Week 2 : How do you begin?

[A human figure reaches and bends toward the ground. Making contact with the earth, their hand scoops a respectable sample of soft crumbling dirt into a mound. Repeating this movement becomes a rhythmic practice. There is diligence to keep adding until something else captures awareness and shifts intention. Once a dirt pile is of suitable accumulation, presence, resemblance, it satisfies the moment. Some dirt continues to fall from their fingertips as they shift weight, brush hand against hand, and allow muscles to stretch long unfurling their own frame upward from the earth.]

The descent down into creation feels like drilling down into process. The ascent upward is reminiscent of accomplishment. I view accomplishment as something simple like determining a single answer or direction to follow. Accomplishment is having gone through process. Inevitably I will have learned something new. Accomplishment also is achieved once I have finished a project. I am only recently reading my own words to realize there is no fourth event where I feel accomplishment–no outward accolade expected. I am the only person who truly knows the value of what I do, the commitment of time and life given to a process that becomes a practice from which a project might spring forth. It took time for me to see this. I am still asking myself if I believe it. Whatever value this has to you is yours, completely valid and truthful to you and your experience. If you believe something is of little value, ask a question about it and see if knowing more increases your idea of its value.

How do I begin? I usually begin by writing and sketching (on paper and video). I find these methods to be an efficient exorcism of repetitive ideas and corralling what is driving my curiosity. I rarely am interested in the loudest voice in my head. It is usually the quiet, hesitant idea that is unsure of itself who becomes the centerpiece–the shy performer given the solo.

Week 1 in sum

Thank you for stopping by if you were one of the generous people to engage in conversation with me last week. I had a delightful time sharing stories and perspective from the experiences I have had so far. I am summarizing a few of the answers to some questions below:

Is this yoga? Quick answer: No, not really. After some thought: Yoga means “union”. What I do is absolutely yoga–the union of film and dance, life and art. In the introduction video on monitor 1, I am wearing clothes that I have worn practicing and teaching yoga (I have taken for granted these outward markers of yoga practice). Process is about union. It is also about discernment and cutting that which does not serve the project. Many of my experiences with process begin by uniting influences and ideas.

What are the key parts of my process? Answer: The process is a little different per project, but I have noticed some patterns. I usually discern the mode of presentation and then begin working simultaneously thinking about content (movement) and visual style with camera. Much of my process is determined by outside factors like who is involved in front of and behind the camera. Casting is an important early part of the process. It helps me to imagine how the performers will move and imagine the piece with their limitations and strengths in mind. I also learn the vocabularies that are needed to communicate once I get to know the performers for the project. There are different approaches I take based on what I am trying to achieve. I ask many questions of myself and of the moment: Do I speak to the performer based on past shared experience or point of reference? Do I request a purely physical activity to get at an outward emotional performance? How do I structure rehearsal to invite improvisation and freedom to discover and contribute as a performer? People respond to different approaches and vocabularies. Each process is an opportunity to meet people and learn how best to communicate with them. Each process is a welcome challenge to unite visions to create one project.

Do you like to be in front of the camera? Answer: I am used to performing. There is a quickness to the process when I do not need to articulate the performance aspects of the project, but the technical visual aspects alone. I step outside of myself when viewing the footage but I prefer seeing someone else do the movement. I like to operate the camera and it is impossible when appearing in front of it. I like to know what the footage looks like as I am filming so that I can design new shots in the moment and make creative choices that might be the answer to the question I have raised in rehearsal. Sometimes all questions have not been answered even though it is time to film. I just have to move forward anyway.

I look forward to more questions and conversations this week!

Day 1

I was asked if I am a performance artist today. Great question. My reply was that I make dance and video and sometimes it might manifest into something that might resemble performance art. I have never claimed the title of performance artist before because I never considered my lineage of training to be inclusive of this. That is, until I began reflecting on the lessons of inclusivity that were imparted to me by artists with whom I have studied improvisation and dance theory, Simone Forti and Susan Leigh Foster, respectively. From these incredible artists and thinkers, I have been presented with concepts of inclusivity of form into practice. The work is not defined or labeled beyond dance, as dance can be inclusive of virtuosic or pedestrian movement, words and text, speaking and singing, and any other desired permutation.

A question that often arises when digging in and talking with someone about form is: What is dance? Some think only the movements of trained dancers of a certain age on a stage can be dance. Some observe birds in flight, or insects pollinating flowers, and consider these forms of dance. In the 1960s and beyond, dancers, performers, activists, people from all walks of life and backgrounds join together putting their bodies on the line in the form of peaceable protest. Their mere unified presence is an act of resistance. Their dancing bodies doing pedestrian movements out of the theater on the streets become the dance of democracy and change of tide. Dance can be what you want it to be. It can hold meaning or be movement for the sake of moving. It can be stillness. It can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. This is why I love dance.

What I am doing here–being present for a portion of the day, inviting conversation while in the building and online–is performance art. I suppose I just considered some of my different applications of dance to cover what might also be considered performance art. Thank you for helping me to consider this!