memory falters.

Purpose: Personal stories can deal with vulnerability and conflict with discomfort. The physical descriptors and fairytale give you a way out. The goal is to access the story images – you don’t necessarily want to bring your vulnerability to the stage.

Next task:
Make a list of physical Descriptors from the fairy tale.
Find relations between the fairytale and the personal story.
Column writing could be used as a way to organize movement. How? Various ideas: movement could be created from aspects of text from each column, collected movement from rehearsals could be identified as movement that comes from a personal improvisation, physical tasks, and outside sources – and even organized as such by using three column writing as a Structure.

Discovery: Whatever tools you apply to writing could also be applied to movement and vice versa.

Another interesting take on Walk & Talk (explored in a workshop with Open Circle Theatre) was:
Practice Pass – walking and talking.
Pass 1: Tell a story of a time you shouted or whispered.
4 Passes: Tell the same story with more detail.
1 Pass: Tell the same story with edits.
½ Pass: tell the most important details.
1 Pass: Tell the same story as a fable or fairytale.

That night we combined Walk & Talk with 1 to 10. The first person would make a shape and start their story. The next would add on, overlapping their story and relating their shape. The next would add on as the first story was fading. The next… ect.

Discovery: The fable idea – while particular to something Open Circle was exploring, added interesting elements to the story telling, of how it was told: 3rd person? How is was begun, and how it ended.

Improvisations From Equivilents to Parameters

This exercise was led by Peter Dimuro as part of the Mixed Abilities Institute.
Starting with the word ambivalence we used Equivilents, Parameters, and added Structure to create an improvisation.

In a circle, everyone creates one movement for the word ambivilance with a clear beginning, middle and end.
We partner up, and witness, noting what we observe . Simmilar to a paramerters exercise, we write down what we see in descriptive terms free from judgement: folding elbows, slow, soft, crouching, covering, wiping…
As a duet, we then choose three ‘physical descriptors’ of ambivilance that we want to explore. My partner and I choose soft, wiping, and sinking.
We then improvise our first duet by using these three items as parameters, and adding a start and end position.

Later we added a floor pattern, the option of three moments of stillness, and the decision to focus on one parameter only at any one time. We did this because we found the parameter of soft automatically influenced those of wiping and sinking. We wanted to add the option of energized, violent or sharp wiping or sinking (anything without soft).

New possibilities for further exploration: I realized the parameters could be taken even further. You could create an opposites list from the ‘physical descriptors’ and combine those with the first list. This would create the element of contrast (we unintentionally did this by focusing on one parameter at a time free from the influence of the other two.) You could also repeat the physical descriptors exercise with the first improvisation to find a greater variance of movement. Ex: we noticed that a lot of the ‘wiping’ was occurring through touching. The next step would be to explore wiping without touching.

Catching Up

I recently returned from another stint down in DC with the Dance Exchange. This time I was participating in an institute for mixed abilities, and a crafting institute geared towards professional dancers. The next few posts will discuss new discoveries.

First days. Whatever you are, own it. “I own my vagueness.” If the exercise has the potential of being boring, make it interesting. If you’re hesitating recognize it. What is governing your choices? What is governing your habits?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Hoizons... One Year Later

I'm back! Back at the Dance Exchange, having returned to freshen up on skills, and revisit old places with new perspectives.
Conversations on movement, on experience and resistance. Do dancers experience resistance? YES!!! I think I (and perhaps many, many people can relate) resist most strongly the things that I feel most strongly about. Excluding chocolate of course.

The Dance Exchange is not a place where you come to learn how to dance. Yes, many people who take workshops or even perform with the Dance Exchange may have limited dance experience, but no one at the Dance Exchange will instruct them on what they should or shouldn't be doing. The dance is already there. You are shown how to find it.

It's not about a certain way of moving, the dance is about you moving in a way that suits you. The art is not about trying to be something you're not, but rather being honest to who you are in movement. Uncontrived, perhaps awkward, yet always beautiful, movement that comes from an honest place is ultimately human. And, I think, being able to create that, organize it, repeat it, and place it on the stage for everyone else to experience is the ultimate act of artistry.