I am honored to be one of two recipients of the 2014 Studio 210 Residency | Deborah Slater Dance Theater residency. After a year and a half of not creating live performance, here I find myself back in the dancemaking saddle.
The goal for myself in this residency process is to explore why I am back to making live dances. Dancemaking is often a confusing and maddening process for me, and by contrast, film has seemed relatively straightforward for me in many respects. I’m digging into the dancemaking process with a film mindset to find out what I can clarify for myself about dancemaking.
What I’m learning about myself here is that I have a completely different approach to making both. In dance, I’m very interested in the experience of the performer and in creating a collaboratively authored work. Which is rich and fruitful, but can be messy. And if I don’t go into the rehearsal process with an iron-clad thesis, I can easily get pulled off-track and lost in a hurry.
In a filmmaking process, I am much less interested in hearing about the performers’ experiences. Of course the process is collaborative, but each contribution tends to apply to a certain area of the process - such as sound, or art direction. All I have to do is recognize how the idea could (or might not) fit into the whole, and then incorporate that.
I suppose in many ways, choreographic direction is just like that too. But I struggle to make fast choices on the spot, with dancers watching and being. No matter how loving and trusting the performer, I really need a LOT of time to reflect quietly on my choices by myself - to let them sink deeply into my subconscious. The reason I am able to function so quickly on a film shoot is because I’ve had hours upon hours to reflect deeply on the world of the piece, and these choices are in a sense already made. But in dance, it’s just not so: the world is being made as we breathe.
In film, I’m such a baby, and so unstudied in the history of cinema, that I’m able to make choices that lack self-consciousness. In dance, I feel like I’m dragging the weight of the centuries along with me. I often discard ideas that I haven’t even tried because I fear they have already been done.
Thus far in the rehearsal process, we’ve excavated dance habits - an overcurve, a sitroll, spine twist movements specific to US as generators, and I’ve re-choreographed them using editing software. The process is a fascinating one, but the results exclude the audience. It’s fine from a formalist perspective, and maybe this dance isn’t really for audience after all. But that’s not very me - I’m definitely more inclusive as a creator.
To help make this more inclusive to audience, I’ll use their pedestrian habits instead. I’ll take this old idea (thanks Yvonne Rainer & co.), and try to give it some newness using my own editing software process. Maybe if I use material that is familiar and habitual to us ALL, then nobody is excluded, and we all have a visual anchor. Work for the coming week.