Models and Staying Found

A pensive shot for a pensive day thinking about how to guide an audience through a performative experience using Towson’s campus as a backdrop.  What I’m wondering is how to give this seemingly boring, unsexy location new life by looking at its past lives and navigating the present.  I have this bad habit of often overlooking my immediate surroundings in favor of the flashy, fresh, new thing (see Grass is Greener Syndrome).  What is it like to stay put for a while and really take in what’s going on here?

The model on the table is a rough construction of one of the most intriguing sites on campus (to me) re-imagined as a battlefield processional complete with rope bridge.  In the photo, I’m probably explaining one of the my many ideas for sectioning off space giving the audience a choice between different paths to take.

The business of mapping paths begins!  I’ve already downloaded the Map My Run app and have brushed up on my navigational skills through Staying Found, the complete compass and map handbook by June Fleming.

Navigational tips?  Leave them in the comments!

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Aline David

Two things: First one is news that I’m working with my fellow cohort member Lindsey Griffith to create videos, maintain, and update the unofficially official Instagram and YouTube channel for Towson’s MFA Theatre program.  You will notice that not much information has been added to these places just yet, but a blank page is always a great place to start.  Stay tuned for some really great updates from Brecht, Gertrude Stein, and the rest of the cohort!

Second thing is a video of site-specific choreography by Aline David.  As I continue to think about site in my own work, I’ve noticed that many examples I’ve found have documented performances specifically for video.  This one below is no exception as it utilizes jump cuts and helps situate the audience firmly in a viewing area.  Although the intent to video tape is clear, it still feels as though I’ve walked in on something a bit more private, almost as though she’s not performing for the audience but for the space itself.

Duet for 6 dancers and beach rake truck

Arena is a performance choreographed by Madeline Hollander, which is comprised of a series of duets scored for 6 dancers and a beach rake truck.  The beach rakes clear the path for the dancers whose movement patterns are recorded in the newly combed sand.  In the first half of the performance, the dancers follow the truck.  In the second half, the truck follows the dancers, effectively erasing all traces of movement as they go.  These actions are repeated from 6pm until the sun goes down.  The piece was presented as part of the Beach Sessions Dance Series on Rockaway Beach in Queens.

The initial concept for the piece reminds me of Richard Long’s A Line Made By Walking in that what is left behind is the trace of movements in the space.  That the act of occupying the space transformed it in a subtle way.  However, Arena marks and then erases the dancers existence and claims to the space by continually raking over the tracks.  What’s really striking about this piece is the ephemeral quality of the movement documentation in the sand, which is true of every sand castle and message I’ve ever carved at the beach.  Also, I’m struck by the durational and repetitive quality of the piece as this has been a direction suggested in feedback for my own work in progress.

Madeline Hollander is a New York based artist who works primarily with performance and video to explore how human movement and body-language negotiate their limits within everyday systems of technology, intellectual property law, and mass-culture.

Photography by Samantha Casolori; Film stills by Sam Fleischner

Via hyperalleric

Annie-B Parson

Annie-B Parson is a choreographer based in Brooklyn most known for her work in modern dance and immersive theatre.  Similarly to de Keersmaeker, Parson approaches choreography through form but differently she is not interested in the emotional underpinnings of the movements or the dancer’s being carried away by their experiences.  She has been quoted as saying she doesn’t like modern dance for this reason, even though her dances are still classified as such.

I came across her work because I am a huge fan of St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and learned that Parson choreographed St. Vincent’s last tour as well as her collaboration with David Byrne.   I found out in this New Yorker article about her new album and her general process. What’s interesting to me is vocabulary Parson developed for St. Vincent taking into consideration that Annie Clark would be playing guitar the entire show.  Parson begins to address a question I often ponder: how do you move a band’s performance into performance art when capabilities are limited due to music demands (have to sing into mic, length of chords to amp, both hands occupied by guitar, etc)?

Steve Reich and De Keersmaeker

Steve Reich’s “Come Out” was an early tape loop experiment that features the voice of a man (Hamm) beaten by the police in Harlem in 1964.  Hamm was abused for hours as police refused to give him medical treatment because he was not visibly bleeding.  Hamm had received many bruises and recalls: “I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”  Steve Reich took those last five words and turned them into a haunting repetition that reflects and obscures the harrows of that abuse.  Pitchfork has a very in-depth article expanding on Hamm’s story and the history of the piece during a time of civil rights struggle, a similar struggle we still face today.

This video also features choreography of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker with help from principal dancer Michele Anne de Mey.  Using their arms for momentum while seated on stools, the accumulating movements create tensions between order and disorder through a highly structured dance.  A sense of struggle and strength is reflected in the use of breath and sounds created through the tedious movements.  De Keersmaeker’s style is based off of Steve Reich’s compositional methods using natural gestures and steps, structural relations to music and tension between two contradictory impulses: formalism and expressionism.  She often uses these tensions to create tornado-like patterns of structured chaos as the piece unfolds.  About structure De Keersmaeker says: “I’m obsessed by structures.  But the most beautiful experience is to see such a construction generating something intangible, elusive- an emotion.”