The following is the proposal for the work that would become our BiP/WiP 2022.
Written by Bodies in Play Founder Andrew Pearson for Wilson College's MFA Program.
Bodies in Play, established in 2017, produces melodramatic Plays in which our Bodies further the narrative through dance and movement. For the past 5 years, these productions have been generated through my own creative research and development. Though each project has been a collaborative experience, most shows have manifested in solo form, with me as both the lead creative and performer. For our next project, in a move to de-center my lead authorship, we have invited dance-based performers to collectively devise an ensemble-driven performance. Within this process, I’m curious how we can make room for each of our multifaceted selves and identities? How do we honor and celebrate the individual while simultaneously honoring and creating a communal experience? How do we invite and embrace the various realities and hurdles we face as individuals – such as differing privileges and access needs, conflicting schedules and job juggling, Los Angeles traffic, and more – in ways that make us each feel supported, acknowledged and maximally utilized?
I hypothesize that one way to answer these questions and achieve these goals is to begin from a place of shared leadership, transparency, and a non-hierarchical valuing of differing dance and movement aesthetics. The first step in this process has been to distribute the casting authority for the work. Rather than me casting the entire ensemble myself, I have invited only half of the ensemble into the project: Darby Epperson, Daurin Tavares, and Sadie Yarrington. Darby and Daurin were tasked with each inviting another artist, casting Derrick Paris and Cristina Flores, respectively, while Sadie was invited to work as a Co-Creative Director for the project. While I will facilitate the devising process through various creative tasks, Sadie has been delegated with taking the temperature of both group and individual creative desires throughout rehearsals in order to shape the final presentation. However, even within these designated roles, we will be taking a page out of Anne Bogart’s And Then, You Act in which she names that “being a director is a function rather than a person” (p. 33). So, while the main functions of each person in the ensemble will be to devise/choreograph and perform (with the added functions of facilitation and creative direction for myself and Sadie), creative choices, design elements, prompts, proposals, edits, written elements, and more can come from any person in the room.
As of now, the ensemble has agreed to 24 hours of rehearsal over the course of a month and a half, with 4 hours on Mondays and 2 hours on Thursdays. Mondays will be “creative play” facilitated by me. Then, on the following Thursday, each artist will come in with ideas for connecting or juxtaposing some of the work developed on Monday. For example, one artist may want to learn a phrase created by another artist to perform a synchronized duet; another artist may come in with a piece of music they think would work nicely with one of their colleague’s movements; or perhaps we all play with aligning the similarities or contrasting the differences found in each other’s choreography. Once all ideas have been proposed, Sadie, who will be noting where there is group consensus, will make final decisions in order to walk out of each Thursday rehearsal with a few performable sections. The resulting aesthetic is as of now impossible to describe, as it will blend the various impulses, tastes, and experiences of all in the room. I hope to find beauty in variety and cohesion in disparity to uncover a new aesthetic specific to these six artists sharing time and space.
This project is an extension of my solo practice as I will utilize my 10-years of self research to devise prompts and creative tasks for the ensemble, with the aim to hold space for other artists to go through their own introspective journeys while simultaneously acknowledging our existence within community. As with all of my work, this project affirms the individual’s lived experience as a source of knowledge and inspiration. Within the larger dance word, this experiment is also an extension of the legacy of Contact Improvisation, as developed by Steve Paxton and collaborators in the 1970’s. As chronicled in Cynthia Novack’s Sharing the Dance, Contact Improvisation was both an artform and social movement invested in dismantling hierarchy and infusing egalitarianism and democracy throughout its process (Loc 249). Paxton, specifically, was invested in creating dances by sparking each individual’s impulse to move without ever the need to copy him, look like him, or receive explicit direction from him (Loc 953). However, in continuing with the natural evolution of Contact Improvisation which saw a “gradual transformation of an initially raw form into a more polished, articulate style” (Loc 1844) our finished product will be a “set” piece of dance-theater aiming to amplify the differences of our cast, rather than neutralize them (Loc 838).
Bogart, Anne. (2008). And then, you act: Making art in an unpredictable world. Routledge.
Borstel, John & Lerman, Liz. (2003). Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process: a method for getting useful feedback on anything you make, from dance to dessert. Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.
Creating New Futures (2021). Equitable contracting vs 4.4.2021. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScrwVaCxzojYziYBcXQhKQqHzcK_FV_g9NUp1_hEbRY2njj4A/viewform
Novack, Cynthia J. (1990). Sharing the dance: Contact improvisation and American culture [E-reader version]. The University of Wisconsin Press.