On the last day of our process, we spent some time solidifying our score thus far and coming up with a way to end it for the final showing. During this process, we clarified the physicality of my role. In particular, we focused on how the sections/tasks were distinct from each other through the body. About halfway through, we decided that what was missing was the contrast that used to exist between Megan and me which became lost as I began to focus more and more on the psychological angle of adhering to the tasks.
Once again, I recalled Angie’s advice about letting go of certain tasks or directives when they are not serving me. The gist of what I was hearing from Sabrina in our discussion about physicality was that I needed to turn down the nobs of my adherence to the psychological tasks and turn up the nobs of my physical individuality. While I could certainly do this, I expressed to her that if felt like an entirely different dance. However, I think it ultimately led to a more interesting physical dynamic in the final version of our score.
Additionally, I feel that part of what shaped the emotional tone of my role in this dance was the new ending that we solidified on our last day together. Namely, we shortened my involvement in the final caught phrase and inserted a slow-motion shift from the seated position to the lying down position where Megan and I both end. To achieve this slow-motion, I drew from discussions in Dance Dynamics with Professor Melanie Bales regarding “sustainment” in LMA as feeling like you “have all the time in the world” to complete the given movement. This sense of calm informed everything that came before that moment in my final performance of the score.
Here is a video of our score on the last day (before the new ending):
After the showing on April 11, 2014, I had some lingering questions about my role within the dance. Because of the way Sabrina had chosen to have us end, I felt a sudden drop from the time between where I stop and where Megan stops. Suddenly, I became a different character, and I wasn’t yet sure how to make sense of this. Once the “tracking” task is over, who am I? I feel that my persona in this dance is very much defined by the task itself due to the fact that Megan is (on some level) driving all of my movement choices. In the absence of this, I found myself simply waiting for her to join me with a certain amount of anxiety. For me personally, this became a new point of departure.
How much of myself am I putting into the dance? On this day, perhaps I was putting in none of myself. After working on the score for some time, it began to feel a bit like a game or a puzzle to solve. Lately as a performer, I tend to be very interested in my own psychology and how I can get inside the head of whoever is directing me. Getting inside Sabrina’s head was a bit difficult, giving rise to a more methodical and focused adherence to the task/s on my part. In doing so, I had lost a bit of myself within the dance.
Going back to Angie’s comment about letting tasks go if they are not serving you, I realized that I had been reluctant to actually take her advice. Because of my approach, there came a point where I felt like the emotional tone of being burdened by layered and/or contradictory tasks was an important part of my role in the dance. In discussion with my group, I referred to this as a “war of the tasks” inside my brain.
On April 12, I decided it would be helpful to make a map of my score. I think the map is a reflection of my psychological dance. Here is a photo:
On March 28th, we began to solidify our “performative anchors” as a group. This became a rather messy process from my perspective. It was difficult to find things within this particular score which I could really anchor myself to on a physical level. Because of my specific tasks, the physicality of my role tends to depend heavily on each individual day, my own mood, and the energy of the room. After grappling with this for a while, I realized that my performative anchors would, therefore, have to be purely psychological. This approach eventually worked much better for me in order to make sense of the score. Perhaps the cognitive processes of my brain are the actual dance, and everything else that the audience sees is secondary.
On March 26th, my group had the privilege of having Angie Hauser as outside eye in Kat’s absence. Her fresh perspective on our established collaboration brought a lot of new ideas to what we were working with as a group. Early on, she wanted to jump into the score to feel what my role was like from the inside. It was interesting to see her interpretation of how the score was relayed to her verbally lead to so many new emergent patterns and ideas.
The biggest thing from my perspective was the idea of uniformity. Angie took on the “tracking” task much more strictly than I had been taking it on. This manifested itself in more/longer moments of unison as well as more similar spatial patterns where Angie was right on Megan’s tail. From this observation, our group began working with “uniformity” as one of our core ideas, where I would have to pay close attention to Megan’s impulses in order to anticipate her actions and find moments of unison.
Another important insight from Angie was how we attend to the task at hand as dancers. Perhaps during an improvisation score we can pick and choose which directives are serving the score at any given moment and allow ourselves to let other tasks go. This is something Sabrina continued to remind me of at various points in our process.
We also discussed the issue of where we start and stop the score energetically. Is it possible to place ourselves part way through the score at the very beginning, thus skipping the build up?
This video that Megan shared with our group is a clip from an experimental film by Jordan Belson. When I first watched the clip, I wasn’t sure how it related to my experience in the dance we were making, which made me realize that I hadn’t really been attending to spatial patterns at all while inside of the score. I feel that my role within the dance doesn’t lend itself well to being able to zoom out and see the bigger picture. Only after the score has ended can I reflect on what happened and where I was spatially. In this sense, I’m at the mercy of Megan, which is probably why she felt a strong connection with the visual effect of the dance. In many ways she is orchestrating both of our physical and spatial decisions. It was useful to view this video clip as insight on what she feels she is orchestrating.
I’ve been very interested lately in the different ways I can personally inhabit a dance. I think at first during this process, I tried hard to look at the big picture and the details all at once, which is somewhat impossible because of my specific tasks. Thinking about it in terms of this video: Am I an observer watching the specks move in, out, and around? Or am I myself a speck orbiting Megan as part of a larger machine (the dance)? Looking at it through this second lens makes me feel completely insignificant in an exhilarating way.
The weekend after our first week together as a group, I found myself reflecting a bit on the different meanings of seeing/watching. This song came up on itunes shuffle, and for some reason I heard it much differently than I had before the interactions with my group.
Specifically, I began to see Son Jarocho (the genre of this song) through the lens of sight and seeing. The recurring couplet of this song can be translated as:
“I like milk and I like coffee
But I don’t like your eyes.”
Based on my extensive research on Son Jarocho and the practice of zapateado, it seems to me that the acts of seeing/being watched are constant themes of the tradition in several ways. What kind of art is created when your oppressor is watching your every move? Here are the main connections I made to seeing/being watched in Son Jarocho after reflecting through this lens:
- mimicry as a primary mode of transmission (for both musicians and dancers)
- the covert subversiveness of the genre as a form of colonial slave resistance (i.e. double-entendre, extensive use of colloquial slang & complex metaphor/allegory, zapateado on the Tarima as a makeshift drum during the hand-drum ban, etc.)
- improvised call-and-response as a parallel to our group’s collective understanding of “tracking”
Most important for me is the general sense of having constant awareness of the oppressor, made explicit by this particular folk song. All other Son Jarocho standards are decidedly more subtle, and yet (in my opinion) this awareness of the oppressor gives rise to all the most interesting aspects of the genre.