In the 1970s my father and mother competed in ballroom dancing and into the 80s they continued to teach it - they still like to go out dancing occasionally. My father is retired now, but has found a second career as a fitness/aerobic instructor and greatly enjoys the more 'dancey' versions of aerobics. My father's father and mother, once he retired, became avid square dancers - sometimes going to 4-5 dances a week. So, the fact that I danced never seemed odd to anyone in my family. It's true the kind of dancing I did growing up (jazz, tap, ballet, breakin') was different from the social dancing they did. And certainly the kind of dancing I do now (modern, post-modern, contact improvisation) is very different. But, in my family, there has always been an appreciation of the body moving, of dancing. I am so grateful to come from a family of men who dance - it is quite amazing.
In rehearsal today we discussed the saying "First Thought, Best Thought" that often surfaces in improvisational contexts. Recently I was re-reading Dharma Art by Chogyam Trungpa in which he writes "First thought, best thought is not necessarily a chronological event". This follows my recent thoughts that first thought is actually most often, for most of us, our habitual thought. Only after reaching some state of clarity, emptiness, maybe even enlightenment does first thought become best thought. For most of us first thought is just the routine or predictable. So, how do we get to that best thought (for right now best might mean unexpected or new or unique)? My colleague Sharon Mansur talks about letting the first thought or impulse pass and go with the second thought or the third thought. I think this approach is one way to begin to discover best thoughts - certainly not the only way, but one way. We are also using sitting meditation to, if you will, prime the pump and see if a period of precise focusing helps clear out some space before we begin to move. We'll see...
Stefanie Quinones Bass, April Betty, Brian Buck, Daniel Burkholder, Kathryn Harris, Darcie Luce, Lotta Lundgren, Christine Stone Martin, Ilana Silverstein, Ginger Wagg, and Lori Yuil
The Big Group/JMU Dancers
Amanda Abrams, Meghan Ballog, Caroline Barna, Alexandra Bassett, Katelyn Bell, Kelly Bond, Lauren Borchard, Marisha Bourgeois, Andrea Burkholder, Erica Collier, Chareka Daniel, Dora Duvisac, Suzanne McCahill Perrine, Katy McCormack, Suazanne Miller-Corso, Carrie Monger, Heidi Schimpf, Jen Stimmel, Melissa Swaringen, Sarah Tobey, Sofia Vallila, Chynna Wendell, Amelia Beard, Beth Cooper, Leah Curran, Heather Glasgow Doyle, Elizabeth Sellen, Raven Ferguson, Pirjo Garby, Vaun Goodman, Kathy Lapinski, Ben Levine, Jessica Marchant, Brittani McDuffie-West, Elizabeth Rolando, Ana Romero, Roxann Morgan Rowley, Kathryn Sparks, Jennifer Theodore, Boris Willis and Leslie Zucker
Arachne Aerial Arts: Andrea Burkholder & Sharon Witting
Coyaba Dance Theater: Vaunita Goodman, Marcia Howard, and Sylvia Soumah
Devi Dance Theater: Anila Kumari, Neelima Charya, Neelima Shah, Khilton Nongmaithan, Anya Grenier, Oralee Skeath
Kenyon Piano Quartet: Grace Hong, Judie Lieu, Chase Maggiano and Jeremy Rissi
Today was our last rehearsal in the studio - yea! yikes! Monday morning Arachne Aerial Arts and I meet at 11am to rig their fabric for tomorrow night's first rehearsal in the theater. Today we ran through the piece from beginning to end without stopping and it went amazingly well - everyone mostly (mostly) knew what they were doing and doing it at the right time. We're still working on certain transitions (if I'm allowed to use that word) as well as clarifying intent in certain sections - but overall I think were getting there and right on track.
A Journey for Performers and Audience
by Daniel Burkholder
Choreographer Kimani Fowlin slowly rocks in a fetal position within a red sand circle at The INOVA Arts Center at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Audience members move to the edges of the room. A couple enters the red circle as they bend down to gently place one of the rocks each audience member was given into Fowlin's hand. With this act the couple crosses the line between performer and audience, and is an apt metaphor for the performance.
“Womantra” continues as Fowlin rolls, crawls, walks and finally propels herself outside the safety of the circle into the presence of artist/performer Teri Wagner. Confronted with this possible mother figure or goddess, Fowlin sacrifices herself as she is manipulated, tied up and led away with the audience following.
Wagner washes Fowlin's feet in a large ceramic bowl in the middle of the second gallery. Fowlin, for the first time, acknowledges the audience as she playfully splashes them with water and the work, quite suddenly, shifts from a private act to a public one.
In the third gallery Fowlin enters a trance-like dance as she follows a snake-like path of flower petals. Fowlin appears lost in increasingly intense rhythmic, African-derived movement, but breaks out to make momentary contact with audience members. Fowlin, exhausted, falls into an embrace with Wagner.
In the final gallery Fowlin and Wagner thoughtfully walk, use simple gestures and quietly recite a poem. The work ends with each audience member placing a rock onto the alter of goddess figures, abstract sculptures and the performers' family pictures.
“Womantra” is an important journey for Fowlin, rich with images and symbolism. But this performance is not only for her as the audience is invited to reflect on their own, sometimes winding journey.
This summer swimming is an activity in which I can apply the theories from the Alexander Technique class I've been taking. Yesterday utilized the concept of faulty sensory awareness in my swimming. Doing the different strokes, I concentrated on my pelvis and noticed what I was really doing with it. In the Breast Stroke I observed that my pelvis slightly rotated to the right as I kicked my legs. I then tried to apply Alexander's technique of Inhibition – or, don't do what you've been doing. Instead of trying to do something in a correct way, you just stop doing whatever you've been doing wrong. Or, if you stop doing the wrong things you'll only be able to do the right things. But, as I found out in the pool, there is often a lot of confusion in this process. I tried not to twist my pelvis and it felt like I couldn't do anything, or it seemed my habit became more pronounced, or I twisted the other way. Eventually I just left it and concentrated on other things. I checked in again with my pelvis at the end of my session and it my body was still experimenting – sometimes my pelvis felt in the middle, sometimes all over the place. I like the approach of stop doing what is inefficient and the more efficient movement will happen, and, thankfully, in this case confusion is interesting.
This weekend I'll be presenting a new solo, "HOME", as part of the end of semester show where the work the grads have been working on this summer will be presented. The solo I'm presenting is a beginning of a larger work that I'll be developing over the next year or so. For the second section of the solo I'm using a variation of a structure I learned from my music for dance teacher, Norma Dalby, in undergrad at SLC. Norma created a way of notating music that used the breath cycle. She would work with a group of musicians to coordinate their breathing - everyone breathed in and out together - depicted above by a single arch (inhale, then exhale). Then, along the arch, she would put marks that would signal when the player was suppose to play a specific percussive instrument (red marks). Each musician would have a line of arches for each instrument they played - again, see diagram above. We did this in music class and it was very cool and challenging. Over the last couple of years I've been playing with bringing this structure into a dance context by coordinating the number of movements per breath. For example - in this solo I start doing one movement that lasts the length of one complete breath (in and out). After doing this a couple of times I divide the breath in half - one breath with the inhale and a second with the exhale. Then I do two movements with the inhale and two with the exhale. Lastly I play with my movement phrasing - sometime doing one or two or more or less movements with a breath. This organizational method creates an organic development to the movement and its intensity - moving from meditative to quite dense.
In the Improvisation class we had to do a project around the improv modality that we've been mostly working with this summer - The Viewpoints. So, I'm making a series of short videos that explores different aspects of The Viewpoints - for this video I explored Architecture. From the book "The Viewpoints Book" the authors write, "Become acutely aware of exactly where you are and let this architecture inform your movement. Dance with the room." This isn't exactly a whole room, nor is it dancing. Not exactly.
The lights come up on a performer who begins to move slowly, with pauses. She waits and then continues. Music begins that is unfamiliar with sounds that you can't quite place. Another performer enters and begins talking. At first the talking is confusing. You realize he's talking about his family, but also about the earth or politics, with bits of poetry weaved in. It takes some time to figure it all out. Now the two performers are in a duet where they support one another, roll, separate and come back together. They dance like two cats - similar in their fullness, but remarkably different in their choices. The music suddenly shifts, other performers enter and everything comes to stillness. They wait with attention. A performer begins to move from undulations of the spine, exploring the inner space and finding supple movement. You believe her. Her limbs become more active until her whole self is energetically filling the space, almost in a trance and at the same time you see everything she is doing. She is balancing a hurricane and a microscope in each movement. They all begin moving, maybe more like walking, but with purpose, with each other. There are small interactions while we hear a voice off stage describe her mother's gardening tools, or a distant conflict, or the path in the woods she walks each morning alone. The work ends with a subtle shifting movement phrase and one by one the dancers leave. One dancer is left and, with care, begins to cry as the lights fade. You're not sure what has happened, but you're feeling melancholy or relieved or satisfied. You'll have to think about it.
This morning I had my first rehearsal for my next project, post-Ocean. I'm currently researching human migration and immigration - not just in the U.S., but as a world wide phenomenon. There is so much information, points of view, issues and potentials with human migration that it can certainly be overwhelming. So, for this solo, which will be apart of the larger work, I've decided to bring it down to examine the idea of home - which everyone must leave to migrate. What is home? How do we define it and find it? It is especially pertinent right now for me as I am away from home for 7 weeks while I'm here at school (since I've temporarily migrated here). To reflect on my thoughts about home I did some writing, here's an excerpt:
We start small by addressing the subtle awareness that comes from attending to our breath, rolling our head, waiting. Gradually expanding our movements, our attention, our felt experience. We begin to move into space with articulation, presence, clarity and authority. We come back to ourselves and go further. We arrive at a idiosyncratic movement voice that is authentic, subtle and athletic.
This is the practice of becoming.
We start with ourselves. Closing our eyes we dig in deep and spill out. We allow it. We welcome it. We bring the inner to the outer with vitality and acceptance. With no judge, no censor. Feelings and thoughts become integrated into body, into movement.
This is the practice of expressing.
We start by researching our interests, our passions. We learn about space, time, quality. We build phrases alone and with others. We acquire a tool bag full of choreography, of improvisation. Our interests and passions become questions, statements and images. From this we make work that is thoughtful, complex and visceral.
This is the practice of creating.
I start with Judson, Cunningham, Improvisation and Feldenkrais. Adding in Laban, Bartineiff and Developmental Movement. I continue with Contact Improvisation and Authentic Movement. Challenged but not overwhelmed, the students and I explore the material as a community from multiple perspectives. Empowered by a potent environment, combined with rigor and accountability, the students are challenged and inspired.
This is my practice of teaching.
Move into space with clarity.
Acute articulation embedded with presence.
Challenge norms, expand possibilities, athleticism.
Say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
360º dancing, release, engage, sequential, simultaneous, daring.
I'm also funny.