One-Minute

Concept
To devise a one-minute solo to be dropped into the collectively devised theater project titled “Once Upon The Oval” to be premiered in March 2020 at Drake Performing Arts Center. I decided this one minute was a final comment by a character I had been working on throughout the semester, one of the ghosts of Mirror Lake.

Methodology
The improvisational experiments I initially worked with included the feelings of regret, anger, and sorrow combined with the visual representation of a woman in a Victorian dress. My monologue in the larger scene, The Ghosts of Mirror Lake, includes “Where are you?” and “Did you kill yourself to get away from me?” Through repetition—using a one-minute timer—a psychosis began to develop in my character that I imagined would have resulted from the repetition of anger and sadness represented in the text of the monologue. This psychosis built into accusations of the other ghosts near the lake that might have slept with or taken her husband from her. Movements began to emerge including a spiraling twist characteristic of an ice skater and more literal gestures such as a toe lowering gingerly toward the floor as if testing the water paired with, “Did you dip your toe in that?” The improvisations began to solidify into an identifiable scene beginning with where I left off in the last scene, “Where are you?” and ending with a stripping of gender expectations.

Discoveries and Looking Ahead
I thought of my character as a ghost stuck in time, repeating moments of the past over and over, and reliving moments of anger, sorrow, and regret. The text from my monologue in the larger scene, The Ghosts of Mirror Lake, stuck with me as key lines that highlighted the character’s need to continually circle the perimeter of the lake for decades. I included a comment on the requirements of women in the early 1900s. Wearing dresses when walking, running, or completing any physical activity was absurd and visually representative of gender constraints of that time. My character’s one-minute solo blended the emotional trauma of a ghost and the visual representation of gender during that time period.

The final image of taking off and removing the Victorian dress—made difficult by my uncooperative zipper—and leaving it in a pool on stage felt like a resting place for this ghost. After decades of circling, calling for, and hoping to see her husband in the afterlife, she finally made peace with the fact that he left her. Was their marriage broken before this? Was he seeing another woman? Or was he mentally ill? Like the Wicked Witch of the West, her dress lies in a puddle on the stage, after she defeats her daemons. In the final moment of the scene, the ghost throws her hands in the air, sheds her anger, the restrictions of her past, and moves on.

See experiment here: https://osu.box.com/v/tarasoneminute

Advisor/Instructor: Dr. Nadine George-Graves

Creating an Immersive Virtual Environment

Concept
Co-creator Laura Rodriguez and I aimed to create a room for a virtual Spielberg Museum to resemble Carol Anne’s room in Poltergeist the movie. Design of the room included interactive elements such as lights that change with proximity, a TV that turns on and plays a clip from the movie when you come close to it, moving objects in a cyclone, the picking up and releasing of objects, and shattering a window on touch.

Methodology
Our 5-week plan included dividing and conquering various different interactive and animated elements. Laura dived into various iterations of animating and shattering techniques of glass for our window in both Maya and Unity while I sourced scripts to move the objects in a cyclone in Unity and created and textured the walls in Maya. We both sourced 3d Models for the static room objects (bed, wall decals, shelves, door, exit sign, window curtains, tree, and little bunny model) through Turbo Squid and various other free 3D models. We also sourced 3d Models in this way to modify in Maya and Unity such as the lamp, records, horse, and television. When you get close to the television the lights turn off and the television plays a video clip of the Poltergeist movie in which the objects circle in Carol Ann’s bedroom. This video gives context if the user has never seen the movie before. With guidance we created a script to activate the lights when you got close to the TV, this also activated the TV and the circling of the objects. We created hands that were able to grab the objects and conducted many tests to determine how large the collision boxes needed to be on the objects before they were grabbable as they passed the user. The speed of the cyclone also needed alteration (and perhaps still does) so the user can grab the objects. To simulate a museum experience, once an object is grabbed, the user hears descriptive information about the movie or disturbing information of the actors who played the characters in Poltergeist.

Discoveries and Looking Ahead
The biggest challenges we faced during this process included our learning curve when using Maya and also creating scripts for the interactions. Some intricacies in using Maya’s software made it difficult to transfer objects from Maya to Unity and it was easy to miss one little click which would be the determining factor for something working. Similarly, creating the scripts required a problem solving brain and although I have some understanding of coding, we had to get some more in depth help to really get some of these interactions working. The most difficult was when we wanted multiple things to happen at the same time like proximity to the TV results in the lights switching off and the objects beginning to circle (which turns on being able to grab the objects). The more if/then’s you added, the more complicated and the more one thing began to affect the next. I think this factored into the shatter of the window and the video clip playing on the TV. At one point the window was shattering into pieces on the floor, and as you see in this video, the window is one big piece of glass which I think is a result of some of the code mentioned above. Similarly, the clip on the TV is distorted in this final video when it was originally working before this script was implemented.

Even with all these challenges, our previous experience of choreography, movement, and creating performative spaces made it second nature for us to imagine the possibilities of what things could do in the virtual space. Turning lights off, triggering sound, and the flickering of a TV combine to create an immersive experience in the virtual world. Just like live performance, the audience is able to suspend their disbelief further when you nuance light, sound, and interaction. The magic is in the details. Having a more in depth knowledge of how these worlds are created gives me insight into the possibilities when used in performance and how live and virtual performances can live in the same spaces together.

Advisor: Shadrick Addy ACCAD

The Ghosts of Mirror Lake: Expanded with Media and Monologues

Concept
To work with the Media Design students with the tools presented to expand our The Ghosts of Mirror Lake scene using various forms of projection, live-feed, or other technology available with the goal of enhancing the experience thematically, dramatically, and theatrically. This project will be incorporated into the collectively devised theater project titled “Once Upon The Oval” to be premiered in March 2020 at Drake Performing Arts Center at The Ohio State University.

Methodology
The process began with a presentation by Alex Oliszewski of the materials available to the media designers to build into the selected scenes. At the end of this class we had an opportunity to mingle with the designers. Our group, Tara Burns, Sean Naughton, Laura Neese, and Emily Craver met with William Ledbetter as our designer and brainstormed about The Ghosts of Mirror Lake. Later, he contacted us for a video of the scene sans media.

The performers worked with Sean, our assigned “outside-eye”, to expand the characters of the three ghosts of the lake. Sean suggested we began with a free-write of our ghost’s thoughts and feelings. We wrote, shared, and decided the location of the monologues within the scene which currently included mostly movement and choice sentences said by the three performers at the same time.

After presenting The Ghosts of Mirror Lake to the Media Design class with our monologues, Will showed us a presentation of the materials he gathered (images and videos) and his ideas for live feed connectivity. That weekend, we all met in the medial to rehearse and understand the connections between light, media, and expand the characters further. Sean coached us in our monologues and blocking, while Will videoed the final representation.

Discoveries and Looking Ahead
The final class was the first time we had done the whole piece with the media. Although I wouldn’t call this a collaboration with the media designer, I would call it a successful pairing and enjoyed everyone’s openness to ideas and investigation in the work. This process would have benefited from a full class period of experimentation with the media designer allowing for an active collaboration. However, with that said, the theatrics brought depth, the media cultivated history, and the work on text and character building brought meaning to the scene. Sean’s outside eye was thoughtful and inclusive, Emily, Laura, and I worked effortlessly together, and Will’s contributions completed a multidisciplinary vision.

Advisor/Instructor: Dr. Nadine George-Graves

Digging Augmented Reality

Concept
My co-creator and I, Laura Rodriguez/LROD, aimed to create an Augmented Reality application used as an educational supplement to Laura Dixon Gottschild’s Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts.

Methodology
We chose ten pages that we would augment in the book. Each being accountable for five, we discussed ways that would most effectively visualize the textual content. We also were looking at different ways to activate our selected pages resulting in a blueprint containing a motion capture example of poly-rhythm, several reliefs of video examples of the pieces discussed in the book with sound and including the capability to stop and restart the video with a button, one relief picture of a definition with sound to clarify the pronunciation of the word ephebism and one relief of a black and white picture that changed to color.

Discoveries and Looking Ahead
As we collected assets and artifacts for the project (i.e. video of Pearl Primus, a video of Earl “Snake Hips” Tucker, a photo of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, etc.) we realized this project would run into copyright issues. This was also brought up in our first user test and demonstration during our Grad Day Showing in OSU’s Dance Department. However, using materials without permissions to create a proof of concept was successful. We also have discussed converting the app for cross platform use as it is currently only Android based.

In addition, Vuforia only recognizes images not text unless graphically designed, so using Gottschild’s “Digging” posed some problems in that the content that we wanted to highlight only had text on the pages and all the photos for the whole book were located in the center. For the pages that didn’t have imagery, we used found photos and created inserts to the parts of the book. Although effective, it was most satisfying when the photographs printed on the books pages came to life. If designing an educational tool for augmented reality again, I would prefer to work with the writers as the book is being designed to keep Augmented Reality in the design process creating a more cohesive visual and educational experience.

Advisor/Instructor: Shadrick Addy ACCAD

Tilt World’s 2nd Iteration

Drawing Glitter
KJ, Tara & Keith

My final “Tilt Brush” iteration this semester was an installation/performance during ACCAD’s open house on April 5th in the Motion Lab. The audience/participants entered a circle of projection screens where cardboard boxes, feather boas, pool noodles, and random small balls littered the space. Tasks were written on cards around the space for the audience to complete such as, “Build a castle.” Two performers were also in the space, one acted as safety and instigator of movement (KJ Dye), while the other (myself) was immersed in VR. As the performance transpired, painted traces of the immersed’s VR experience was projected throughout the space.

I wore the VR headset in the black void of Google’s Tilt Brush and except for running into the occasional cardboard box obstacle or feather boa adornment I was in my own world, a world absent from that of the audience-participants. People came in, sat on blankets or “played” in the space while KJ and I completed our score.

The technology stopped working at the beginning. A tower had been created out of cardboard boxes and was possibly obstructing the view of one of the cameras making it difficult for us to complete part of the score that began on the floor. The house I was to build, the tracing of bodies and the reflection of looking at the house from a transported place had to be skipped over. We completed this iteration with the standing portion of the score.

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KJ crawling through a box and Tara wearing a boa. Keith is a spectator.

Documentation was also on the fritz, schedules had been mixed up and although Oded filmed the event, his video was corrupted. Technology often breaks or doesn’t work at moments when I am around. However, even though it didn’t work perfectly, I’m not sure it mattered. From my perspective, my world was cutting out, but from everyone else’s perspective (from what I have gathered so far from people’s explanations of what happened) they didn’t notice. It was swirling, surrounding colors in a space where the audience became performers. They watched me navigate blindly through a messy environment with KJ keeping me safe and directing my movement in alternate routes.

There was a push and pull to KJ and my relationship. Do I allow her to draw for me or do I draw residually? When she stops me, do I let her? Ideas of permission and control came up for me, perhaps, in part, because I wasn’t able to see her. One of the most unexpected things was that I have no memory of what the audience was doing while I was in VR. When performing without a VR headset, I could remember who came to see the event and what they did. But here, I only remember the brief time I took the headset off and hugged my babies because it wasn’t working. That moment is particularly magical for me because it is the only moment I knew what the space looked like and when I took my headset off the first thing I saw were my two girls.

Reflecting back to the beginning of this project, I was planning on short iterations of three different projects. The other two fell away as I became enamored with objects in space and the theory of absence/presence introduced in Dr. Nadine George-Graves Performing Bodies. In Leder’s “The Absent Body” the idea of yourself as nullpoint played right into the idea of yourself in VR. Sensation at the forefront, other theorists exploring perception (Merleau-Ponty), subjection, and the “zero point of orientation” (Husserl) informed my interest in these two worlds.

Finally the use of task to empower the participant in a way that the performer is empowered. Through Freire’s ideas of liberation pedagogy and praxis, I found a connection between Freire’s definition of praxis and what is happening in participant environments. Freire’s definition of praxis, “reflection and action upon the world to transform it,” can be applied to these environments. I was transformed. KJ protected me and the audience’s world left traces that were beautiful, creative and a reminder that they were there too, even though I didn’t see them.

Click here or here to view two of 12 traces created during the semester of rehearsals I had inside of Google’s Tilt Brush. During these rehearsals, I was researching how to create an improvisational score that I would paint live.  These are traces 11 and 10. (These links are best viewed and interacted with on a touch screen, like your phone or tablet, you can swipe around to see different angles and zoom in and out. They will only work on computers with enough computing power.)

“a little awkward”

On Monday I showed where I was in my project Tilt World which is investigating a body in a virtual world (Google’s Tilt Brush) and objects and bodies in the physical world.

Tilt-World-Documentation

This iteration of the work included three performers. At the beginning of the work, I wore a red face mask and was painting a red house in the virtual environment with Tilt Brush’s wand in front of a wall of cardboard boxes.

Later, a dancer in a VR headset was traced by myself. I removed the face mask while she built her own virtual environment to move inside of and then I took the wand again to add to the environment that only she could see. Only the person in the headset can see the painted world.

All the while, a third performer was tasked with building and deconstructing environments with cardboard boxes, pool noodles, boas and small toys.

This iteration stemmed from my “Sandbox session” in my research class (a Sandbox could be seen as a rehearsal or improvisational physicalization of some ideas).

More clearly, the roles were:

  • Constructer/deconstructer of objects in space
  • Move as paint, interrupt/disrupt and echo
  • Virtual builder/painter wearing the VR headset

I received three really interesting moments of feedback from this iteration.

1. The audience participation that I have talked about for a while was non-existent in this version. This is so weird because I didn’t realize I deleted this but I feel exactly as Oliver Herring said in his book TASK.

“The first TASK was small and a little awkward. Initially, I approached TASK as a performance. It seemed like the most simple and uncomplicated way to think about it. Although I don’t think of TASK as a perforamnce anymore, the structure of the inaugural TASK was the same as it still is.” – Oliver Herring’s TASK

So, I have another idea for the second iteration to incorporate the audience from the beginning in perhaps a TASK-like way.

2. During my Sandbox there was a role of care that was included that wasn’t in this role. This is true, but perhaps the builder also needs to be tasked with moving around the person in virtual reality so there is something to protect them from?

3. I needed to be clear what I wanted people to get out of this whole thing. I don’t know the answer to this yet. I think I replied with I wanted each person to feel like they built a world but are watching other worlds built in an alternate reality? I’m not sure that is true but I think this comment links to the idea of roles or tasks. And if so, the audience needs to have one.

 

Split wide open

With my perceptions split wide open (with the floodgates of information that is downloading into my brain) including Queer Theory, Gender Theory, Philosophers Husserl, Butler, Foucault, Kristeva, all bodies and their labels, “The Explicit Body,” Daphne Brooks’ “Bodies in Dissent,” Drew Leder’s “The Absent Body,” readings on the complicated reality of empathy, perception and archive (and that’s just a few, mostly from my Performing Bodies Theory course lead by Dr. Nadine George-Graves), I am wondering where my ideas begin and if I even have any. Everything has been done. Things I don’t want to do, things I wish I thought of and things that I don’t even understand. It’s been done. I’ve heard this before, but now with my brain so full, it feels overflowingly evident.

This past week I taught my first full improvisation class and was evaluated by the chair of the dance department. I spoke and some of my thoughts landed in my discussion/theory course and I lead my “sandbox” which is part of my Interdisciplinary Research Studio class. Teaching, leading and talking out of my mouth (as opposed to my body)…higher stakes, yes…and done. I say higher stakes, but I’m not in the real world with these stakes. I’m in a safe little bubble where there are quite a few people that care about movement, embodiment, and dance in the way I do. It is also quite obvious they care about teaching and are very knowledgable in this field.

However, I do question the nervousness I feel when presenting in this environment. I have presented during two open works-in-progress showings this year and both have been in the middle of experiments with unknown destinations and/or purpose.

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

I’m going to try to hold strong to the idea that right now is about experiments and possibly failed ones. It’s about my education, my self-exploration and not about what others think of me. Self-doubt is my ally.

The stakes got a little higher this semester

We are now beginning week 5 and I have no idea where the time went. I have read the entire Emergent Strategies book by Adrienne Marie Brown and I’ve learned Emergent Strategies can be placed on your entire life. Change the lens, change the world. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on creating something using Tilt Brush in VR and so far I realize I like to create houses and known environments. I find the disembodiment disorienting and exciting. You have no hands or legs, only a mind, vision, and sound if you wanted it inside Tilt Brush land.  I hopefully will get a chance to try out an improvisational score I’ve built this week. It’s based on the sensations I’ve felt inside the system so far and some brief interactions with some other dancers. Click here and here to see some things I’ve created so far to glean inspiration.

I have a lot more agency this semester. If I have assignments I have to decide how I want to do them and learn from my mistakes. I guess it’s good I decided last semester I was ready to begin failing. All of my classes ask me to present/teach material at some point. I have my MFA required paper in my Theory course (Performing Bodies with Dr. Nadine George-Graves) where I have to create my own topic and defend it. My Research Studio course is basically created by me to build a project (Tilt Brush) using the scope of Emergent Strategies, the resources of ACCAD and the others in the class. This week I’m teaching a class for my fellow graduate students. Thank goodness for my technique class, although it’s hard in a different way.

It’s all hard, it’s all good and I’ve finally got my engine revved up. Now if only we could stop having -6-degree weather and snow days.

 

It’s about trusting the process, coloring the lines and angling your approach

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My youngest daughter’s drawing (3 years old), but how I felt most of the semester.

This semester has resulted in a real community of support. My grad-cohort is awesome and most if not all the preliminary tools I need to make, write, create, put forth work and fail have been introduced to me in our “Foundations in Dance Research” course.

“Laban Systems: Movements, Methods, and Analytical Frameworks” has been a wonderful addition to the writing kind of making. Not only do I have a new treasure chest of descriptive words specifically crafted for movement, but also a new way to look at movement and a toolbox of sprinkles and ingredients to add to my movement-making process. “Aboutness” can be applied to my whole first semester here. Trying to frame and understand specifically what I am interested in is the “aboutness” of my work and my-artist-self.

My body feels strong and smart. I am articulate in my joints and muscles in a way that I haven’t been for a while and it feels amazing. Crystal Perkin’s Afro-Horton technique class was an integral part in this strength and agency as was my Pilates course. I was able to apply Pilates techniques in Crystal’s technique class. The integration of whole body movement in Pilates is something I am still working on but I now have a practice to bring with me for the next two years. Pilates challenged my self-motivation in multiple ways and Crystal’s class was my grounding force throughout the semester. Technique class is my home, I know how to be a dancer and trust the movement and my body, so once I gave into the discipline and physical effort, this class was healing and got me through other more tumultuous moments.

I believe the next two and a half years will result in a confident, strong, maker who can own her place in an academic setting. This department has a professionalism built into it that is transparent but also ingrained. Research is what you make it. Figuring out what specifically interests me is the hardest part. There seems to be a fine line between what I’m interested in and what falls flat. In this academic context, it’s about framing your questions and spending time figuring out your project and writing it down before you actually get to figure anything out. This backwards approach is difficult for me but a skill worth developing. It’s similar to grant writing, but with a different flavor I can’t quite place.

In the moments to come, I’m interested in exploring some new practices of making, perhaps more improvisatory or contact-based processes, perhaps some making with friends/current grads, perhaps some non-mandatory uses of technologies. I’m still working on what I’m interested in, who I’m interested in doing it with and how to get it done in this still new environment but I trust the process. At the end of the day, it’s about coloring inside and outside the lines. It’s about appreciating all approaches and angles but also figuring out where you fit into them, how to best apply them to help you grow and how you want to approach your own angles or angle your own approach.

Curating our worlds

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Light and shadow is resonating with me. What you see and what you don’t see. There are parts hidden, always; Andre Zachary mentioned this Monday. During our portrait study we shared details about people in the class that were chosen or curated creating a lens the audience would see through. Each person’s world is curated by themselves. Facebook and Instagram profiles are curated to project a certain persona. The news is curated. I curate my children’s world as much as I can. I curate my work, my blog, my fashion (if you can call it that), my food. Choices are the curation of life. Ideas of protection, mediation, filtering and triangulation come up for me when thinking about a curated life, either the life you curate for yourself or the life someone else’s perspective has curated of your life.

My intermedia lab group ended up creating our Portrait Project with me at the center. There were ideas of interviews, auditions, interrogations and being put in situations where I was told my truths were being questioned. The social experiment of it was interesting to me. My team mates were to ask questions of me that I didn’t know before hand so I would have to really think about the answer and upon answering the question they would say, “Interesting,” in a way akin to an interrogation. The fascinating part was even though I knew they meant no ill will and we had set the project up like this I questioned my answers. Which is absurd because there was no reason the truth of the answers could be questioned.

The conceptual and social commentary in our Viewings spark some particular feelings right now. Jerome Bel’s “Veronique,” Antonia Baehr’s “LAUGH”, Amara Tabor Smith’s “House/Full” and Michelle Ellsworth’s “The Rehearsal Artist,” along with Andre Zachary’s examples of process in Monday’s class and our subsequent discussions of mapping/notation with him in Laban today. These all create a web of discourse linking the viewer to the artist in different ways. I’m interested in the word “affect” right now as well and I think there is something of that in here. Zachary links his dancers through his new dissection of language through process. Ellsworth, Bel and Baehr are linking the audience, performer and artist by prompting the viewer to question what is happening and why it’s happening. Smith is linking her work with different areas of Oakland giving it a sense of place and mapping automatically linking it to people watching but also the communities in those places.

Process can be concept. Process is full of context. Process can be performance. The behind the scenes is often more interesting to me than the performance, but in these works they have weaved process into the performance. The process is happening as it unfolds, the audience is processing and will continue to process after. The artists are saying something. Speaking out is resonating with me right now and these choreographers did that in a way that speaks on many levels, in many different contexts and cross culturally. What are you going to say and what makes this the moment you are going to say it? These choreographers are speaking out, sometimes more subtly than others, but even if you don’t get it immediately, you can feel it.