Saturday, February 20, 2010

Internal Reflections - Camille's thoughts on our set

"My first impression of the ladder and the chair was formed the first time I saw the group moving together in space with these objects. For me, the two objects serves as an abstraction of the environment that these bodies were living in. It reminded me of this picture that I saw of one of Martha Graham's works; I believe the piece was "Appalachian Spring." In the piece, instead of having a house on stage where the characters lived, there was only the frame of the house. However, at first glance, without any movement, it only looked like a couple of flat boards hanging around the stage. Likewise, I originally thought that the chair and the ladder were representations of a bigger habitat that this microcosm existed in."

Camille is one of the dancers in Microcosmic Current.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Four weeks to go!

It's a little surreal that the time is winding up for the performance. We spent a lot of rehearsal today talking about my psychological narrative of the piece, thus far. My dancers physically and vocally asked for clarification. I respect that. Sometimes, choreographers don't tell their dancers what they expect from a inner, psychological/energetic narrative perspective and it's up to the dancer to create that narrative, that rationale, for herself. As a younger dancer, I experienced this and always questioned if what/how I was performing captured the intention of the choreographer. I felt as though I could better shape myself into my perception of the choreographer's intent if I were aware of the intention and motivation. Looking back, I can understand why a choreographer would refrain from projecting too much information onto the experience of the dancer, especially if part of the intention is/was to draw on the personal experience of the dancer. In turn, the experience of the dancer's psychological/energetic narrative becomes part of the performance.

I believe in education through the choreographic experience. Part of my research begs the questions: How do you teach performance? How do you teach that moment of pure vulnerability on stage while being completely in control. How do you teach a dancer to be comfortable in that moment? How do you teach them to be ready to "drop into" performance mode?

It's more than a feeling state. It's more than remembering an experience that you repeat on stage. It's real and alive and needs to be present in that moment. All of the time.
How do you describe a strong performance? Presence? ....But how do you teach that?

I worry that many talented technicians do not learn how to perform and are therefore looked over in auditions and castings. I worry that many students interested in pursuing this life of a dancer will not have the opportunity to PRACTICE performance if they are not in an environment where practicing performance and teaching performance are valued. It's hard to teach these things that cannot be quantified. I've seen instances where choreographers expect the dancer to come to the rehearsal process with a strong performative skill. But, performance is a skill.... and it can be taught... and it can be learned and acquired with the right attention, dedication, and practice. It is important for us, as educators of dance, to remember the importance of performance practice.

A practice of performing. A practice of teaching. A practice of researching. A practice of dancing.

Side note: As I write, I've been referring to the psychological/energetic narrative of the dancer. In modern dance performances, there may not be a linear narrative - one that tells a clear story like a play or a musical. Here is where I/dance/artists delve into a different realm, one that I'm classifying as that of an energetic nature.

I believe that every body innately has the ability to move. Based upon our energetic makeup, our organic movements will be different. Some bodies create movement that other bodies cannot or will not. All bodies are capable of training that movement, which manifests in codified dance techniques, sport training techniques, and even ways that we sit at the computer and type or read. So, when I refer to the psychological/energetic narrative of the work, it does not have to make logical sense. Rather, the psychological/ energetic narrative is comparable to that of the narrative sense that our dreams make during sleep, but not necessarily once we have woken.

If I could offer some advise for watching many concert dance works of the late 90's and early 21st Century: remember that dream state; feel and see what your body is experiencing as an audience member and experience the work instead of trying to figure out what you're "supposed to" be getting. When you lift a glass of wine, do you experience the smell or do you try and figure out what ingredients were used? When you taste chocolate, do you quantify the ratio of coco to sugar or do you just experience the chocolate? I request that you just experience the dance and if something strikes you, then pursue why you were effected and what happened both on stage an internally....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

on distractions

I received some very strong, grounded advice today from an unexpected source. Having been placed in a sensitive situation, the advice followed: Just do your work.

There will always be things to distract me... and some rightly deserve my attention. But, I must return to my work and return to my work with an undisturbed rigor.

And so... leaving this for now, I return to do my work...

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Pictured from left to right: Jessica Warchal-King, Laura Zimmerman, Angela Sigley

Pictured from left to right: Angela Sigley, Jessica Warchal-King, Laura Zimmerman
Photo credit: Thomas Bethell
These are some photos from our poster/postcard photo shoot!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Collaboration - a little history

Chris Farrell and I first worked together in the Spring of 2009.

Check out more of Chris's work at

I was working with five dancers with whom I had never before worked and was investigating new territory; I was beginning to delve into new places with my choreographic intention and exploring what it meant to educate through the choreographic process. During the first few weeks of rehearsal, it became apparent to me that I needed an additional voice. I asked Chris to provide some musical expertise. What followed amazed and still surprises me.

It seems that the younger generations are more technologically savvy than I. My dancers introduced me to Facebook and we used the social networking site as a rehearsal tool. We only had the opportunity to meet once a week, so I would privately post our rehearsals for them to review. Chris was able to access these videos and was simultaneously working on his own projects. A thread from one of his themes fit beautifully into the work.

In addition to the Facebook posts, our separate work, and our conversations, Chris came to several rehearsals with the dancers. I deeply appreciate(d) his interest in what the dancers were experiencing during the work; the dance is as much theirs as it is mine and I believe they are also collaborators to the process. I thank Chris for valuing them with the same regard.

In talking about our process, Chris stacks his hands on top of one another, as if he's building a ladder. "You have this idea, I have this idea, you build on this, I build on this..." In one of our conversations, he described the way the David is displayed in Italy. Michelangelo said that he reveals/ed what's already in the stone. In viewing the David, the viewer must pass through a gateway of partially finished works by Michelangelo, each revealing more than the previous. A hand begins to take shape, a face... until the final manifest is unfolded. In this way, the viewer is allowed a peak into the process...

Each time we come together, pass in the hall with a quick thought, or e-mail a slew of mental vomit, we are unveiling a little bit more of this creation. I'm very grateful and excited for the adventure. Thanks, Chris!

Here's a link to the piece we created in the Spring of 2009 - "at the edge of the turning tide..."


On Friday, I received a draft of the music from Chris. So very exciting! He was kind enough to sync his work to a video I had taken during the latest rendition of the choreography. At our last rehearsal, my dancers and I watched the video. The work is beginning to take a shape - and a life of its own!

The music is haunting and breathes a new energy into my dancers and into the movement. It's helping to clarify my intentions - internally and externally. It cradles the dance; the music is helping the dancers find new things. I'm so very excited about this part of the investigation. We're entering into a place of deeper research. We've done a lot of physical research, but the introduction of sound allows us the opportunity to leave our headspace and drop into the mind-body.

Thank you, Chris!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Physical Research

In preparation for the time I was going to spend in the studio with my dancers, I did a lot of reading about the body: energy pathways, grounding techniques, the ways that thoughts effected the body and the ways the body effected thought...

Could I observe what other people claimed in their writings in my own body without superimposing their theories?

One evening, my thoughts drifted to the loss of a family member. I felt a rush that I can still only describe as a waterfall pouring in from above my rib cages. The "water" poured into the space of my sternum and carved out a space above the back of my rib cage. I was surprised at the intensity of the feeling and am still surprised at my inability to put words to the sensation. Although I can describe the feeling according to my anatomy, the sensation moved beyond my bones - as if my structure was formless and completely pliable. Even as a I write, I have a hard time recreating the memory without cupping my fingertips into an arch about six inches in front of my sternum. My elbows extend outward and my chest contracts, bringing my clavicles slightly above my shoulder joints. I can feel my breath shorten and my intercostal muscles (the muscles in between our ribs) tighten. In describing this, I am creating a shape. I am moving in order to recreate a memory that had no physcialized shape. But the sensation was very real.

In one of our first rehearsals, I asked my dancers to pay attention to their bodies. How did their bodies feel throughout the day? Did a certain part of their body always hurt? Could they identify why that part of their body always hurt or was there an emotion or event that accompanied the physical sensation?

There are words for these sensations: butterflies in the stomach; a lump in my throat; a brick dropped in my stomach.

Each of my dancers returned to rehearsal with stories that their bodies revealed:
"My sacrum always gets tight when I'm nervous."
"I was overwhelmed - I felt like I had a blowfish with all of its spikes inflated in my rib cage - where my heart was supposed to be."
"Every time... I got a knot under my left clavicle."
"I would get nauseous."

As they spoke, their bodies told more than just their words. Seated on the floor, her hands went to either side of her body to stabilize herself. Another stroked the tops of her quads with a meditative, rhythmic quality. Another rocked her palm against her sternum, as if to soften some tension. I asked my dancers and my composer, Chris Farrell, to continue to pay attention to their bodies and to continue to share these sensations. I believe our bodies can reveal truths to us, if we only pay attention. In paying attention, we better learn how to take care of ourselves.

These gestures became part of our movement vocabulary and therefore, part of the language we use to share our stories through the dance.

How does this relate to my original research on the chakras? I'm not drawing any definite conclusions, but many of the sensations my dancers described centered around the mid-line of the body. It seems that many people feel similar sensations in similar places. I need to do more research to come to any conclusive data, but it seems that there is a pattern of felt experiences within the body that correspond to emotions.