One-Minute

The assignment: To devise a one-minute solo to be dropped into a collective devised amalgamation and premiered in March 2020 at Drake Performing Arts Center.

I chose to further the arc of my character, one of the ghosts of Mirror Lake. 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 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 my 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.

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 this final one-minute, this ghost sheds her anger, the restrictions of her past, and finds peace.

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

Summer Making 2019

My summer research turned out to be two months of rehearsals digging into how I view different ways of making and different dance aesthetics. I will continue and finalize an iteration of this research next semester.

In May and June, I met with fellow, almost 2nd year, amazing, talented dance grads Alessandra, Davianna, Laura, and Emily for four hours a week in addition to two hours a week of solo research. Alessandra was a wondrous resource as dramaturg and Davianna, Laura and Emily were important and vocal collaborators in the process as well. Using making methods and ideas surrounding emergence and improvisation, we explored the complicated definitions of control, specifically surrounding societal conduct and power structures affecting women.

I began this process with some ideas I found in Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed detailing the education of oppressive societies to fight against their oppression. Although the stakes are much greater in Friere’s books, I found that some of the words he used to subdivide the last chapter define complicated and layered societal formulas that happen in the everyday.

The first four phrases were ways groups of people elicit power and the next four are their counters describing ways people can come together to liberate themselves from their oppression. We began by defining these words within our bodies through improvisation and the use of space:

  • Conquest
    Divide and Rule
    Manipulation
    Invasion
  • Unity for Liberation
    Organization
    Cooperation
    Cultureal Synthesis

The concepts of separate/divide and together/away kept resurfacing physically. The ideas of bodies in unison and then not, bodies high, middle and low as a power structure, three against one, and bodies intercepting or inhibiting another’s movement came to the surface. The ideas of women empowerment, control, and social structures were apparent as these themes were explored further.

The questions that remain are: How do I unite improvisation and codified movement in a way that doesn’t seem forced and goes along with my personal aesthetic? What am I trying to say and how much of that do I want the audience to actually glean?

Below is an example of what I consider codified movement. A phrase or sentence of movement designed to be completed somewhat the same each time.

Below is an improvisatory exploration involving the parameters of finding moments where the other person is completely supporting your weight and you theirs as you move together and then away.

Below is an improvisation where Emily and I are trying to force Davianna to one corner as she is trying to get to the opposite corner.

Tilt World’s 2nd Iteration

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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.)

Tilt World Sandbox

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a Sandbox is something Norah uses in her Research Studio class that allows room for change and brainstorming of a group. In the following photos by Dan Shellenbarger (thank you!!) he documented some experiments in my sandbox in February. This project, titled “Tilt World” is an exploration of how an embodied mover informs physical painting in VR using Google’s Tilt Brush while an audience creates an outside environment using found objects.

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Photos and Drawing by Dan Shellenbarger (you’re awesome!)

“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.

 

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.

More Than Some Jam

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Image from ADF’s website found here.

Co-teaching grad students Josh Anderson and Gina Hoch-Stall opened their last Contact Improvisation class of the semester to the other students on Monday and it was a wonderful sharing of form, ability and spirit. The open class was an inclusive and attentive culmination to the semester. The warm atmosphere reminded me of the first time I had ever been to a Contact Jam, maybe…the summer of 2002 at American Dance Festival. Jenn Nugent and Paul Matteson were there in The Ark and perhaps David Dorfman. I remember being in awe of them flying through the air and across the space. The uncertainty of what was happening, the importance of each movement and the courage it took to try things out for myself amidst my heros and fellow newbies.

A bunch of years later it feels so different. Finally I am understanding the vibrant investigation of experimentation and how exciting it is when the unexpected happens. I feel like having children and also just being at the end of my 30’s has allowed me to let go of everyone else’s expectations and opinions of me so that I’m finally able to explore and be interested without thinking of others. Sometimes. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Jam, but yesterday I found myself wanting to play with my new friends in a way that some old friends used to play. Connecticut’s Elm City Dance Collective taught me what I was relishing in last night: trust, play and surprise. I’m excited to find out that even in this still new environment I’m more interested in finding an unexpected conclusion than getting it “right” or indulging in every ounce of sensing what the other person’s weight is doing next. Or maybe I’m just impatient. Or as Josh has decided…”A bulldozer.” Maybe I’m finally ready to begin failing in order to find my edges.

A lovely moment with Emily of spritely play, a sitting discussion with Bita, a bombastic topsy-turvy interlude with Josh, an interruption of KJ and Yildiz’s tender moment and a rolling play with an unknown mover stay with me. Someone in the class described her experience as a hug that will allow her to achieve all her dreams this week. Me too.

 

What is dance about?

labanfloorThis photo is a projection on the white floor of OSU Dance’s 50th Anniversary Concert. It is a Labanotation score. 

Dance is about so many things.

Bebe Miller writes in Andrea Olsen’s “Between Brooklyn and Bearnstow: Translating through Dancing” the following notions about dance:

“Is it ever a repetition or is it a spiral cycle.” (Olsen, 32)

I am imaging a spiral cycle of something speeding up in time, or building or decreasing in intensity.

“There is a rise and fall, a breath, and there is a return.” (Olsen, 31)

It could be a repetition or just a movement in general. It could be the beginning or the end.

“I am less interested in technology as something to show. I am interested in what it changes about how we as humans in a community interact with it and because of it and alongside it.” (Olsen, 32)

There is something futurist about this statement. I think it is the ever-changing idea of technology.  Is she interested about what changes when we interact with it? How does it change our interaction? Does the presence of technology change our interactions with others, like through Facebook and texting or is it because technology itself is continually changing? And if it’s continually changing than does Miller mean that as it changes and because it changes our interactions and relationships to it and with it are always changing and different? If so, this is also true of our relationship with our community within an environment built around and/or with technology. Or is it all these things?

Dance is what you make it. Dance is questioning interaction. Dance is questioning alignment, movement, orientation, space, time, flow and weight. Dance is thinking. Dance is taking care of those around you. Dance is embodiment and doing.

Works Cited

Olsen, Andrea. 2009. “Between Brooklyn and Bearnstow: Translating through Dancing: An Interview with Bebe Miller” Contact Quarterly Summer/Fall: 28-33.

 

STEAMing it up

img_20181027_172848.jpgSaturday night I attended “TICKTOCK” a work-in-progress showing of Syren Modern Dance and The Ohio State University’s Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP) Visiting Fellow, Dr. Paul Sutter.  The collaboration was sponsored by The STEAM Factory which is an Ohio State space fostering research relationships in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Art and Math) custom. I was super excited to see the space and get to know what actually happens there. This is the first time there was an event of this kind open to the public (so I still don’t know what actually happens there) and it was engaging and the audience’s reaction was palpable.

The performance was inside a demonstration illustrating how Syren generally works choreographically, how the company sought out Dr. Sutter for his expertise in physics and how their collaboration unfolded. That’s a lot of hows…

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Syren Modern Dance’s Jessica Nolan, Darcie Perkins and Rivkins Christopher

Sutter is an avid speaker and has the radio show, Space Radio.*  WCBE 90.5 hosted the event as a fundraiser. The first segment of the work they showed featured his speaking and walking around the performance area Morgan Freeman style in the “Through the Wormhole series” as the dancers narrated his words, “The faster you move in space, the slower you move in time.” Sutter varied this sentence repeatedly and the dancers organized in different ways demonstrating/acting out through movement what he was saying. He also told stories and the dancers gathered around his storytelling self before blasting off as characters traveling through space, illustrating different continuums, alluding to time-travel and multidimensional worlds. At one point the dancers even lift him up in a half-sitting position and float him across the space. All to illustrate different moments of time. If you haven’t surmised, the piece Syren and Dr. Sutter are creating together is about time.

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Syren warming up. Dancers Darcie Perkins, Jessica Nolan, Rivkins Christopher, Lynn Peterson and Victoria Ellis with Choreographer Kate St. Amand

They showed multiple sections. One section was created from physics action words that Kate St. Amand, co-director of Syren and choreographer for TICKTOCK, asked Sutter to come up with, such as rotation (which as discussed is about traveling less through time and more through space). Let’s just remember my affinity toward aboutness for a second. And we’re back.

The audience was given multiple opportunities to ask questions. At one point the dancers improvised the answers that Sutter was giving about questions such as, “Is there such a thing as a parallel universe? and “Is the discovery of time travel considered inevitable?” The dancers mirrored each other through space as Sutter described perpendicular multiple dimensions as a possibility more than parallel universes. This reminded me of Marvel’s The Flash.  Sutter responded to the latter question explaining that time travel at this moment is considered impossible, but no one actually knows why. The ten year old next to me even asked a few completely succinct and thoughtful questions throughout the evening about the speed of light. The audience was energized and felt engaged and heard, you could feel it.

*He also hosted a segment this week with the Syren Modern Dance’s co-directors Kate St. Amand and Lynn Peterson.

 

Physical Thinking

Update (as requested):
Click here to see a video about Synchronous Objects!

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From visualcomplexity.com

Synchronous Objects examines William Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing” in ways I’ve never seen quantified. It’s an interface designed to visually represent connections through movements, improvisations and choreography. It’s as if the “making of” part of a movie was integrated with the performance in three different camera views. It allows the viewer to both decide what they want to hear and/or see and at the same time focus there attention on specific carves, arcs, weight, etc. through space.

You can also click through the creation process of the interface on the website, further deepening your understanding of the creation process. At the beginning of this web-experience the question, “What else might physical thinking look like?” pops up.

Wayne McGregor did a Ted Talk, “A Choreographer’s creative process in real time.” I was immersed in the familiar way the dancers were asked to perform newly synthesized movements and relationships. I immediately recognized the familiar assignments and the state of the dancers as they instantly synthesized physical thought. As the dancers moved from jittery (first learning and applying) to a little more integrated in the body only 5-minutes later, I thought, look at all the ways we can think with our bodies and how they move. Amazing.

I think this might be a running post as I continue to add examples of physical thought…