Jurassic Performance Spaces

I came across an article on dance and media artist Jonah Bokaer and his views on the future of modern dance (I’ll post the original article in the comments section if anyone is interested). In one of his most quotable moments he brought up some of his past experiences with more traditional dance companies, and it really struck me as all too familiar:

“Directors of a modern-dance company once advised me to lose weight. Which is fine — it was their company, they governed how they wished. But I also think dance companies are sort of a Jurassic creation. You could spend money preserving fossils, too, I suppose…but actually, fossils get better funding than dance companies.”

Yes, the whole weight issue is often the elephant in the room, and for another day, another blog. Or many many blogs because as a dancer and personal trainer I’ve got a lot to say about it… But what I admire most about this artist is that he doesn’t just talk about how modern dance companies can be archaic, stale, blah blah blah. He actually creates his work in new mediums that push the envelope and extend new visions for what modern dance could look like. Yes, traditional performance spaces can and should stick around because there are so many positive experiences embedded in live theater… But why not additionally find NEW performance spaces to relate to how people interact to dance TODAY?

Bokaer created a dance using an iPad as his performance space. I posted this video rather than the app itself because you can see a little of the action behind the scenes and get an idea of how it works. Also, I didn’t buy the app yet because it’s 99 cents…. Yes I may be cheap, but don’t forget I’m a dancer and not a paleontologist… :)

home alone

There is nothing more exciting to me than seeing really beautiful and well known touring companies dabbling in the realm of choreography for the camera. Batsheva is pretty great at keeping their fans up to date with rehearsal and promo videos, but this is the first dance film I have seen come from them… Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, and send links because I’ll eat it up!

I can’t lie. I have seen this type of non-descript, abandoned concrete house as the location for many a dance film… there’s always at least one at a film festival. It’s kind of like hearing “Fever” at a dance competition back in the day… but I don’t mind a bit of been-there-done-that if it is coming from a company as exquisite as Batsheva… I can’t wait to see the whole thing. I’m sure it will be THE abandoned concrete house film at this year’s festivals…

and we’re back

I started this blog in grad school as a way of procrastinating… I think I was really successful because I got pretty behind on work and was a total madwoman towards the end.. Hence my last post was over 10 months ago…

If there was anything that I learned from my MFA it was how to be aware of the fact that you bit off more than you could chew, and then just keep going anyway. During the same time that my thesis paper and film were coming to a close (the most hectic time of course), I took on a side project with a dear friend and collaborator from my NY days, Grant Lancaster. He is a spoken word artist and a brilliant actor, and although he was coming up on his own deadlines, we couldn’t pass up one last opportunity to collaborate in grad school. Even on the nights we were in the studio well past midnight, knowing that we had to wake up and teach the undergrads at 8 am the next day, neither of us complained that it was too much. There is something about creating a dance from scratch that is so intrinsically motivating.. As my hubby always says… If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. For dancers, we still have to work on the side… But once I get wrapped up in the creative process it becomes a welcomed escape from all the other work I know I should be doing…

Sort of like this blog… (I should really be applying for jobs right now…)

When Grant and I had our first rehearsal, another dear friend of mine, Gina Carli, had her own project she was working on… She was creating a video for her dance & technology class, and decided that she wanted her target audience to be YOU, the choreblography readers…. It may be a few months later, but I thought there was no better video to get started back up with. She was able to capture those early days before we knew what the piece was shaping up to be, and no amount of writing could really encapsulate the process as well as she was able to do with video. So there it is.. that’s my cue to stop talking, and just let you watch… :)

room writing

I’ve been doing a bit of research on Forsythe’s improvisation technologies, and he has this little diddy called room writing. The idea is to imagine the contents of a room, draw an object with two points of your body, and then manipulate that object somehow. You can see it for yourself ici.

Forsythe imagined a ball and then hit it out of the room with another part of his body. For me, I guess I would have to also imagine being athletic, because I have a funny feeling I might have a hard time hitting something that is invisible. It’s the thought that counts though, right?

This next video is pretty much the same idea but approached in a different way. The martial artist created a dance with himself and imagined objects, and lucky for us, he animated them in the post processing so we can see them too! The result is some unexpected flair layered over beautiful, purposeful movement.

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Body Language

Don’t take interpretive dance too seriously. And don’t you dare stop me now.

Dance Dance Evolution

This is not the first time I’ve proclaimed by love for choreoscience, and it won’t be the last. It started with a TED talk about using dancers instead of powerpoint. Then I had my own attempt. Remember this?

Now it’s this little diddy that made the front page of vimeo, demonstrating the ‘growth through battle’ principle in evolution. It’s a short and simple digital performance that would make Darwin proud. And it’s so gripping that I feel like it could be the next OK GO music video.

“Various organisms try to gain terrain by conquering parts of each others bodies. Through this battle they grow into more and more complex beings.”

Directed by Floris Kaayk (floriskaayk.com)

Slowww Moooootion

I know I’m not the only person around here that has been glued to the TV during the Olympics this past week. You don’t have to be a choreography blogger to be captivated by such elite human movement and athleticism.

I prefer to wait for it to air on TV vs. watching it live, because they have the most amazing playback features. My absolute favorite is when they show the athletes moving in super slow motion. You can see every detail, from the slight twist in the torso at the beginning of a double twisting layout to a sprinter’s skin moving around on her skull! It brings you so much closer, even more so than if you were actually there in London. Those suckers, they should just stay home and watch it like me.

I came across this video a while ago, and tucked it away for a bloggy day. This dancer was filmed with a high-speed camera, at over 1000 frames per second! To put that into perspective, we usually watch video at 30 frames per second. The result is beautiful, super slow motion footage of a dancer’s body.

The MOMIX of hip hop

I’ve seen this done so many times. From venues as small as local dance studio recitals to those as high-profile as the stage at the Joyce Theater. I’m not sharing this video because it’s an original integration of technology to dance. I’m sharing it because it occurs in an interesting place and is done so damn well.

There are two different schools of thought pertaining to where hip hop dance should exist and be seen. The more traditional crowd wants hip hop to remain where it was born: on the streets, in ciphers, and improvised. Then there are the studio dancers. The people who learn “choreo” in front of a mirror, perform on stages and sets, and sometimes, make some money selling a product or musical artist. In my little hip hop experience, I am part of the latter. But you can’t blame me since there weren’t any ciphers happening on the mean streets of Denville, New Jersey. The latter is a rapidly growing, globalized industry, and that is sometimes hard pill for the original dance makers to swallow.

Without bringing hip hop dance to the concert stage (maybe this is a competition?), this dance would not have been possible. It is the integration of two mediums, hip hop dance and lighting technology, that make this dance what is it is: captivating and fun. It is pretty enjoyable no matter what school you come from.

back to backflips

OK –  time to get back to blogging.

It was one year ago that my now-husband showed me this link. We were tucked away in our tiny cabin in the Hamptons, avoiding the rest of the counselors that worked at the same camp as us. But the second I saw this, I had to get up and dance. And he had to get up and dance with me, whether he wanted to or not. Luckily, he was a good sport and actually had a lot of swing experience too!

We went out to the grassy common area between the cabins and gave it a go. I wish we could have recorded the dialogue that ensued.

“OK, I’m going to do a back roll into your legs, then pick me up and toss me over your head!”

“No, pass me your hands from under your crotch so I can flip you faster”

Etc, etc…

We had a few coworkers pass by; some asking questions, some just blankly staring. I still wonder if they were thinking we were adorably in love or just slightly insane.

That fall we moved to California where I entered the masters program at UCI. My teaching assignment: Social Dance. Oliver came into class when I taught swing and we even had some opportunities to show off our moves. I’m pretty sure they thought we were adorably in love.

Just last week we had our wedding. You better believe that during our first dance we whipped out a flip. We hadn’t practiced in a while, so I am really happy it didn’t end up with me on the floor in a ripped wedding dress: then people would have definitely thought we were were more on the crazy side. Thankfully, he’s a great partner. And adorable too.

a body and voice

Here and there I keep seeing these articles popping up about the most useless college degrees. Usually it’s a list of either 5 or 10, and some of them change around, but on just about all of them I see a degree in dance among the highest ranked. Or maybe you’d say lowest? Initial reaction: Well….. they’ve got a point.

I mean, a BFA in dance isn’t completely useless. It afforded me the opportunity to pursue an MFA in dance as well! See, not so bad. And the next step after an MFA… Well, I can teach at a university! Look at that. I can give others the gift of following in my footsteps. A degree in dance is like it’s own renewable resource (only I would probably recommend they pursue a career in research of actual renewable resources, they’ll probably be way better off).

If you’ve picked up on my sarcasm, I was kidding anyway. I know that with a degree in dance, while a graduate can balance for days on a tippy-toe, he or she might not exactly have stability in finances. So yes, if you are ranking career paths on how much money they will make you, or how easy it is to get a job, dance sucks. BUT, to the people who know and understand dance as an art form, separate from monetary gain, a degree in dance can change their lives.

I can’t really explain why I chose to pursue dance (or why it chose me), because it is honestly a corporeal experience that I can’t express in words. That’s not a cop out, it’s true! But I can say that I would have picked dance as a career path no matter what, and the fact that it is now recognized as an area of academic pursuit set me on the path to go to college. Instead of going straight to the audition lines, I got an education. If this degree of mine does nothing for me, I will still have been a part of a movement to get dancers to think more deeply about their art form. We are not just moving bodies, but artists with voices as well. And I don’t think many people will argue the value of an education, no matter what they think of the degree.


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