Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tricky Endings and Maggots

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

Another wonderful Sunday—this time there were nine of us.

We began with a brief warm-up, then quickly got into some walking improvisations, to loosen everyone up and start tapping into on-the-fly composing practices. Even in these simple exercises we got to a few moments of working collectively as a group, the whole organism making choices together. Exciting, and really kind of amazing, considering many of us had just met.

I taught everyone a simple gestural phrase of three movements—your arm reaches over your head, you cross your arms across your chest, you put your hands on your hips—and for the next hour or so, that was our vocabulary for the unison form (you can do any of those three movements in any order with stops; the end comes when everyone is doing the phrase in unison). We added some pivots into the mix to tweak the mostly frontal facing.

Our work in the form evolved very similarly to the week before with Rachel and Susan. The first couple of times the unison comes out of nowhere and it seems a little bit magical. As you start pushing the form, the ways the unison develops gets more complex. It can come on as a slow burn and everyone may not be in agreement about when it begins. So how to you know when to stop, without calling the ending verbally? Tricky. Actually, one of the most amazing improvisations of the day came from a group who was working really hard to get to an unspoken ending. The level of attention was incredible, which made people’s choices really fascinating. I need to think about the consensual end a bit more—there may be something else I can build into the form (or maybe building too much structure will dispel that zing that comes from the attention that’s currently required).

We closed by working on some of the early mechanics of what I’ve been thinking of in my head as “up and over” or “the great leap forward,” a continuously moving form consisting of a huge mass of bodies scrambling over one another like a wave. CeCe gave my image a good description: “It’s like maggots crawling over a pile of garbage.” For that moment we focused on getting one body over another, forgoing the fluidity and proximity of maggots (something to aspire to!). One person forms a stable base by kneeling on all fours; two supporters help take the weight of someone who walks over the kneeler as if they were a bridge.

Everyone was such a great sport, and so thoughtful and wise. I’m really enjoying seeing how the cast evolves.

photograph courtesy of Selene Colburn

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