Sitting here right now feels like a luxury. I have been running from place to place for the past few months, with little time to reflect on the processes I am involved in. It is kind of too bad because new ideas and perspectives have been flooding my mind of late.
Am finally digging into to the creative universe and entering it through a variety of doors; most I've never been through before (to take the metaphor a little too far). Starting the year of with the Montreal Danse choreographic workshop renewed my questions around craft, content and form. Several lines of thought have stuck with me.
Firstly, it has been interesting to observe how creators assign themselves tasks and fulfill them. The individual parameters, methods and styles each choreographer brings to their work, consciously or not. My role as interpretor in the whole thing seems clearer to me too. Have realized that to trust and inhabit their visions, I have to have some understanding of their end goal. Equally important is my commitment and investment in an action, for a choreographer to gadge whether something fits or not.
As I write this I am thinking a lot about Dean Makarenko's work, Death in the Afternoon which could be described as absurdist comedy with inserts of deconstructed ballet. That doesn't quite sum it up, but let's just say that it is the first time I have been a crack whore, football player, machine and green plastic blob on stage, (while performing cabrioles and piquet turns). Dean and Deborah Dunn, Tracey McNeil really help to define this crazy reality for me. I wasn't sure how an audience would react to work I found hilarious in the studio, and also wasn't sure if I could attempt humor on stage. When it came to performing it, I saw how Dean committed so whole heartedly without taking himself too seriously and that was refreshing, and it helped to liberate me from my own performing persona?!
If there is anything that gets me down about the dance world, it is people's egos. And lately I have been lucky enough to be in rehearsals with people who have gotten over themselves.
I say this also about myself. I am one of those monsters who attempts humility by veering towards self deprecation, but I have realized that insecurity can sidetrack ideas just as much as a Prima Donna attitude. Both take up to much space and demand the wrong kind of attention. Thankfully, I am beginning to trust my own skills and realize that the first step to reaching a larger audience is to connect to the people you are collaborating with.
I was very lucky to work one on one with Isabelle Van Grimde in February as well. It is very rewarding to have developed a good relationship with a creator over the course of a few years. Through understanding her work it was easy to drop into creative solutions during our rehearsals. It was satisfying to have ideas and connections pop into my head and simultaneously perform them physically. It is a luci feeling where tools are at your fingertips. I think I am realizing that it can be easier that I thought. Not everything has to be grueling, take hours of rehearsal and be won through effort. When I am engaged the sweat comes and I am not aware of it. Have reached thirty and rehearsals are fun again, have finally given myself permission to play. Yah!
Just wrapped up two weeks of work with a choreographer named Ame Henderson. Ame attended Concordia and then went on to study in Amsterdam; she is making a work called Manual for Incidence that will be performed at the end of may in Toronto. There are going to be seven performers and three of us are from Montreal. She and director, Jacob Zimmer spent a week working a solo practice with Katie Ewald, Claudia Fancello and myself and then last week put us all together. We had weekly showings at Studio 303 with discussions afterwards.
The performance quality and improvisational instructions were quite different than the set I am used to working with. In a sense, it is quite the opposite of how I have defined performance to myself. That was basically full blast (this one goes to 11), maximum intensity without nuance until I got tired enough to put it there. Okay slight exaggeration, in the past few years I have been working on finding more range, but every movement is still usually loaded with what I think it means. My personal practice has reached a place that needs to evolve. So Ame's work offered a welcome shift by introducing a way of moving that is more open ended and leaves more space for the audience to read into. The comparison that kept coming up was to musicians in rock bands, they are themselves performing a creative but functional task.
Since the composition workshop I have been thinking about something Larry Lavender said, 'There is a difference between being ambiguous or vague. Vague is just unclear to choreographer and spectator, ambiguous can be interpreted several different ways'. That is my current challenge and question. There needs to be some clarity and intention or there is just no point for anybody. Ame and Jacob urged us to commit in a functional way without pouring emotion into actions. When it worked, a feeling would come up as we did it and when it didn't I felt lost and empty without the use of my usual tricks. I want to get to the place where the magic of rehearsal can be there on stage.
Dance can be so many things. It can be a circus where we are impressed by physical prowess. It can be an abstracted theatre without words, a living sculpture or it can reveal the human animal. I think the last is the closest to what we were up to. The piece mixed movement with mundane tasks, indirect dialogue and external stream of consciousness monologues. The hope was that people would see themselves in what we were doing. Which seemed to occur, those who came to watch had quite a bit to say post 'performance'. Dance and theatre folks (myself included); were a little more judgmental about what they saw, but other people seemed to connect to what we were doing. The notion of expectation came up alot.
* Which is quite opposite to the usual phenomena when our friends aren't quite sure if they got it, and I start to feel like I am involved in an elitist form that only reaches others in the milieu.
Guess what I can simply say, is that it is a relief to really see and interact with the people I am working with, instead of being wrapped up in myself. I think our group still has a way to go to be generous with each other while performing, but we definitely found that in rehearsal. It is hard to be natural while being watched; it is hard to remain lucid and creative with an audience. I think the only way to get there is through developing a profound self trust, to be vulnerable and not shy away from being awkward, uncomfortable and clumsy. Show the whole picture instead broadcasting what you think are the best parts (that is what TV is for). We are beautiful in our human failings.