The following is a summary of my "artist journals" kept during my first semester of graduate school at Wilson College. While on campus, I worked in solo form, knowing I was getting ready to embark on a brand-new experiment in ensemble-form upon my return.
Written by Bodies in Play Founder, Andrew Pearson.
The driving question motivating my current practice-led research is: How does my solo practice inform how I facilitate ensemble or collective-based creation, as well as influence my pedagogy and mentorship? I’m curious how I can continue to develop my personal choreographic interests while also giving permission to the other artists to bring themselves to the work. How can I lead and facilitate the group without dominating the experience – especially taking into consideration that I move through the world as a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied man? This leads to a struggle with identifying or believing in a need for my work. Why does the world need to see my choreography or hear my words? Why do people need to see me dance? Is my creative energy better spent elsewhere?
I have found a great amount of creative fulfillment within my writing process, so I know bringing this into dance rehearsals will be important for my process moving forward. I do have some practice putting words to the experience of others, and have found in my own process the more candid I am about my internal experience the more it resonates with audience. This is certainly something I can provide to an ensemble experience. If I can provide space and time for dancers to just be with their bodies and explore, perhaps I can help them excavate their stories, both physically and verbally.
Not that this is a simple task. As Andrew Tarkovksy says, as quoted in Anne Bogart’s And Then, You Act: “A true artistic image gives the beholder a simultaneous experience of the most complex, contradictory, sometimes even mutually exclusive feelings. It is not possible to catch the moment at which the positive goes over into its opposite, or when the negative starts moving toward the positive. Infinity is germane, inherent in the very structure of the image” (p. 36). Rather than asking “how do I afford others more privilege”, perhaps I should be asking “what happens if I invite complex humans with various oppositions into a collaborative rehearsal space? What if we have no time or money, but can find expansiveness within ourselves and the process?” Bogart also shared a story about a friend who was having a similar struggle with her privilege and being an artist. This friend spoke with Mother Teresa, worried she wasn’t contributing enough to society, and Mother Teresa reminded her that while her country is starved for food, our country is starved for spirit (p. 43). So, if my privilege has awarded me the opportunity to feed more spirit into this country, especially if this can be done within the facilitation of a collective of disparate individuals, perhaps I can cultivate an environment of “rapture”, that in turn “radiates to audiences and then out into the world” (Bogart, p. 49).
Once I’ve been able to give myself permission to continue this work, I’ve noticed a huge part of my work is not just the composing of steps or words, but the actual approach to performance itself. How do I enact those 7 "compelling forces inherent to theater” Anne Bogart breaks down in her chapter on Magnetism (p. 64)? Is there a way to teach this to my ensemble? Do I need to teach it to my ensemble, or do I need to be open to what they have to teach me about their ways of performing? I wonder if there’s a way to incorporate elements of Critical Response Process within the creative process, so as we devise new work, we’re offering neutral feedback that can help shape choices – so we are all in dialogue with the work and listening to what the work asks of all of us. These are just musings for me to be aware of as I enter the space. I won’t be able to answer anything until we get inside of it and physically embody process and start creating the piece experientially to know what direction to go. The piece will tell us what it needs.
My intentions for making dance-theater:
Bogart, Anne. (2008). And then, you act: Making art in an unpredictable world. Routledge.