I came to Bates this summer with specific tasks in mind and a lot of questions. My last evening length work, Into the Void (which can be seen at ontheboards.tv) was a joy to create, but in the name of that “Divine Dissatisfaction” that Martha Graham articulated so long ago, I am now using the “finished” work to stimulate the next questions.
Some of these questions are quite formal; As a solo artist who often gets obsessed with minutia, I am curious about how to create phrases that travel through space, and how to effectively interweave larger groups of people.
Alone, in the afternoons, I have been investigating locomotion. I am also thrilled to be working with nine fantastic Bates dancers who are generously willing to push themselves, and my understanding of my work, late into the evenings as we intertwine, compress and collide with the phrase material. The first week was extremely productive, however, as I looked back over the rehearsal videos I heard Bill T Jones voice in my head, re-asking a question he asked me long ago, “What is the funk that informs your formality?”
While I was excited about the formal beauty of what the dancers and I had created, the content that inspired the phrase material had dissolved into spatial patterns and shapes.
While I am a student of the post-modern generation and know that every audience member creates their own experience of the work, and that, “mere” spatial relationships carry content of their own, I am also a student of the modernist school which supports the idea that I as a choreographer have something specific to say and I believe dance can be an effective tool in that focused communication. Much of my career has been spent balancing on this fence; a desire to facilitate agency in dancers and dance audiences on the one hand, and 18 years (and counting) of Graham training, with all the hierarchy that implies, on the other.
This week I find myself pressing hard into the structures I created, trying to squeeze out the meaning that is inherent in the form. I have found in many cases that the meaning I am seeking isn’t there, but in the search I am able to see how the structures could be modified to more intentionally convey my research. Sometimes it is as simple a thing as changing facings, other sections however are being completely scrapped so that the funk/content/questions, can have more space to breath. With this breath comes the possibility of finding new structures, and I find myself captivated by the form that is inherent in the meaning.
Having the opportunity to dig into process is a luxury that itches. These waves of questioning, making containers, breathing, cracking, and dissolving into new questions are as delicious to ride as they are confounding. When I get tangled in my mind however, another mantra I hold dear from BTJ is, “The answer is in the doing.” I am so grateful for this opportunity to do and question, and do and question and do, and question some more.