Friday, May 1, 2020

Zoom as a Choreographic Tool - Inspiration

Welcome to this Brave New World of creative placemaking in virtual space! 

I'm so grateful and inspired by the artists who have taken to virtual tools and social media to create and share their work through videos, live feed classes, and streams of previously produced live performances. Thank you, for your continued work and voice during these strange times! 

Several weeks ago, I received a request from Dr. Nathan Thomas, Theatre Director of Alvernia Theatre and professor at Alvernia University. He invited me to participate in a live Zoom play. This was/ is the first live performance in which I had participated on the virtual stage. I've witnessed live music performances, classes, readings, and in-process activity like rehearsals, but nothing that had the expectation of a theatrical performance. Of course, performance itself is a process and an experiment in real time. 

The result of "The Feast" was personally incredible. I physically felt the connection between the other folks who were performing. I could feel the energy of the audience. As in non-social-distancing-live-performance, there was a something palatable circling within those participating as actors and as audience. 

Screen shot of my performance in "The Feast"

Describing this magic was challenging during "normal" times. I'm struggling for words during this virtual time. (Perhaps, that's why I dance...)

I've spent many hours on Zoom in the past few weeks, but this experiment demonstrated to me that there is a space for live performance in this strange new time. 

With the play, I was the only one who moved away from the screen. The other performers stayed close to their devices, as we do when we're video conferencing. 

I've learned a lot about negotiating my space, lighting, and clothing from teaching dance over Zoom and creating videos to be streamed. In these first few weeks, I also learned a lot about separating my students into groups and leading them in "watching" each other and "practicing performing" through Zoom. I've discovered real excitement in sharing, performing, and watching from both my experience as a teacher/leader/ choreographer/ performer and the students' experiences as performers/ audience members/ learners. 

Could I combine my experience as a virtual performer in Alvernia Theatre's "The Feast," and the things I've learned from teaching over the past few weeks on Zoom, with my knowledge of a choreographer and producer? 

::drum roll::

A million thanks to Drexel University's Dance Program and the Drexel Dance Ensemble for encouraging this research! 

Dr. Miriam Giguere (Director of the Drexel Dance Ensemble and Drexel's FreshDance Ensemble, Chair of the Performing Arts Department in Drexel University's Westphal College of Media and Design, President of the Pennsylvania Dance Education Organization, and all around amazing woman) suggested that I work with the Drexel Ensemble Class I was teaching and direct the students in a live performance at our end of term meeting. Thank you for your support, enthusiasm, and leadership, Dr. Miriam! Thank you, also for permission to write about this journey here!

I also want to give a shout out to Sandra Parks (Director of Drexel's Dance Program, Director of Women in Dance, and all around amazing woman). Much of Sandra's research has been in digital collaboration with our physical medium and she has been an inspiration in virtual dancing space during these past few weeks. Thank you, Sandra! 

And... thank you to my Ensemble dancers who agreed to embark on this Brave New World of virtual creative placemaking and performance. (They all, individually, gave me permission to take this risk with them, write about the process, and post pictures from rehearsals.) I'm so proud of the ways they've invested in their own bodies and their creative voices - through practicing safe dancing techniques in non-traditional dance spaces, voicing openness and awareness about the restrictions and opportunities of their space, and their enthusiasm for coming together twice a week. We are not limited by little square boxes!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing more about this journey. 

Thanks for joining this adventure. Stay tuned! 

Zoom-ing about the choreographic process with my Drexel Dancers. 

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