A Lesson in Collaboration: Site Specific Dance Making.

Yesterday, our young dancers spent the afternoon in a workshop for making site-specific dances. During this three hour workshop, the students were broken into five different groups and led by counselors to different places on campus: the library stairs, Pettengill Atrium, Merrill Gymnasium and both first floor and second floor of the Commons.

The counselors started us off with a quick demo on the porch of Parker dormitory.

The counselors started us off with a demo on the porch of Parker dormitory.

Within each group we started by talking about what “site-specific” means. Some of our dancers had performed in outdoor or unusual performance spaces before. But we talked about the difference between inserting movement into a space and creating movement inspired by the space. As the dance company PearsonWidrig Dance Theater describes site-specific dance, “working with the space as an active partner, we listen to what is asking to be framed in each particular site.”

The dancers started out by taking a walk through the space to find places, textures, sounds or ideas that interested them. Then they were given a few minutes to improvise within the space. Couches became spaces for upside-down dancers, the piano a place for noise, windowsills a frame for the the lines of the body. We started to break off into smaller groups in order watch each other utilize the space. Witnessing was a good way to collect information on what is working well and what we can let go. Good ideas were kept for the next round of rehearsal and enhanced with visual understanding.

Exploring all the nooks of space in the Commons.

Exploring all the nooks of space in the Commons.

One of the greatest challenges of this assignment was to consider the group against the individual. Allowing just a few ideas to happen at a time and how one can contribute to what the audience sees as a whole.  How do you create a beginning, middle and end, as a group with so many voices?

For the last hour of the workshop we walked to each space on campus to witness the creations. Each group found ways to utilize their space in radical and exciting ways. Sound played a huge part in these works. Sounds of feet stomping against the concrete stairs of the library, loud giggles echoing through the airy atrium, hands rattling the bars of the balcony in the commons and the ambient sounds the silent dancers allowed us to hear in the gym.

Sounds created by stomping, skipping, clapping and jumping added to score at the library.

Sounds created by stomping, skipping, clapping and jumping added to score at the library.

Our dancers now have new tools for creating reflective movement and most importantly working together. Collaboration does not always come easy, but finding a way to listen to each other with our bodies and minds is an invaluable lesson. 

Audience members walk by the sculpturesque dancers in the gym.

Audience members walk by the sculpturesque dancers in the gym.

-Posted by Caroline Barna. Caroline is BDF’s Social Media Intern for the 2013 summer.