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Review: Momentum with SuperGroup + Rachel Jendrzejewski & Leslie O’Neill

I walked in with my homegirl at 7:55 to directions – instructions:  Choose a group, follow the movement and try to repeat the words you hear.  I kicked off my sandals and got to work – trying to flock and mirror and echo/respond.  Being a dancer in this community means it’s not that big a […]

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I walked in with my homegirl at 7:55 to directions – instructions:  Choose a group, follow the movement and try to repeat the words you hear.  I kicked off my sandals and got to work – trying to flock and mirror and echo/respond.  Being a dancer in this community means it’s not that big a risk to copy some homies on the Southern stage, so I tried hard to follow my directions.  Still, I cannot remember one phrase or word that I repeated.  Very challenging activity, but me and my homegirl* appreciated the outlet for anxious energy. I think it was Jeffrey who finally told me “ok have a seat.”  We grabbed our stuff that we had flung down and by the time we found a seat, there was more work happening on stage.  I realized that the curtain talk was being given and I had no time to read my program or even orient myself.  This was a good place to be as I entered the world of it’s [all] highly personal.

SuperGroup has a dance film where I remember them being very tiny.  I felt shrunken down to the size needed to build a tiny shelf and then shot inside of the collective mind of the group like InnerSpace.  Once inside the mind, I’m getting buffeted from place to place, text firing at me like synapse in the brain.  Bits and pieces jump out and stay out “we do what we can,” “sometimes we don’t,” “this is what we do.” I keep bouncing back and forth between following the text thread like a conversation and just letting the cacophony of voices wash over me like a soundscape.  Ah white art.  My homegirl said the piece felt very white, like culturally white. I’m always searching for the content I can identify within white art, because I have a lot of white dance/art homies. Like white noise though, this is kind of relaxing, but like eavesdropping through the cubicles at work, this is kind of disturbing.  I’m trying to grasp what these words are about – are these empty platitudes, like super general astrology readings?  Are they deep insights?  Or are they just every possible qualified sentence that can exist?

It is the movement that makes people laugh, draws us in.  The snarky gossip, the bored housewife, stoner, wanderer, captain.  I always say that I don’t like unison too much, so this piece really put that preference to the test.  There were so few moments of unified movement , everything was so individualized.  (spoiler alert) I dug using my binocs to zero in on one person at a time.  The rare moments of sync were strong and well oiled.  I used my binocs like a telescope to make everybody tiny. I liked the way the ensemble would seem to click into place and then just as easily break back into themselves – moving independently but not in isolation.  There was a kinetic feeling of connection and moving in concert, even though nobody was doing even close to the same thing.  And this group was seriously super.  They spoke and orated in accord, while moving, singing, dancing – it even got choral at one moment.  And the jumpsuits… the jumpsuits are amazing.

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Leslie O’Neill‘s Fortress started with a world created for and by kids.  Laura Selle Virtucio and Erika Hansen really managed to convince me of their childlike mentality through movement.  So much so that I became unnerved by the possibilities.  There were more than a few treacherous moments – movement-wise.  There were precarious positions and super-charged couplings that spoke to me of violence.  There was such a physical sense of foreboding, my homegirl described it as ‘heavy.’  The physicality reminded me of some less embodied people, and also young people who don’t know their own strength, who are hard on their shoes, who are gangly and unsteady on their feet. My homegirl doesn’t like when adults play kids on stage, and I might be with her on this point.  Or maybe I was just unnerved by the way Laura and Erika took it to the darkside on so many occasions.

The environment made me uncomfortable to start – two girls whispering inside a tent.  These girls’ friendship started to remind me of the friend I had who called me a n—— one time. We were pretty close but she still took it there.  There was a dark edge to the way these two girls did everything, and I began to get a sense of the secret world of childhood that grown-ups are not a part of.  Now we all know it exists because we were all children once, yet the dark corners get blown out in this work.  I was getting the feeling that these girls were powerful in different ways.  One girl was more classic – strong and daring and bossy.  The other girl was deeper and had complex ideas and twisted emotions, she was subtle with her power.  Now why did these girls feel like they were so connected and had to drag each other in and out of dark places? And like all kids, they were attracted to the dark and the light at the same time. They wanted to be scared and comforted all at the same time.  There was much unknown in this piece, and I felt like I didn’t get it.  Or I thought I was getting  something and then something threw me off that track near the end…

*my homegirl: an amalgam of all the homegirls i talked to throughout the night.

Momentum: The Processes, Challenges, and Expectations of Emerging Artists

On Thursday, the 10th installment of Momentum: New Dance Works premieres at the Southern Theater. Since 2001, the Walker and the Southern have been co-presenting cutting-edge work by local, emerging choreographers. This year’s line up includes SuperGroup + Rachel Jendrzejewski/ Leslie O’Neill (July 11-13) and Pramila Vasudevan/ Jennifer Arave (July 18-20). In preparation for the […]

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On Thursday, the 10th installment of Momentum: New Dance Works premieres at the Southern Theater. Since 2001, the Walker and the Southern have been co-presenting cutting-edge work by local, emerging choreographers. This year’s line up includes SuperGroup + Rachel Jendrzejewski/ Leslie O’Neill (July 11-13) and Pramila Vasudevan/ Jennifer Arave (July 18-20). In preparation for the upcoming performances, local dancer, educator, and commentator Justin Jones sat down with this year’s artists in TALK DANCE to discuss their processes, challenges, hopes, and expectations. To shake things up, Jones ventured from his typical question and answer format and had the choreographers interview each other.

Check out the full interview here.

Jennifer Arave, Canon

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Photo: Gene Pittman

Emerging out of a culture of increasingly formalized music and music performance, the punk rock era rejected virtuosity in favor of uninhibited expression. Despite its ultra-modern, progressive philosophies, punk rock was male dominated. In Canon, Jennifer Arave studied gestures from punk rock music videos to generate movement and presents the male-driven experience through a feminist lens.

In this piece, [generating movement is] relatively easy, because I’m taking YouTube videos of punk shows in the 80s and basically stealing the movement and then recontextualizing that movement into a narrative of some sort… We projected video on the wall and basically copy it as much as we could, physically. Sometimes, they’re in the middle of a move and you have to figure out what foot they’re pushing off of or what they’re doing once they’re in the air and we get as much as we can and then we improv with it. So, it’s kind of like what stays is what’s left when things slough away.

 

SuperGroup + Rachel Jendrzejewski, it’s [all] highly personal

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Photo: Gene Pittman

For their newest work, it’s (all) highly personal, trio Erin Search-Wells, Jeffrey Wells, and Sam Johnson team up with playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski to examine the daily events that unnoticeably change and transform us, juxtaposed with our conflicting desire to experience both ritual and risk. When asked by Arave where the line is between a work being a collaboration vs. when people are working collaboratively under the helm of a director, SuperGrouper Sam Johnson explained:

This discussion of collaboration is obviously really interesting to SuperGroup. With each of our processes, we sit down and we ask ourselves how we want to work and work with each other and that changes a lot. So, just because we’ve worked a number of times collaboratively, we don’t have a way that we’ve always worked. There are times when one of us will come forward and say, “What is this? Or, “What are we doing?” Or with those [questions] that kind of stop the process.

 

Pramila Vasudevan, F6

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Photo: Gene Pittman

Part of any artist’s process is recognizing and negotiating the space in which their work will be performed. Whether it’s a site-specific work or a traditional theater arrangement, utilizing the space creatively can add depth and meaning to a work, engaging audiences in exciting new ways. Unlike her Momentum colleagues, and many of her broader choreographic colleagues, Pramila Vasudevan has never created work for a theater. Having presented pieces mostly outdoors and in galleries, the conventional theater dynamic presented Vasudevan with new challenges and opportunities during the creation of F6 and in keeping with her experimental roots, she breaks the fourth wall and reverses the audience and the dancers.

For me, the very first encounter was, “how do I contend with the constraints of the space? And how do I find my voice inside of this space? And how do I also challenge myself?” I’ve never really worked in a traditional dance setting, ever. So, it’s kind of a great challenge, and because of the formality, the physicality of it was so hard to contend with, especially because of the space and the set… It’s not highly conceptual like other pieces in the way that I’ve rendered them in the past. It’s really about the physicality – the smell of it, the sound of it.

 

Leslie O’Neill, Fortress

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Photo: Gene Pittman

For Leslie O’Neill, the creation of Fortress came through her and her dancer’s exploration of the body and memory. O’Neill considers the layered emotions and experiences of children, which can fluctuate on a moment’s notice, without warning. During the piece, the dancers negotiate the parameters of their relationship while simultaneously discovering their individual identity.

I’m trying to portray in the body the way that I see and remember a childlike brain working. So, I’m thinking of the scattered attention and the intense focus one moment and then indifference the next. I’m thinking of the mind like a place that holds many pockets and crevices and… pain and pleasure and all those things that are being stored up constantly. Trying to get at that in the body through movement, so it’s ending up looking like the way you see a child running, limbs akimbo and all that, but then also stops where time seems to expand or shorten.

This year’s participating choreographers come from diverse backgrounds and employ a variety of techniques and processes that enable each of them to create truly unique works. Momentum runs July 11-13 (SuperGroup/O’Neill) and July 18-20 (Vasudevan/Arave) at the Southern Theater.

Choreographers’ Evening Auditions 2013: The Making of a Mixed Tape

The next Choreographers’ Evening, November 30, 2013, will be curated by Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs. Update: The audition slots are now full. If you would like to be put on the wait list, please email WalkerArtCE@gmail.com and you will be informed as slots become available. Thank you for your interest! Yon and Griggs are […]

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The next Choreographers’ Evening, November 30, 2013, will be curated by Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs.

Update: The audition slots are now full. If you would like to be put on the wait list, please email WalkerArtCE@gmail.com and you will be informed as slots become available. Thank you for your interest!

Yon and Griggs are imagining the performance line up as a selection of songs for a mixed tape, carefully chosen for someone special. They are dedicating this year’s Choreographers’ Evening to Nicky Paraiso, performer and La MaMa Moves! curator in NYC, who in their words “ has an infectious admiration for performers.  He puts together programs that are wildly eclectic, thought provoking and moving.  We are inspired by his impresario showmanship and ability to tug at your heart strings.” As part of the audition process, the curators would love to know if you were to dedicate your piece to someone or something, who or what would it be?

The details:

Auditions will be held at the Walker’s McGuire Theater, 1750 Hennepin Avenue on Thursday, August 15 from 6-10pm; Friday, August 16 from 6-10pm; and Saturday, August 17 from noon – 4pm.

You must email WalkerArtCE@gmail.com to reserve an audition time; auditions are accepted by appointment only.

All forms of dance welcome.

– You will receive a call or email confirming your time slot

– Auditions are in 10 minute intervals

– Pieces are usually 3-6 minutes in length and may not exceed 7 minutes

– DVD submissions are accepted, although live performance is preferred

– Works in progress are accepted for auditions but no pitches please!

For more information and to schedule an audition, please email WalkerArtCE@gmail.com or call the Walker at 612.375.7550.

Additional questions may be directed to Michèle Steinwald at michele.steinwald@walkerart.org.

Other reminders and updates about dance offerings in the Twin Cities:

Momentum: New Dance Works hits 10 editions this month! Don’t miss the next two weekends of performances and the special celebration on August 3rd. Hear about the new works as part of Justin Jones’ Talk Dance podcast series and reminisce about past works as part of Momentum’s history with pictures and stories from the artists.

If you missed the Twin Cities community dance photo announcement last spring it was because it was postponed until the fall. We are hoping to host the group photo shoot before the Sage Awards for Dance ceremony at the Cowles Center on Oct 15th so save the date!

Enjoy the summer and see you around!

Sourcing Dance Through the Body: BodyCartography Project’s Creative Process

Cutting-edge dance artists “tend to explore anything that transports them closer to the inside, closer to an understanding of how and why they work the way they do,” writes Gill Wright Miller, editor of Exploring Body-Mind Centering: An Anthology of Experience and Method. Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, BodyCartography Project’s co-directors/choreographers, are two such artists. […]

Cutting-edge dance artists “tend to explore anything that transports them closer to the inside, closer to an understanding of how and why they work the way they do,” writes Gill Wright Miller, editor of Exploring Body-Mind Centering: An Anthology of Experience and Method. Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, BodyCartography Project’s co-directors/choreographers, are two such artists. Their approach to creating dances is a layering of influences that is rooted in somatic techniques and philosophies. With attention to the micro (the body) and the macro (the community), the somatic values that BodyCartography Project employ in performance access a deep recognition of the power of the individual, on stage and in society, to make a difference and bond with an audience by invoking the viewers’ somatic response to their choreography. When dancers are grounded within thorough mind-body process, every aspect of the individual changes physically, aesthetically, socially, spiritually, and even physiologically, and these shifts are felt in performance.

Bieringa founded BodyCartography Project in 1997 in San Francisco and offered free weekly in-studio laboratories to explore improvisational practices for performance. Two years later, Ramstad joined the company as co-director. Together they have developed improvisational and set dance scores for outdoor happenings, dance films, site-specific performance installations, and stage presentations. I interviewed them together to discuss their creative approach at a highly productive time when BodyCartography Project was preparing for the world premiere of their group piece Super Nature, opening October 25, 2012, at the Walker Art Center.

While the BodyCartography duo and I are now part of the Twin Cities dance community, Bieringa and I once studied together as dancer/choreographers at the European Dance Development Center (EDDC) in Arnhem, Netherlands, in the early 1990s. Bieringa starts, “Post-modern dance training was a gateway to get into all these other source points or beginning points for me. The frame of dance is the creative field. How do we integrate it, play with it? How does it become our own? How do we use that? I am interested in an open field and getting into the idiosyncrasies of other peoples bodies and what is happening in their bodies in relationship.”

She continues, “Many techniques have come into our practice but it is hard to be really clear about what all the pieces are because they have become so integrated into my practice since Arnhem. Numerous somatic influences brought by the post-modern choreographers teaching at EDDC have become an interweaving of practices. Body-Mind Centering is now the main [investigation] in our process because it is so clear for accessing materials of the body, so straight forward, not simple but straight forward and easier to define than other forms. I had previously studied the body through many other forms like tai chi, shiatsu, traditional Chinese medicine, contact improvisation which was inspired by aikido, release technique, other postmodern dance traditions, and in addition, Otto has also studied capoeira which creates a certain type of mind-body integration, and all those pieces start to layer as approaches that we can easily categorize as not generating a certain style of moving but generate a certain way of focusing as a way of generating movement.”

The field of somatic inquiry emerged in the early twentieth century and has been applied to dance for some five decades. As Martha Eddy, Director of Somatic Studies at the Moving On Center and Director of the Center for Kinesthetic Education, explains in her seminal article, “When the dancing body is approached from a holistic perspective, which involves experiential inquiry inclusive of physical awareness, cognitive reflection, and insights from feelings, the dancing is somatic.” Somatics–from the Greek sōmatikos concerning the body, from the root sōma meaning body–is a loose grouping of body-based exercise or repatterning techniques, primarily therapeutic, that were initially developed through research and inquiry beginning just before the turn of the century and heavily evolved into the early twentieth century. The term was only later assigned to this trend of consciousness-raising body training techniques in the1970s by the philosopher and somatic practitioner Thomas Hanna.

“According to Hanna, somatics is the study of the soma, not as an objective ‘body,’ but an embodied process of internal awareness and communication,” clarifies University of North Carolina at Greensboro dance professor and Somatics scholar Jill Green in her research. “Process is an inherent concept in this field. In this sense, somatics focuses on an inner experiential body, not on a body as an objective entity or mechanical instrument. Further, some somatic theorists and educators move into a more macro sociopolitical sphere and address how our bodies and somatic experiences are inscribed by the culture in which we live.”

Both Bieringa and Ramstad are certified Body-Mind Centering (BMC) teachers. It is common for North American contemporary dancers to pursue a healing practice for insight into their own longevity as a performer in the dance field and as an additional source of income. Bieringa was introduced to BMC during her time at EDDC studying with Lisa Nelson; Ramstad began experimenting with dance improvisation and BMC at the age of six through the teaching of Suzanne River. The founder of BMC, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen was an occupational therapist, Certified Laban Movement Analyst, and dancer who developed the system in 1973 for accessing cellular consciousness through actions.

“It is empirical science,” Ramstad emphasizes. “It is based on many different people’s experiences, comparing and contrasting them over time. BMC has [methods] for identifying [patterns] and two big categories of how you approach the experience are by looking at anatomy books and then exploring [concepts] in order to have a new experience–one of the closest ways I have to experiencing new movement because you might be doing the same shapes, pathway or pattern of movement but getting at it through a new access point so it feels like a new movement–or identifying sensations that are familiar and then naming it. It is interesting for performance to privilege the dancer’s experience over the external bodily form. BMC takes such a long time to deeply get into the approach to gain the confidence of what you are experiencing; [it] can be from the cell membrane, for example. It seems impossible, like magic, before you have had enough experience with it to trust [the senses].”

In terms of building movement vocabulary in their new work, they rely on skills from BMC training to quickly provoke deep body awareness and original movement creation even if the dancers are not authentically performing BMC. Ramstad continues, “So with dancers in the piece, it would take a long time to build up the palette of experiences that you need to do certain things, you don’t have enough time. BMC is part of the process of making the piece which becomes more like set choreography. We are not asking people to perform BMC. If you are going to get on stage, there are so many factors happening that it would be very difficult to have a real detailed somatic experience–being able to deal with performing and remembering and being present for the others in the right timing–because there are so many other energetic elements to keep track of. If there was a reason then you could do it, but it would be a challenging thing to do. You would need to be fluidly moving through all those different ways of using your attention because there are so many factors in performance.”

With the artistic innovations of François Delsarte (1811–1871), Émile Jacques-Dalcroze (1865–1950), Rudolf Laban (1879–1958), Isadora Duncan (1878–1927), and Mary Wigman (1886–1973), the turn of the 20th century was a pivotal moment of artistic inventions. The application of somatic techniques to movement creation and performance was highly influenced by these individuals. Eddy confirms, “They shaped the culture in which the primary somatic pioneers were working. As dancers they were breaking rules; as people they were reintroducing non-Cartesian models.” Dancers became critical contributors to the second wave of somatics as practitioners and by creating over eleven of today’s most predominant somatic movement approaches from their work in dance. These techniques include Bartenieff Fundamentals, Body-Mind Centering, Continuum, EastWest Somatics, Ideokinesis, Anna Halprin’s contributions at the Tamalpa Institute, Kinetic Awareness, Patricia Bardi’s program in voice and dance integration, Skinner Releasing, Somatic Coaching, and the Topf Technique. By 1977, the American Dance Festival had moved to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and integrating somatics into training workshops in their summer programs. This further integrated the natural evolution and relationship between professional dance pedagogy and somatics awareness. The benefits were clear as dancers were able to move more fluidly, efficiently, and expressively.

The field of Contemporary Dance increasingly demands more complex understanding and execution of performance and creation techniques. From BodyCartography Project’s perspective, even if the starting point for their movement scores are not purely BMC, they use BMC as a directorial device to bring out certain aspects in a performer, to amplify qualities, to identify what elements are missing, and to layer sensations (i.e. more ‘bones’ in order to create more extreme shapes). The BMC language becomes a tool that is useful for their choreography. Words like tensegrity (balance between tension and compression), turgidity (bloated), yielding (give under pressure), terms that are common in BMC work, are useful indicators for movement qualities explored in the studio. However, they often need to be explained to find a shared meaning. Bieringa elaborates, “Even with the word bones, you are recreating how people think about their bones because people think about their bones as dry brittle things, but actually they are living tissue full of blood and they bend and they are full of nerves and fluids, and so you are creating a new value system around each word you are using. It is this play between language and sensation and the gaming that exists within that process of BMC–of either naming something that is familiar or having new experiences and then putting names to them or pretending that you get it until you actually get somewhere–are tools that are super useful as part of our creative process.” This tension and dialogue created through somatic work is “a creative interplay.”

The fundamental somatic value of non-judgmental observation is fruitful when defining and instigating the impossible, and encouraging the exploration within that state from a fake-it-until-you-make-it stage in the creative process. Choreographers can amass plenty of choreographic material to draw on, plus also foster an environment of generosity amongst their cast and collaborators. Dancers contributing to the creative process through somatic exploration of states of deep embodiment of concepts and choreographic directives, such as in BodyCartography Project’s approach, need to provide feedback. This feedback will build a shared vocabulary and establish language for layering choreographic intentions in order to fine tune the final performance scores. Dancers in this environment are essential collaborators in building the content for the performance:

Their ‘truth’ is linked to their experience and as such their voice is a construction of their reality. Their multiple meanings are constructed, rather than found, according to their values, context and interests. Socio-constructivism emphasizes the collective generation and transmission of meanings.—Research in Dance Education

By empowering the individuals within a communal experience and drawing wisdom through bodily experiences, we open our communication up to each other and create a system of empathy and connection that challenges authoritarian and dominant meaning systems. Other contemporary choreographers use somatics and specifically BMC to inform their process. RoseAnne Spradlin utilizes BMC to make the dancers’ experience more essential, stripping them of layers of excess, information in order to expose their core as individuals. Choreographer and BMC practitioner Darcy McGehee mines the most subtle and obvious aspects of movement communication to promote the social contract within a performance.

In an interview the day after the world premiere of his latest group piece, Miguel Gutierrez credited somatics and their philosophical outcomes in the creative environment that produced this project. Gutierrez, “Making And lose the name of action for me was about tapping into the specialness of that present moment with those people, and the very specific contingency of those bodies in that time and in that situation, which feels like a somatic value, tapping into presence. Invested in the process of creation is an internal excavation. It is about sensitizing yourself to what is happening, sensitizing the situation, creating a shared body with the practitioners in room. Somatics inform that with a relationship to listening, a relationship to the politics of a situation, trying not to establish hierarchies.”

Gutierrez is currently pursuing certification to become a Feldenkrais practitioner. He acknowledges the values that were instilled in his creative process are being reconfirmed. Important to Gutierrez are Feldenkrais principles about not making assumptions about the situation, supporting what is already happening, supporting what is already present. He holds these same notions as strong directorial values while balancing a perception that is both based in specificity and globality. “Somatic values that come from somatic practices, like go micro and macro, have a holistic consciousness of what is happening in the piece. You need to be in a state of receptivity and physical preparedness for that.”

The somatics applications accessible to dance artists have elevated the expressive potential of dancers to new levels of potential as highly conscious individuals. The field of somatics has branched off into three categories of inquiry and application: somatic psychology, somatic bodywork, and somatic movement. At the core of somatic movement is ‘listening to the body’ and creating new pathways for movement experience by raising awareness of habits and exploring alternatives. Repatterning movement choices is extremely useful to expand the palette of options for a choreographer’s research and expanding a dancer’s range. The outcomes as internalized observations are innately beneficial to each person’s daily life as well as performance career. For Bieringa, “Everything is possible. It is possible to repattern your behavior. Bodies open up to that paradigm shifting, to bring in more fluid transitions, and create more ease. On a level beyond bodywork or dance making, it is a super useful tool for life and how can we apply that on bigger and bigger levels. How do we make use of that?”

Although Gutierrez romanticizes about the tyranny of a traditional theater director, he supports a caring environment to situate his dance process but wishes there were more examples of the “somatically kind” director. “As a director, my role is to share, not withhold. I found that it was such a weird gift to have these people willing to listen to me. I gave no homework so instead we researched everything together during our creative residencies. But I have to ask myself: What are you as a director or as a person in a piece? If nothing else, you are this energetic instigator. Why does a person need a director? What is different about a person taking charge of something versus things just happening?”

In Berlin, a collective with choreographers Isabelle Schad, Alice Chauchat, Frédéric de Carlo, Frédéric Gies and Odile Seitz, trained as Body-Mind Centering practitioners and presenting work under the name Practicable, are pushing that aspect of BMC and performance by letting more of the choreography just happen. The aesthetics of their works contain minimal design elements and the performers may or may not be trained dancers. The internal landscape of the individuals in the cast become one whole as an external expression of the states they embody. BodyCartography Project’s use of BMC instructions and Gutierrez’s use of Feldenkrais principles are highly crafted theatrical events that embody values and creativity by deepening the physicality and dialogue of the contributing cast.

Gutierrez continues, “Their mode, what energy the performers can bring into the room, what they can actualize in the room between people, I am intrigued by that as a director and as a person. How can I disseminate a value that can be shared between people, to be experienced with each other?” Somatic values create community and teach us to be in community within the cast, within the performance, within the space, within the audience, and back to the cast. The feedback loop, based in a movement language and choreographic logic developed through somatic research, is palpable to all experiencing the work. Gutierrez says, “I think it is love. It has to be. I mean there has to be this sense of desire to want to participate to birth this thing together and to understand the time you are spending in a performance together. I can’t think of a word that is more appropriate. That is a big part of it. That is why what we do is so fucking weird.”

The truths that are housed in our bodies reveal unique and universal sensations to be shared in performance under the sensitive direction of somatic practitioners. While BMC has been a strong influence on their process of mining their dancers for material and shaping their choreographic scores to create fully formed states of expression, Bieringa adds a few other guiding principles passed along from her studies at EDDC, “An influence that I carry from Deborah Hay’s work is that moment of just ‘do the impossible.’ When you have this set of instructions that you don’t really know what it is and you just try to embody it, this list of words. There is something about that that I really love and have carried into my own work. And then Eva Karczag’s practice–coming out of the Alexander work but which is actually really BMC that she is doing in combination with Ideokinesis–that unknowing hands-on practice and the magic of the space that she would create in a classroom. It is really important to me in my generating and making dance practice to go there myself and be able to bring others to that space, the invitation and generosity to find their full engagement. Otto and I are not telling people what to do but bring ideas of things to try together. Those are key pieces that are still there.”

Somatics, as a loose collection of consciousness-building, body-based sensations with a goal towards a generous state of well being and bodily comfort even when pushed to the physical limits as a dancer in performance, can manifest into a residual behavior of self-betterment and community engagement. From Research in Dance Education,“Our heightened awareness has the potential to change the way we see the world around us and to render us more capable to act intentionally and effectively in it.” This next wave of somatically-inspired dance artists have the potential of great artistic expression and civic contribution. It is possible for the performances by BodyCartography Project for example to affect a deep transformation in the audience simply by their witnessing the actions on stage. Everyone can experience the pleasures of dance when viewers are somatically in tune with the values of these choreographers. By privileging the body-mind connection, dance literacy comes naturally and audiences with open hearts and mind have full access to the content and context of work performed. Although when a performance is produced and sourced from an internal experience, somatic-based choreography can seem less obvious to the average dance goer. However, since this work has been drawn from a shared process and displays both universal and personal bodily experiences, everyone is able to understand, simply by being present.

I wrote this research essay as part of my studies at the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance and invite any feedback you may have. Thanks!

Walker Art Center is a NPN Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). Michèle Steinwald was supported by the NPN Mentorship and Leadership Initiative to attend ICPP. Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), MetLife Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.  For more information: www.npnweb.org.

Super Nature: The Empathy of Performance

a deep sigh a sleepy yawn a quick breath a playful smile Much as language can elicit empathic responses, so too (if not more intensely), performers can move an audience. After the BodyCartography Project‘s intimate interactions in their installation in the Walker galleries last spring, the Minneapolis-based duo has extended those engagements into the upcoming […]

a deep sigh

a sleepy yawn

a quick breath

a playful smile

Much as language can elicit empathic responses, so too (if not more intensely), performers can move an audience. After the BodyCartography Project‘s intimate interactions in their installation in the Walker galleries last spring, the Minneapolis-based duo has extended those engagements into the upcoming performance (by the same name) Super Nature. By re-investigating the age-old question “How can performers affect an audience?” BodyCartography’s Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad scrutinize traditional assumptions about dramatic and aesthetic forms and boldly invent techniques for connecting audiences with performers. During the installation, a performer and an audience member were invited to engage and interact (nonverbally) in a darkened room for ten minutes. The goal? To train both dancers and audiences to think differently about social relations and embodied experience.

Sourcing insights from the installation, the performance Super Nature shares many of the same investigations but drastically shifts the audience-performer equation. Through effortless, natural, and instinctive movements, Super Nature aims to destroy the invisible walls between the spectator and the performer and encourages each to empathize with each other. Dancers in the performance include Justin Jones, Timmy Wagner, Emily Johnson, Anna Shogren, Otto Ramstad, Eneka Bordato Riano, and Francesca Mattavelli. Although audiences will remain seated during the performance, the BodyCartography Project asks us to “dance with them” and experience their movements through our visceral and perceptual senses. This participation in full engagement will surely question our trained ways of being and will hopefully inspire new ways of living as humans!

Super Nature Rehearsal

Similar to the 2010 performance The Artist is Present, Super Nature intentionally depresses verbal and analytical behaviors and taps into the impulsive, kinesthetic, and emotional senses. On the power of empathy in dance, Ramstad explains, “It’s also very much about empathy, giving and receiving it, exploring when and why we feel it. Dance is an empathy machine. It’s really good at projecting that, both between the dancers and between them and their audience. When you watch discomfort, you feel it, too.”

Here’s an audio interview between Bieringa, Ramstad, and dancer Justin Jones that discusses empathy, Super Nature, and dance performance itself.

The BodyCartography Project, with musician Zeena Parkins and visual artist Emmett Ramstad, will premiere Super Nature on October 25, 26, and 27 in the McGuire Theater.

For further work utilizing sensory perceptions, empathy, and social relations, check out: Megan Daalder, Lucky Dragons, Krystal Krunch, and Frans de Waal.

Backstage Haiku- Body Cartography

Next show coming up? It’s Body Cartography… Check out those shadows!  

Next show coming up?

It’s Body Cartography…

Check out those shadows!

 

teching "Supernatural"

standing stage right

Voices of Strength: The Enchanting Voices of Madame Plaza

“Madame Plaza, created by Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen and performed with three traditional Aïta vocalists whose custom includes guttural wailing and incantation, is a powerful merging of bodies with song.” — Mapp International Throughout my research of Madame Plaza,  Bouchra Ouizguen’s work in the Voices of Strength dance series, I have been struck by the […]

“Madame Plaza, created by Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen and performed with three traditional Aïta vocalists whose custom includes guttural wailing and incantation, is a powerful merging of bodies with song.” Mapp International

Bouchra Ouizguen’s Madame Plaza Photo by Hibou Photography

Throughout my research of Madame Plaza,  Bouchra Ouizguen’s work in the Voices of Strength dance series, I have been struck by the dynamic power of the Aïta vocalists to grasp my attention. I’ve always been captivated by singers who explore colorful vocal techniques (Fatima Al Qadiri, Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson are a few of my favorites).

Video Excerpt from Madame Plaza

Choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen explains her connection to their spellbinding sounds and describes their unique ability to engage audiences in an interview from 2010 with Time Out New York.

What role has the music you feature in the show played in your life?

From in the womb of my mother, this music was already there somehow. Most of the time the songs are about impossible love from a woman to a man and the difficulties that encompass that kind of relationship, or complaints about life. The music is more of a cry, more of a scream—asking for things. The word aïta means “calling.”

So how did you find the singers?

I met them once I stopped my trip. I had just had moved next to a nightclub in Marrakech—one of the oldest clubs, where these ladies were performing. It was called Madame Plaza. It’s an old nightclub that no bourgeois, no middle-class person would ever put a foot in. They were performing there, so I watched and started talking to them. On the same night I asked one of them, “Could you come and work together next week?” She said yes. We started working together and out of it came a duo.

What did they teach you about the body?

They taught me to forget about what I have learned. I have trained with choreographers in France and they taught me to break all the rules and do something new. They broke my habits.

Why does Madame Plaza speak to so many people?

I think that it is due to what I was saying before: There is no difference between onstage and offstage. They are not magnificent robot dancers. I think it’s because of what they sing—it resembles a lot of crying that is in all cultures. People can connect to these ladies who are fat and who are not dancers. Everybody knows that they are not contemporary dancers. They are not mechanical. The song is the same for people in different parts of the world who are crying for death or crying for love—this kind of vocal expression is common to mankind. And also, fragility is exposed. It has to do with the fragility of the human being.

Madame Plaza is one of four pieces in the contemporary theater and dance mini-festival, “Voices of Strength” here at the Walker. Ouizguen and company will perform in the McGuire Theater this Thursday and Saturday (October 11 and 13) at 8pm.

Twin Cities Dance

  Fall is upon us with the Walker’s dance season beginning next week. In addition to the upcoming world premieres and special engagements as part of our offerings, we are celebrating two big anniversaries with our local dance platforms, Choreographers’ Evening  and the Momentum: New Dance Works. It will be an amazing year to share […]

 

Fall is upon us with the Walker’s dance season beginning next week. In addition to the upcoming world premieres and special engagements as part of our offerings, we are celebrating two big anniversaries with our local dance platforms, Choreographers’ Evening  and the Momentum: New Dance Works. It will be an amazing year to share these experiences together and jump for joy!

Announcing:

The 40th anniversary of Choreographers’ Evening featuring: Judith Brin Ingber, Christ Up Dance Crew, Michael Engel, Emily King & Ryan Underbakke, Blake Nellis, Luke Olson-Elm, Rosy Simas, Joanne Spencer, Third Coast Collective, and Voice of Culture.

The 10th anniversary of Momentum: New Dance Works, in partnership with the Southern Theater, featuring: SuperGroup/Rachel Jendrzejewski and Leslie O’Neill on July 11-13, and Pramila Vasudevan/Aniccha Arts and Jennifer Arave on July 18-21, 2013.

Fifth annual Twin Cities National Dance Week photo includes (in no particular order): Chris Holman (Executive Coach), Allie Hankins (Choreographer), Taylor Fleege (Irish Dancer), Britt White (Irish Dancer), Jeffrey Berger (Dancer), Jessi Fett (Dance Educator/ Dancer), Sam Johnson (Choreographer), Otto Ramstad (Dance Artist), Penelope Freeh (Dancer/ Choreographer), Charles Campbell (Performer/ Choreographer), Lewis McKinnell (Performer), Monica Thomas (Choreographer/ Dancer), Theresa Madaus (Choreographer/ Dancer), Sarah LaRose Holland (Dancer & Accountant), Abi Sebaly (Unitard Minder), Michèle Steinwald (Curator), Corey Horbison (Production Manager – Cowles), Rae Eden Frank (Recycling Coordinator), Laurie Van Wieren (Dance Maker/Producer), Noah Keesecker (Composer), Laura Bohne (Education Associate),  “J-Sun” Jason Noer (Choreographer), Jeffrey Wells (Performance Maker), Erinn Liebhard (Jazz Dance Artist), Dana Kassel (Dance Administrator), Olive Bieringa (Choreographer), April Sellers (Choreographer), and Chris Schlichting (Choreographer).

Choreographers’ Evening Auditions 2012: Finding Inspiration from our Past

Our annual Choreographers’ Evening (CE) at the Walker is always a celebratory affair, but this year we’re especially excited to be planning a special edition to celebrate the fortieth year of this favorite Walker program. Inspired by CE’s long, rich history, curators Aparna Ramaswamy and Patrick Scully are presenting an evening of dance that reflects […]

Our annual Choreographers’ Evening (CE) at the Walker is always a celebratory affair, but this year we’re especially excited to be planning a special edition to celebrate the fortieth year of this favorite Walker program. Inspired by CE’s long, rich history, curators Aparna Ramaswamy and Patrick Scully are presenting an evening of dance that reflects past curators and choreographers and their contributions to this annual smorgasbord of local dance.

 

A note from the curators:

Calling all Dance Makers Old, Young and In Between!

The Choreographers’ Evening in November of this year, 2012, will celebrate its 40 years in our community.

We, Aparna Ramaswamy and Patrick Scully will co-curate the evening.

We plan to present a show that will allow us to revisit points of those forty years in a number of creative ways. Just to get the juices flowing, here are a few things we thought might be possible (these are in no way intended to be prescriptive—rather, just to spark your creativity!)

Perhaps there will be 2 works from each of 5 time frames:

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

Today

What does it mean to be related to one of those time frames?

–          Maybe a choreographer from a ’70s CE sets a previous work on a new cast?

–          Maybe a young choreographer incorporates past CE video of an earlier work into a piece with new material?

–          Maybe a piece has a source of inspiration from the ’80s – a local teacher, some music, an issue, who knows?

 

Our criteria for selection, in order of importance are:

1. Work representing our theme of 40 years of Choreographers’ Evening at the Walker Art Center

2. Excellence of work (We agree that this has a lot to do with our subjective perspectives of “Does this work speak to me, grab me, move me?”)

3. Representation of as much of the community of dance makers as possible – Breadth of the work selected to perform

We hope you get the idea, if you have any questions, feel free to email us at:

ramaswamy617@gmail.com   and/or  patrick@PatrickScully.org


Audition Details:       

WHEN:
Thursday, August 2 from 6-10pm
Friday, August 3 from 2-6pm
Saturday, August 4 from noon – 4pm

WHERE:                The Walker’s McGuire Theater, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis

WHO:                    You must email patrick@PatrickScully.org to reserve an audition time; auditions are accepted by appointment only.

WHAT:                  All forms of dance welcome. Our theme of 40 years of Choreographers’ Evening at the Walker Art Center is encouraged.

– You will receive a call or email confirming your time slot

– Auditions are in 10 minute intervals

– Pieces are usually 3-6 minutes in length and may not exceed 7 minutes

– DVD submissions are accepted, although live performance is preferred

For more information and to schedule an audition, please email                patrick@PatrickScully.org or call the Walker at 612.375.7550 to leave a message.

–Aparna & Patrick

 

BROWSE—AND HELP BUILD—OUR ONLINE CHOREOGRAPHER’S EVENING ARCHIVE

Since this year’s CE curators are looking for works that represent choreography from the 1970s to the present, we have compiled a list of past curators and choreographers to help inspire those auditioning: http://choreographersevening.tumblr.com.

Our list is complete, but some program notes are missing. We invite members of the dance community to share any information you may have and help us expand the online archive! Do you have programs, photos, memories, anecdotes, or other material?

If so, you can upload it to the Tumblr archives site—or we can arrange to have it scanned and uploaded for you: email Anat Shinar at anat.shinar@walkerart.org for details.

Videos of Choreographers’ Evening from 2000 – 2011 are also available for viewing and research in the Walker’s archives department. Contact archivist Jill Vuchetich at jill.vuchetich@walkerart.org for an appointment during research hours, Wednesday-Friday 1-4 pm.

Seeking Local Actors/Singers/Dancers

The Lisps are seeking local actors/singers/dancers to join the ensemble of FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps, for performances at the Walker Art Center, April 26-28. FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps is coming to the McGuire Theater soon and is looking for local performers to join the ensemble to play soldiers, scientists, and members […]

The Lisps are seeking local actors/singers/dancers to join the ensemble of FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps, for performances at the Walker Art Center, April 26-28.

FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps is coming to the McGuire Theater soon and is looking for local performers to join the ensemble to play soldiers, scientists, and members of the chorus.  Strong singing, movement and acting skills a must.  Unfortunately, they are unable to consider members of Actors Equity Association.

FUTURITY tells the story of a soldier’s quest—inspired by Lord Byron’s brilliant daughter, Ada Lovelace—to save humans from themselves by inventing an omnipotent, steam-powered “brain.” Melding the Civil War with sci-fi and American folk with avant-rock, The Lisps have crafted a unique and compelling portrait of war, human imagination, and technological hubris.  The show arrives at the Walker from its much-anticipated premiere at the American Repertory Theater.

To participate, you must be available for all of the following rehearsals:

Friday, April 20, Saturday, April 21, and Monday, April 23 from 10 am–6 pm; Tuesday, April 24 from 11 am–6 pm; Wednesday, April 25 from 11 am–11 pm; Thursday, April 26 from 10:30 am–5 pm.  And for Performances: Thursday, April 26, Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28 at 8 pm (available 7 pm–10 pm).

Interested performers should send an email to FuturityTheMusical@hotmail.com with the link to an online video of themselves singing a song (3 min maximum) and performing a contemporary monologue (1-2 minutes) with a resume or paragraph describing their skills and relevant experience.  If you avidly play any instruments, please let us know that as well. Each performer will receive a small stipend and a pair of free tickets to one of the performances.

Deadline for submission is April 6. Chosen performers will be notified no later than April 9th.

More from FUTURITY

> Listen to music from the show: “How Much” and “Singularity”

> Read a Boston Globe profile about the show, its DIY aesthetic, and its mathematic background

> Hear a review from WGBH Boston

> Read more about the Steam Brain “Franken-drum set” from WBUR Boston

 

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