River Meditations by Brian Harris

Here is a second video Brian Harris created as part of our Scenic Route performance along the Potomac. It is basically me rolling around on a large rock. But, it's really cool. Mostly because of Brian.

Scenic Route: River Meditation from Brian Harris on Vimeo.


Scenic Route by Brian Harris

The company has created and performed versions of Scenic Route a number of times - twice on the Billy Goat train along the Potomac River in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. This video - by the amazing Brian Harris - was the second time we led a hike/performance along the Potomac. It was a beautiful day with a lovely group, and the event lasted almost 3 hours.

Here's Brian's remix of the event:

Scenic Route from Brian Harris on Vimeo.

with myself + Kathryn Harris Banks, Stephanie Yezek, and singer Allison Hughes.


Ad Libitum - Brian's Video

As an artist who has collaborated with numerous other artists I have many relationships which I cherish for their depth, longevity, and frankly, success. One of my favorite collaborators over the last number of years has been with Brian Harris - a video artist, composer, photographer and web designer. Brian and I have known each other for over 20 years, but we began collaborating artistically a little over three years ago. He came to my performance of "Ad Libitum" at Joe's Movement Emporium and recorded the show. He then went home, edited the video, composed original music, and created something unique out of our performance. On one hand it documented the performance, but in another way, and more pronounced, the video is itself a work of art which stands on its own. Brian has gone on to record and remix (as it were) a number of other performances, as well as creating one video which we spent a day and a half recording on site. Over the next couple weeks I'm going to be posting Brian's videos on this blog to showcase his wonderful work, as well as remember some of the work the company has done over the last couple of years. Enjoy!

This video is from the first work Brian remixed for us - Ad Libitum, an evening of structured improvisation developed from various meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ad Libitum from Brian Harris on Vimeo.

with Kathryn Harris Banks, Keira Hart Mendoza, Carrie Monger, Stephanie Yezek


a long and winding road

Last weekend The PlayGround presented Acts of Arriving across metro DC - starting in Mount Rainer traveling to Brookland, then onto Meridian Hill / Malcolm X Park, and finishing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. We performed in each location, then walked to the next location. It took the whole day, with over 7 miles of walking and 3 hours of dancing. It was a long and winding journey through the city.

In January 2012 we started rehearsing for this day. In that time we have rehearsed in numerous studios, on-site many times, toured locations in the freezing cold and the heat of summer. We have researched our personal genealogy, histories of neighborhoods, stories of people who migrate, and the meaning of home and community. The company has created movement, spoken word texts, videos, while David has composed some amazing music. As individuals we have gotten married, had a baby, changed jobs ( a couple of times), and I even moved to Milwaukee (!). We have gotten to know one another in new ways, were introduced to locations in the city some of us were unfamiliar with, and each of us grew, in many ways, as an artist. The journey has been full, if somewhat long and winding.

We arrive at the end of this journey excited and grateful about what we offered. In many ways it is a culmination of many works and performances the company has created over the last number of years, and at the same time, it is unlike anything else we've created. It is playful but complex, multifaceted yet direct, formal and informal, highly structured with room for spontaneity, and approachable while being challenging. As with most of my work I hope it is welcoming without being simplistic, and visceral with a touch of poetry.

As with the end of any long and winding journey there is deep satisfaction, with a little sadness and great gratitude.

If you weren’t able to join us (or even if you were) here is a video montage of our Mount Rainier performance by Brian Harris - with dancers Kathryn Harris Banks, Anthony Barbir, Valerie Branch, Daniel Tehmann Tejos, Abigail Wallace, trumpeter Joseph Teachey, with music by David Schulman. I’m around as well:

Acts of Arriving from Brian Harris on Vimeo.


The Places They've Lived

Throughout the process of creating Acts of Arriving we offered creative workshops at locations across Metro DC. One of the activities we asked people to participate in was in listing all of the places they lived, starting with where they were born until present day. This video is excerpts of people's responses.

Acts of Arriving: Places The've Lived from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.

The photo at the beginning is of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 
and the map at the end is one we used for our creative workshop at Monroe St Market in Brookland. 

for those of you unfamiliar with Acts of Arriving:
Acts of Arriving is a multi-year project in which we engage question about place, community, and the creative act of making a home. We offered four workshops in Mount Rainier, MD, Brookland, DC, Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, and at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. We will be performing at all four locations on Saturday, October 18, 2014. 
More details at: www.danielburkholdertheplayground.org


Katie @ The Kennedy Center

A couple weeks ago The PlayGround rehearsed Acts of Arriving at The Kennedy Center for our upcoming performance (info here). At the beginning of the performance each performer does a solo for a different part of the audience, so there are 6 simultaneous solos happening. The following is an excerpt of Katie's solo - I like how, at only moments, she exites the shadow into the light, with a little on her face here and there.

Acts of Arriving Katie at The Kennedy Center from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.

Learn more about Acts of Arriving - with performances on October 18, 2014 across Metro DC: http://www.danielburkholdertheplayground.org/when.html


Being In Space

This last weekend, The PlayGround had an on-site performance at The Kennedy Center for our upcoming performance of Acts of Arriving. We will be performing on the North Plaza, just adjacent to the Watergate Hotel. It is a large space, with lots of straight lines, next to two large buildings, and very open to the big sky above. When we arrived and began to discuss how to situate ourselves in this space, it was somewhat overwhelming. Often, as dancers, we wish we had more space (in the studio we're rehearsing, or the stage we're performing on), but, as they say, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing.

The challenge with any site-specific, or site-semi-specific performance, is that the site can so easily dominate the performance. You have two choices (at minimum two) - either try to contrast the site to stand out against it, or blend into the site to a certain degree to integrate with it. You can do both in a single performance, of course, or ride the continuum from one end of this spectrum to the other. Some sites are more appropriate to integrate with, and others are more inviting to contrast.

The North Plaza at The Kennedy Center, with its white stone floor and straight lined walls, highly manicured bushes opening to the sky, and its large gold-ish pillars, seems to invite contrast. There are not many details in this place, just a vista with a view. So, we choose to place Acts of Arriving along one of the walls, just over from the Potomac River, with the sky overhead. For the majority of the dance the site will frame our work, without direct interaction or comment.

About two thirds of the way through the performance there is a section in which the dancers spread out to interact with the space more directly. This section is more specifically site-specific. The other Acts of Arriving sites (Mount Rainier/Joe's Movement Emporium, Brookland/Dance Place, and Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park) are rich in details with many areas to explore. The Kennedy Center has space. Plenty of it. But, not many nooks and cranies to explore. Thankfully, we were able to find three serparate spaces for the dancers to create something specific, and unique.

Here is a short video of Daniela and Anthony exploring thier spaces:


Sherry's Neighborhood

As part of our ongoing research for Acts of Arriving, we are holding creative workshops at four DC area sites in partnership with other organizations: Mount Rainier/Joe's Movement Emporium, Brookland/Dance Place, Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park/Washington Parks and People, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In these drop-in workshops we are offering visual art, writing and mapping, and movement sessions, along with mini-performances of dance and music. On September 13th we offered one of our creative workshops at Monroe St Market in Brookland during their farmers' market. Unfortunately it was raining, so there was a light turn-out, but we had a number of people pop into Dance Place's Studio 21 to partake in our offerings.

Here is Sherry showing her drawing of a neighborhood she grew up in and some of the things that made it a home for her:

Find out more about Acts of Arriving workshops and performances HERE


The Smell of a Place

A little over three weeks ago my family and I left DC with a loaded down car and moved north to Milwaukee. We had lived in the same house for over 10 years (packing was a trial), and I had (mostly) lived in the DC area for the last twenty years. My wife and daughter have lived their whole lives in Maryland. It is a time of big change and transition.

We knew where we were going - we had already found a place to live. When we arrived I was struck by the smell of the place. It wasn't bad nor good, it just didn't smell like home.

Smells are, as we all know, powerful indicators of place, or memories, they are vital to our sensation of taste. Holding our nose as we take a bite of something drastically changes its taste. A smell of a certain perfume can remind one of someone you haven't thought of in years. For myself, I know there is a certain cleaning product my mother always used and whenever I smell it, as it is fairly common, I am instantly reminded of the house I grew up in. 

We also connect certain smells to different cultures or places. I know the smell of my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, or think of Bali with a certain flowery smell I remember. Smell is a primal sense that ties deeply into our subconscious. It is direct communication.

So, since we arrived, and since our stuff has arrive, we have been busy unpacking, arranging, and cleaning. Every once in a while I have paused and noticed this house's smell. It hasn't changed, is more familiar, but still not my smell.

Yesterday I was out in the garage working on boxes as my daughter rode her bike up and down the street. I had to run back inside for something, and for the first time since we moved into this house my wife was cooking to make dinner. The aroma of the cooking hit me, directly. And in that moment, as clear as the sky, I thought, "This is what home smells like".

Meet Anthony!

Meet Anthony - not only does he create and perform with The PlayGround, but he works for the Turnaround Arts program for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which uses the arts to help narrow the achievement gap, increase student engagement, and improve the culture and climate in the country's highest poverty schools. He also teaches color guard clinics across the country (you'll see him do some color guard work in Acts of Arriving!), is a counselor for Tau Beta Sigma (a national honorary band sorority), and is a little bit of a Star Wars fanatic (just a little...).

Acts of Arriving - Anthony's Solo from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.


Meditating on Creative Placemaking


When I envisioned Acts of Arriving as a multi-site, site-specific workshop and performance event across the Metro DC region I had not heard of 'creative placemaking'. But, when I read about the concept I knew immediately that that is what I was moving towards with this project - thinking about how can we facilitate a discussion about community, home, and their implications in an evolving and changing city.

On the website www.83degreesmedia.com author Sheena Lyonnais writes "placemaking is often at its best when it connects people and places" - which is exactly the core of what we aim to accomplish with Acts of Arriving.
In creative placemaking artists are the catalysts to engage communities through artistic endeavors from painting a mural, to creating a performance work, to establishing a community gallery, to offering creative workshops for residents and constituents. 

At www.artplaceamerica.org, a leading funder of creative placemaking, they describe creative placemaking as, among other things, contributing "to a mix of... people that makes places more diverse, more interesting and more active, thus making spontaneous interaction more likely". When people come together, to share an experience, it fosters a closer sense of community and belonging. 

contributes to a mix of uses and people that makes places more diverse, more interesting and more active, thus making spontaneous interaction more likely. Intensifying and mixing activities creates the promise that visitors can stumble onto the fun, mingle with other people, or happen upon opportunity. - See more at: http://www.artplaceamerica.org/articles/principles-of-creative-placemaking/#sthash.ah5xPcmb.dpuf
…contributes to a mix of uses and people that makes places more diverse, more interesting and more active, thus making spontaneous interaction more likely. Intensifying and mixing activities creates the promise that visitors can stumble onto the fun, mingle with other people, or happen upon opportunity. - See more at: http://www.artplaceamerica.org/articles/principles-of-creative-placemaking/#sthash.ah5xPcmb.dpuf
…contributes to a mix of uses and people that makes places more diverse, more interesting and more active, thus making spontaneous interaction more likely. Intensifying and mixing activities creates the promise that visitors can stumble onto the fun, mingle with other people, or happen upon opportunity. - See more at: http://www.artplaceamerica.org/articles/principles-of-creative-placemaking/#sthash.ah5xPcmb.dpuf
So, I've been thinking a lot about place, home, leaving, arriving, becoming apart of a community, and how to make a big mix of things to offer to the communities in which will be participating.

Some questions include:

What are the histories of specific performance sites?

Who lives there now? Who lived there previously? One generation ago? Two? Three?

What is the landscape?

Is the community stable or changing?

Do people live there, work there, both?

And, what about the personal histories of the performers - how do they get intermingled into the work with the communities?

There are many threads, many possible avenues for research, discussion and creation. We are sorting through the threads as we continue to create Acts of Arriving, discovering what creative placemaking means for us, and how we can connect and celebrate the communities in which we will offer our workshops and performances.

Until July 10th we are raising funds to support Acts of Arriving - we need to raise $4500. Please check out our campaign site and consider supporting this endeavor. Thanks!

*Photos of two sites which Acts of Arriving will engage communities: Top is of Meridian Hill Park, bottom of Mount Rainier, MD and one of our supporters - Art Lives Here.


"insert [ ] here sound experiments"

This weekend I am performing as a guest artist as part of Sharon Mansur and Nick Bryson's insert [ ] here at the newly renovated Dance Place. For my part, I will be performing a solo which begins in the new dressing room and then moves to the office, surrounded by the new colored glass corner. The work, among other things, explores our visceral response to space. And, Dance Place is a lovely new and familiar space to respond to. 

One of the other elements I will be exploring in this performance is having a direct, manipulative relationship to the sound and music. I asked composer/DJ/multi-media artist Alvin Hill to collaborate on creating a sound instillation I could adjust within the performative context. We asked: how can I, as the performer, respond to the sound, but also change it? Manipulate it? Filter it? 

I think we came up with a unique solution combining current technology with a little retro, leaving me room to both manipulate and respond to it. Alvin created 5 different sound tracks, from an effected variation of my voice to a sparse piano solo to a sound-scape reminiscent of trains, tones and subtlety - all so beautiful. We put each track on its own MP3 player connected to an FM transmitter (like you might use to listen to your iPod in the car) and set them to different frequencies. (see photo below for equipment) I then swooped down on local second hand shops and bought all the clock radios I could find (7). In performance I will be changing frequencies on the clock radios throughout the performance to layer the sounds in different ways - sometimes playing one track, some times many tracks at the same time.

This set up is an interesting contrast between these unfamiliar tracks Alvin created, things you wouldn't hear on the radio, and hearing them with the crackles and static listening to a radio entails. Seeing me, and hearing, the changing of radio stations. Seeing me shift my movement qualities in regards to the changing sound. This all becomes a world of sound and movement familiar in some concrete ways, but unfamiliar in many ways. A juxtaposition between the everyday and a performance. Much like the the overall performance you'll see from Sharon, Nick, and guest artists - a mix of the mundane and the extra-ordinary. 

Visit us June 21 & 22, 2014 at Dance Place. More info here: http://www.danceplace.org/dance-performances/nick-bryson-sharon-mansur/