First week

28 August 2012       Today I started the second piece in this series with a new configuration of dancers.  (Since both works are presently untitled , I will call this Dance 2 and the other from the summer Dance 1)  Once again, as has been my good fortune for many years, I have a room full of amazing dancers and I start.  They are: Michael Ingle, Oisín Monaghan, Heather Olson, Silas Reiner, and Natalie Green.  This work focuses on the more calculated aspects in my work and my penchant for formalism, artifice, crystalline structure and the natural application of various dance idioms. In recent years, I have been in a very hands-off observational mode, trying to witness the works into being.  I was attempting not to use my taste to drive my decision-making and to observe what was being shaped by my actions. I have been very interested in the machinery of criticality that the contemporary art scene has set into motion, looking at hierarchies, perceived injustices, formulas and the political underpinnings of artistic impulse and it is thrilling for me. However I want to look for a new balance. This phenomenon in art has become too closely related to marketability for my comfort and I need to find my way back to a more blended, less myopic,  range of artistic practices.  Looking back, I can see that it had quieted some of my most natural impulses and I would like to reintroduce those back into my work. During this period I began to question formalism in my work and have been working inside a spectrum ranging from the improvisational to  fixed material.  These research pathways that one takes require time and  are very important. It takes time for them to move from being cerebral exercise to embodied potentialities.  After the last years of questioning,  I still have an impulse to create unapologetically formal, complex structures.  Even though it has only been three days of work so far, it feels like a critical eye I may have developed in the last years is transitioning into a new method for making.    I have been bashing out movement.  The dancers may be slightly in pain as I have unleashed a little torrent of STEPS!!!!!  Of course one of the thrills is watching these amazing people take this in instantly and you can see them negotiating it right away.  It has been so long since I have worked this way as I have incorporated much material developed by the dancers in recent works.  Some dances are like this and some dances are more shared in the making.  An intriguing contrast is being created between Dance 1 and Dance 2 and it will be interesting to see how it continues. It is not only the differences that are interesting, but also, how certain things find there way in no matter what the catalyst.

29 August 2012       I remember and understand choreography in shards and detached moments and that is also how I construct the works. By placing the shards in constantly shifting structural arrangements, the potential for multi-directional editing is fostered.   By this I mean that the standard editing tools of cutting and adding material, are augmented by a technique of assimilation.  By blending one area of movement into another and allowing for  “erosion” and “cross-pollination”  a third area is born. This inescapably time-based editing concept is embedded in the choreographic effort.  One must wait for the syncretistic bleed to occur.  It reminds me of  dabbing in painting, where the brain and the hand go looking for something in an agreed upon rumination. They may see something and bring it into focus for a moment but allow it to merge with its background as further applications of paint bring new associations and relationships. Yet all these moments are ghosted in the final product. So far I have made a number of choreographic shards: two trios, four duets, two solos.  Then I made some “oceanic’ material,  by which I mean dancing that doesn’t consider its contours as much as its internal engine and its inclusion in the landscape of the dance.  I then set these two modes into relief, testing them out in relation to each other.

30 August 2012    All of the performers in Dance 2 naturally modulate the interface between the constraints of the material and the degrees of “self “ they allow to blend in.  My first seven years of dance making involved research into unison in dance. I made about four dances in a row using almost exclusively unison movement.  Partially I was trying to wrest it from its modernist usages and look at it as a much loved, yet overused default setting in dance that had gone unquestioned.   The common role of the choreographer as generator of all actions taken by the group has elisions with the oppressive power structures of language, religion, government.  Rather than reject these and create radical forms I have chosen to highlight the complexity of these power differentials. The process of being engaged with this in a dance­ is where the political critique lies–both for myself and for the  performers who offer their interpretations. It is not a message; it is an embodied metaphor for an ongoing condition of the human spirit.  The individual can only be expressed in regards to the whole of society and its power constructs.   This unison research immersion was the beginning of my understanding of dance as a method for deriving meaning from something as opposed to applying meaning to it.  I needed to question unison through the actual process of making.

Today I talked about how I would like to foster a deeper practice for becoming more conscious of making decisions inside the performance of the movement­; how the performers will live in the material of the work from moment to moment.  Do they like it or not?  Is it natural or foreign to their bodies? Does it include their history in its referential world? Is it difficult to do? Does it suggest anything about virtuosity that may be at odds with how they feel or not.  For example if I dip into a generic area of dance for some choreographic reason they are free to approach that with an attendant attitude of their own. In a certain way they reenact an audience perspective. Given the impossibility of specific understandings in a movement-based dance, I must incorporate a multitude of various readings into the process of making the work. So I want the dancers to remain in a present state of internal commentary with each performance, even as they perform memorized movement that they learned a long time ago.  This process creates very textured and diverse performances from each person as they move through this shared environment of someone else’s devising.