Friday, September 6, 2013

Research in Movement and Light

Research investigations with choreographer Nora Gibson and lighting designers Clifford Greer and Katinka Marac

As artists, educators, administrators, advocates (for self, art, non-violence, education...), friends, family, and humans, our attention is being competed for, constantly. Decisions and reactions are made, enacted, and forgotten in seconds; buzzwords like "mindfulness" and "present-moment-ness" are ironic, common reminders on digital feeds and walls. Time is precious.

So, when I had the opportunity to be in a theatre with choreographer Nora Gibson (Philadelphia), and lighting designers Clifford Greer (Philadelphia), and Katinka Marac (the Netherlands) and research light, the experience was beyond luxurious.

inside the Mandell Theater
The research period was an intense week-long process for the collaborators. I was able to participate in two days. My first day, we experimented with color. Katinka and Clifford projected squares of color on the floor (white marley) and the scrim. We, the participants, were invited to see the color - from the stage and from different places in the theatre. We were invited to be in the color and experience it on our own bodies as well and with other bodies. The practice of being in light becomes important for a dancer to master, quickly in her performance experience. The light allows the dance to be shared and experienced. There are ways to "be in light" and to "be out of light" sometimes these are decisions by the performer and choreographer, but often, it is the responsibility of the performer to "feel" the light and know that she can be seen and perceived. Often, we work in a studio and are not on stage until tech week. Then, we only have a few hours to become accustomed to the light, which might be so blinding we can't actually see. We have to ignore our own eye-receptors and find ways and places to spot our turns and balance without a visual cue. This is where kinesthetic awareness becomes so important. As does the practice of being in light.

A color similar to my puke yellow
With each projection, Clifford and Katinka allowed us time to experience the energy of the color. Over time, red became still. Blue, vibrant and almost shaking. Stepping into the color became a different experience than being outside of the color, reminding me that as a performer, I need to be aware of what my audience is perceiving as well as what I'm experiencing. They may, and can, be different. Clifford projected a yellow onto the floor. Inside of it, I became nauseous. Clifford, I'm really interested in this intense physical reaction that I'm having. "Yeah, me too!" he responded. "This is a huge part of the research! Color causes chemical and biological reactions that are triggered by the receptors in our eyes and our brain. And then that effects the psyche, the emotions, and the body. But we don't usually have the time to pay attention to what's going on in our bodies; especially when we're in tech or watching a performance." The reactions happen instantaneously, and then we leave the performance wondering how and why we've been affected.

Later in the day, we worked with creating tableaus in color. I asked Clifford and Katinka if I could continue researching my puke yellow. The assignment was to see the color from the audience, sit with the color and our internal reactions, and then create a tableau within the color. After sitting with the image for a few more moments, Clifford or Katinka would change the color, essentially, changing the entire environment and meaning of the tableau.

I ignored the assignment and created a moment from my current research Embedded Layers. How did my movement for this project relate to my puke yellow? After arranging my dancers, I stepped back. The puke yellow became a sepia tone and the environment looked like a crumbing Greco-Roman facade. This became a moment of realization. My work as a choreographer is deeply rooted in researching the complexities of our own human stories and the symbols that create our histories. I love anthropology and archaeology and the digging and uprooting of details to tell these stories. Inherently, I had a kinesthetic reaction to a color that suggested a historical representation when my movement was placed inside of it. In that moment, my body, my consciousness, and my unconsciousness exploded in a supernova of excitement and realization that the many elements of my current research are deeply connected.
Dancers in my puke yellow - stepping out, it looked like a scene from Classical Greek architecture

Shifting the color to red changed the environment and the tone of the tableau.

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Nora, Clifford, and Katinka had their own research experiences which I'm sure will come out in their own work. Check out more here:
Katinka Marac
Nora Gibson

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Later in the week, we improvised with light and movement. As an improvisor, I have worked with both light and music, taking my cues from their inspiration, but I've never worked with changing light. Clifford and Katinka had the freedom in their designs to respond to our movements and we had the freedom to make choices based on their designs. To add another layer, each designer was working with a set of lighting elements, as dancers may improvise within a set of pre-determined limitations. Two dancers were on stage and each was assigned to a lighting designer. The dancer onstage and the lighting designer would communicate with their elements. It was an option to pay attention to the other elements onstage (the light and the other dancer), but not a requirement of the exercise. Here's one of the results. I'm performing with Nora and responding to Clifford's design. Clifford was working with white light. Nora was working with Katinka; Katinka was working with red light. 

Thank you, Nora, Clifford, and Katinka for this time to research and investigate! 

Investigations in red and white light.

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