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.

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.

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