12 Minutes Max seeks to foster experimentation and the development of new work, along with critical feedback and community dialogue. Choreographers Cody Cox, Katie DeVries & Kimberly Stevenson, and Mahaila Patterson-O'Brien provide insight into their choreographic process, and the challenges and rewards of choreographing to a time limit:
Katie DeVries & Kimberly Stevenson
Natural Satellite began from the desire to create a piece with a very different presence and character than what we had done before. We wanted to experiment with the formation of the movement and to develop more characterization, a set, and to play with some narrative elements.
Originally, we were interested in the idea of the moon; its reputed potency, enchantment, and magnetism. We were intrigued by the way people seem to be transformed by its cycles - romantic, lunatic, wild, calm, as though its waxing and waning has some insidious, invisible force. We thought the moon presented fodder for many movement ideas and would lend itself to an atmospheric piece.
As we worked, we repeatedly reached points of agreement on the idea that we should each set our own material on one another. A Jekyll and Hyde juxtaposition seemed to grow and we allowed it to lead us. As a result of that development, we determined our creation would be enhanced through collaboration with a magician who could contribute elements of illusion to the work.
As we work toward completing the material we are developing for 12 Minutes Max we've been reflecting on how this particular program directs our creative process. To create a short piece in a short period of time is certainly a challenge, particularly as we search for ways to convey complex, layered ideas with such a distilled final product. In particular it's difficult to be thorough – so many of the decisions we make have to be assessed according to whether or not they fit for the length of the work.
But this process also brings rewards. It's liberating to develop movement ideas that do not have to stretch to full-length production. It is also extremely valuable to concentrate and purify our ideas for a shorter presentation, and to be able to benefit from mentors and audience members who can provide feedback that we can use in the development of a bigger work.
I began with a very clear idea of how I wanted to create and approach my material. My plan was to translate a classical ballet variation into a gestural vocabulary, but keep the original form of the variation. I intended to investigate the underlying form and rhythm of this variation by retaining the macro structure and creating a new micro structure. I wanted to see if I could create a “form unison” rather than a “gestural unison.” I have come to realize that in order to fully dive into this investigation of translation and form, I would need to move beyond just 1 ballet variation and apply the process to many. I have also come to realize that this is beyond the scope of 12 minutes.
I have retained some of my original intention, I did create an individual translation for each dancer (I have 2 dancers), but we have largely been working with manipulations of the translation and creating our own variations on a variation. Another challenge for me with this material, is how do I surprise myself? I originally had the whole form laid out before me, dictated by the ballet variation, and now I have allowed myself some room to play. How do I use that space to find possibilities that I did not even know existed with this material? 12 minutes is a lesson in editing and clarifying. How do I find a way to create, explore, play, let my imagination run wild, and bring it all back into a cohesive, readable form. 12 minutes is also a lesson on letting go, all these ideas and intentions I originally started with may not have a place in the final variation.
The evolution of this piece was not quite as expected. That might have been due to the allotted time and the perception that 16 hours is longer than it actually is. What I have created thus far during the 12 Minutes Max process, in my eyes, is vastly different from the original materialization of movement on which I based this process. Although, I suppose that is natural. I thought I would be expanding, editing, recreating and improving something that already existed. What happened instead was the creation of something new that lives in the same realm as what was previously created. Perhaps it is the viewpoint at which I see the two that make them so different. Different or the same, I am now curious as to what would happen if they were put together and how cohesive they would be as one form.
All of these results have come down to the aspect of time; a handful of hours to create a 12-minute piece. I had most of it planned and after the first rehearsal I realized my concept of time needed adjustment if I wanted to complete the project. My early thoughts were “Will I be able to create enough material?” which later changed to “Will I have enough time to create enough material?” and then towards the end to “Now that I have created the material to get me to the marker, is there too much stuff going on too quickly?”. I am happy and proud of the result of this experience and hope to further develop the ideas that arose from my time with 12 Minutes max.
12 Minutes Max Studio Showing: Tuesday November 10, 2015 at 6pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre. Free admission.
Photos top to bottom by: Rob Trendiak (Two Great Truths Chor: Katie DeVries, Dancer: Elya Grant); Ash Tanasiychuk (Mahaila Patterson-O’Brien).