Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Embedded Layers - Physical research

Temple University is presenting me at the Dance Alumni Showcase. I'm honored to be sharing Embedded Layers, in its entirety. Ultimately, I've been working on this project since 2010, with thoughts swirling around my kinesphere for the past few years. This year, I was presented with a challenge and an opportunity.

For tickets, Temple Alumni Showcase Tickets

Rhonda Moore (founding member of Bill T Jones and Arnie Zane dance company), KC Chun-Manning (artistic director of Fresh Blood), Brandi Ou (KYL/D artist), Evalina Carbonell (aka, Wally, and KYL/D artist), Rachael Hart (KYL/D artist), and Cassandra Cotta (NYC artist) will be performing together to music by Tracy Scott Silverman. These women have shared my research journey, but also the torrent of ideas, movement processes, research, and storms of the past few years.

Here's some of my own research:

And some research with KC and her awesome, super hero son:

KC and I were working together and he was sharing space with us. I asked him to participate in some choreographic experiments with KC and he generously agreed. Because of his time and energy, we were able to find some clarity in the process! (We also had a lot of fun, too!) Thanks, dancing super hero friend!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Into the fall...

Best wishes for reflection and dancing as the seasons change, Friends! 

More threads... different performance.

Here are a few more shots from (un)tangled threads, this time, performed at the InHale Performance Series in South Philly. Performance by Rachael Hart and Vuthy Ou. Pics by Bill Hebert - thanks, Bill!

Love this shot!

Shadows are stunning!

Check out their spatial relationship in this moment. 

Rachael's got a fierce face!

Vuthy's power move. Both photographers caught this one!

And some feedback from InHale audience members (from the feedback forms given to audience members at every InHale Performance):

Strong technical performance. Emotion in movement.
Dynamic use of breath - rhythmic weight and grounded accents.
Connection of dancers!
Sultry, powerful. Curious. Bop-whew-ooze.
Beautiful quality.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

chemistry fraught with past complications

Performance Review for (un)tangled threads

the embodiment project
Reviewed by Erin Bomboy
embodimentIn (un)Tangled Threads, dance-maker Jessica C. Warchal-King creates an intricate relationship between performers Rachael Hart, outfitted in a black frock with hair haphazardly piled on top of her head, and Vuthy Ou, dressed in black trousers and an unbuttoned dress shirt.  Their future uncertain, Hart and Ou display chemistry fraught with past complications. Warchal-King crafts melting body undulations, flickering feet with toes beating at the ankle, and plunging runs to underscore the duet’s desire to unravel their feelings into meaningful cogence. Often, the two find themselves at opposite sides of the stage, bodies yearning toward each other, yet seemingly unable to connect.  Hart and Ou proffer performances that couple physical dexterity with emotional intensity.
See for yourself on YouTube!

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Pics by Peter Yesley during tech. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

(un)tangled threads at Dixon Place, NYC

Thanks so much for NYC 10 Dance Initiative and Dixon Place for presenting us!

(un)tangled threads
the embodiment project
Choreography: Jessica Warchal-King
Performance: Rachael Hart, Vuthy Ou
Music: Kaveh Saidi

Dixon Place
NYC 10
Kaveh Saidi

Insight about the process coming soon...

the embodiment project - reflection by Ashley F.

I continue to ask my dancers to reflect on how dance has impacted their lives. Ashley has been engaging with dance on many levels in the past few years; she and I have worked closely on several movement-based research projects and performances, both at the university and professional level. I led her college dance classes; she has stage-managed & lit the InHale Performance Series, which I direct and curate in Philadelphia, for the past few years. Additionally, Ashley interned and aided me in teaching Dance for PD (Parkinson's Disease), through Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers outreach programming. At the time of this post, Ashley is transitioning from student and young professional to a working and practicing artist. Here are some of her thoughts:

"When I began dancing as part of a Drug-free/ Violence Free performance group in high school, dance was about entertainment: entertaining the crowds/ audiences and having fun doing so. But, when I started taking Ballet, Tap, and Jazz my sophomore year of college, I was challenged to think about dance on an intellectual level. So I took the challenge and pirouetted, leaped, and chugged my way into the deeper, ground layers of this thing called dance. This is when I realized that dance, for me, was about clarity, communication, & acceptance and not about the entertainment (yes, I'd like it to be pleasing to everybody involved - and those not- but that doesn't need to be the main focus to make it happen.)

As we delved further into what dance is, it became evident that dance, for me, meant Clarity. In a world full of chaos and complexity, dance gave me a way to manage. For example, about a week before our very first dance concert at my college, my duet partner got injured and couldn't dance. Normally, I'd have panicked and thrown the towel in, but Jess wasn't giving me that option. So, with a week before the concert, a new partner stepped in and after many late night and chaotic rehearsals, learned the routine. When the time came for curtains to open, there were many nerves and a ton of chaos, but throughout all of that chaos, the entire cast was clear that we were all here for on reason- to dance. And so we did. We trusted our rehearsals and danced and before we knew it, we achieved clarity.

In the following semester, a class titled "Dance Appreciation" was offered. In class we talked about this thing we call "Dance" and how it was relevant to art, school, society, life, etc. We had a lot of discussion about kinesthetic energy and the awareness of not only your own energy, but also accepting and being aware of others. And through this class, dance became not only about clarity amid chaos, but clarity of how I was using my energy, where I was placing it in my body and in the kineshpere around me, and how I was using other people's energy -- was I accepting their energetic presence or rejecting it? This became a large focus of not just my life in dance, but my life in general. I began thinking about where I was placing my energy and thinking critically during class about how I can make movements easier. What am I doing wrong and how do I fix it? Usually, the answer dealt with relocating my placement of energy to use it more efficiently. Occasionally, I just simple had to let go, and release my energy.

Another focus that occasionally surfaced during Dance Appreciation was communication. I struggle to express myself using words. I always have, unless it was research-able, then I knew exactly what I needed to do. This made it very difficult to choreograph at first. I often had ideas/ concepts/ stories to share through dance, but because I was afraid to open up and be vulnerable through communication, I didn't know how to make these dances work not only with other dancers and myself, but also for an audience.

I remember sitting in class one day and being asked to think about how we identify ourselves and to turn these identities into movement. At first, this assignment was easy. "My identity - I'm a sister, a daughter, a students, performer, etc. I'm a..." When I got past the etc of the obvious identities and was asked to look beyond them, I struggled. While my classmates were moving, I was stuck, walking straight into a brick wall. I couldn't create movement because I was afraid of what was in my brain. I was afraid of the raw emotion in my body and the vulnerability it created. Towards the end of class, as we reflected on the project, I broke down and a whole stream of emotions began flowing, but I was opening up and taking a step toward communication. I was completely vulnerable and I was still alive and breathing and well. After taking a few moments to calm down, I walked out of class feeling as though a weight had been lifted. Throughout the day, I continued to process what I had just experienced and eventually I came to learn that the world of dance was a safe place to open myself and communicate and be vulnerable: to share stories, lessons, struggles, etc., and to be honest with my audience, my colleagues, mentors, strangers, but most importantly myself.

After learning to communicate my experiences through dance, I began to step up and share my experiences in other ways, through advocacy, through clubs/ organizations and by putting myself out there. But first, I had to learn yet another concept through dance -- acceptance.

Confession: When I took the first semester of dance classes, I was terrified of my body. Prior to taking dance, I constantly struggled with my body image and size (yes, I am plus sized), and as I waited for class to start all I could think about was being told as a kid, by many people that I couldn't do things because I was too tall, too heavy, too broad, etc. This made it incredibly easy to look at the people around me and assume they were judging me. It also made it too easy to judge myself, a terrible habit I had developed over the years. Throughout the semesters, whenever I got frustrated with my body, Jess would tell me to step back and breathe and re-gather. There was no judgment. No giving up. Just learning and accepting that this is where my body was today. I also found it comforting to understand that my classmates occasionally went through the same frustrations, which helped us all be understanding and patient with one another. With this understanding, I found a place where I was accepted for who I was and encouraged by my friends, colleagues, instructors, etc., rather than the place I had created in my head. The only person left to accept myself was me, and so after a lot of resistance and self doubt, I finally accepted myself and my body for who/what I was.

Shortly after, I noticed a change in how the world of dance worked. I began to branch out more, I made connections at CHI MAC through the InHale Performance Series and gained courage to participate in the classes/ workshops. I was cast as a featured dancer in a community theatre's production of "AIDA," I served as dance captain for "Oklahoma!" and my performances in Theatre began taking a step forward, resulting in a Nomination for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition.

After a performance during a creativity conference, I was approached by an older gentleman who without hesitation or hello stated "I respect you!" Um, okay, thank you, sir, but I don't understand. "Not a lot of women of your size have the courage to do what you just did." Following this statement the gentleman and I talked for a few more minutes about breaking barriers through dance and learning acceptance and courage on and off stage. In performances to follow, I occasionally received similar reactions, but they always commented on my confidence first. I had to accept myself first before anybody else could.

In general, Dance if life -- I don't want to dance, I HAVE to dance. I understand myself and the world around me through dance and because of dance. And, when all else fails, I find myself reverting to dance: for processing life, for comfort, for fun, for advocacy, for clarity, for communication and for acceptance. "

Thank you, Ashley!

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.

 *  *  *  *

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

*  *  *  *

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.