Collaborating Side by Side

Sunday we had our first rehearsal for the upcoming performance at the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts with my company, Arachne Aerial Arts, Coyaba Dance Theater and Devi Dance Theater. This performance will feature these four companies collaborating to create an evening length work. For this process we'll be collaborating side by side - at least to start.

When we met to discuss this project I proposed that the four companies would, at the beginning, work independently developing material for the work. Once this material was developed we would show the different sections that have been developed to one another - which is what we started doing on Sunday. From here each director, independently from one another, will construct an overall structure for the work - this would include putting the sections in an order, overlapping and juxtaposing sections, etc. From there we would come together and, really for the first time, begin a discussion to arrive at some type of consensus.

At first this was difficult because everyone wanted to discuss ideas for beginnings, or "what ifs" and such things. I encouraged us to not do that and keep to our own camps until our individual ideas were better developed. And we have, for the most part, and it was very exciting to see everyone's rough drafts on Sunday.

I'm very interested in different modes of collaboration. I have been in situations where some form of consensus is used - everyone has to eventually agree to the decisions being made, more or less. In my work with my company we are often in what I call "director-driven" collaboration - different people offer suggestions, or develop movement material, or are involved in the work in a creative way, more or less, but the final decisions rests with the director. For this collaboration process I wanted to bring in a little independence into the process - an extreme of this mode is the Cunningham/Cage mode. I wanted to use the independent mode of artistic collaboration for this project because I wanted to keep each companies' point of view and aesthetic unique to itself. If we had begun to make consensus or negotiate too soon in the process I feared there would be a softening of the aesthetics into something more similar to one another. I wanted us to have stark differences, to not necessarily fit together easily, and to then have to work it out.

For this process I'm not thinking of myself as the 'director', but instead as a facilitator. I'm working to move this project along, but not bully my ideas to the front of the line. It's a challenge in some ways - partly because I've been working on this material for 3 years and, honestly, I'm very opinionated. So, this whole process is a challenge in many ways.

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