Archive for October, 2010

Sculptor Lee Gass exhibits at the opening of EXPERIMENTS

October 29, 2010
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The Impulse to Create

October 29, 2010

I am now in the thick of it. Cell phone constantly plastered to my ear. Collaborators at every rehearsal with questions and new ideas to bring into the mix. BREATH. Computer crashes that threaten the composer’s work and timeline. BREATH. The dancers getting more and more articulate at the physical vocabulary we have created and now I can see what I actually have created … oh dear, the questioning begins. BREATH.

Such an exciting time and a time of little rest, but it all leads me to wonder what drives the creative spirit, and what could possibly possess me to undertake such a massive project? I can’t say that I know exactly what the answer is, but it does bring me back to the start of this project. When I first proposed the idea of creating a work based on Experimental Design to my original collaborator, Dr. Mark Winston, in 2008.

Mark is the Academic Director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. He had been impressed with my first work created through this collaboration with scientists (in the field of Behavioural Ecology) and he wanted to help spearhead a new piece, even larger in scale and more ambitious in content. I was gamed. So he asked, “what would you want to create a piece about?” I said, “Experimental Design in Science.” He was surprised, to say the least. What I said next, however, hooked him. “Experimental Design,” I told him, “is as much a reflection of the personality and personal beliefs of a scientist, as it is a reflection of the natural world under investigation. And the elegance of a good design is as beautiful as dance.” He totally agreed and totally jumped in, feet first.

Mark was visibly thrilled that I understood this aspect of experimental design that it is a mirror for personality and a pursuit of elegance in how to ask a refined question. I guess he knew that it was the consequence of having fallen in love with a scientist and seeing first hand the passion, the wit, and the artistry that my husband brings into the process of designing a good experiment. I love how the personality of a scientist is so evident in their experiments–a witty mind creates a trap, a romantic mind seeks evidence of deep connectivity between things, a social activist looks for the influence of community on individual actions in animal behaviour. I was charmed by the spirit of scientists, like when you first begin to see the personality of a child emerging from a newborn.

I was also charmed by how scientists use language. As terse as poetry! Melodic like music. They speak in a way about their research, that gave me a sense of accompaniment for dance. Precise, razor-sharp, impassioned.

These are some of the starting points for this project and they are beginning to become visible in the outcomes of our creative process. Months of experimentation and finally I find myself deeply satisfied to witness what was only in my imagination finding real expression in movement, music, etc. The impulse to translate their poetry; to capture their personalities inside their experiments; interpreting the elegance of a clean set of results with an elegant phrase of dance. I think I am finding the answer to why I undertook the massive endeavour …

I had the idea that Behavioural Ecologists and Choreographers sharing a key aspect in our work–that we both interpret movement and actions as meaningful information, enough to build a career around. A cool idea but until it is presented in some way, it remains only that … an idea. To be brave is to speak that idea out loud through this production.

EXPERIMENTS: Where Logic and Emotion Collide at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, November 25-27, 8pm (plus a Discover Dance noon show on Thursday Nov 25).

Dancers are so smart

October 16, 2010

What a great week in the studio. You know . . . as a choreographer you often sit around and mull over things in your mind for hours and days and unfortunately nights too. Thinking through some really big questions or aims in a piece you are working on, and ways to communicate your impulses. It is so solitary. and then on top of that, sometimes trying to impart to the dancers what you want is a seemingly impossible task.

Then you walk into rehearsal one day and say ok I want to tell you this story or show you this picture. And it is like the mirroring reflex of the mind, that neuroscientists have demonstrated is totally real. That when you communicate with someone directly and authentically, they can actually see in their own minds identical pictures that mirror the pictures in your mind. Well the dancers in LINK Dance’s upcoming production of EXPERIMENTS–Cara Siu, Marvin Vergara and Darcy McMurray–offered me that gift the other day in the studio.

Working on finding the ending of the piece, I asked them to just listen to something that I had brought in for the top of rehearsal. They listened, then went out into the space. I gave them a very loose improvisational score to work with and suddenly they delivered back to me the pictures in my head, which had not even become clear enough to me yet to feel I deserved such a articulate depiction. I have so much admiration for their intuition and so much appreciation for their insights. It is hard to bundle all that up into a blog entry, because there is history that we share in the work room together. Years of forging a kinetic understanding between one another. Years of learning what the other does best, does less best, finds interesting, finds fun . . .

But when you get the payback from those years of putting in time together creatively, and it is such a splendid moment artistically, the choreographer gets a gift beyond words. EXPERIMENTS is finding its resolution and it is so satisfying to me. I hope it is as potent an ending for the audience who will journey through this piece with us in just over a month from now–Nov 25-27 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver.

Experiment #1

October 5, 2010

It’s so much fun to be honest about this whole choreography thing, that it is really not much more than an experiment about the relationship between performers and their audience. I feel even more convinced of that after my performance of “Experiment 1” the solo I created on myself which will open the evening-length work EXPERIMENTS at the Scotiabank Dance Centre Nov 25-27.

The first experiment focuses on the observational process, witnessing and forming responses to the witnessing. The audience sees me alone on stage with the space around me, my body, my voice, a minimalist soundtrack and light. It is so simple but so profound because when I commit to the journey of this piece (and on Sunday night’s performance at Launch Pad I committed it all–which was FUN) the audience is faced with the opportunity to simply observe me in my environment, not too dissimilar to how an ecologist might witness an animal in its habitat.

I am raw and honest but the choreography is detailed and well-crafted. I think this is one of my best works to date. I can’t wait to add the projection design and lighting design which will take this piece up another notch. Yippee for the creative process.

Gail