Friday, September 16, 2016

Death. Dance. Doing. New work under way.

New creation has begun. Still finding the title. Its about the small stuff, like life and death.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When Performance Shatters Me

Standing in a lightless arena-sized room (the blackness representing everything I don’t know) holding a flashlight that illuminates a cone of modest visibility (representing my current world view), I wander about. Without warning – KABOOM!!!#&*@!! – a performance shatters me – my flashlight is suddenly bigger – and a tiny bit of that black void is pushed back revealing new details and vantage points. This is how those rare moments feel when a performance shakes me from the familiarity of everything I thought I understood, gifting me with a new set of eyes, a rejuvenated heart and a humbled sense perspective.
Change that instant should be accompanied with a warning label: “Symptoms may include nausea, lightheadedness, headaches, stomach cramps, sleeplessness, vomiting, diarrhea and dry mouth.” Sometimes I’ve felt immediate giddiness, once I wept silently, and on occasion I felt the disorienting combination of having been punched in the stomach while cuddling in a post-coital haze of joy, all at once. That deep-seeded relief of having seen the thing I hadn’t realized existed but intuitively longed for; it’s a rare and precious occurrence.
Here are four important experiences that shattered me:
1)            1995 – The first time I saw Sankai Juku (or any butoh) perform In a Space of Perpetual Motion. Within the production was a section titled Between the Shores, performed by director Ushio Amagatsu, who danced a solo that made a single pass from stage right to stage left, and took him about 15 minutes to complete. At some point during this dance I realized I had been crying. Every shred of understanding I had about time was thrown on its head.

2)            1997 – William Forsythe and the Frankfurt Ballet. After six months of training, researching and playing with Forsythe and his company, I’ve never been the same since. He was my first real artistic hero. He verified that I could improvise and utilize ballet, that the two forms are not so much opposites as they are complementary strategies for the singular pursuit of conveying poetic meaning through the body and movement.

3)            1999 – Kirstie Simson. The first time I saw her perform was in duet with Chris Aiken in Minneapolis. I had never in my life seen the possibilities for performance, risk, freedom, power, communication and wonderment I saw through her that night. It was as though I witnessed a new form of human species – it was electrifying, terrifying, exhilarating and evoked a humility that rendered movement as a new language.

4)            2005 – Remy Charlip. Watching him perform at a fundraiser in his honor, I witnessed evidence that dance can be masterful throughout a long life. I was watching a calligraphy master render sixty years of practice in each stroke and shift of weight. This became a model for me to visualize the goal of achieving a full life in dance. Equipped with this newfound inspiration, I knew I was going to be in this for the long haul – not for success, but for the contribution to the form itself. I can’t wait to be that 78-year-old some kid sees and then relays, “I saw the craziest performance last night with this really old man who was totally…”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three layers

Three layers from Sonorous Figures

(poverty, vibrations and the clown)
1) Poverty (his conditions)

2) Vibrations (his heart)

3) Clown (his cover)

steps & urinals

From 2008

I can’t really explain it any better: all I want is to make dances that have no steps.

Their presence makes me aware of a creator.  I don't want to be thinking about who made it - starring at a choreographer on stage under the spot-light flapping their arms hollering 'look at me! no me! look at me!! aren't i clever?!?"  I don't want to see choreography.

I was having dinner last night with an internationally recognized choreographer who above all else wanted to FEEL closeness with the performers, rather than thinking about the craft of step-smithing.

Now, 2014

For some reason I think of Duchamp's Fountain, 1917. 

"Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object." The Blind Man, Vol. 2, 1917, p. 5


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dance as a practical philosophically.  

Actively asking: Who am I? What am I? Am I my body? Am I in my body? Where am I within my body? Where is this dance coming from? What am I following? 

Memory, Culture, Taste, Aesthetics, Ambition, Discrimination, Hope, Aspiration, Desire... Desire from what? Desire for what? Is this for you? Is this for me? Is this about us? Is this really happening together? Does any of it matter? What matters? 

I want to be with you. 

I want to give it all away for free. 

I want to see how far we can go.

I want you to join me at the marrow of the moment expression occurs. That is why I dance, with you, we hold each other's end of the tin-can-on-a-string, a tether for us, with the muse.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Preparations and Considerations for Performance: The Check-list

Intention Channel:
Reflections on why I am dancing
What I want out of it
Who it is for
Its reason to be

Body Channel:
Extended axis
Tipping axis
Keeping weight in play
Being formed by the music
Forming the music
Motion follow-through and re-direction
Staying in the moment in the real-time process of re-forming

Temporal Channel:
Isolating the event of change
Moment of moving into motion
Moment of moving into stillness
Keeping time in play and changing
Rhythmic re-organizing

Thought Channel:
Access to choreographic signifiers
Access to musical signifiers
Access to visual art signifiers
Access to current topics/interests/issues

Composing Channel:
Facing in play
Direction of focus/gaze to audience or not 
Radial space in play
Proximal space in play
Spherical space in play
Linear space in play
Being formed by the space

Actively conjuring the space
Repetition and Patterning

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Part III from Notes on Solo Improvisation

*More Performance Considerations
Working with a sense of play. Acting with a directness of intention.
Two scenarios come to mind: 1. A documentary film whose subject is itself asking what it is as it’s being made – discovery and presentation occurring in the same moment. 2. A skydiver jumps out of a plane, then must construct their own parachute with the materials at hand – a ‘no going back’ commitment to finding a solution and a safe landing.
The tensions arising from contradictory desires between the dancer and the dance all mix up in the soup of Past – Future – Then – Now – What Might be – What Hopefully Will Be – What Was – What Will – What Is – Is Now – Is Now...

Creation is unruly and wants what it wants. An impulse a choice a decision doesn’t know what it is until its emerged. This is the improviser’s psychological challenge; over riding the ‘need to know an outcome’ before we commit to the action, when in fact there never is a ‘right choice outcome’, a choice that works is an action that’s committed to. The completeness of ones decisions, absent of any hesitation or doubt defines the decisions effectiveness. The doing of the thing trumps the thing itself.

Basic performance ingredients: a human doing / a human noticing / a location they share / a beginning and an end.

Part II from Notes on Solo Improvisation

*Actions & Imprints
Given enough time, I inevitably return to the subject matter of Abstract Expressionism and its inherent connection to body, movement, improvisation and motion’s elusive ability to be documented. Action painting (Abstract Expressionism) becomes a function for choreographic thought. Specifically, with regards to Time, the means through which we perceive our actions in the present and the ways we can revisit those moments of action in the past through documentation. Jackson Pollock in particular opened up a new way of seeing the body in motion, a preserved performance of unconscious decision-making, gestural movement and rhythm. Dance is ephemeral. It asks of us to remain in-the-moment with it – that’s the true gift of live performance - but how we document choreographic information after the fact is elusive. Video and written notation are key tools for remembering dance, but rarely does the feeling of dance and its direct force of physicality and sensual play translate through video documentation or Labanotation. Painting does this much better.
My mind wanders to images of fossilized footprints, a hand print left on a cave wall, the foundation of an ancient dwelling peering up through soil, human artifacts whose physical materials cover the spectrum from stone to wood to the new ephemera of digital media.
The painters accumulated brush strokes, dabs, jabs, pouring, scraping, slapping, piling, cutting, and smearing of paint on a surface, becomes a type of imprint or cast that acts as the document of that persons thoughts and body for that period of time, much the way fossil records do. The painting captures; position and location to the surface, anatomic regions of gestural movement and timing, the type and size of tool used to transfer the paint onto its surface, whether they were left or right handed, emotion, pressure, friction and weight applied the surface, or pulled away from it, how much time occurred between marks, the change of color or medium, questions thoughts and interests all suspended at the surface in fields of hardened liquid pigment. A Body gesture’s entire arch of motion is captured from initiation to follow-through (a brush loaded with new paint leaves a more prominent mark and then thins out as is it leaving more of its content on the surface). We can see when concentration is sharp or wanes, we can see the shape of thoughts as they emerge and fade in the pendulum between conscious and unconscious decisions. As visible as physical gesture, we can see where the beginning of one idea emerges and how it resolves naturally or is intersected and re-directed in mid-gesture by a new counterpointed trajectory. The painting holds a history of choices and is the record of its own creation, a tactile documentation - ‘liquid thought’ as James Elkin mentions in his book What Painting Is.

Dance is ‘motion thought.’