12 Minutes Max

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Posted on June 3, 2015 in 12 Minutes Max
12 Minutes: 720 Seconds: 720+ Choices

Con8 Collective by Andy White

With the presentation of 12 Minutes Max coming up on June 12, we asked the choreographers to tell us 1) what impact the 12 minute time constraint has made on their work; and 2) what their experience over the course of 12MM has been like, and how the work has evolved during the process over the last season. This is what they said:

Con8 Collective Vanilla To The Touch
Choreographed and performed by Charlotte Newman & Georgina Alpen; created in collaboration with Robert Azevedo & Elliot Vaughan

The 12 minute time constraint has been inspiring, challenging, surprising, and limiting in an eye opening way. We dove into the project daunted by 12 minutes - so much time! - how were we going to fill that all up? We assured ourselves that it could always be less then 12 minutes if needed, only to realize a few weeks in that at the rate we were going, we were quickly creating a four hour dance! 

The time limit not only kept our movement choices selective, but invited us to question the effectiveness of certain concepts in a relatively tight time constraint. While two movement phrases may be equally engaging, a very specific journey would have to be taken to move physically and emotionally from one to the next - and suddenly 10 minutes had already gone by! We found ourselves often faced with the question - no matter how much we loved a certain section - would the audience be ready to absorb the visual information relative to all that had come before? 12 minutes, we realized, is really not much time at all. 

One way that the piece has changed, evolved, and responded to the constraint of 12 minutes, is through the use of props. We thought to visually explore and highlight the obscure parameter of 12 minutes by placing a random prop in the space every minute, on the minute. Throughout the course of the work 12 items accumulate at a constant rate on stage – a rhythmical and visual pattern we were sure was so obvious there was worry of crossing the line into monotony. And not in a successful way. However, with the feedback of our first informal showing it soon became clear no-one in the audience had been aware of the even minute intervals! With this feedback we have begun bending and investigating the purpose of our own, self-imposed rules, exploring how the purpose of the props can grow within the space of 12 minutes. 

Caitlin Griffin here or there
Choreographed by Caitlin Griffin in collaboration with and performed by Delphine Leroux

here or there Photo by Yvonne Chew

The first installment of 12 Minutes Max was a great opportunity to explore a desire I had to work with many pairs of combat boots in a dance work.  Initially I was looking to create striking imagery and relevant movement in an environment where both made sense. The process I have gone through since, collecting choreographic material and experimenting with the boots has distilled my areas of interest and inspired new curiosity about the themes of conflict, absence and femininity. While I am still working with the boots in other offshoot projects, in this incarnation, here or there focuses on the established movement vocabulary, transplanted into a classical music environment without boots.  It has become a study of the potential within the movement.  It is the development of one layer of my continued interest in the material. I could not have continued developing the work without 3 incredibly supportive and generous artists.  Thank you to Crystal Wills, Heather Dotto (who performed in the previous 12MM showing) and Delphine Leroux who is dancing this round. The time constraint in the 12 Minutes Max format has been a supportive component of this approach, feeding my decision to select small seeds from within the initial sketch and developing them into short solo studies to cultivate my creative process.

MAYCE  Veiled
Choreographed and performed by Robert Azevedo, Antonio Somera, Marisa Gold; created  in collaboration with Janelle Reid

MAYCE Photo by Jonathan Kim

For MAYCE, 12 Minutes Max has been an incredible opportunity to examine and alter some of our budding creative habits.  Instead of jumping from one idea to another – like we are hopping stones to lead the audience across a river of information – we wanted to stay on one idea and really get to know it from many angles, and show the full dimensionality to a viewer.  Our collaborator, Janelle Reid, has also been instrumental in disrupting our regular process by asking us to access perspectives we might otherwise overlook.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, the 12 minute time constraint has allowed us to really develop a single idea for much longer than we might have otherwise.  In other works, it would not be unusual for us to spend a four-hour rehearsal developing a sequence of movement that is only 45 seconds long because the movement can be quite physically demanding with a variety of complex moving parts.  But we found here, that although we only had 12 minutes to share our study on wanted and unwanted gazes we needed to allow a lot more time for stillnesses and subtleties to reign.

One of the really great features of the 12 Minutes Max informal showings is the nature of the feedback offered by the mentors throughout, and by the audience after the show.  Because we care about what the audience takes away from our performance, it is always useful to check in with them and make sure our intention is being effectively communicated.  In preparation for June 12 we are reconsidering some of the core structural elements of our show, reworking the beginning, middle and end to ensure the audience could follow.  You can also look forward to some integrated vocal-work – and a few surprises. 

Naomi Brand  Re:play
Choreographed by Naomi Brand; performed by Walter Kubanek & Hilary Maxwell

Re:play Photo by Naomi Brand

Artists need limitations or else the endless possibilities of an empty studio and unfilled time can be debilitating and overwhelming. Rather than hindering creativity, restrictions can act as a frame that focus ideas and propel the process into a specific direction.

However, twelve minutes is made up of 720 seconds and therefore 720+ choices to be made. Contained (but unseen) inside twelve minutes of choreography are hundreds of hours spent pondering, dreaming about, editing, hating and then loving, rehearsing and processing a dance. What ends up arriving on a stage is only the tiniest portion of what goes into it and so at this stage I am seriously considering what it means to edit. What makes it to the end and why? What gets cut and what parts of the process gets smoothed over and disappeared? Can the product be messy and mistaken and still ready for performance? 

As I work away in the studio with Hilary and Walter (dear friends and fabulous dancers) I am struck by the illogical relationship between rehearsal time and choreography time. Some minutes of material come so easily and form themselves magically, while other minutes of choreography are born through a painstaking procedure of awkward problem solving. Do the moments that come easy have more value then those worked through and tediously figured out? In the end which ones read better? I don’t know. There is value in perseverance and also a lot to be said for letting go and moving on.

I have let go of a lot since the first version of this duet I showed at 12 Minutes Max in October 2014. Ideas and images that I felt super attached to then, no longer spoke to me with the same urgency when revisited six months later. Learning what the piece isn’t has been a way to define what it is. This piece can’t contain everything. What can these twelve minutes say, that another twelve minutes can’t? 

Natalie Tin Yin Gan and Francesca Frewer Our Gestures Are No Longer Ours
Chorographed by Natalie Tin Yin Gan and Francesca Frewer, performed by Francesca Frewer and Erika Mitsuhashi

Our Gestures Are No Longer Ours: still from video by Chris Randle

In making Our Gestures Are No Longer Ours, we tried to constantly question and re-question what we were making, and did our best to keep a sense of play alive with the material the whole way through, even if that meant letting go of everything we'd worked on and starting back at square one. The 12 minute limit helped with this, because knowing that we had such little time, the importance of being critical with what we were making and editing out all but what we felt was absolutely essential became a very significant part of the process.

This is a first time collaboration between the two of us, so the process has been a delightful discovery of how we work together-- as friends, as dancers, as makers, as women, as academics, as people. We were very fortunate to have been awarded a residency at Unit/Pitt Gallery following the first presentation of Our Gestures Are no Longer Ours at 12 Minutes Max, which allowed us to break wide open the very specific abstract world we had built in the piece and explore our research questions in a completely different format and context. We did this through stories, games, baking, private dances, etc.

We are very excited about the addition of collaborator/dance artist Erika Mitsuhashi to the project, who has brought such a unique sense of presence and curiosity that has transformed the work. The opportunity to re-invest and re-develop this piece has given us time to flesh out relationship, finesse rhythm, and have the work surprise us. We would like to think that the work has gotten to become more of what it was, a matured and more robust version if itself.


12 Minutes Max takes place on Friday June 12, 2015 at 8pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre. Tickets are available from Tickets Tonight.

Photos from top to bottom by: Andy White, Yvonne Chew, Jonathan Kim, Naomi Brand, Chris Randle.



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