Recent rehearsal for my MFA project, current title, “ME”thod. The sound is difficult to hear, but I am describing the difference between working bodies and representative bodies. We are exploring various famous political photographs and how the two different groupings of bodies are shown in the media. And of course there is the question that I’m getting at about what bodies really have the power, working or representing bodies.
After five weeks of rehearsal I presented the beginning draft to faculty and fellow students at OSU. I received very interesting and helpful feedback. Positives: strong movement vocabulary, physically interesting and challenging choreography, the reading of representative and working bodies is clear and strong, music by Rachel’s, Evelyn Glennie, and Albert Mathias is working well. Critiques: purpose and reasoning for groupings, why duets, why trios; what is the purpose of the group interactions; draw out policy issues through separating group rather than bringing together a community, increase risk of negotiations, mess it up – duets are too well rehearsed, formality versus informality, humanness versus perfected performance…and the list goes on. Check it out; feedback is welcome.
Points to remember: Invite the audience into my process instead of forcing it upon them; don’t try to point so hard and say…”See this is MEANINGFUL” aka avoid melodramatic music, focus, and movement; does formality fit the intention of the work; change the texture of touch between partnerships; no solid lines facing the audience: thanks Pina, we loved the idea so much everyone is using it:); Draw out “ME!”; find an arch through the piece; seek precariousness and messy partnering.
It is the perfect time for outside eyes. My dancers have been amazing through this entire process and I’m looking forward to coming back to the work in January. A long trip to Africa and then I’ll be back in Columbus. This whole process has shown me how much I love choreography.
The final and most unfinished section of my work is Negotiations. It is based off an improv structure I learned from rehearsing with Bebe Miller last quarter; it is called “ME!” As a dancer calls out “ME!” the group rushes to assist the dancer with any objective or aim they hope to accomplish. It is very fun, and exhausting, because it requires intense physical strength and mental energy.
As I’ve dug further into the structure my dancers have changed places, altered positions, and interrupt previously determined solutions. By raising their hands they are trying to address moments of availability to current problems already in process. Similar to policy issues there are always the questions: How do we alter the current situation? Policy is so often reactionary to situations that are already in full swing, so how does a person become an active participant? What are possibilities to change an archaic structure that needs overhauling? I hope to highlight the power that one individual can add to a current policy systems; or maybe how they can destroy it?! Is it abstract? Yes…after all, this is modern dance.
Policy Maps is the third section of my MFA project. The idea spawned from a basic choreographic structure of space maps. My dancers and I studied about eight to nine different maps that demonstrated the working of policy system in various fields.
We drew out pathways, relationships, and roles we found interesting and built our own policy map. Each member has a specific role: facilitator, agent, opposing party,translator, and supporter. The roles also interacted in specific relationships: constrains, enables, enforces, directs & assists, targets, and direct action.
Each player had the choice to revoke or repair directions from the facilitator. The process was such wonderful play and has generated very interesting material. I think it could be my favorite section of this work.
There are currently five sections to my MFA work: Representing and Working Bodies, Solve, Policy Maps, Just Words, and Negotiations. The first section, Representing and Working Bodies, explores the relationships of types of bodies in both politics and dance. In policy, the purpose and use of the elected representative official is greatly influenced by non-elected, yet highly influential staffers, lobbyists, etc. I am curious at how these working bodies influence and change our representative bodies. Do we consider working bodies and their influence in current policy? How can we as artists be active participants as working and artistic bodies to influence representing bodies?
In dance, we consider working bodies of those to be rehearsing or bodies that often mark movement. We talk, laugh, discuss, make mistakes, recover, get injured, breath, and stretch. Yet, our representative bodies, or performance bodies rarely take on these qualities. Are we demonstrating clearly the efforts of the working body as a performative body? Why not allow the working body be seen in conjunction with the performative body? Often, it is easy for the performative body to have an altered state of energy and focus; performance is often a mere shadow of the work and rehearsal that has occurred for months. When audiences think of dance performance it often highlights the perfected performative body. I’m not suggesting we don’t strive for excellent performance, but I am interesting in how to use the working body as a performance in itself. What does it offer when we see a body problem solve, shift their focus, talk, discuss, stumble? Is it risk? Is it interesting? What does it say about the values of our bodies in performance and particularly to what audiences? These are questions I hope to explore and pose during this choreographic work.
A few challenges I’m processing include the major question: Will my audience know I’m exploring political bodies; those of elected officials versus non-elected hired working bodies? Others include: what am I really saying about working bodies? Do they have too much power to influence representing bodies that should really be influenced by their constituents? My answer: Yes. If so, do I buy into that system by bolstering lobbying efforts or do I try to re-write the system? And why use dance to ask and solve these questions; is this effective? If so, for what type of audience?