Open Art Policy

As I was on break from rehearsals this summer I thought about art, dance, the nature of performance, and the company's relationship to our audience. How do we want to relate to them? How do we want to construct or facilitate that relationship? What is the exchange in which we are engaging? How can we make this exchange more fluid, easier, and direct. I've come to realize one barrier in this relationship is the need to attach a fixed monetary value to the experience of attending a performance. What makes one of our performances worth $20 or $30, especially when compared to ticket prices at The Kennedy Center or even a place like Woolly Mammoth Theater. The performances we offer are on par with what is offered at those institutions, but I would feel uncomfortable asking for $50, $75, or more per ticket.

This got me thinking about prices in general and who determines these prices. Why is it the company or performance venue? What if we just let the audience decide? Maybe some people will pay $5 because that is what they see as its worth, or, of course, what their financial situation allows them to pay. Other people might go ahead and pay $50 or $75 because they value the work, understand the costs of putting on a production, and have the ability to pay that amount. Either way, I want all these people to come. I don't want people to be turned away because of finances or even willingness to pay, and I don't want to limit people's desire, or ability, to support what they value.

So, staring this fall my dance company, The PlayGround, will institute a new policy we're calling the Open Art Policy. From now on all performances and events we organize will be pay-what-can, or pay-what-you-value-it. This is obviously us taking a chance - what if everyone only pays $5? How will we pay the bills? But, I'm actually extremely optimistic. I believe what we offer has value people recognize,and those that can pay more, will pay more. Each time someone chooses a price it will not only be money to see a particular performance, but also a vote (in a way) towards us producing future performances. 

I hope our new Open Art Policy allows more people to see our work, allows people to be generous with their support, and help us to connect deeper and with greater vibrancy with our community.

*also, enjoy the picture of Stefanie Quinones Bass and Melissa Swaringen from when The PlayGround did a residency at James Madison U. and Melissa was a student there.  Photo by R. Finkelstein


All together now, or paying attention while improvising.

Recently I was talking with a friend about the experience of performing improvisatonaly and the attention required. Basically, she was asking what I was paying attention to as I was dancing/performing. As we talked we came up with an impressive list, which partially included: proprioceptive self (where I am in space and where I'm moving), the quality of my movements (strong, light, direct, sudden, etc...), where I am in the room/theater in which I'm moving (in the center, close to an edge or corner), where other people are in the room, how they are moving (what and how), how close we are to be another and how that is changing (proximity), emotions and feelings emerging from myself, other individuals and the groups as a whole, the developing relationships of individuals and the group, emergent forms (compositional tools or structures), tracking how the past interweaves with the present (remembering elements and choosing to repeat or evolve), and a number of other elements. Basically, I'm tracking myself, the other individuals, and all of us as a whole in the present moment with awareness of the past. My friend commented how this seems a lot to track at once. And, of course, it is. But I am not tracking each element individually, but as a whole. Earlier in my experience as an improviser I could only track a few elements at a time, but that was when these elements where only differentiated and not yet integrated. Learning to improvise is much like learning to walk - first you must learn how to use the different parts of your legs and upper body, figure out balance, and experiment how all the parts fit together. It takes awhile to learn how to coordinate it all, but once it is coordinated you don't have to pay attention to every part as it is now integrated into one movement. The same is true with one's ability to attend to all these various elements while improvising. At first you need to figure each of them out and then, and only then, can you integrate them. I do, often, go back to singular elements to strengthen and deepen my awareness and skill with them, but when improvising they merge into a single awareness that is fluid, precise and multi-layered. 

With that said, there are certainly times individual elements come to the forefront during a performance. The emotional tone of the piece might be the main focal point for a while, but then later proximity or movement qualities may be for forefront. Everything isn't always equal in ones attention, but they are always present. The emotional tone must be supported by the proximal relationship between performers as the movement quality is essential to the expressive nature of the moment. While at moments certain elements are more obvupious than others, but at those movements the other elements continue to support the whole.

Again, we first we differentiate the elements of improvisation (or, really any skill, activity, art). Once we begin to differentiate we also begin to integrate until we can hold both the individual elements and the whole of them. When this integration happens we are free to take the present moment together as a whole, or focus on one element or another. When we reach this point we have freedom of choice and freedom of attention and the real, deep practice of improvisation begins. 

*Photo is of me and my company, The PlayGround, performing last December at Georgetown University Hospital, where we are the dance-company-in-residence. 


A reminder from Rumi

Haven't posted any poetry on this blog, but this one feels important for me to remember right now:

Today like any other day
When you awaken empty and frightened
Don't go to the door of the study
and begin to read
Instead, take down the dulcimer
Let the beauty of what you love
be what you do
There are a thousand ways
to kneel and kiss the ground
There are a thousand ways
to go home again.
- Rumi


Why I'm Excited About The Chemistry of Lime Trees

Way back in 2008 I began thinking about and planning The Chemistry of Lime Trees, with the first incarnation appearing as a solo in the summer of 2009. Since then I have worked closely with my collaborators - Susan Oetgen, Kathryn Harris Banks, Stephanie Yezek, Stefanie Quinones Bass, Jonathan Matis, and Tony Melone - to build a work that is layered, visceral and has surprised me in many ways.

I am excited for our upcoming performances March 14 through March 24 at The Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint because we have not had the opportunity to share this work with our community in DC proper - we've performed it in New York City, Milwaukee and out in Reston, but now we'll be right downtown.

I am excited to share The Chemistry of Lime Trees because it is a work unlike any other I've made - being based on factual historical stories involving plot and characters it is much more theatrical than my previous work. It is emotional, intense, and even occasionally funny.

I am excited for these performances because we will be performing 8 times over two weeks - highly unusual for a dance company. This will give us the opportunity to share the work with a broader audience, deepen our performing experience and hopefully give everyone who wants to see the performance an opportunity to see it.

These performances are a culmination and a continuation for the company. It is a culminate of five years of research, rehearsing, creation and performing The Chemistry of Lime Trees. It is the second project of our two year project - The Perimeter Project - which started last fall with our presentation of Scenic Route. Over the next two years we will exploring the role of borders and boundaries, both real and imagined, through numerous projects, performances and events.

Here is a video where I talk alittle bit more about The Chemistry of Lime Trees, as well as our current fundraising campaign to support these performances.

USA Projects 1 Version 2 from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.

Find out more about our USA Project HERE.


A little hospital dance

Over the last weeks I have been finding moments in my work at the hospital where I am between things without something to do. These moments are short - less than 5 minutes. It is usually when I am done on one unit and have a couple of minutes before I am to be at the next unit. Usually I just take my time until I go into the next unit. Recently I have instead found out of the way places, and with my iPod Touch, have captured my self doing short improvisational movement sequences - each shot is only between 30 and 60 seconds. The spaces are mostly hallways and stairwells - I wanted to shoot some in the elevator, but I was never alone long enough. After I had some footage I began editing the material - again, on my iPod using iMovie - while commuting on the Metro and buses around DC. Below is the final video. Enjoy. Hopefully my next hospital video will consist of shots from the elevator....

Hospital 11282013 from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.

In case you didn't know, I am an Artist-in-Residence at Georgetown University Hospital where I work with patients, family members, nurses, doctors, and support and administrative staff.