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Dance artists Molly McDermott, Linda Hayes and Marissa Wong write about the work they have been developing during 12 Minutes Max this fall, which can be seen at a free studio showing on November 29 at 6pm.
I have been navigating the big scary world of a creative process on my own and have come to realise how important it is to have other eyes involved. The challenge of directing oneself and self-editing is even harder than I expected. The temptation to doubt my choices too soon and scrap everything to start over is difficult to resist. I have been fortunate to have a number of generous and thoughtful individuals to be observers that have been my guides to stay on track.
I began this process with some movement ideas from a previous piece originally performed in an outside space. Instead of scrapping everything and starting from zero (which as I mentioned was very tempting), I decided to pick apart some of the pieces. I wanted to explore the physicality of what was already there. I tried interpreting my physical experience to see what might come up. Questions I am asking myself are: what does it feel like? What does it mean? Why does it matter? I have to admit that what I thought the piece was about has changed and could possibly change again. This made me think about how much mystery and unanswered questions are involved in the process. The challenge for me then is to allow for mystery, doubt and the unknown, while at the same time, find some clarity. I still need to be able to communicate something.
The parameter of a 12 minute time limit is actually a gift. It helped define the endless possibilities at my disposal. Having some sort of outside structure provided me with a boundary to work within. The most challenging aspect of working within 12 minutes is finding an arc. I began to wonder how much I can say in 12 minutes without saying too much and by avoiding leaving it feeling incomplete. Finding an idea of beginning, middle and end is difficult in a relatively short frame of time. My process so far has been and continues to be an incredibly useful learning experience. I have many more questions surfacing and I am excited about attempting to answer them.
The original idea of my piece was to combine Flamenco with contemporary dance. Flamenco is constantly evolving and I wanted to work with a contemporary artist, Heather Laura Gray, to ensure that I am using the vocabulary that exhibits contemporary movement.
The piece of music that I chose is composed and performed by Dorantes. The music is not the traditional Flamenco sound that one would expect, but has beautiful melodies and a very strong 12 beat rhythm (compass). The 12 beat rhythm is the heart beat of Flamenco. The piece is performed with a manton or shawl.
The challenge in developing the piece was to find various ways to work the manton and to infuse contemporary elements into my movements. The style of Flamenco is very erect and precise. I wanted to find areas to infuse tension and release.
The process of creating and experimenting with new concepts of movement has been very exciting and rewarding. This piece is my first attempt of fusing Flamenco with contemporary dance. After this experience, I feel I can now explore deeper into contemporary movement.
The piece was originally inspired by William Glasser’s ‘Choice Theory’; through observation of natural shifts within a system such as moving bodies in a busy intersection, birds’ migration patterns, or sequences within schools of fish. I explored ways of developing movement that reflected these states and asked my collaborators to investigate creation through a lab-mannered, structured improvisation I call “Playtime.” This early research phase allowed us to construct a personal dialogue while connecting to my personal movement as a choreographer.
Once a concrete vocabulary is established, I attempt to view the work as though I have no knowledge of the previous trials or drafts. I begin to witness the details that lie within the work as we chip away at this figurative ice block; what is necessary and what can be more direct, points of initiation, intention...? As the groundwork evolves, common themes (for this work in particular, linear axes) emerge and the relations to the original concept are explored.
Until the completion of the work, mood, lighting, and sound are fluid. Through many conversations with my sound producer/dramatist and collaborators, we discuss themes, colours, and imagery within the newly developed world.
The distinction between choice and control, along with the idea of agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices) emerged from these labs.
Are we able to make decisions based from a truly unbiased place?
How much does our history and memory affect these decisions?
What roles do structured influences such as social class, gender, ethnicity, etc… present?
I do not necessarily intend to answer these questions, but hope to create a dialogue both during the research process and performance.
12 Minutes Max Studio Showing: Tuesday November 29, 2016 at 6pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre. Free admission.
Photos top to bottom: Molly McDermott/Yvonne Chew; Linda Hayes/Liz Rosa; Marissa Wong/Jack Sommer.
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