The Hardest Little Solo

If you've been reading this little blog you know that last weekend I performed a new solo - HOME. The structure of the work is pretty straight forward - I walk across the stage slowly while carrying a 7' tree on my shoulders, I walk downstage, put the tree down, walk in front of the tree, pause, walk to the lip of the stage and go into an improv structure based on the breath with my left foot never leaving its spot, I squat, and end. But, it is turning out to be one of the hardest pieces I've done in a while. The first walk is so slow and I keep rushing the beginning - or, it feels that way to me, even though others have said they don't notice it. During this walk I have to keep reminding myself of the statement I'm using for myself to frame the walk - 'one step = 10,000 steps'. Then the improv downstage is difficult, or challenging, because the arch of it is hard to hold on to - it starts slow, speeds up and then ends in the squat - I tend to rush the transition from slow to sped up. Staying with the simplicity of the beginning of the breath score is hard for me. Maybe it is because the piece doesn't have alot of parts that its complexity is so much on the surface. Trying to do just enough and keep it simple, yet try and fully express the work is certainly a challenge.


Further Swimming with Alexander

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.



Here is the press blurb for the solo I'm presenting this weekend at Dancemakers at UWM.

Home is a meditative examination of the metaphorical and personal meanings of home. Source material was developed through free writing exercises that were used to create a history, context and a wealth of background of information. From this material two statements -- “Home is a nest” and “Home is my daughter's breath”-- are used as the the anchors for the two sections of the work. Whittled down to the essentials, Home combines pedestrian movement and striking visuals with supple movement phrasing and peculiar musical accompaniment to create an unexpected performance experience. Home is the first installment of a new work that will explore the personal narratives and societal issues of human migration and immigration.


Breath Phrasing/New Solo

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.


Pencil Project: Repetition

Another video from my Viewpoints project - this one dealing with repetition. From the book by Bogart + Laudau they write that repetition is "not imitation, rather it is entering into the quality of other people's Shape and Tempo". In this video I repeat the same gesture over and over again - trying not to change it, but also trying not to keep it the same - I just do it again and again. Well, the last time I add some flavor to it.


The Thing or The Idea of the Thing

In improv class this week we talked about when you're using a prop in performance you need to be conscious of how you are using it. The question, or idea, is, "are you performing with the thing, or the idea of the thing?" This is one of those abstract questions, but I think an important one for creative performing artists. Let's take a suitcase (as we did in class). Are you dancing with that specific suitcase, or with the idea of dancing with a suitcase, or are you using it as a metaphor for traveling? I think the point is, and one I agree with, that while the suitcase might be a metaphor, it also needs to be that suitcase, not an idea of a suitcase. You need to recognize that the suitcase you have is brown with two straps and a handle and it's got some scratches on it and the lock doesn't work anymore and part of the fabric inside is slightly ripped. These details are important. If you get too far away from the actual suitcase you're using it looses it's power, or interest. Engaging the thing as it is brings its uniqueness to the forefront and then the audience can find a relationship to it. If you are dancing with an idea of a suitcase (even though you are holding an actual suitcase) than it becomes one more empty prop. The hard part, of course, is to recognize when you're engaging the idea of the thing and not the thing.


Pencil Project: Tempo

So, these studies are just a glimpse at The Viewpoints. I am just getting to know them alittle bit this summer as I enter into grad school. They might even be superficial in a way, but I certainly found them interesting to do. Narrowing my possibilities down to focusing on the pencil and as feel other props as necessary was a challenge - a fun challenge. Here is the third video - tempo.


Here's a second little video that explores one of The Viewpoints - this one explores duration. I tried to keep the action as consistent as possible and only change the duration.

The Pencil Project: Architecture

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.


It's not heavy, its a tree

I'm working on some new work this summer that will be apart of a project I will start in earnest in the spring. One of the things I'm working on is a solo which I've talked about before here & here. The solo has basically two sections - the first one being a slow walk and then the second section that happens extremely close to the audience, doesn't move around much and the movement is initiated by the spine. For this solo I'm working with two statements that came out of my "Home is..." writing exploration - "Home is a nest" and "Home is my daughter's breath". The first statement about the nest has certainly changed and continued to evolve throughout this rehearsal process. It began as an image of me walking onto stage with a big package of stuff (as if it was all my belongings) on my back as I walked slowly. I imaged this package would be a bunch of paper and other light weight material so it could be very big. This transformed into the idea that I would carry a huge load of sticks that I would eventually put down and build into a kind of nest-like structure. Lastly, and this is what I tried tonight for a feedback session, is to carry a very tall tree on my back - kind of on my neck - as I walk in. It is a surprising image and could totally not work because it could feel like it's just way to over the top. But, after the showing today a number of people said that the image worked for them as it contained many layers of meaning - it could be a burden, or I'm saving something from dying, it's something important to me, it is my home (symbolically). I'm curious to see the video as it is hard to see yourself when you're carrying a tree on your neck.


dancing with people who don't know they're dancing

Today in improv we got into small groups of 2 or 3 and then had to go somewhere in or around the building and create a improvisational structure in a "non-dance" space. The group I was in, A. & S., decided to go outside to this courtyard to create our performance. One of the directions we were given was to make it in a way that people passing by might not even know it was a performance. In the courtyard there was a woman reading, so we decided to incorporate her into the performance without her knowing it. Our structure was to enter the court yard one at a time, sit down with our own book and every time the woman moved we turned a page. At any time any of us could set the book down and the other two would do the same. We were allowed to do something else - ie. go throw something away, pick up a stick, etc..., but none of the actions could call attention to the fact that we were "performing". After a time we left. What was wonderful was being highly tuned to this person without them knowing it. It asks some really interesting questions about what is a performance and who are performers. And, in quite a solid way, I think it was a good performance - maybe not the most exciting one, but actually pretty engaging. I really loved it and would like to do more "undercover" performances.

Contemplative Dance Practice

This morning a few of us got together, by invitation of A., and did Contemplative Dance Practice. This is a form developed by Barbara Dilley that combines sitting meditation, personal warm-up and open space dancing. It was lovely to focus in alittle bit to start the week before I had to output so much stuff - we have alot of reading this week as well as papers, a research proposal, two showings of choreography and many rehearsals. By just slowing down, focusing on the breath, letting my body tell me how it wants to move, then moving with others - I got to connect and move without the pressure of creating or being interesting or even being seen. Just alittle time to move for myself.


My Funny Little Paradigm

For my Improv class we had to write up a short paragraph that described our paradigm - ie. what do we value in creating and watching dance/performance. This is a hard assignment - it is so easy to be vague or go into academic speak and sound pompous. So, here was my solution - not sure it worked...

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.


Swimming and Alexander Technique

In my Alexander Technique class today we worked on leading movement into space with the eyes. We did a simple exercise where we were lying on our stomach with our hands close to our head. We tried to use our arms to move us forward in space - first we kept our head passive and then we lifted our heads and looked at something we wanted to move towards. The second version, of looking towards, made it so much easier to move and slide on the floor. Initiating from the head allowed the whole self to access the ease of moving forward.

After class I went over to the school's pool to swim some laps and decided to use this idea - of using the eyes to look and lead the movement into space - while swimming. As I was doing the Breast Stroke I realized that the coordination between the head, arms and upper back was almost identical to the exercise from class. As I used looking to lead my head out of the water, press down with my arms, look at the bottom of the pool and then start again by looking, I found that the stroke felt easier, more efficient and I swear I was faster (maybe....I'd like to think so...). I has less success incorporating this idea into the Freestyle, but it was certainly fun to try. I look forward to playing more with these ideas in both dance and non-dance activities.