Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Olive Branches to Monk (Merián Videos)

View from the dance studio at the Liguria Study Center
I have been in residence at the Bogliasco Foundation’s Liguria Study Center in Italy for the past month.  It’s been an enormous privilege to have the time to focus on my creative work.  I’ve been exploring the Ligurian coast, spending a few hours a day in the studio, and I’ve also been making lots of videos. 

The first video project I completed was a videocard for Meredith Monk.   Meredith was my first dance composition teacher at NYU, in 1975.  I loved her and her work and did various intensives with her company over the next few years.  I’ve been singing while dancing in my work ever since that first course.  Pedacito de Cristal, created that year, was the first of many works that incorporated singing.  It was also the first work where I explored drawing from popular Afro-Caribbean dance forms to create concert dance. 

A couple years ago when Meredith was in residence at Bryn Mawr (thank you, Lisa Kraus, for organizing that remarkable week of workshops, film screenings and performances!), I was once again struck by the recognition of how impactful early influences can be.  Even though you move on to other things and forget, they nonetheless become part of you in a very deep, often unconscious, way. While engaging with Meredith's work again after so many years, I recognized the lineage — her work with archetypes, the minimalism, the delicious and superbly satisfying marriage of vocalizing and movement.  I could envision the strong complementarity of her music and the branch dancing. 

Fast forward to last August: Olive Prince and I spent several hours  in  Conwell Dance Theater at Temple University where I teach, exploring branch dancing to Meredith’s music.  In October, at the Liguria Study Center,  I edited the video I took of her performance that day.   Today, I share this with you.

Olive Branch Dances To Monk (Merián Videos)
Because of copyright issues this video is private.  email me if you want to take a look.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Performing in the gardens of Villa dei Pini, Bogliasco

There’s that thing about performance, when you enter a zone, you are aware of being fine-tuned at a particular frequency, you are going with the flow.  I love this experience, this shift of consciousness; sometimes it’s magical; sometimes I enter a dynamic play that’s both generated by me and beyond me. Willing the precise balance of yielding and directing can be energizing, thrilling.   I focus on riding the moment as it demands; quietly, playfully, clumsily, easily, boldly, delicately, fiercely, to maintain connection.  

It was energizing and satisfying to experience this dynamic play in various guises while performing on Sunday in the gardens of the Bogliasco Foundation’s Villa dei Pini, in Liguria, Italy, as part of the City of Genoa’s Festival della Scienza. 

With the branches there is so much to work with: balancing and connecting, weight, line, design, sensed image and memory,  place, weather, temperature, light, sound, nature; time, presence, being in the present, slowing down time — waiting,  stillness.

I designed the first section of the piece to be seen by the audience from far above.  It was uncanny to feel a strong energetic connection to them although they were so far from me. I could feel the dance as a play between my movement shifts, that magnificent place, and their individual imaginations.   

Playing with the audience while walking backwards up the path was also a delight.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Performing today in Bogliasco

This afternoon I will perform in the gardens of the Bogliasco Foundation’s Study Center on the edge of the Ligurian Sea, as part of the week-long Genovese Festival della Scienza.  I will present various videos I’ve created in the past two weeks while in residence at the center, and will perform with branches found along the beach in Bogliasco.  

Branch dancing is different here, the branches are different, as is the uncertain ground and angled sunlight at the edge of the sea. 

Even though I am well aware that every branch offers its own unique dance, it’s been surprisingly challenging to work with Ligurian branches.  Somehow their center of weight is slippery; they defy familiar handling.  They seem rebellious, fiercely independent; I sense something similar in the people here.

In this extraordinarily beautiful place, I feel, and see everywhere, the tenuous balance at the edge of land and sea.  Everything is slightly skewed, perched on rocks, resisting the pull of gravity; humanity densely hovering at the edge.  

Traffic noise jars the soothing organic sounds of nature. The angled brilliance of the sun forces me to lower my eyes, bow down to its great power, seek the shade. I turn from it to meet my shadow.