photo by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang

Saturday, September 12, 2009

About Things

Have you ever stopped in your tracks and noticed you have no idea what you are doing, and why?

While writing a series of essays on the Uncanny in relation to live arts for my MFA thesis, I came across a column by the Dutch poet and writer Remco Campert. It is a beautiful and simple text about the experience of standing in a room, certain you came with a purpose, but having no idea what that purpose was. You stand and look around, hoping the mundane objects in the room will help bring back your memory and explain your deeds.  It is in vain, for the objects are mute, they will not speak to you. At that moment, Campert writes, you realize you are every bit as purposeless as any item on your desk. You did have a reason, if only you could remember it.

I embarked on a quest to create a dance performance about this shared experience—this uncanny place, that resides between our normal existence and death. This is the link that binds temporary memory loss to death and the Uncanny: in both states we all are rendered unproductive and motionless.
What do we go through when and after we notice our reasons and explanation have suddenly disappeared? First, the sudden moment of realization—next the immediate stillness.
“Things” opens with a person happily doing her thing. She does not yet know that she is to embark on a journey.

In this piece I have tried to find movement that resonates with the process of searching—in place of quickly moving past the search phase and honing the sequence into a shiny, fast, unerring performance. Instead I wanted to respect movement in its creative and intellectual capacity. Remco Campert writes about the possible solution to a momentary memory loss: you need to retrace your steps and you go, walk, to where you started. This is a beautiful example of how physical our intellectual processes are.

The challenge for me as choreographer has been to let the person and her movement on stage be bewildered, confused, graceless. That is in stark opposition to what I unconsciously expect a dancer to be.
Another challenge has been the incorporation of stillness into movement and presence. Here, again, I am on ever continuing journey. I have presented this piece twice this past August, and have been rehearsing it for a few months. It has been, and still is, a fascinating path into deeper understanding of the choreography. Every time I dance this piece I understand more the movements and their placement in space. I believe that resonates when I perform "Things".

Tomorrow, on Sunday September 13, I will show the middle part of "Things" in 2nd Sundays at Counterpulse. That is the heart of the piece, where memory loss hits the person seen on stage.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2nd Sundays

This Sunday - September 13 at 2 pm - I will participate in the 2nd Sundays, which seems already to be a tradition in San Francisco. Counterpulse and Dancers' Group together produce this monthly event, where audience and choreographers meet in a discussion.
Every second Sunday of the month three choreographers get the chance to show up to 10 minutes of material. The demonstrations are followed by a moderated discussion.
The best part is, that the choreographers are expected to prepare the discussion as well as the showing! So I have thought of specific questions to pose to the audience. That way I have to think about what I want to accomplish with my choreography. And I will get live feedback from an actual audience. This is a great opportunity for professional growth, of course.
The piece I will be introducing is "Things", my current project that premiered at the Garage at 975Howard Street on August 26.

Something new

One way of thinking about life is to see it as a balance between new experiences and familiar routines. In my experience I need both. The routines are there to create stability. Through routines I am able to maintain skill, stamina, the rhythm of day and night, and a role in the community. Through new experiences I get fresh impulses, am blown off balance, am forced out of my comfort zone. That is necessary for further learning and a growing understanding of life and the world.
Some new experiences are small and present only a tiny amount of risk, like tasting a new flavor of ice cream. Some experiences are big. They can be hard lessons. Or they can simply offer you life altering changes.
I am getting there at last: I have begun a new experience today, when I attended the first session of a teaching workshop, the Art of Teaching, lead by Janice Garrett here in San Francisco. I did not anticipate to be so enthusiastic about this. This is not what I planned to write about in my first blog.
I am really looking forward to experimenting in the lab-part of the workshop. It seems a fantastic thing to one day be able to create a safe and inspiring situation for other people to gather and process information. I know I have a long way ahead of me, but  Ms. Garrett definitely is a role model there.
It is impossible to say, if this new experience will change the course of my future. But I am sure new knowledge opens up new possibilities.