The Fall 2014 edition of 12 Minutes Max is under way: we asked emerging artists Naomi Brand, Kara Nolte, Jane Osborne and Daisy Thompson to tell us what they are working on in the studio and what they have found most challenging, surprising or rewarding in their creative process. Join us for a free studio showing of their works in progress on Wednesday October 29, 2014 at 6pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
I have been working from a game called Hops as my jumping off point for this new choreography. It has been a useful and fun way to develop material and create a charged energy between the dancers. I am interested in the level of engagement and the kinds of physical negotiations that come when our attention is focused on the goal of a game. Specifically, how we might read someone else’s impulses, anticipate and predict or psych someone out. In a twosome, the space between bodies comes alive as they navigate this third thing that is their task.
For this work, I have also been curious about the rhythm and musicality of “action and response.” It is a dynamic that is so much a part of play, of every day conversation and of real world relationships. What has emerged from investigating some of these ideas is a range of movement vocabulary and qualities of attention from sneaky to tender, aggressive to cooperative, resistant to loving. Now, my job is to look at what I have made and see what all that material has to say.
The most challenging part of this process for 12 Minutes Max has been trying to stay light, playful and responsive while working in the studio. With the constraint of a short creation period, busy schedules and all the realities of life, it is so easy to sink into an overly critical and analytical mode, which inhibits me from being able to see what I am actually making. I am working on getting out of my own way, trusting my instincts and following the ideas that light a spark in the room. I’m striving for creative momentum without second-guessing. The most rewarding part of this process has been the pure joy of being in the studio with two incredible movers and dear friends (Hilary Maxwell and Walter Kubanek) who are raring to go, energized and excited to solve problems together. I love the satisfaction of problem solving, of putting the puzzle together and discovering the logic in what we have created together.
I am working on movement that I created earlier in the year based on a workshop I took part in. I used a poem, on which I built a world and character to make the physical vocabulary. This physical vocabulary was presented with spoken word and recognizable, popular music. For this process with 12MM, I am removing the speaking and the songs to focus on the “dance moves”. I suspect that the quality, timing and sophistication of the movement I have been developing inherently contains within it the drama and story I crave to tell. I will be refining the movement and tracking it to see what it has to say.
The most challenging part is/will be trusting the language of my body and trusting simplicity. I often feel that movement is not enough! I am jealous of other art forms, I think that they hold the key. The challenge in this process for me will be to focus and hone in on the idiosyncrasies and rhythms already present in my work. I also really hate setting movement, so another challenge is to make decisions.
The most rewarding/surprising part is how specific one can get with movement. As a performer and interpreter of other choreographer's work, I am fascinated with every small shape, swivel, and pulse. The basic thing that has always attracted me to dance is investigation. When I create, I feel like a bit of an explorer (outer space and Lewis and Clark type expeditions fascinate me). What I find surprises me but it is never new. The reward is the connection I build to the moment the more I investigate it.
The concept for this work has been with me for several years but for whatever reason, I have never taken that next step towards creation. I am exploring the idea of how we carry our grief with us throughout our lives and the interdependence between grief and identity, specifically regarding the loss of a parent at a young age.
Over the years our relationship to our grief will evolve and change as we do, and the ways in which we process it and things we need in order to do that, will change also. I am using my personal perspective as the driving force behind the work, but am speaking with friends and family about their personal experiences with grief also. I am hoping, given that grief is always a uniquely personal journey, that the use of my own experience will not prevent the work from speaking to the shared nature of a loss or absence that is forever.
In this process I am challenging myself to get in a room alone and create a solo. The results so far are as I expected; there is a fair amount of judgement in the room as I struggle to separate me the dancer, from me the creator and to look at the movement language with an objective eye, to determine whether it could serve the work and if it has potential. I’ve done some sitting, writing, pacing, and a little bit of movement invention. I strategized my approach before going in, creating a list of the various ways I could generate movement, drawing on my past experiences as a collaborative creator and interpreter, and identifying those methods that have always resonated with me. I know that drawing from text is something I enjoy doing, and that I have a proclivity for gestural movement which, if I allow myself to start there, I then have the option of expanding on. I know that I like to collect images or vignettes, with the images suggesting objects that could have a place in the work, and the vignettes suggesting spatial relationships and situations.
After my first series of rehearsals I was beginning to feel somewhat overwhelmed by the number of images and vignettes I was amassing with no real sense of how they could fit together (and all the while feeling rather underwhelmed by the lack of movement I was creating). I was allowing myself to feel stumped by potential logistical issues before I had even tried to physically embody the ideas- in short I was getting ahead of myself. I then had a week of process as an interpreter on a new project. In taking space from this solo and immersing myself in the creative process of another artist, I felt myself settle again into the necessary mindset of generating material without immediately scrutinizing it, understanding that getting the movement to where you want it will take time and patience. I was also inspired to come back to the beginning, to my first images and vignettes before they multiplied, grew legs and began to run amok despite the fact they had no heads. I reconsidered my approach to creation through text and decided to shift my approach slightly by rethinking how the words could act as a vehicle for movement.
I am relieved to say that yesterday was a good day in the studio. My tendency to become too cerebral with my approach to movement invention was radically shifted when I stopped thinking about what the text meant and instead, let myself play with the sounds of the words. It felt like a way in; time will tell.
Today I was reminded that talking things through helps you to recognize when you are arbitrarily adding without considering what was already there. How hearing from someone who you respect and trust, and who knows you extremely well, what he or she is able to recognize as your core motivations inside the soup of ideas, allows you to rummage through the pile of potential material, to find a possible path through it all. So, we shall see how tomorrow goes.
I entered the studio research with questions surrounding the notion of competition: in what different contexts do we feel in competition? Why do we feel competitive? How do we respond to this? What does it produce? What affects does it have on oneself and others?
With these questions in mind, initial improvised tasks that I asked the dancers to explore, and the discussion between us afterwards, ideas such as ’to convince’, ’willingness to be in the game’, ‘letting go of your position’, and ‘responsibility within a group’ began to emerge.
What is both exciting and challenging is entering in to the unknown. I try to go in to the studio without any preconceived ideas of what will be produced. Usually the first rehearsal time is spent getting to know each other through varying improvisations and tasks. I consider these tasks with the initial concept/questions in mind, beyond this is left to how the process unfolds. Sometimes financial and time constraints can feel like inhibitors, so how to balance these whilst maintaining an expansive space for creativity and experimentation can be challenging.
I am particularly rewarded when I feel that the people that I work with put their trust in to me, the other members of the group and the process. The group desire to want to enter in to an open, honest and frank dialogue (through movement and words), enables us to collectively encounter new experiences, and/or to build on that of what which we already know. When I feel safe in vulnerability, in other words, when I feel like my colleagues allow me to fail or are non-judgmental when I fail, helps me to push beyond the boundaries that I have entered the studio with.
Do you have questions or comments about the creative process? Share them in the comments below.
Thank you to Naomi, Kara, Jane and Daisy for contributing to our blog!
Photos top to bottom: Kara Nolte by RD Cane; Hilary Maxwell and Walter Kubanek rehearse Naomi Brand's choreography, photo Naomi Brand; Jane Osborne, courtesy of the artist.