ARTISTIC DIRECTER Julia Harvie
The Dance LAB Open Performance was an experiment. It was filled with risks and questions - and this is something I am proud of. If we do not take risks, we never grow, we never learn, we never show that we are human and vulnerable. I believe this is what regularly alienates audiences from the contemporary dance experience. I do not believe that experimentation and 'accessibility' are mutually exclusive and this show format was set out to test my belief.
Hypothesis: Audiences will engage with the opportunity to see choreographers' work in its formative stages.
Method: We took four choreographers at different stages in their careers and with varying approaches to their dance making to present and talk artfully about an idea they were working on. The performance was in St Michael's Church Hall in a conscious effort to allude to Judson Church presentations that began in the sixties in New York and continue to this day.
Results: The show sold out. Their was a buzz in the room and people felt included and addressed. Audiences focussed on the experience and moved away from judging work as good or bad and themselves as 'getting' or 'not getting it'. The room was filled with conversations.
Conclusion: Dance can be stripped back, dance can be vulnerable and unfinished and still provide a valuable experience for both artists and audiences. Challenging art does not have to be alienating - it just needs to be framed appropriately and the audience needs to be acknowledged and invited in. This is a format that MAP will continue to advocate for and use to nurture contemporary dance in Christchurch.
Thanks must go to all participants, choreographers, The Body Festival, CNZ, CCC, DANZ and the audience who all took a risk on this event and I believe we all grew, learnt, were human and vulnerable. Being connected in this way - as a community is what art- making is.
What did you gain from working within a research rather than product based framework?
Were you able to unpack your original intentions/ hypothesis?
Madeleine Krenek: Working without the pressure of producing a finished product allowed me space and freedom to pursue and investigate concepts via various methods of development and improvisational practice.
Always, in my experience, with process comes change so as we investigated the original intentions, we allowed ourselves to digress into unknown territories and in doing so, finding realms of making and performing that are unique to this particular process.
I was able to focus on the depth of the ideas and the conceptual strength of the work as opposed to spending time on the finer aesthetic details required when making a finished product. Entering into the process with an open frame of mind encouraged me to experiment and not close off any ideas before they had been fully investigated. This process allowed myself, the dancers and Greg (the composer) to keep trying new things, keep things open, and keep pushing ideas further,which resulted in surprising and innovative outcomes. Experimenting in this format is vital to the progression of contemporary dance as an Art form.
Julia Harvie: I have a love affair with two concepts that have never been fully conceived. One of these concepts is 'beautiful failure'. As a work, it has been known as Elephant Skin and to date has had brief development periods each time with different dancers and collaborators. It is a beautiful failure! Failure freaks people out - and yet it is what makes us human.
I used the Dance Lab experience as an opportunity to delve back into the world of Elephant Skin, for this iteration I called it Archiving Failure and worked with community and professional participants and live music. I wanted to create performance installations of the ideas, reiterations of the work on new bodies - a chinese whisper of the work. Over a few weeks I met once a week with the performers and slowly the provocations were refined and explored in greater detail to test which had the richest response, spatial decisions were made, I made use of Meg Stuart's choreographic exercises as well as returning to previous tasks and set pieces always collaborating with the performers to find meaning and depth.
As the audience arrived they were confronted/welcomed into the space by these installations. They could get up close and personal on individual installations or stand back and view it as one greater installation. In doing so, the audience becomes choreographer, performer in the work and audience simultaneously. I love this blurring. I think dance should be for and of the people and this was a way to do this.
I have been running a weekly session called movement lab for a few years now and a major aspect of this class is real-time composition. All the installations, were real-time compositions with provocations pertaining to the theme. This live, in the moment risk taking never ceases to thrill me and it was great to see regular attendees putting their skills into practice in front of an audience. This opportunity reinvigorated my love affair for this idea. It isn't over and perhaps it never will be.
Sarah Elsworth: My short collaboration with Nicola Collie ( whom I hadn't met before this project) allowed air and possibility to sift through various influences that have infiltrated me as a result of working mainly as a dancer for other choreographers. I attempted to begin the process of deciphering my own choreographic voice.
Our Hypothesis was nothing profound, we simply wanted to unlock and explore new movement vocabularies and try a few ideas that had been brewing in the background. Working in a non-product based outcome allowed the freedom for this to happen.The thought process of classifying myself a choreographer was a struggle throughout this process as I'm less comfortable in this role. Constantly questioning what value my ideas had and why I should explore them.
The results of what Nicola and I shared in the Dance LAB open performance, sprung from a combination of sources. One being a particular image/ state I discovered from my time facilitating movement lab sessions, inspired by a combination of Butoh as well as Meg Stuart exercises. I enjoyed how this fed into my choreographic practice without me really noticing and became one solution to our hypothesis for discovering new movement qualities or states, that were perhaps more delicate or intricate than my normal habitual movement pathways.
The concept of process over product was both freeing and restricting and I enjoyed battling with this conflict. It is much more vulnerable to put your seed's of an idea out to an audience rather than feel confident behind the walls of a finished work. I felt far more vulnerable presenting my own ideas than dancing for other choreographers, which has been an interesting thought to consider. I have enjoyed how this process has confronted me to place more value on my ideas as well as having more accountability and research within my own practice as both a dancer and choreographer. I'm left considering how can I sustain this outside the structure Movement Art Practice has set up to enable artists to go through this process, because out of the small gems discovered in this short lived project there is much more I want to discover.
Julia McKerrow: I gained an opportunity to challenge my approach to the creative process, viewed my habits and limitations. Having the opportunity to have a regular practice with a group of dancers allowed the process and ideas to build organically. I had the space to welcome open dialogue and play as part of this process. An opportunity to stick with and mine for a deeper exploration of a seed of an idea. I allowed my process to be critiqued revealed/demystified. Valuing the process over product, in terms of the relationship/connection and growth of the group dynamic and experience.
Through feedback and reflection via MAP I have been able to consolidate my interests and highlight future outcomes and development of this work. Being given a brief from MAP, of working from my hypothesis has enabled me to think more intentionally about my work, and has enabled me to have non-judgement based dialogue about this work with audience and colleagues. This has been progressive and practical for my continued choreographic process.
Nicola Collie Being part of Maddeleine's process was a huge advancement for me. I feel like I really made progress in the way I work, and got past judging myself. I delved into a place that allowed me to access what I knew was there but wasn't sure how to get at. Until then I had held something back.The environment that was set up in rehearsals, i.e working in a research based environment, as opposed to product based allowed me to explore and go deeper as a performer. I now have more confidence in my own ability to improvise, teach, and be an artist in general from this experience. Thank you MAP for setting up the platform that allowed and supported that growth.
Philippa Cosgrove: I found the opportunity to work towards the MAP evening a really enjoyable and productive process. Knowing that there wasn't the pressure to come up with a finished product made for a more relaxed experience, and as none of us were being paid either I felt like it was important for it to be a fun rather than stressful experience for the dancers. Though a 'product' was not required I still wanted the dancers to have something to dance for the showing but a little bit of pressure is a good thing anyway. Having the input of a few people along the way was useful and the informality of the set up meant that things never felt too precious. The final showing was different to how I'd anticipated it, due to my injury and three of the dancers having to pull out (ha! doesn't sound like much fun after all!) I ended up speaking through a good chunk of the piece which was a new experience for and worked out well. I think the informality of the process meant that radically changing things right at the end was something that could happen quite easily.
The original intention I'd had didn't really play out and actually it wasn't until quite a way through that I got a sense of where I would like to take the piece in any case. So that in itself was good learning, you just start with something knowing that (hopefully) it will find its own direction as you go. I felt encouraged that there was a sense of development towards the road to to completion.
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