As a graduate fellowship student at OSU, I’ll be continuing to study and research throughout this summer, and I’m dedicating some of this study time to maintaining a studio practice over the next couple of months.
Because I’ll be dividing my time this summer between Columbus and NYC (with a bit of travelling elsewhere in between), the focus of this studio research will be solo work, an area in which I am not always very comfortable (see my earlier post, “Liberating the body (with some help from your friends)” ). As a lover of form and structure, it feels immensely more difficult for me to develop choreographic ideas on my own body, especially when I’m the only body in the room. Movement invention has never been what excites me as a choreographer, so solo work presents some challenges.
However, it felt important to me to, one, keep moving this summer, and two, continue some of the explorations I’d begun during the spring semester. Accompanied by some reading to fulfill other independent study credits this summer, I have landed on an interest in the affective relationship between place and the body, and idea which lies at the intersection of my ongoing research in somatic study, choreography, and social practice. (Check out my final project from Bodies on the Line to read about how I landed on those ideas). In short, I’m interested in how our relationship to the spaces we inhabit, be those spaces urban or natural environments, affects how we live in our own bodies and vice versa. Choreographically, I’m interested in how an embodiment of these places via improvisation and somatic awareness can be used as fuel for choreographic work.
These ideas are quite complicated, and I’m hoping to continue researching them with a group of dancers next fall, but my question for this summer practice is how to keep engaging with these ideas while I’m by myself. What I’ve come up with is an opportunity to step away from literally engaging with places outside the studio, and begin investigating the place of my own body.
It may seem strange to consider my body as a “place,” but when considered carefully, one realizes that places actually only exist inside our own bodies, in our minds. Space and spaces are abstract, but places are imbued with meaning that we form because of our relationships to them, and those relationships form through the sensation, emotion, and perception of our bodies.
So, my task for my studio practice time this summer is to develop improvisational and choreographic strategies around exploring the place of my body. I’m doing this in a number of ways:
- Following impulse-What does my body already know that I can learn from?
- Memories- What is inside my body already? What places can I embody without being physically present? How do I bring those forth choreographically?
- Mapping- Maps are subjective, visual abstractions of places that tell us where to go, what’s important, where to pause. Can I create a map of my own body?
- Drawing as score-making- What can visual reflections of physical experience (rather than verbal via writing) tell me about how my body relates to space and place?
- Stillness- Space implies movement, place (think “placement”) implies pause (see Yi-fu Taun’s Space and Place).
- More to come!
As I’m exploring these ideas, I’ll be documenting my process via this blog. Over the past year, I have found that a reflective writing process of my creative research to be enormously helpful in articulating what I’m working through. Additionally, as a choreographer, I have long been fascinated by methodology, more so than the finished product. In other words, I’m often more interested in how work gets made than in what I want my finished work to be. Wrapped up in this interest in methodology is a firm passion for collaborative creative strategies that diminish traditional choreographer-dancer relationships and allow dancers to experience more opportunities for agency, individuality, and representation within the creative process.
This interest in methodology is accompanied by some inherent problems: one, that a too stringent focus on process will diminish the capacity to create fully developed work (something I’ll be working on next year, for sure), and two, that the bulk of my research as a choreographer will not be evident to anyone who isn’t a part of the project itself. As such, it seems really important that I establish modes of documenting my work to share with others.
This past year, I’ve worked to document my process through the use of this blog, which I enjoyed immensely and has proved quite fruitful to my process. However, I’d like to experiment with some forms of writing that don’t reduce my creative process to the sentiment of, “I did ___________, and then I discovered __________.” It feels too formulaic and results-oriented to be fully expressive of what the artistic process is really like. I want to use methods of documentation that include the parts of any creative project that defy clear definition on this spectrum between research and results. In short, I want my personhood, the actual lived experience of what it means to be a choreographer to come through in my documentation.
So, for this independent study this summer, I’ll be taking a page out of Deborah Hay’s book and experimenting with prose forms of documenting my process. I’ve been reading her book, Lamb at the Altar, a text which chronicles her experience creating a group work over four months via first-person narrative reflection, memory, and a “movement libretto” of the final work. I’m hoping that a more artful approach to language in documenting my process will more deeply integrate the reflective process with the work itself.
I hope you enjoy reading my experiences!