Category Archives: Uncategorized

Finding my voice: Quite literally.

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Several recent experiences are feeding and pointing to the birth of a new voice, or at least new uses for an old voice. For most of my career I’ve been primarily working as a dancer and a silent actor. It’s true I speak in the work of others – namely Headlong Dance Theater – and yes I’ve studied acting a little – but rarely do I speak in my own work and I guarantee I’ve never sung you a song from the stage. And I certainly don’t talk in public about my life experiences. But perhaps that’s changing?

The primal gutterance of water
Theater and Neuroscience project with Dan Rothenberg – November 2011

The voice of my Mother
Women in Comedy project with 1812 productions – August 2011

The events and movements of my past as mixed with Xavier LeRoy’s past
Workshop with choreographer Xavier LeRoy – September 2011

“Diary dates” as prompted by Wendy Houstoun
and the many many wendy exercises – June 2011

Singing through barriers – vocal work with Michael Kiley

Vocal class with my collaborator and husband

P.S. Ideally I will give each of the workshops described above their own post at some point soon

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Drawn to the Window

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I’ve been rehearsing at Mascher Space co-op in Kensington and I’ve developed a warm connection to the space, a familiarity that affects the rhythm of my time there. Today I walked in and the space was different because it was set up for a performance. Black curtains blocked the mirrors and a white scrim blocked the windows. It was a sunny November day and the shadows against the white scrim created little scenes of shimmering activity. I found them utterly irresistible and spent my session dancing in relationship to this newly designed space.

I spent a long time with this window:

And then I moved on to this one:

For me dance is an art of interaction
Between performers
Between performer and her environment
Between performer and audience

When we take away some of these possible interactions we heighten others. In the same way that when you lose one of your senses the others gain strength and sensitivity.
Alone in the room my relationship to the space itself is heightened. The relationship between my thoughts and my body. The relationship between various parts of my body. These relationships always exist but without audiences, collaborators and designers new connections are fore-grounded.

Midway Avenue and the Haunted House of Nostalgia

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this title was stirring in my brain in the wee hours of the night. and it was halloween night i should note.

i grew up on midway avenue. and when i visit this space in my mind it is crammed full of memories. Most of them are mine but many are intruders: imagined scenes from books, movies and news stories have been staged there by my subconscious… they needed a space to unfold so i placed them in the rooms of midway avenue.

as i tour the space my own memories co-mingle with characters from novels, the gory remains from a script, or accumulated information about a friend’s past. it can become difficult to parce out what is mine and what is borrowed.

midway avenue is the memory map i’m using for a structural exercise i’m exploring in my solo practice. And each time I visit I find something new.

And the title I really like is this:
Midway Avenue and the Haunted House of Indecision.

dancing

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I just finished leading a weeklong intensive with a group of dancers here in Philadelphia. It was my intention to blog throughout the process but it turns out that when you are in your home-town it’s a little more difficult to carve the time for blogging!

Here is a synopsis:
I wanted to bring the solo explorations I’d been doing, and the discoveries and questions I’d uncovered in UK, to a group of dancers. I wanted to combine past obsessions with current concerns to see what arose. I wanted to disrupt my typical process of acting as performer/choreographer in order to remain on the outside without the intention of joining the ensemble. I wanted to take recent experiments with language and words and inject them into my ongoing work with non-verbal storytelling, partnering exercises, and ensemble work.

The dancers were: Eun Jung Choi, Jaamil Kosoko, John Luna, Scott McPheeters, Annie Wilson, Christina Zani. A playful and inspiring bunch mover/thinkers!

We did some dancing

We did some writing

We built some improvisational structures

We started with movement structures that I’ve been building over the years and then infused them with current concerns and questions about language, structure and delivery.

We looked at structures that brought the movement language to the forefront and asked the verbal language to keep up with that. We worked on building separate structures for the words and the movement, laying them on top of one another. Asking them to maintain autonomy yet respond and influence one another selectively, creating short dances that pushed these separate tracks toward one another, bleeding, blurring and intertwining in various ways until a third thing emerged. The goal was to avoid one track wiping out the other.

One structure in particular started to become its own little dance.
One dancer describes her memory of a room while two dancers build an accumulating movement dance, the structure builds from there.
I am endlessly fascinated by this structure; the ways in which the unfolding of the memory parallels, overlaps and blurs with the building of the movement duet. Eventually the two tracks become one…but neither track is consumed by the other… they crossfade to reveal a third thing…a track that was there all along.

As we worked for an hour or so on refining the details of the structure and the skills to inhabit we also build our ability to read the intricacies of the dance. That tricky aspect of a process in which you don’t know how much delight you are gaining due to your own intimate understanding of the structure. I am hungry to share these little studies with an audience of fresh eyes to garner its impact.

- The story is a linear river that can meander amid the forest of movement.
- It is not a spring rain of poetic words / It is not an ocean that buries the terrain
- The sensitivity of the movement duet is the beating heart of the present tense and the story is the past we carry around with us and our struggle to organize and deliver.

On Being in the Studio Alone

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At first I thought: it sure is quiet in here. And then I realized: Wow its noisy and its crowded. There are eyes in the walls. I’m being watched.
My own energy was bouncing around the room with no one else to interact with it and send it back to me. No audience. No collaborators. No designers. Just me. I could feel and hear my thoughts in a new way when I was the only person in the room to focus on.

During the first few sessions I also realized that the critic sneaks in more easily when I’m alone. She sits in the corner with arms folded, paces in the distance, whispers in my ear. This can be distracting and oppressive but it can also fuel a passionate drive to press onward and to move beyond the nagging doubt. Some days she doesn’t show up at all and there is a breezy ease to letting ideas tumble, letting thoughts and movements ripple out.

The most striking thing about working alone is that there is no verbal conversation at the end of an experiment or an improvisation. Instead I sit down with my pen or lay on my back to process and to remember what just happened.

All my adult life I’ve been working as a collaborator. I helmed many collaborative projects, participated as performer/choreographer on the team of countless creative processes, even the solos I’ve made have been collaborative: Fail Better was a collaboration with Director Jennifer Childs, Set Designer Matt Saunders, Sound Designer Rick Henderson, Lighting Designer Mark O’Maley… and as a team we built the work together from the ground up.

One goal with this mentorship was to temporarily step away from collaborative creation in order to hear my voice on its own, to let ideas evolve uninterrupted and to experience the echo of my thoughts.

Making a solo in this particular way is – for me – almost like building a new system. I’ve worked hard to learn how to helm collaborative projects with integrity and how to participate in dynamic group processes; how to be direct and clear with my ideas while also allowing the brilliance of my team to help shape the work. As a performer I strive to pay attention to the flow of a project, building material that suits the work and making choices that acknowledge the goals of the whole. I am inspired by the energy of a room of people all making something together.

In a collaborative team we question one another and strive for the things we are passionate about. Since we question one another we don’t need to question ourselves quite as much.

Alone in the studio I need to find ways of questioning myself. I find I start playing different roles to challenge myself; wearing a variety of hats, as if each of these selves is pushing for a slightly different vantage point. I need to push myself, encourage myself, challenge, inspire and interrogate myself.

And then I realize this is familiar. Although I am a collaborative artist in adulthood, I was an only child with working parents in childhood – “latch-key kid”. With plenty of time to myself I learned that instead of getting lonely I should get creative. Splitting myself into many became a game to cure boredom. I could be my own friend, my own foil, and things could change at any time.

Will this childhood game serve to help me as I, in effect, collaborate with myself? I have a sneaking suspicion that it may become part of the material the solo deals with…