Last week we had the opportunity to re-vise and perform "Path Integration" for The Summer Choreography Project, a collaborative event presented each year at the Cape Cod Dance Center in Cataumet, MA. Directed by studio owner Eveline Carle, the project was created to provide a venue for young performing artists to engage in the performing art locally and present their work in a non-competitive environment. This diverse and inspiring performance incorporated a variety of dance styles, such as jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, and neoclassical.
Audience members were invited to write critical comments and personal perspectives to share with the dancers and choreographers after the performance. We enjoyed hearing the audience's reflections, comments and questions sitting in a circle in the dance space all listening and responding with snippets of our creative process. We were also grateful to share the stage with some great choreographers and companies creating new work, including the students of all ages at CCDC, Chris Alloways-Ramsey, TIDES Dance Company, and Betsi Miller, among others.
Here is a video of excerpts from the performance. We'd love you to share reflections, feedback and comments as our online audience!
This week we wrapped up our last company class of the summer season. Company members were able to glean new ideas about our repertory as I broke the movement apart to teach new faces. We met dancers and dance teachers from as far away as New Hampshire, and together focused in on our spines, psoas muscles, and core strength.
We hope to see you at our next Company Class or workshop, planned for Winter 2014 as part of National Choreography Month!
Being locked in a dance studio overnight to create new, original dance work culminating in a fully produced performance at the end of a very short 24-hours, with meetings, tech and dress scheduled throughout, are the most challenging parameters I've ever had to experience while creating new work. The process was difficult, yet produced an incredible 'final' piece we performed.
We dove into our theme by creating movement phrases that expressed our own personal experiences with gambling, taking a chance or taking a risk. We decided that the core meaning of a gamble is knowing that there are only two outcomes, a profit, or a loss, and that time just before deciding to take a gamble is a rush of conflicting emotions and adrenaline. This piece expresses that duality and the buzz of energy that taking a gamble initiates. Here is an excerpt video and great photos from the performance by two great photographers, Stan Czesniuk and Ryan Carollo-- share any thoughts/feedback in the comments! Thank you again to Luminarium Dance for creating the event and hosting us this year!
Throughout the night during the 24-Hour ChoreoFest, photographer Ryan Carollo visited us and captured our process of dance-making. A huge challenge of the 24-Hour ChoreoFest was to use limited time to create new work from scratch, using a theme that the community picked.
I try often to capture the creative process in photos and videos because the process if 90% of the work. We often only perform for a short 5 - 10 minutes, yet spend several hours creating what is performed that typically no one witnesses. What you'll see in the photo gallery below is the following (all photos by Ryan Carollo © 2013, Luminarium Dance's 24-Hour ChoreoFest).
Writing and discussion
We began with free-association writing exercises to collect our thoughts one times in our lives where we experienced 'gamble - gambling' (our theme). We continued to draw out the meaning of the theme through sharing, feedback and discussion.
We moved through the first section of our company warm-up, then continued with improvisation exercises across the floor. I asked dancers to move in their 'orbs of energy', imagining they were within a sphere of countless directions to move in, using a new direction as an impetus for movement. This progressed into partner-improvisation across the floor, using both mirroring and responsive techniques to create relationships.
In addition to phrase work that I create during any process, all dancers contribute movement phrases to the mix during initial phrase development. We circled action verbs and other words that resonated with us from our initial writing exercises. Those words became the inspiration to create a series of short phrases. These phrases are then shared and workshopped by the group in small feedback sessions. At a certain point, some phrases are chosen to develop into duets, trios and small group sections. We share all of the material with each other so we have a large vocabulary to pull from for the next part of the process. We also use this time to work through the technical aspects of lifts, jumps and turns that are also added to the vocabulary.
I decided on the first two phrases to start the piece. At this point, we had a few start and stops to attend a roundtable meeting at midnight and gathering at 2am to choose tech times and get some body-work done. When we returned, we continued to develop phrases, but had the anxious feeling that we needed to structure the piece as soon as possible so we could maybe get some sleep. Inspired by our theme - gamble - gambling - we wrote each phrase on a piece of paper, made two piles, and flipped a coin. Whoever guessed correctly chose a phrase from the heads or tails pile.
Shortly after we walked through the structure we created at 3:30am, we got the chance to sleep from 4:30 - 7:00am. From there, we went into tech
Last night at 7:45pm, myself and six of my dancers arrived at The Dance Complex in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. We were happy to meet Impact Dance Company at the top of the very long set of stairs (really matters when you're carrying 50lbs of stuff - costumes, clothing, books, a computer, your toothbrush, etc - on your back). The lobby was buzzing with activity. So many faces we knew, so many faces we were soon to spend the night creating with in one building.
We sat in a circle in Studio 1, the space that a mere 12 hours later would become our performance space. The building was filled an electric energy the entire night. My only regret is not spending more time in other company's studios. My own anxiety about 'not finishing' a piece, along with everyone's energy and creativity, drove us to work with few breaks from 9pm through until our group meeting with all of the participants at midnight. In a small circle, each of the choreographers talked about their different processes for creating. With everyone at different points in the process, I didn't feel alone in a generalized feeling of nervousness and anticipation I had buzzing. We all knew it was going to take truly 'dropping in' for what felt like the most crucial next few hours to make progress towards something we were willing and excited to share with the world. Sleep was an 'if' at that point.
We continued to work from 12am to 2am in the studio. By the end of that session, we had warmed-up, improvised several ways, developed a total of 9 repeatable phrases, but had very little structure to the piece. I decided how I wanted to start, but that had only set about 20 seconds of the piece. We met again as a group in Studio 1 at 2am, all 40 of us passing through different stages of wakefulness. Some laid down in human caterpillars, others wrapped in blankets. Most of us had our eyes open. After an intense game of rock-paper-scissors to choose tech times for the following morning (beginning as early as 8am, at that point, only 6 hours later), Luminarium dancers led us all through some gentle body work with each other, taking a moment to pause and take care of ourselves to support us through the night.
Following the body work, we continued to develop some of the set phrases we had created. Although I had figured out how to start the piece, I hit a wall in my decision making and energy level at about 3:30am. I had learned about making dance using chance in college, something made famous by Merce Cunningham, and was one of many dance generating techniques I read about prior to beginning this process by coincidence. I wrote down all of the phrases we created on scraps of paper and created two piles, one for heads, and one for tails. We flipped a coin, and whoever guessed right picked the next phrase to create the structure and order of the piece. It was one way we were able to incorporate the theme. We gambled with the possibility of the order not working out because using a mechanism that made decisions for us based on unpredictable variables - the toss of a coin and random selection of who would physically choose the next scrap of paper. We committed this structure created by chance until 4:25am, when we tried to sleep.
I could feel Ryan P. Casey's group tapping into the wee hours of the morning vibrating through the floor. On the ceiling I watched patterns of light move created by cars lights streaming through multi-paned windows and heard sirens several times. After a while marinating in the experience of the last three hours, I moved to the other side of the room, further from the vibrations. Moving in and out of sleep I watched the first few moments of sunrise, when the horizon is still a deep blue, and the sky a painting into greens and yellows. When the sun was finally bright enough to warrant shirts over eyes at about 6:00am, I woke up, and began searching for music for the piece. I also wrote this little blog post (the 6am one).
Once we remembered the structure we created the night before, we began to rehearse the piece a few times with different songs to decide. For the warm-up the night before, one of my dancers created a playlist that included "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls and Daft Punk's recent hit "Get Lucky", so they were the first candidates for testing. I found an instrumental version of "Luck Be a Lady" played by the Boston Pops that worked incredibly well. We couldn't contain our laughter, and I think most of my dancers didn't feel like the song quite matched the direction we had taken the theme, although it made the piece hilariously dramatic. Just look how awesome our improv exercises look with that as the backdrop, horns and chimes punctuating dramatic moments.
After trying "Get Lucky", the dancers suggested trying to find a song with a similar beat, so everyone took to their phones. We listened to ten or so options, none of them feeling quite right. There was unfortunately not enough time at that point to edit multiple songs together before tech so dancers would feel comfortable performing to the music. I found a song I had used a few times in improv exercises in other rehearsals and company class, Christian Kleine's "Several", an ambient instrumental song with some energy changes, simple progressions and consistent driving beat throughout. We ran the piece with it, and we knew we had made the right decision when the piece ended just as the song faded out.
From there, the day continued to be surreal. Through tech and dress I think we were all able to make it through so well because we've done it before. We've tech-ed, we've watched dress rehearsals, we've performed. It was re-invigorating to watch one of the best dress-rehearsal I've ever seen experien the beautiful work everyone had come up with, with so little sleep, with not much time, fueled by coffee, bagels and peanut butter.
All of the choreographers/companies, Luminarium Dance, Impact Dance Company, Monkeyhouse, Paradise Lost: A Movement Collective, and Ryan P. Casey, created incredible work in such a compressed yet high-energy, highs-stress, high-creativity, environment. I am so impressed and grateful for all of the work my dancers and I created together in Studio 6. I still can't believe they went to sleep at 4:30am and let me wake them up at 7:00am to continue into a three hour rehearsal and tech after having rehearsed since 9am the night before. I can't think of a better group of humans to spend the night with.
Thanks for having us Luminarium!
Ever wondered about the process of actually creating new work? What about in 24 hours... locked in a dance studio... overnight. I am as thrilled as I am anxious/nervous to begin a new creative process tonight as a part of the 24 Hour ChoreoFest hosted by Luminarium Dance.
They've set up this great live stream for the event which you can watch starting 8pm tonight through to 8am tomorrow. After staying up all night with us, we highly recommend you come see the fruits of our labor at The DAnc
I figured I'd get some extra sleep this week leading up to the 24 Hour ChoreoFest, but in true form, I have gotten less sleep progressively as the days pass. I am not sure what that will mean for Friday... In the meantime, here is all the performance info and a link to buy tickets:
24 Hour ChoreoFest
The Dance Complex
August 17th, 2:00pm and 4:00pm
I also did a great interview with Luminarium Dance who is hosting this event about my thoughts leading up to the experience. I've included some excerpts below. Read the entire interview here.
LDC: How do you feel in advance of ChoreoFest? What do you hope to accomplish, personally and choreographically?
JM: I am partly relieved that I don’t have to prepare anything beforehand. Although much of my dance-work happens through collaboration with dancers in the studio, before any new project I spend hours taking videos of myself improvising, watching videos, researching, writing, and create a core phrase to start with. I also don’t have to do all the logistical work of booking rehearsal spaces and trying to make divergent dancer schedules mesh, which I am grateful for.
However, having so many unknowns in a process that will be extremely time-compressed is making me anxious, both in a nervous and excited way. I can almost picture myself in the studio at 3:00am, trying to make decisions that I believe in, but, being tired and feeling the pressure of wanting to create meaningful work, I fear I will question those decisions. I think this process will challenge me to trust my gut and believe in myself. When making dance, I always try to find ‘the flow’, where I am completely in the now, when everything is happening. I am looking forward to getting to that place and rolling with it.
For National Dance Day 2013 (Saturday, July 27th), some Intimations Dancers gathered for a 'mini-underscore' (and some food and good times). The Underscore is a long-form dance improvisation structure developed by Nancy Stark Smith. It has been evolving since 1990 and is practiced all over the globe. We only scratched the surface of this improvisational tool, engaging with the skinesphere and kinesphere, trying to 'drop-in' and be present for a few moments. I am looking forward to using this tool to expand upon our contact-based vocabulary and work to integrate more organic partner-work into my choreography. Enjoy.
Check out the choreophrases from the last Intimations Dance Open Company Classes, summer session 2013. I've had a blast teaching these courses working with both company members and new faces each week. There are only two classes left, today 8/12 and 8/26-- 6:00-7:30pm at Green Street Studios, Studio 1. We hope you can join us for a great work-out, core muscle development and new and familiar choreo. Only $10 - $15 sliding scale.
In the meantime, subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking the button below to stay updated with the latest videos from Intimations Dance, as well additional choreographic projects I've been working on.
The Dance for World Community Festival happened two months ago now, and I am still feeling nourished by the experience. Not only did we get to create and perform new work for the festival, "The Last Bird", but I got to teach an open free community class at the beautiful José Mateo Ballet Theatre studios in Harvard Square.
The class was only twenty minutes long, but was one of the most rewarding classes I have ever taught. Over 30 people crammed into a small studio and followed me on a short warm-up focusing on the spine and core. I was also able to share part of the phrase from "The Last Bird" that some of them have seen in performance.
In the room were teen girls who asked special permission to take the class (which was listed as 18+ on the schedule), many folks dressed in dance clothes and other folks dressed in jeans and dress shirts like they had walked right off the street. They were so positive and gracious for the short class. The experience only confirms for me the power of dance education to connect with people. We are all dancers in one way or another.