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

Gig in Cologne, Germany was tremendous

June 4, 2010

The opportunity to create and perform a site-specific, solo dance in response to Dianna Frid’s installation “skylight and spectra” at the neues kunstforum gallery in Cologne Germany offered a huge range of benefits to me as an artist. The dance that took place at the closing of the visual arts exhibition on Sunday May 9th at noon, challenged me to create a body-centered response to the original floor drawing that Frid created, but at the same time to create a work that expressed my own thoughts and reactions to the themes of light, reflection and colour. In the process I achieved my goal of bringing enhanced meaning to Frid’s work, where lay people and even children could experience the floor drawing that Frid created in deeper ways.

I have spent much of my recent career aiming to draw the language of dance out of obscurity and generously offering it to any audience, giving viewers the confidence to see movement and to react to it with a sense of their own authority. I feel satisfied that I am becoming good at what I do, when I can now walk into a cross-disciplinary collaboration and create a work that enhances the viewer’s experience of not only the dance but the original media as well.

Frid’s work was about light and reflection and colour. It was an outstanding, intricate, and playful piece about the bounce of light against surfaces. It was about inhabiting a large space with a unifying concept that drew attention towards a focal point. All of these concepts sat comfortably within the dance I created and I feel I succeeded in using the unique features of Frid’s installation to realize my own interpretations.

Some examples, I used my voice to augment the concept of bounce against surfaces in the space. This feature was highly successful and I was thrilled to see how responsive the audience’s comments were to my use of voice and self-accompaniment in the piece. Also, I used the architecture of the installation to draw attention to our unified forms, which helped to situate the piece firmly in its immediate surroundings. I also relied on my body to reflect the lines and patterns of the design in the floor drawing and this element made the eye of the viewer more sensitive to the work that Frid created.

One exciting achievement for me was my idea to wear a white costume to catch the reflections from the metallic floor drawing against the surface of my body (as an alternate surface of reflection). This aspect of the dance succeeded beyond my expectations by bringing acute attention to the bounce of skylight against the metallic colored material. In these reflections you could say that secondary works of art were being created in real time, against the accompanying surface of my body.

What I really learned through this process is how to create a draft of an idea for a site-specific work within a neutral space, such as a dance studio, while still keeping the pictures of the ultimate performance space in mind and in photographs. So that when I begin to amalgamate the dance that I created separately, together with the elements of space in the real performance environment, I can work quickly and efficiently. When I arrived to Cologne I had two days to complete this final step, and I found the confidence and calm to stay constantly curious and open to adaptation, which allowed the elements of the draft and the space to blend into a final form only hours before the public showing. That mutability and curiosity; that comfort with change that took me to the final form of the piece was an enlivening and exciting outcome of this project for me and a real achievement in terms of my creative process.

Oh and the audience in Germany is amazing! They clap so long and hard and the end of every show I saw or performed, that an unseasoned North American performer like myself had not prepared enough curtain calls to satisfy this unexpected show of appreciation and deep respect for the performing arts. Whoa!!!! It was a thrill.

Liz Lerman Mentorship: What did I learn?

January 20, 2010

The opportunity to be mentored in a one on one relationship with Liz Lerman during October 2009 was an unforgettable experience. She embodies the artist I strive to be. Creative and Alive. Conscious and Analytical. Committed to deepening human interaction and engagement. Liz is redefining the art of dance and the role it can play in society. She taught me so much about creating dance and staying true to one’s vision for artistic practice.

From a strictly artistic perspective, she identified two skills and approaches that I am thinking alot about these days:

1. Go up really close to the subject matter when you are developing your dance. Get as literal and close-up as possible and then pull back once you know where too close is. There is a difference between being didactic and being unclear about your subject matter. Getting up close allows you to find out clearly what your subject matter is about. Pulling back allows you to bring artistry to it.

2. Find the embodiment of something and then use it in a physical conversation. It’s a way of building dialogue. She was describing a tool for how to take on the body and weight of an emotion/feeling and that transferring that embodiment into a choreographic entity.

It would be hard to thank the SFU Centre for Dialogue enough for choosing me to engage so deeply with this deeply-committed artist, Liz Lerman.

Experiments: outcomes

January 19, 2010

What have I learned from this piece so far. That if I am going to do a piece about scientific method and creative method, then I need to attend to the methodology throughout. Either make it overt, like an exoskeleton, or comment on it throughout the work.

First Week in studio

September 4, 2009

I began some creation on the new piece recently and I was thrilled at the juice that was flowing creatively. Illuminated blocks for data points marking the salient moments in the dancers’ work. Attractions between dancers as visible reflections about theories on origins of race as a response to impressions of beauty and love that are formulated early in life by the image of our primary caregivers. This is a theory that is part of the literature of evolutionary biology and that is core to the study of Behavioural ecology. Characters emerging on the stage as a parallel to the way Behavioural Ecologists study individual animals, who they watch and analyze in terms of each individual’s response to opportunities and risks in their environment. In other words the individual variations between animals will be viewed in this piece like the individual variations between the motivations of different characters and more specifically the risk tolerance of these 3 characters ranging from most cautious to most bold. Is there an outcome within the piece, such as who ends up with the biggest pay off and who ends up with the biggest losses based on their respective strategies along the continuum of cautious to bold? These are the questions of Behavioural Ecology and they are beginning to find some language in the dance piece that feels like it has the possibility of being both aesthetically and dramatically charged, but also interesting in terms of its connection to the methods of science and the interests of scientists in the field of BE. There is still a very far way to go but here, you go, a short blog entry on what I have begun to create.

A Great Home Stretch

March 30, 2009

This post covers 3 shows because it was difficult to write in the blog from Yellowknife because I did not have internet access and I could not write since we arrived in Alberta because my computer was set up at the theatre the entire time (it’s the computer that runs the show). Too bad because I will lose some of the detail and it has been a very dense week of travel and performance. But here are the snapshots.

Let’s just say that Yellowknife was the social highlight of the trip as I suspected it might be. Coming from the North, I know about the high premium placed on hospitality and that is what we received in large amounts in YK. Our hosts Osgur and Karen were super attentive and fun. The community likes to have a good time. The audience was interactive and insightful and we had a good show. And some of us taught workshops which were well attended and satisfying. I especially liked working with the Friday night group who ended up creating some beautiful movement studies during our time together.

It was hard to leave the North, partly because it was 6am. The night before was a very late night at the Snow King’s Castle (I guess you’ll have to go to Yellowknife in March to find out what that’s about and I would advise you to find out). But we all made it to the airport and flew to Edmonton. Our main man Curtis was our driver and we were his comedians–sleeplessness can have that effect.

Finally, technical rehearsals at the beautiful Arden Theatre began in the late afternoon of Saturday and then 2 shows on Sunday. The morning show was a champagne breakfast and now I think the series that LINK created in 2002 has truly found its most complete and satisfying recipe. Breakfast Dances with champagne…Yeh! Our audience was AMAZING. They were funny and interesting, with diverse insights, and the duet inspired a group cry that was beautiful to behold. I knew it was going to go well when I walked on stage and said Hello Everyone and before I could move on to my next line, the whole audience in unison sang back “Hello”. It all barreled forth from there.

There were some memorable comments about synchronicity as a process of discovery and aging in a relationship, standing on ones own feet being an image of captivity (earlier in the tour someone described it is a circuit of self-containment). There were beautiful comments about the deliberateness of an animal’s actions which is what “Territory” captures in my mind so effectively. We even had a poet in the audience who wrote 3 poems in response to our work and I will post them once he sends them to me.

The final show went fine as well but the climax was definitely at 11am on Sunday March 29 and I think I will ride on that energy for awhile. One couple after the show debriefed every detail of the performance with me from how amazing it was to be addressed right at the top of the show with a reminder to now arrive, focus and take note of the moments that spark their creativity. They said it brought them into a state of presence in a way they had never experienced before at a show. They told me many other things as well but blogs are for fun so write me if you want more details.

After our final performance, the company went for our Last Supper. We took the time to recap our tour–to review the month’s highlights in sequential order. It was a beautiful thing to do, spontaneously, to capture the moments that left an impression, to retell the richness of life on tour where a group of people become temporarily like a family, like newlyweds, in love and in hate, working together daily despite tensions, difficulties, good times, hang overs, all of it. And we really did work as a group most days, spending much of our time together and sharing some really good singing, laughing, performing, logistics and practicalities. I have great affection for Darcy, Amber, Josh and Dean. It was all a highlight. Thanks!

NYC? G & AFB throwin’ it down

March 18, 2009

Well that was fun. We performed our shortened version of the touring piece at Ailey Studios last night and it went great. Amber and I were able to grab one hour of rehearsal space during the afternoon and we quickly constructed a new roadmap through the improv piece. I took some of Josh’s parts and Amber absorbed some of Darcy’s and we created a few new transitions and then, here we go. As Amber, I mean AFB, said it. We’re in NY and the best thing is to have no time to get nervous.

It was so much fun sharing the stage with Amber. She’s awesome and no surprise, the audience loved her. One person called her incandescent. My husband told me I looked 20 years younger dancing that night (and despite that he is my main squeeze he is also my biggest critic). It really was a special show and we connected deeply with the audience and with one another.

Dean had some residual voodoo from an earlier show but he gave us some super morsels to chew on from the tech booth and in total we threw it down in NYC (and put the bags in their rightful place).

“This is not your average blog…;)”

March 15, 2009

well…here i am. the name’s AFB and i’m in NYC. New York that is. anyway, i’m here to shed some light on what it’s been like as on of the performers on this tour…
i find it pretty cool that no matter what time of the day we perform this program, whether it’s for dessert, brunch, cocktails, what-have-you…it always manages to make an impact with people. some towns are more emotional and forth right with their comments and some are more reserved-but there is always a response whether in the format of the performance or after the show is over.
our last show was in st. catherines-a toughy for me but having a full house made it all the more worth it. totally warm and appreciative…when you get to dance for people who really appreciate and connect to what you are doing…yeah…it’s pretty cool to have that privilege.
(i forgot to start this blog off by apologizing for my horrible spelling that will no dought infiltrate this entire entry)
where was i? oh yeah. so the team is on a break right now. i am a little sad without my two other LINK dance dream teamers but i am recharging for what’s ahead: -50 windchill in yellowknife…yeeeeeaaaah…gotta do some serious mental preperation to cope with that one;) i am looking forward to it. never been to the martimes-check. got to see torono again-check. nyc? really big check! and now i am really looking forward to performing in the NWT…
’till next time friends…
peace out,
Lady B of the LINK

Ontario’s third show

March 14, 2009

We just completed our last show in Ontario in a town called St. Catherines, organized through Brock University. The presenter Deb Slade booked the Folk Society’s Hall to do the show with Breakfast served along side the performance, which is truly my favorite arrangement for these shows. So informal and warm.

The show went great and we had a super interesting audience. Kids, professional dancers from the Niagara Dance Company, the head of Dramatic Arts from Brock University, the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists-Ontario Chapter. People seemed to really love the show and enjoy the interplay between their thoughts and our creative impulses.

It’s been fun.