Thursday, April 26, 2007

Balance and Unity

posted by Flynn N.A.S.A. grant artist Selene Colburn, writing about her work-in-progress, The History of the Future Suite

Twelve dancers on Sunday, and a baby. Josh wants to know when he gets to throw somebody and I’m still wondering how to balance the small, the tiny against the potency of the many.

I keep giving instructions about the unison form, which now includes some much-needed level-shifting in the form of a kneeling sequence, as such: “Your goal is to execute these moves in any order, until you are doing this phrase in unison at the end.”

The unspoken goal is to make an interesting or pretty or compelling or watchable or thought-provoking or engaging dance along the way. Meghan is really good at asking me those “What are you really after?” questions. Otherwise, as she pointed out a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t we all just do the phrase in unison right at the start and be done?

Because we were a big group, we got to watch medium-sized groups doing this. It’s really powerful when there are long stretches of almost-unison. The vocabulary is so limited that as a viewer you can take in the pattern and variation that occurs. Some of the watchers said it was really beautiful. We got better at ending together without talking about it.

I tried to make people articulate the group thinking/being/acting that occurs in improvisation, especially as there are some seasoned improvisers in the group. We agreed that you can see it, you can hear it, and in a much less tangible way you can feel it—it feels like a rippling effect maybe.

Tonight I’m heading into the studio and I’m going to bring research materials for both the solo and the group work. I’m looking for books on formal systems of gesture, e.g. sign language and elocution manuals. If anyone has any ideas I’m eager to hear them.

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