Each and every day, I lose myself in the immediacy of the moment, find myself in the joy of the movement. Each and every day, I learn more and more...and, within that new knowledge, realize that I have so much farther to travel.

Shallom Johnson is a contemporary dance artist, visual artist and freelance writer based in Vancouver BC. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University, and has been active in the Vancouver dance community as a choreographer, performer, and instructor since her graduation in 2004.

Shallom is interested in art in public spaces, site-specific performance, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community involvement. Her street-based artwork, performance and photography examines and documents who gets to make art, where it gets made, and where/how the creative process and product is viewed. In the future, she hopes to explore this theme further via new media and technologies, new methods of creation, collaboration and community engagement.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Choreo Ideas


As I was lying in bed last night I came up with an outline for a new work. This project has been at the back of my mind for months, years…but I haven’t felt strong enough to tackle it.


I want to make a piece that is mostly auto-biographical. It will be a duet between myself and a male dancer. The concept of the work will revolve around my dysfunctional relationship with my ex-husband. The cycle of abuse that we became trapped in, and our mutual inability to let go. The way that we reached a point of crisis again and again. His anger and violence, apologies, my forgiveness, acceptance, unexpressed anger that turned inwards upon myself. Feeling trapped. Reaching the point of no return. Leaving, looking back, leaving again, finally letting go.


My challenge will be to abstract this narrative structure, to strip away meaning in the generation of movement and to add it back in during the crafting stages. Today I will be creating a phrase that will be incorporated into the final work. I will be working from some poems that I wrote during and after this relationship to generate a first draft of movement that can be manipulated later on.


I have one section semi-complete already - the chair duet that I posted a while back. (See it here)


I will be continuing work on this piece when I get back to Vancouver. I need to find a male dancer to work with, someone who is interested in contributing to the choreographic development of the work - and who doesn’t mind that this piece will eventually end up set on someone from DC. Hopefully I can present the completed work in Vancouver and/or Seattle this spring. I'll also need to find a partner to continue the work with when I get back to DC this summer. If you're reading this and are interested, email me at shallom.johnson@gmail.com with your CV and picture.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Welcome to Dorothea's World!


Okay everyone, this is completely not dance-related, but I'd love to introduce you to my latest creation: Dorothea the Robot DIVA!

Myself and the lovely KK Mayfield have created a blog that will document all of Dorothea's lessons learned on this fabulous planet - in hopes that these adventures will enlighten, intrigue and most of all entertain.

So please - stop by Dorothea's World, have a look at what she's got to say, and tell me what you think!

Keep checking back as there will be a new comic strip at least once a week :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thoughts about Hip-Hop

I've been thinking lately about my qualifications as a dance instructor, especially in the realm of hip-hop and street jazz, styles in which I am less experienced. I taught a hip-hop workshop at St Mary's College and felt really nervous going into the class - I love hip-hop, and I teach a lot of into/beginner kids' classes for the City of Burnaby, but I wouldn't describe myself as a hip-hop dancer, and I sometimes feel like my ballet/modern/jazz training has given my dancing less of an urban style. And I worry that this affects my confidence as a teacher, and my ability to give a good class.

I think that physically, I need to focus on cultivating the short, sharp places in my movement - to find the spots where the free flow stops, and becomes bound. I need to work on isolations and develop the sense of being lowed to the ground, less pulled up and held away. I need to go to hip-hop class more often. I think that not only will these qualities help me to improve as a hip-hop dancer, but also to deepen my range in my contemporary work.

Just things that have been on my mind lately, is all...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dancing Waters by Claudia Molina



Last year I was involved in a short film called Dancing Waters, directed by Claudia Molina. I wanted to share the video with you, as it's just been uploaded to YouTube. The movement is choreographed by yours truly, and I also played the role of Oya (Orisha of wind and fire).

This was the first time that I had ever danced with fire and it was quite an experience. it was also the first film that I'd been involved in, and the first time that I'd been required to perform topless.

It's amazing how quickly you get used to being the only naked person in the room.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blogging on DancerUniverse.com


I've just started blogging on DancerUniverse.com! This is a brand-new network of dance bloggers who will be contributing to an online repository of thoughts and opinions on the world of dance, with all that entails.

We've got some great people on board, with a lot to say! Please come and check it out...I'll be uploading some of my archived posts from Moving Space and Time, as well as adding new exclusive posts written just for the new site.

While you're there check out the rest of the DancerUniverse site. There are all kinds of resources for dancers, students, parents, teachers, retailers, studio owners and more - whether you are interested in modern, contemporary, ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, broadway or a little bit of everything, you'll find something to sink your teeth into.

Photo: the dancers of Echo Park Contemporary Ballet, with Artistic Director Cedric Tillman and Kelly's daughter Kailei. Taken after the show on November 17th.

From left: Oscar Hawkins, Rasta Thomas, Cedric Tillman, Kelly Mayfield, Kailei Isaac, Shallom Johnson, Shylo Smith. Of course I was fabulously overdressed for the occasion, as always...lol

Stay tuned for updates on upcoming Echo Park performances - I'll be flying back to DC in February to perform in their next show, scheduled for sometime around Valentines' Day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Contradiction Dance Fundraiser Wednesday November 28th @ Tryst!


Alright everyone, Contradiction Dance is holding a happy hour fundraiser tomorrow night at Tryst, from 7-9pm:
SOS, we're SOL! Send Us To St Mary's!
Wednesday, November 28 7-9 pm
Tryst Coffeehouse•bar•lounge
2459 18th Street NW (Adam’s Morgan)
$15 Donation
RSVP: contradictiondance@mac.com • 240.475.7570


I expect to see you all there! Come on out and support this amazing group of artists. Tickets are just $15 (unless of course you are feeling extra generous and would like to donate more) and your donations will support our performance series at St Mary's College in Southern Maryland from December 4th-9th. We will be showing Objects of Hope: The America Project in its full length, its first performance on stage in a concert hall.

We need to get 7 dancers out to St Mary's for a 1 week run and they haven't been able to provide the financial support necessary for everyone to take the week off of work, let alone for us to house and feed the company while we're there.
We need you, and all your friends! Spread the word! Come on out and have a drink with us (or two or three - we've lined up some great food and drink specials) and send us to St Mary's.
Can’t make it? You can still contribute!
Mail Donations to:
Contradiction Dance • 2211 Washington Ave #101 • Silver Spring, MD 20910
Photo by Enoch Chan. Contradiction Dance in performance, "Perspective/SHIFT" June 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bodog Fights: Johnson vs Pariseau, Prince George BC


OK so this isn't about dancing per se, but it is about movement. Mixed Martial Arts fighting, to be specific.

My brother is an MMA fighter, and a damn good one. I wanted to post a link to the video of his last fight, which he won by rear naked choke in the first round. You can watch the fight here, on the Bodog website. If you look closely you'll see my dad cheering him on during the entrance, looking extremely pumped up...
His next fight will be a King of the Cage title bout in New Brunswick. I'm so proud of him :) My little brother all grown up...
Keep an eye on this kid, soon he'll be reaching the top! He trains out of Revolution Fight Club in BC, learning from some of the best in the business. If only Vancouver wouldn't have outlawed MMA events in the city, I could watch his fights more often.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Video Post: Lick

Last Saturday I danced in Echo Park Contemporary Ballet's inagural performance, On the Outside Looking In. Notwithstanding a few technical difficulties, the show was a full house and a success for audience members and performers alike.

It was held in an intimate informal setting - Down Dog Yoga Studio in Georgetown.



This is a video clip of rehearsal for one of the works - a duet between me and Kelly, aptly titled Lick. It looks a bit rough here, but we nailed it in performance.

Choreographer: Cedric Tillman
Dancers: Kelly Mayfield and Shallom Johnson
Rehearsal venue: Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

I'm hoping to continue working with Cedric in the future - possibly making a quick trip back to DC for Echo Park's next show is February 14th, 2008 - an evening of duets to a variety of love songs, perfect for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Liniment for Body Aches


My body is complaining today. Mostly my knees, but also my shoulders and back, my feet and my wrists. The increased physical strain and stress has made my joints achy and sore. I've recently discovered a really good warming liniment that will help with aches and pains of any sort. It's called Imada Red Flower Analgesic Oil, and this stuff really works. Make sure you look inside the box to confirm that you've got the kind with the green bottle and orange cap.

You can usually find it any most Chinese medicine shops, or you can order it online here for $3.99.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Radical Acts of Prayer: Stones, Earth and Clay


Buoyant,
Plates transform, converge and diverge
Currents within the core wake,
Collide and collapse

New mountains soar
Rift valleys drop the sea to new depths
New darknesses

Change begins below the surface
The rocks are moving
Ripples spread outwards
Manifest in eruption, dissolution, destruction
Creation and decay
New life?

Inspired by rehearsals with Casie Meador for her work 613 Radical Acts of Prayer. Photo: Ilya Belenkov, in aforementioned rehearsal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Quick Choreolab Idea: Translations across Time and Space


So I need a place to jot this idea down where I won't lose it or forget about it. In discussion with Kelly and Ilya today, something in our conversation triggered this idea. I think we were talking about Kelly taping the solo that Ilya set on her...which you can see in the last post...and putting the video on Youtube so that he could give her choreographic/performance notes. Anyways. I started thinking about how movement gets translated from one body to the next, and about how playing with the parameter of distance would affect the final product. So, here is my idea.

Person 1 creates a phrase, long or short, simple or complex. I would probably start with something short but complex.

Person 1 teaches the phrase to person 2. Person 2 teaches what they learned to person 3. Person 3 repeates the process with person 4. And so on, for as many translations as you like. The last person teaches what they learned back to the first person. Find a way to show the results.

Option 1: Film the phrase each time that it has been taught and cleaned and is ready to "perform". Compile a film with the clips and see where the movement gradually changes, and where it stays the same.

Option 2: Play with the idea of time lapses between each person. Have this project evolve over many months, with each person really getting time to investigate the phrase with the person playing the role of rehearsal director/choreographer.

Option 3: Play with the idea of space. Have the phrase travel through space and time by letting each participant choose the next, wherever and whenever their travels may lead them. Decide whether you want the phrase to get back to the original owner, or not. If so, find a way to make it happen.

Option 4: Try this exercise in a studio setting work period, over one day or a few days...then combine the phrases into one work, with all dancers onstage, or moving on and offstage. Try out different relationships of time and space based on the changes each has made in the movement.

Option 5: Have one person learn all versions of the phrase and perform this as a solo.

Option 6: All of the above, in whatever combination intrigues you.

Thoughts? If you want to use this idea, please feel free. If you do, I'd love to see the results or hear some comments about the process.

Photo: Elizabeth Johnson and Cassie Meador, in rehearsal at the Dance Exchange.

Video Post: Studio Showing @ Dance Exchange

I know, I know...no new posts in over a week. I am terribly sorry, but my time has been short and my brain has been filled with so much other information that I just haven't been able to write, at all.

Ilya Belenkov (a visiting guest artist) is headed home to Russia tomorrow. Before he left, we held a studio showing in which, Ilya, Sarah Levitt, Cassie Meador and I showed choreography and received feedback. Ilya showed a completed solo that he created in his time here (absolutely beautiful movement, might I add); Sarah and I showed solos that were works in progress, and Cassie showed the beginnings of a group work that we have been working on for the past three or four days. I have footage of all three solos. I asked one of my teen students to film mine, and as a result it is a little blurry. I will try to get better footage of it later, as I continue to craft this work.

Everyone here is sad to see Ilya depart - he has been an amazing artist to collaborate with, and a brilliant mover and performer. I am looking forward to continuing our collaborations in the future - we have some plans in mind to work together with Kelly Mayfield under the umbrella of Contradiction Dance, possibly creating a site-specific work in London next season. I am also thinking of heading to Moscow this summer to attend a 3-week contemporary dance summer school, and maybe taking an extra week to do some site-specific work with Ilya and his collaborators. But of course nothing is certain, our plans are just in the initial discussion stages. Of course, as always, it will all depend on funding and other support.



Video 1: My solo (or should I say, duet?). More versions to come, stay tuned. You can see the initial chair improvisations here.




Video 2: Ilya's solo, the first time he has ever set a solo inspired solely by music and movement.



Video 3: Sarah's solo (an excerpt - my camera was initially set up too far away to catch her facial expressions, and you can't zoom in without stopping filming and starting again. The initial smiling and nodding actually went on for much longer.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Omnia Mutantur and Open Source Dance

So an old friend, Diego Maranan, is currently living in the Philippines, writing about life and movement here. We went to school together in the dance program at SFU, and he is dearly missed by myself and all of our mutual friends. Diego is currently working on a project called Omnia Mutantur. Diego is also the founder of Open Source Dance, which you can read more about below.

Anyways, I liked the idea. I am not sure if I am ready to begin such an undertaking, but the concept intrigues me. Maybe I will try to incorporate it into my life for the next few months or so, maybe longer.

This is the project (link to original post above):

Create a movement sequence. Doesn't matter how long it is, doesn't matter what style it is, how big or how small. Make sure it is repeatable... whatever that means to you.

When you think you're ready, film yourself performing it.

Then, everyday, you must rehearse this sequence once, and only once.

One day, when you think you have an excellent reason why cannot rehearse this sequence anymore, perform this piece in public. Have this performance filmed.

Notes: It doesn't matter how long it takes before you perform this in public. What matters is that you must reach the point where you decide that it would be impossible for you to rehearse this sequence any longer, and that you need to perform this publicly.

Option 1: Everytime you rehearse the sequence, film yourself.
Option 2: Source the movement sequence from any of the other processes described on this page.

Variation 1: The day you fail to rehearse your sequence, the very next day you have to perform it in public.

Variation 2: Get other people to do the same thing. Decide what exactly this instruction means.

Variation 3: By public performance, I mean at least 5,000 people need to see it. Figure out along the way how you can do this.

Variation 4: Instead of rehearsing until you have no choice but to perform the sequence, set yourself a timeline, a minimum of 9 months. I suggest around 11 years.

So...anyone up for the challenge?

And to finish my second thought: Diego's also working on a project called Open Source Dance, in which artists can license their work under the Creative Commons database, inviting other artists to browse, sample, reuse, and build upon existing choreographic works. The new works then have the option of being licenses and registered on the site, creating a geneology of works, " a historical trail that maps the influences of each work registered on OpenSourceDance.org". Sound intriguing? It is. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Site Specific Performance: Wrap-Up and Review



So, I thought that I'd say a few words about the site-specific performance last weekend, before it slips my mind completely as I am quickly moving on to new things at the Dance Exchange and elsewhere. There have been tons of things that have happened without my being able to write about them, which has been disappointing - but if I'm too busy to write, it's because I'm dancing. Which in and of itself is great.

Anyways, I digress. The site-specific performance went really well. It was the first time I'd done a morning show in quite some time, and my body took a while to adjust - the first show still had a few kinks in it, and our audience was a bit smaller. The noon show went much smoother, and the audience had swelled, including some of the DX company members and staff. It was nice to have their support.

All of the performers did an amazing job! Peter was a wonderful tour guide, leading the audience around the building, helping them to interpret the performance while at the same time building a short movement phrase based on the things they were seeing and hearing. Anne's poetic voice was beautiful, and added an extra dimension to the performance. I particularly enjoyed hearing her words juxtaposed against Dorothy's solo, focusing on the deliberate qualities of her movement and the description of the permanence and strength and texture of the rough brick wall.



My favorite part of the show was Ilya and Sarah's fountain duet. Ilya is a visiting guest artist from Russia, and he is an amazingly talented and creative choreographer and performer. Sarah is a local dance artist, who is equally amazing and beautiful to watch. I have a video of this piece, and of the teens' stairway dance, but I have to edit them as the file sizes are too big to upload.

John Borstel worked with the group to create a really engaging installation/set piece in which dancers manipluated a piece of fabric over the atrium balcony while the Teen Exchange group floated pieces of vellum paper printed with words down over the fabric to the floor below. Myself and other participants were dressed in white, dancing set and improvised movements on the lower level, under the fabric and among the fallen paper. From the audience's perspective, the printed words combined randomly to create jumbled phrases, allowing them to piece together meaning wherever they could find it - or to just read the piece as a whole.

We had a fabulous team working together on this project - I have to admit that I wasn't sure we could pull it off in the time that we had, but in the end everything worked out better than we could have imagined. Every audience reaction that I heard was positive - people were really intrigued by how we pulled them into the space, leading them to view the building in different ways that they had experienced before.



My kudos to everyone involved - Matt and Cassie for givng us a great start and helping to generate and craft our movement material, Peter and Ilya for helping me to keep everything organized and running smoothly, Anne and John for their wonderful artistic contributions, and of course our amazing community and Dance Exchange participants, and the staff at the Takoma Park Community Centre, and the DC Outlaw skateboarders, and the audience, and the perfectly sunny weather, and everyone and everything else that made this performance such a success!

Photos: A step in the process of creating John's installation piece: we used a tool called 3 Column Writing to generate some text, which (after a few more steps) we arranged in places around a room in a way that had some relation to the space and the words themselves. 3 Column Writing is a really interesting and useful tool, I will do a separate post describing the process later on.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Q & A Session #3


This post is for Daina, Raina, Jessica, Neely and Branae: some answers to questions they posted waay back in September.

1. Daina - I'm not a doctor, and I have no way of actually seeing you do your side splits, so I can't really give you much advice on why your hip is "popping out" when you go into the splits. However, this doesn't sound healthy, and I would recommend that you avoid that position until you've figured out why your hip pops out and what you can do to either strengthen it or increase the flexibility to keep it properly in place. I would advise that you see a medical professional, explain your problem and get some advice from him. If you ever come to Vancouver, the Dancer Transition Resource Centre (or DTRC) runs really good injury prevention and treatment seminars that I have attended and highly recommend. They also have many other amazing services for dancers, check out their website for details.

2. To answer your other question, the worst injury I've ever had from dancing were the chronic overuse injuries that I was working with during university. Because I was dancing so much, and often not doing enough stretching to balance out all the strength training, my muscles became imbalanced and I had a lot of lower leg problems - namely, shinsplints, Plantar Fascitis, and Patellofemoral Syndrome

For Raina and Jessica:

1. One thing that I've gained as a person from my dance training is an appreciation for the process of creating art, as opposed to only focusing on the final product. Yes, it's important for me to create a work that is cohesive and has something to say, and is physically challenging and feels like a complete and cohesive work - but the journey of getting there, of exploring the concept and researching my ideas and experimenting with movement and music and text and props and costuming and set design and lighting and everything else that goes into generating and crafting the final product - that, for me, is where I learn the most about myself as an artist - about where I'm at, my strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to do to move forward and to grow as a dancer, as a choreographer, as a teacher and as a person.

2. To answer your second question - if you want to continue in the dance world, there are many ways of getting started and many paths that you can follow. Working as a choreographer or a dancer or a dance teacher are just a few of the many options. You can also find a place in the dance industry as a dance therapist, arts administrator (dealing with marketing, financing, programming, organizing tours, etc etc), technical director (working in the theatre with lighting and sound)...you can work as a visual artist or musician or storyteller or actor in collboration with a dance company...and those are just the first things that came to my head. The DTRC has a really helpful weekend conference for students and emerging artists, it's called On The Move and is held every year (usually in January) at The Dance Centre in Vancouver, and it deals with all of these questions on how to get started as a dancer. They also have yearly conferences in Montreal and Toronto. For more information, please visit their website.

3. My best experience as a dancer is probably happening right now. I feel like I'm finally being recognized and given credit for all the time and energy that I've put into developing my technique and performance skills and my choreographic voice. And, I'm finally starting to get paid for my work, which feels amazing. It's sad that I had to leave Vancouver in order to find work as a dancer, but it is definitely a reality of working as a dance artist - you will have to travel, like it or not, to find work and to get experience and exposure.

I am definitely enjoying this trip, and will find it difficult to go back to Vancouver and not be dancing every day, and working as a dancer. But, I will be so happy to see my boyfriend and my friends and family again. I miss them all sooo much! And I am also excited to bring everything I've learned here back into my next project with 30Toes, when we start rehearsals in April 2008. I am also hoping to keep working on some of the choreography that I've built here, and to premiere this solo at a venue in Vancouver, possibly Dances for a Small Stage. So I've got a lot to look forward to upon my return, as well.

For Neely and Branae:

1. I was four years old when I started dancing, although I had been in and around dance studios practically since I was born (both of my parents were dancers). I started out with four years of highland dance, and then moved on to jazz and ballet at my mom's studio when I was 8 years old. I continued exploring other styles, training in jazz, ballet, contemporary, musical theatre and character-based work until I was 17 and graduated from highschool moved to Vancouver and enrolled in Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts.

There I trained in ballet (classical and contemporary), modern dance (mostly Graham and Cunningham, with some Limon work in the mix), Alexander release techniques, Laban movement analysis, Bartenieff fundamentals, dance history, and visual/performance arts studies. Since my graduation in 2004, I have been taking professional-level classes at a few locations in Vancouver: CADA contemporary classes at The Dance Centre, ballet, jazz, hip-hop and floor barre at Harbour Dance Centre, and contact improv at EDAM. As I continue my training, I want to focus on diversifying and strengthening my skills in each of these styles.

Photo: Contradiction Dance, on a rehearsal break. (from left, clockwise) Me, Jasmine, Kelly and Damon.

Echo Park Contemporary Ballet Company

I've started a project with the newly formed Echo Park Contemporary Ballet, working with acclaimed Artistic Director and Choreographer Cedric Tillman. The performance is for the company's opening night gala, and we will be showing five short works (three in which I will be dancing). I kind of fell into this gig - Kelly was invited to perform with them as a guest artist, and when she heard they needed another female dancer, she brought me along to rehearsal. We learned one lyrical piece yesterday and will be starting on something new tonight. I'm excited to be working on this project I think that if nothing else it will be a really good networking opportunity, and a chance to get some exposure to the wider dance community.

The event on November 17th is not just a showing of the company's first works, but also an attempt at securing financial backing and support from some of this city's big movers and shakers - the people that make dance happen, from a practical, financial standpoint. It is also an opportunity to get some press, as reviewers from all of the area's major publications will be in attendance.

The work is definitely physically challenging in a way that I'm not used to, having been in contemporary dance world for the past 7 years...I grew up dancing and loving lyrical jazz, so coming back to this style of dance feels like coming home again. But also reminds me that I need to get in better shape to perform this movement to the best of my ability. Rehearsal yesterday was definitely a challenge, after having done so many performances over the weekend. But I got a good sleep last night and now I am ready to go again (although my bruises, blisters and splits would love a few more days to heal).

There is a possibility that this gig might develop into more work in the future, however I'm not making any plans until I have a contract in my hands. Never take on freelance work without a good contract, folks, especially if you don't know the employer - that's just asking to get burned. If you don't understand your contract, ask for some time to have someone else look over it with you, and make sure there are no weird loopholes or stipulations that you don't agree with.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Very Long Week!

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Wow, I'm sorry I haven't updated in so long! This week has been intense...I just finished four shows in the past two days, and have had rehearsal until 11pm almost every night before that. So please darlings, do excuse me if my writing has been a little...sparse. I have much to share but really I don't know where to start! So I will start with tonight's show, which is fresh in my mind.

Contradiction Dance had an amazing performance of Objects of Hope: The America Project. It was a part of a benefit concert for a belly-dancer named Adriana, who needs to get knee replacement surgery but came up $5000 short in funds. Two of the dancers in the community organized a benefit concert and raised the money she needed, and sold out all 230 seats!

The program was very mixed, we were one of a few contemporary dance pieces, mixed in with a lot of belly-dancing and ethnic dance groups. The stage was teeny tiny but we gave it our all and did our best in such cramped quarters. I think that the changes we've made this time through really strengthened the message of the work, and the audience was engaged and present and really "getting it" all the way through.

At one point in the last section of the piece the other dancers pour five buckets of topsoil over my head and then wrap me in the American flag...this was the first time we had actually done a run of the piece using soil, and it got in my eyes and ears and mouth and for a while it was hard to see but I just kept going...finished strong and the audience loved it. We made people cry...and got a standing ovation at the end, which was lovely. With a politically motivated piece like this, I always tend to prepare myself for the worst (ie: a really conservative audience getting angry or offended) and hope for the best. In this case, we definitely got the best. Lots of positive feedback afterwards, which is always so great to hear.

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I should have a video of the performance at some point, but probably not for a while. If you want to see the first draft version of this piece, click through to Kelly's blog (performed at the DC Improv Festival a while back). This version featured Meghan Bowden, getting drenched with buckets of water (the soil was a substitute, because cleanup was supposedly easier than mopping up water...). I actually think that in this space, the soil was probably more visually effective than using water. But it was hard to tell from the inside of the piece. The next version will have us falling and rolling in red white and blue paint on stage, and then the paint being washed away by splashing buckets of water.

Messy work, but fun...I am excited to finally show the work on a real stage, in a theatre, with lighting and sound technicians and lots of space and the full prop requirements. We will be doing a residency at St Mary's College in December, performing on their stage every night and possibly teaching classes during the day.

I feel like I am all over the place lately, in a good way...our show on Friday was Broadway Jazz at the Ritz Carlton (oh, such funny backstage pictures!) and the two shows this morning were site-specific performances at the Takoma Park Community Center with the Dance Exchange. Next week I will be assisting Peter Dimuro in remounting Gumdrops and Funny Uncles, a Dance Exchange project celebrating families of all kinds. More on all of this to come soon. Believe it or not I am actually getting some of my evenings off this week, so I will have more time to write!

Sometimes I am amazed at the ability of my brain and body to multitask as much as I need them to...

Photos from the DC Improv Festival version of Objects of Hope: The America Project, courtesy of Anthony Hytt.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Video Post: Solo, Work in Progress



This is one of two solos that I am creating right now. This one is an assignment by the Dance Exchange's Associate Artistic Director, Elizabeth Johnson: creating a solo to be performed as a part of the site-specific performance next Sunday, October 20th.

This work is inspired by writings of Takoma Park's Poet Laureate Anne Becker, whose work is often tied to ideas of place and physical presence, examining the effect of the earth and the environment on the people who inhabit it, and our effect on the physicality of the world. While I was generating this movement phrase, I was working with the concrete structure of moving between round and crescent shapes in my body - and more abstractly, examining through movement the cyclical nature of stabilization and adaptation that occurs in the earth and in human beings. There is another section of the work that was initially generated by using Build-a-Phrase, collecting movements as Anne was speaking about her poem Berry Hollow, stylizing and shaping those gestures into a short phrase. I don't have a video of that part yet.

The next step for the section shown in the video is to find the places where the free flow can be stopped, changed, or broken - to explore using sharpness, bound flow and stillness to break up the rhythm.

Next week Anne and I have decided to meet up and chat about poetry - she has graciously agreed to read some of my work and give me some advice...very excited and also nervous, this will be the first time I've had an accomplished poet read my writing and give me feedback.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Site Specific Institute: Progress Report (Day 1)


I thought that some of you may be interested in hearing a bit more about the site specific process, the tools we've used during our institute, and what we've managed to build so far. We've already done three sessions so I am a little behind in my documentation, but better late than never, I always say.

Day 1: We began the day with an exercise very similar to "Follow the Leader". In groups of three, we explored the outer periphery of the Takoma Park Community Center, experiencing different ways of moving in and interacting with this environment. An interesting observation was the effect of the physicality of the space on the dancer's choices: in places (like the railings) where the feature was big enough to accomodate more than one person, the movement ended up being done in unison...if the object of focus was small (like tracing a sign) then dancers were forced to choose between waiting for the leader to finish and move on before repeating the action (thereby creating a canon effect) or performing the action in unison, but in a different relationship to the space.

Our next exercise was a tool called Detail. This tool is widely used at the Dance Exchange, and is a great way to create movement based on our observations of the physical environment. Click the link for more information about Detail. At the community centre, we looked at the space on three different planes: floor level, horizon or eye level, and ceiling level. We picked one detail about each level of the space, and put the shape or texture or other characteristics of that physical detail into our body somehow, in movement. At the end of this exercise, we had generated a short phrase of three movements. (When working with this and other tools, keep in mind that each "movement" can be as long as you want, but needs to have a clear beginning, middle and end.)



After Detail, we generated another short movement phrase using an exercise that I call Build-a-Phrase: Questions. This is a variant of the Build-a-Phrase tool in which the group leader asks questions and the participants answer the questions and create movement based on the answers given. The questions we worked with all had to do with the idea of a person leaving an imprint on a place, or a place leaving an imprint on a person.

The exercise goes like this: everyone walks around the room, finding a partner. The leader poses a question. Each partner answers the question, then turns away from each other and creates a movement. You can create your movement based on your own answer or your partners' answer, or the question itself. Repeat with a new partner and a new question, as many times as you like. Each time a new movement is generated, take a few moments to link it with the previous movements, to create a phrase.


These question phrases were cut and pasted together in partners to create a duet phrase in a space of your choice indoors. Our assignment for the day was to take these phrases and perform them in two places outside of the community centre, working with the idea of public/private space and it's effect on movement. We were asked to do the phrase in the shower/bathtub and in a public space of our choosing. I chose the top of a jungle gym on a kids' playground. I would show you the video, but for some reason it's not working properly.

We were allowed to let the movement change in whatever ways were necessary (ie if you were really shy about doing your phrase in, say, the supermarket - then it may become a very small contained phrase using only your fingers). In my case, my shower is tiny so that changed a lot of the limb extensions and made it more about the torso. Also, the playground had lots of cool things to use when shifting my weight, so the movement became very off-centre. The challenge was to recreate those changes when we got back into the community centre the next day.

But more on that later....

Photos: images from around the Takoma Park Community Center.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Site Specific Institute: Skateboard Dances

Elizabeth Johnson and I have been working on a skateboarding section for the Dance Exchange's site specific institute. The skaters we are working with are slalom skateboarders, and they are really really good at what they do. We are throwing some dancers into the mix, who will be acting as cones for the skaters to go around.

Our first session was today - we set a sequence of passes for the skaters to do, a sequence of movements for the dancers to do, and are still trying to figure out how it will all work together. Timing will be key.

We are putting this on at the Takoma Park Community Center - in the lower parking lot, which is mainly used by the police cars (the police station is on the lower level of the building). We talked with some of the cops today and they were just about as accommodating as possible, even offering to shut down the lot for us to use on the day of the show. I never thought I would see the day when the cops would give up their space to some skateboarders....the power of dance, people! It brings communities together.

Here are some pictures from our rehearsal today. The skaters are Mike and Earl, from the DC Outlaws. They just returned from the World Championships and we feel very lucky to have them participating in this performance! We will have two more skaters and six dancers working together for this section.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Video Post: Chair Dances

I'm creating a solo for a performance on October 20th. It will be shown as a section of Objects of Hope: The America Project, by Contradiction Dance. If you look down one post, you'll see another work-in-progress section, a duet between me and Kelly Mayfield.



The movement phrases seen in these video clips are improvisations, generating movement that will soon be crafted into something that hopefully makes sense within the larger concept of the work.



I was working with the idea of my home as my object of hope, and with the chair as representative of that home. I was also trying to see how many different ways I could fit my body into and around the chair, and how that would inform the movement possibilities.

Kelly's concept is "reclaiming her patriotism" by asking questions about the state of America as a political, cultural and social entity. Where are our priorities, and why? Coming into this process as an outsider - a Canadian, with some pretty negative views on the current state of America - I am trying to see how I fit into this structure, and how my perspective can be integrated into the work.



Part of my thought process is "yes, I'm an American by birth (I have dual citizenship) but don't identify with that part of me. Partially because I grew up in Canada, partially because I don't agree with a lot of what goes on here, don't see "The Great American Dream" as having anything to do with me or my goals or my lifestyle. But I think that a lot of peopl that live here feel the same way, and are looking for a way to find some sense of pride in their country - either returning to a feeling they have since lost, or finding something in the concept of America to believe in for the first time.



I personally think that if you don't believe in what your country stands for - if you can't find pride in that - then you have to question how things can change, how you can personally effect that change to make your country a place in which you feel proud to live. And that goes for any country, anywhere - not just the US of A.



I also feel that we as artists have a responsibility to use our voices to effect change - and that change happens first and foremost in the mindset of individuals. Yes, it can be daunting and overwhelming to try and change the whole system starting from scratch - but not impossible. At least that's what I'd like to think, in my idealistic state of today (while my cynical side is shaking its head in disbelief).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Video Post: Me and Kelly's Duet


A first draft version of a duet between myself and Kelly Mayfield. This was the product of about an hour's work, and will be incorporated into a larger work, Objects of Hope: The America Project, for a performance with Contradiction Dance on October 20th.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Video Post: Footsie

I've been fiddling around in the studio coming up with some movement ideas for a solo work. I'm choreographing a solo that will end up being a part of Contradiction Dance's Objects of Hope: The America Project, to be performed on October 20th at a benefit concert. After about an hour of playing around with the chair (while filming the improv, some of which I'll post later), I decided to stick the camera on the ground and see what might come of that. This is what happened.



I'm thinking of turning this little kernel of an idea into a short film. Matt Mahaney and Cassie Meador just finished working a film for the DC Improv Festival, and I'm thinking of getting some help/advice from them on this project. It may not be something that I can fully realize while I'm here, but I at least want to get started.

If you'd like to view their film, you can see it here.

Offsite and Insight

"One site holds the view and possibilities of another site. A body identifies itself and its dwelling place counting the years, its history, in the remembered lines of a smile or furrowed brow, layers of strata, rings of growth, and turning pages. They all have a story to tell."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Q & A Period #2



Alrighty, I'm back! This Q&A Post is for Eva, Jordi and Cori. You can see their questions here.

1. I am definitely enjoying teaching at the Dance Exchange! It is a departure from the classes that I normally teach, and I feel like I am growing as an instructor, learning new methods, exercises and ways of explaining basic concepts. Last year, I was teaching about 25 classes a week, with no days off - preschool dance, pre-ballet, beginner ballet, jazz and hip-hop - and after a while I felt overworked and under-inspired. I felt like I was doing the same things over and over again, and that I was losing interest. I knew that I was a good teacher, but that I wasn't always giving my students the best I could - I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Right now I am teaching about 8 classes every week - to preschoolers, youths, teens and adults. The variety of ages really excites me, as does the subject matter and the experience of teaching alongside other instructors. Co-teaching is amazing, it is so helpful to have someone else in the room with ideas and exercies I've never tried, or new ways of teaching concepts that I already know. I am not teaching as much technique as usual, I am more focused on leading choreography/composition classes. It's a nice, refreshing change, and presents a whole set of new challenges, adapting to these new parameters.

2. My favorite kind of dance is contemporary. Funny side note - seems like the label "contemporary dance" may be a Canadian thing? Everybody here uses the term "modern dance", something I never hear at home, except when referring to a very specific period of dance history.

3/4. Hmm, another question about inspiration. This one I'll tackle at a slightly different angle. I grew up in a family of artists, with two parents who were dancers. As far as I can remember, I always loved dancing, loved moving to music. When I was a kid, my mom opened up her studio - Burns Lake Ballet-Jazz, which was initially called KidzUp Dance - and I studied there until I was 18. Once I had started, there was no question of quitting. For more on inspiration and motivation to keep dancing, please click here.

5. I can't think of anyone whom I would consider my idol. I feel like everyone has something unique to offer, that we all stand apart from the crowd in some way. One person who has always been a huge support to my dance career is my mom, and I will always appreciate the help she's given me.

6. My favorite dancer? Hmm...again, every dancer has something special to offer. I guess if I was going to choose someone, it would be Margie Gillis. She is such a beautiful, amazing mover, with an astounding solo career as a performer and choreographer. She can be sitting on stage - just sitting - and it's absolutely captivating. I took a workshop with her a couple of years ago and was a bit starstruck...she has a very eccentric, unusual personality, to say the least.

Photo: Tony Olivares' The Traveller, at the DC Improv Festival. Tony is a fellow Canadian :)

October is Here!

Wow, my first post of October. Already a month has gone by in my apprenticeship, two more to go before I head home to continue dancing in Vancouver (and maybe Europe this spring)...

I just wanted to quickly say how much I enjoyed this weekend's performances - Friday with Contradiction Dance, and Monday's show at U. of Maryland, my first performance with The Dance Exchange. In both instances I really felt included in the group - I feel like I fit in so well here, that everyone has accepted me into their world and that it's really a place where I can be myself and grow as an artist and as a person. Making so many new friends is wonderful.

It's also really nice to work with such a large cast (on The Farthest Earth From Thee). Vancouver companies tend to limit their casts (mostly due to budget concerns) to a maximum of four or five dancers. Working with a group of 10 or 12 people was a great experience.

Tonight Kelly's rehearsal process starts up again, in preparation for an October 20th performance. I am going to be creating a solo for myself that will be included in the work, and possibly developing a duet with Kelly...

Tonight is also the first session of a site-specific intensive, that will culminate on October 20th with a matinee performance at Takoma Park Community Centre. Yes, I have two shows in one day - one daytime, and one evening. That is going to be a looong day.

Photo: Miss Madeleine, watching rehearsals. She had a cameo appearance in FEFT as Cupid, and did a wonderful job.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Video Post: On The Verge, in rehearsal

I am currently rehearsing a piece by the lovely Samantha Speis, choreographed on Gesel Mason's company, Gesel Mason Performance Projects. Sam also works as an adjunct with the Dance Exchange, and Gesel is a former company member who still works with them from time to time. She just got back from touring Ferocious Beauty: Genome to Toronto, and was kind enough to stop in and give us some rehearsal notes after watching a few runs of what we'd learned so far.

This is my second rehearsal with Samantha, and I am still learning the movement sequences and trying to get them "into my body". So what you see here is definitely rough and needs a lot of work. The choreography is beautiful, when Sam does it...on us - not quite as brilliant. It's a huge departure from the way my body likes to move...but every time I do it, things feel better and better.

Still going to be sore tomorrow, though. My triceps are feeling the burn from moving into and out of the floor.

I'm the dancer in the turquoise teeshirt, in the middle. To my right (closer to the camera) is Laura. Or maybe Lora? Lauren? Sorry, we just met today and I'm horrid with names. To my left is Meghan, also an adjunct artist with the Dance Exchange, and working with Kelly's company, Contradiction Dance. I know, so much overlap, it gets confusing...everyone is working with/for everyone else, it's rare to find a dancer or choreographer who only works with one company. Yet another reason why making connections, networking is sooo important.

video

This is the beginning of the piece.

video

This section happens closer to the end.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Video Post: DC Improv Festival, Daniel Burkholder / The Playground

This is installment #1 of a series of video shot at the DC Improvisation Festival today. Last night I performed with Contradiction Dance as a part of said festival, and the show went really, really well. One of Kelly's collaborators, Boris (of Danceaday.com) filmed the performance for us, and he's going to make Kelly a copy which hopefully she will be able to pass on to me.

For now, I've got a bunch of video of artists from here and elsewhere (including another Canadian - yay!) dancing around 9th and G streets. It feels good that I'm starting to get to know artists from around this city, and to see their work in action. One thing I will say, however - out of all the work I saw in this festival, I liked Kelly's piece the best. :) And not just because I was in it.



This video is of Daniel Burkholder / The Playground. Daniel and Co performed right after us on Friday night. Their work was mainly composed of pedestrian movements and incorporated a lot of moments of stillness contrasted with fast, furious traveling around the space. I've included the section that I found to be the most interesting/engaging.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Q & A Period #1

I've gotten some great questions from the dance students at LDSS, and I"m going to attempt to answer them in a few new posts instead of in the comments. If you'd like to read the questions, you can find most of them here (some of them I got via email).

Ok, here we go...this post is for Megan, Katie and Candice:

1. I am inspired first and foremost by my love of dancing...because to me, I don't feel complete unless I am moving and creating. Loving what I do is essential to my happiness and well-being, and to put it very simply - I cannot imagine not dancing. There have been times in my life where I've went months without going to dance class or getting into the studio to generate movement and rehearse...and I was miserable. Utterly miserable. However, I will say this - no dancer can exist in a world all by his/herself. I am constantly building a support network of people and organizations who I can turn to if I am in need of inspiration, motivation or just a good kick in the ass to get me back on track. Immersing myself in my art is hugely inspiring, especially when I'm in a new setting, meeting new people and forging new connections.

I am inspired by those around me, by my peers and my students and my mentors and members of my audience...by artists I've never met, whose work I've admired from afar. Seeing other choreographers' work is very important for me - it's a way to get new ideas, be exposed to new concepts and methods, to see if I might be interested in working with them at some point in the future, and to just get a feel for what else is out there...locally, nationally and internationally.

Not only am I inspired by other dance professionals and people working in the industry, I am inspired by random events in everyday life, by things I see in the media, by experiences in life that show me just how important the arts are to society, and how great the need is for people who are willing to devote their lives to creating and presenting art in all its many forms. I try to always keep a notebook on hand where I can quickly jot down ideas and inspirations for choreography, whether it's a leaf floating to the ground or an old man slowly shuffling along the sidewalk, or a song on the radio.

2. I always wanted to be a dancer, but I wasn't born with a body that was made for dancing. Compared to a lot of professional dancers, my flexibility (especially in my hips, back and feet) isn't that great. I knew that I was starting with a physical disadvantage, and I worked damned hard for every extra inch of turnout, every little bit of flexibility. It didn't come easy, but giving up was never an option. Still isn't an option.

Over the 21 years that I've been dancing I've had a lot of really wonderful people give me a lot of positive feedback and constructive criticism. I've also had quite a few reality checks, where I had to realize that my body sometimes just isn't made for some things, like going up en pointe (a horrible disappointment at age 13). I always had my mom behind me, pushing me to live up to my potential...and after I moved to Vancouver, I had many amazing teachers who did the same thing, never letting me get lazy or content with my abilities and accomplishments.

Dance is an art form rooted in the body, and supported by daily training.....hours and hours of training. It's not something you can do professionally if you're not working your ass off in the studio and outside of it, every day, keeping your instrument at its peak. Well, thats not entirely true. You can be a professional dancer without training every day. But you won't have as wide a variety of options or opportunities if you don't have the physicality to support the choreographer's vision. Unfortunately, companies like the Dance Exchange are few and far between.

So yeah, to answer your question (sorry I tend to ramble off on tangents) I would say yes and no. Yes I always wanted it and knew that if I worked hard enough it was a possibility...but no I wasn't sure if life would work out that way. And in some ways (when I was first beginning to dance, in pink leotard and black tights at Kidz-Up Dance in the Anglican Church Hall...my mom can tell you about that one) it seemed like such a faraway dream that I might as well have wanted to go to the moon. Once I started competing and, in highschool, started winning competitions and getting really encouraging remarks from adjudicators - that was when I seriously started thinking that I had the ability to succeed as a dancer. In university I began exploring my choreographic inspirations, and realized that I not only wanted to dance for others, I also wanted to create, to see a work through from concept to rehearsals to performance.

And as a side note, I often feel that I haven't accomplished enough - that I'm "getting old" and need to work as hard as I possibly can right now so that I get a really solid career as a performer under my belt while my body is still at its peak of physical ability. I feel that I have a lot of growing to do, as a performer and a choreographer and as an instructor, and that I need to invest as much time as is humanly possible into getting that experience so that I can continue to expand my artistic horizons.

3. Hmmm...I would say (especially after getting to know the folks at the Dance Exchange) that there is a place for everyone in dance. If you love it and are willing to dedicate your time and energy to it, there is a place for you where you can excel. There are so many many aspects of the dance insustry that you can excel in - not only is there dancing and choreographing, there is dance therapy, arts administration, teaching dance in schools/studios/community centres, dance and technology, dance photography, dance history, dance writing, movement-based research, community-based dance, dance presenting, marketing/PR, technical support, management...the list goes on and on. You just have to really look into your heart and discover what it is that you really love to do, what it is that you are really good at, and what you have to offer to yourself and to the rest of the world. And then, you have to do your research and figure out where you need to go, and who you need to know to make that happen.

Dance, like many things, is all about who you know. You can be a beautiful dancer and if you have no support network, no connections, you will have a really difficult time "making it" - not matter which path you choose. Networking, "schmoozing" as some call it, is key, especially once you get into the professional dance community. Get your name and face out there - get people to know who you are, know your name and your work, and acknowledge that you have something of value to offer them and the community at large...

For now, work as hard as you can, stay healthy and work safely, keep your body strong and flexible and keep your mind focused on your goals but also open to explore other avenues. One of the biggest things about working in dance is that you really have to be flexible, because plans could change at any moment...new opportunities open up without warning, and if you're not in a position where you are willing and able to take the chance on something that may be new and a bit scary (like moving to DC) then you'll really be closing doors on your own career. One thing leads to another, but if you don't take that first scary step you'll never know what you may have missed out on.

Photo: me playing with my auto-timer at the Dance Exchange.

...will answer the next set of questions very soon. Stay tuned! :)

Contradiction Dance: Objects of Hope: The America Project (First Draft)



So this isn't going to be the most creative post, because it is almost midnight and I have to get up early for company class tomorrow...but I really want to let everyone know that I'm performing with Kelly Mayfield's compan
y Contradiction Dance, at the Martin Luther King library in downtown DC, tomorrow at 6:00pm! And everyone that's reading this who is in the DC area should totally come and see me! Here is the info, cut and pasted from the email because I am lazy.

I will be back soon with a more thoughtful post about the work, and my role in it.

Performances:

Objects of Hope: America - First Draft
Part of the DC Improvisation Festival
Friday, Sept 28th 6 pm
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
901 G Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
FREE!!

Save the Dates:
October 20th, 6pm
Objects of Hope: This Voice
Tribute to Adriana
Tickets? contact: Mitra@NileDanceStudio.com

December 5-8th 8pm, 9th 2pm
Objects of Hope: Planet
Dancing on the Earth
Tickets? Box Office at 240-895-4243 (ext. 4243), or e-mail: boxoffice@smcm.edu

Objects of Hope:

I NEED YOUR HELP!!! Yes, that's right, you... all of you. This project, Objects of Hope, will be a movement, sound, and visual display of our personal objects of hope. We all have them, they are all personal, and they are quite different, sometimes rare, and truly wonderful. However, we barely talk about or celebrate them. Last year was a look back in order to move forward... well, it's time to move forward. Join me.

Please respond to the following questions as you see fit. (pictures/drawings/sound/words/movement/etc.)

1. What are your objects of hope?

2. Why? Is there a particular story for any or all?

3. How do you celebrate/remember your Objects of Hope?

4. Anything else to share?

Many thanks for your time and willingness to share your experiences. Please request anonymity if you desire it. This project will include your stories, those shared by youth in both studio & outreach settings, college students, friends, family, and strangers. Who knows where this path will lead... forward as you like.

About Contradiction Dance:

Contradiction Dance is a place where theatre meets dance meets pop-culture. The company's vision is to make dances that report on, reflect, and question the world in which we live. Nurtured on the belief that artists and audience members communicate in a dialogue through the chosen medium, Contradiction Dance fosters discussion, reflection, and change through live performance and dance education.

Founded in 2006 by Artistic Director, Kelly Mayfield, Contradiction Dance blends several dance forms (modern, hip-hop, tap, and jazz elements) with aspects of storytelling, and theatre. This eclectic mix, fused by the direct purpose of theme, allows the company to create an exchange between art and life for audiences, performers, and collaborators. The company members are not simply dancers, they are artists; each contributes greatly to the process and the final product. Each has invested in their message, the desire to share it, and the study, practice and performance of the craft they bring to Contradiction Dance. For more information or to book a performance, workshop, or master class, please contact: Kelly Mayfield at contradictiondance@mac.com.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Farthest Earth From Thee: De-Exceptionalizing Disabilities in Performance


One of the projects I've been involved in is a show called The Farthest Earth From Thee. The project was commissioned in spring of 2007 by VSA Arts, and is a full-length production featuring a mixed-abilities cast of company and guest dancers. This FREE performance will be a "animated keynote" - a selection of excerpts from the production, accompanied by a discussion of the work led by Producing Artistic Director Peter Dimuro.

The creation process was highly collaborative. Peter acted as Artistic Lead on this work, crafting the movement generated by the entire cast. The movement was inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets - movement was generated by the sounds, metaphors, relationships and multiple meanings embodied in his work. The end product is a mix of dance and theatre, incorporating movement, music, character and spoken text.

During the Generating Dances institute that I attended in January 2007, we were exploring the beginnings of the idea that evolved into this work, playing with creating compositions inspired by words, and expanding on these initial phrases to generate longer, more detailed movement sequences. We used a lot of the toolbox exercises, which helped me to push beyond my comfort zone and experiment with new ideas and new ways of transferring those concepts into physicality.

This process really came in handy when I got back home to Vancouver, where I was working with 30Toes to create Between The Lines, a work inspired by the text found in children's literature.



All that said, it's interesting to come back to this project, now that the work is finished and has premiered, and is being remounted for another performance. It's intriguing to see where they've taken the initial ideas, and how it has evolved into a strong, cohesive work that really brings out the best in all of the cast members.

It's a new experience for me to be working with such a diverse group of performers, and I'm really enjoying getting to know everyone and finding new inspirations in the ways people - including myself - move beyond their physical or mental or emotional to come together and create something really amazing.


One thing that I love about the Dance Exchange is their ability to help people find value in their own physicality, in their own movement. To really accept who they are and what they have the ability to create, and to see it as beautiful, regardless of their body type or training or background. It bothers me that dance (and especially contemporary dance) is often very elitist, only acknowledging movers and ways of moving that conform to certain standards of virtuosity and technical prowess.

We have three performers in wheelchairs, one survivor of polio who has minimal mobility in his arms and hands, one performer with Downs' Syndrome, performers who are visually impaired, and many others (like myself) whose disabilities are less visible (but still there, nonetheless). And one cute li'l puppy dog, with cupid wings. Instead of thinking of a mixed abilities cast as a group of people with extra limitations, I like to think of this experience as a phenomenal opportunity to create something completely new and different from anything I've ever seen before - and that's exactly what they've done. In a way, having a structure like this to work in challenges you to make new and more interesting choices about movement and how the movement is presented to the audience.


It's also interesting to see how different people's movement looks and feels when transplanted to a differently-abled body...for example, Elver's movement uses a lot of swing and momentum from the back and shoulder to move his arms, which is a radically different choice than one I would have made - and probably not something I would have experienced had he not been there to create that specific phrase. I'm incredibly appreciative to everyone who participated in this work, for giving me a chance to meet them all and work with them in the process of remounting it for another performance. (And I'm sorry in advance if I run you over with my bike during the show! I promise, I'll be careful...)

Anyways. This show in particular is family-friendly and super-accessible, ensuring that all audience members will find a way to enjoy the performance. It is being held in honor of National Disabilities Awareness Month. We've got an ASL interpreter dancing and signing on stage (he's great!) as well as audio description, captioning, assistive listening, and the availability of programs in Braille and large print. Pretty cool, eh?

The show is happening on Monday October 1st at 4:30pm at the following location:

University of Maryland
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Robert and Arlene Kogon Studio Theatre

University Boulevard and Stadium Drive

College Park, MD


The show is completely free of charge! Hope to see you there!

Photos from The Farthest Earth From Thee, in rehearsal.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Toolbox in Action: A Week in Review


As I mentioned before, a big part of my apprenticeship has been co-teaching various classes at the Dance Exchange. One of the classes that I'm helping out with is "Community in Creation" on Saturday mornings. Today we only had two participants attend - Dorothy and Bob - so we decided to move around a bit and then tack on an extra class at the end of the session to make up for the missed hour.

Peter led us through an exercise that was new to all of us...he didn't have a name for it, so I've decided to title it "A Week in Review". Here it is, step by step (bear in mind that you could always adjust these steps, add your own, find new ways of exploring this idea):

1. Begin by walking around the room, thinking back on the previous week.

2. Find a place of stillness. Focus on the first day of that week. Pick a place in the room and move over to that place at your own time, continuing to go over the events, feelings, thoughts, actions that you associate with that day. Incorporate some movement into your pathway that comes out of your thoughts, etc.

3. Repeat this six more times, once for every day of the week.

4. Find a partner and tell them about your week, however you like. You may find yourself incorporating some of the movement you just explored into your story, you may not. You can give a brief overview of the whole week, or focus on one key aspect of your experiences. Listen to your partner's story and pay attention to the words and movements that stand out for you.

5. Change partners and repeat. Notice whether or not your story changes, and if so, how? Try to make sure that you have a turn telling your story first as well as second, and see how it may be affected by first listening to what your partner has to say.

6. Change partners one last time and repeat. Again, take note of movements, gestures, words, anything that catches your attention.

7. Everyone comes together in a circle, and we share which moveents, text, feelings etc stood out during this exercise. These collected movements can then be used to build a phrase, can be scripted, can be layered with the text...the collected words or sentences can be used to create a Movement Metaphor or Equivalents phrase, just to name a few more tools that could be used at "the next steps" in this composition exercise...

For more information on the Dance Exchange toolbox, click here. You may need to register, but it's free and only takes a few seconds!
Photo: The Farthest Earth from Thee, a rehearsal shot. The camera crew was filming footage for a promotional/educational DVD and material to go up on the website.
Peter was Artistic Lead on this work, which was developed using many of the D.Ex tools, and is currently in the remounting process for an "animated keynote" performance next month. What's an animated keynote? Stay tuned for all the details.