Summertime 2

June is winding down, and it has been a great month, a lot of traveling, visiting family and friends, dancing with new friends and old, dreaming of new projects and ways to connect and be connected to those that inspire me and support me.

 

Community. Sharing space and ideas with people over time. Old friends. Being in a space with old friends in Austin, dancing, sensing the circularity of pathways. Spirals, always returning, but to a different latitude. Reaching out only to find myself returning to what I already know. Remembering again and again, giving up ownership of the knowledge, letting go of the preciousness of knowing.

 

I have been traveling, solo traveling with my dog, Skye. I grew up in Texas, and my family still lives in the DFW metroplex. Every June, I take care of my three nephews while my sister reads AP tests in Ohio, and this summer I decided to drive because 1) I love the drive, and 2) I could make a detour to Austin for the Tuning Scores workshop, and 3) I could take my dog Skye so she could hang out with my nephs.

 

I love driving. I grew up in Texas, and we had a station wagon – we drove EVERYWHERE. When I was a kid I hated how long it took to drive places, but now it’s a huge gift not to be in a hurry. I love the open space, and the quiet. Hours of not talking, just thinking, reflecting, processing, digesting. Two beautiful days of reset.

 

Being in Austin, dancing, with familiar people, in a familiar space was magical. A space for dancing with people that I know, where connections have established rhythms, and there is a depth of understanding that only comes with shared history. A reconnection to a community that I am missing here in Florida. I was not the only one in Austin that no longer lives in Austin, and it gets me wondering why we can’t just get together here too. Everything I do seems to be about connecting people over time and space. Linkages. I love that we are all spread out because we have our own space, and then we have all of these dots to connect. A constellation of a community.

Could have done

Every blog post I write in my mind is AMAZING. When I sit down to write, however, all my ideas feel like an outfit on the morning after a night out, and I am left with a memory of the possibility of something awesome that I haven’t actually done - of something that I could have done.

Except that I didn’t do it. Obviously. So is it really true that I could have?

Well. While I prefer to hold the door open for possibility and try to blur the line between probable and improbable, whether or not I could is an unknowable, a made-up reference point only, a diversion. Unless I do the thing, whether or not I could is a moot point. And if I do, whether or not I could is not a question.

This particular speculation is a waste of time. And it has taken me a very long time to recognize that it is a waste of time. The majority of my career. Actually, make that life – the majority of my life.

Do the thing. Then we can talk about it.

Parenthetical Aside: Making sense of life, Lesson #73

Believing one can do something, being able to do something, and actually doing something are independent things. Related, but not interdependent.

There was an older lady sitting in front of me at a Merce Cunningham Dance Company performance in Austin, TX, in 1992. At the end of the concert she turned to the woman seated next to her and said, “Well, I could have done that.” This proved to be an important moment in my life.

I was a freshman in college, and I was taking my first semester of Modern Dance after a young lifetime of ballet. All of us dance students had the opportunity to have class with Meg Harper (Cunningham dancer 1968-1977, Rehearsal Director) for an entire week leading up to the performance, and we were able to experience first-hand how the appearance of simplicity and clarity in the Cunningham technique exists in direct relation to its difficulty of execution.

I always think one of the superpowers dancers have is the ability to make an insane statement about physicality true. Like this: have your weigh evenly distributed between both legs even when one leg is off the ground. Or another way to say it: don’t shift your pelvis when you lift one foot off the ground. That’s just crazy. That’s one of the things we had been working on and after 5 days, I could kind of do it, or rather I could do it, just not consistently – and I was not untalented as a dancer. I knew how much effort and practice went into the appearance of ease that led an elderly woman to believe that she could be a Cunningham dancer.

As for the performance, I didn’t get it at all, and frankly, I was more than a bit put off by this whole “Modern” thing. But even though I did not understand the performance, I could recognize that there was something happening – there was a syntax, a thing to be gotten, I just didn’t know how to get it. Like I was somehow a puzzle piece that didn’t have the right shape to complete the image.

I was learning about Cunningham’s process involving chance operations, and his lifetime collaboration with John Cage. It was a process that seemed simple: make a bunch of material, roll the dice, assign the parts and call it a choreography. But my experience with the physicality of the technique was that simplicity was an aesthetic choice that seemed to create more possibility, not less. Because of this, I was open to the possibility that the simplicity of his creative process also created more possibility and complexity, not less, even if I wasn’t able to understand it yet. And I knew there was no way that “I could have done that.”

“I could have done that.”

I don’t think it is ever true. What I have come to understand is that the work is made in the making, and that it is deeply personal. I can work with the same idea and utilize the same process as another choreographer, and even if we start with the same movement, the physical sequencing will be unique to each of us and the piece I make will always be different than hers.

In the same way that I have written an infinite number of interesting and intelligent imaginary blog posts, I have also started a million dances in my head – super exciting dances with perfectly sequenced phrases - that I have yet to make.  

The only piece that matters is the one you make.

 

Thoughts on moving

"I think that one of the reasons that I got involved in dance is to finish my movement development. Because I have a hunger to find and to finish and to explore, to do essentially what babies do when they begin to move. A hunger to find out what movement is or can be. I think it provides a service to keep the search alive, in a culture which has engineered an environment which requires physical and sensorial suppression to exist in." Steve Paxton

This video. I can't stop thinking about this video.

My friend Olivia O'Hare shared this with me months ago, and it continues to circle around in my thoughts, rings true for me, gently and profoundly. Steve Paxton, the initiator of Contact Improvisation speaks about movement and sensorial development, and how urban life reduces our connection and development of our movement and sense development. 

I have been in Austin, TX over Memorial Day weekend taking a workshop on Tuning Scores facilitated by Margit Galanter. This a description of Tuning from the Tuning Scores Log: (https://tuningscoreslog.wordpress.com/about/)

Tuning Scores are an intriguing way to investigate fundamental elements of performance, movement behavior, and communication, altogether. Originated by Lisa Nelson, the explorations illuminate how we compose perception through action; in other words, we learn how what we see is inextricably linked to how we see, through our multisensorial layers of observation. In “tuning,” we practice together, using both movement and verbal calls. Through these, we communicate our desires, our imagination, and our memory, in a shared image space. And with this material, we compose live art, together.

As I get older, I find my interests lie more and more in the realm of improvisation and perception - using movement as framework/skillset to make sense of the world where I live. I am fascinated by how an idea can be explored physically, with priority placed on discovery rather than demonstration, without needing find an answer or prove something right. What does it mean to answer a question physically? What if I begin with a sense other than sight? What can I come to understand through this investigation? Being in the process of process. 

I think that I will use Tuning Scores for the Urban Duets. 

 

Summertime

Hello hello! It has been a while since my last entry --- I ask for patience as I transition into my summer rhythm….

Summer is an important time for me. It is a time to re-flect and re-group, when I have space to breathe, process, dream my work into being away from a daily schedule of teaching. It is artist time - a period of active calibration – paying attention to what settles at the bottom and what rises to the top of my artistic consciousness – a check-in. Scheduling is difficult because I am so greedy of my time, especially these beginning days of summer when I have to practice taking time, remembering the feeling of allowing actions and ideas to run their actual duration rather than rushing, shortening, always moving on to the next thing – never having time to feel the completion of one task as distinct from the beginning of another.

thinking dreaming feeling being making asking practicing

Settling back into my body, recognizing that feeling of being at the front of my eyeballs, the unconscious, gentle insistence on a forward direction that locks the base of my skull into the back of my neck

Allowing my eyes to rest in their sockets, sensing how the back of my neck softens, my chin drops, my throat relaxes, and all of a sudden I can feel the weight of my body again.

Dropping down into the physicality of my body, open to impulse from an awareness of sensation rather than a construction of thought.

 

Slowing down.

 

Paying attention.

 

Moving from the inside.

 

 

Summertime

Dance as Public Art

Hello again! The semester at USF is winding down, and I am looking forward to summer projects. I have my first rehearsal for the new solo I wrote about in my last entry this Thursday, so I am working on some rehearsal strategies/scenarios that Nathalia and I can use as structures for improvisation. I am also going to try get some solo studio time for myself so that I can develop phrase material for us to use as a common movement vocabulary. I’ll let you know how it goes….

 

Ok. So another project I am working on is “urban duets.” Like I mentioned previously, I am really into site-specific work. I love seeing and placing dance in unexpected spaces and situations; I am very interested in the resonance of bodies and objects in space - how what happens in a space leaves an imprint that becomes part of the space, a memory archive that exists whether or not someone can “feel” it. (I could go on and on about this, I love the idea of traces, echoes, and memory – hopefully I’ll circle back around to this at a later date.)

 

*Mission Statement Alert* I seek to normalize dance by devising strategies for people to see more dance in their daily lives. This is a big one for me – I think about this all this time – more about this later – I realize I’m writing that a lot, but it turns out I have a lot to say, and it’s really easy to get side-tracked. Anyway – it’s important, because my desire to normalize dance for non-dance populations is integral to this “urban duets” project.

 

I am working with my dear friend and collaborator, choreographer/performer Elsa Valbuena on a new structured improvisation that we will perform in urban, public spaces in downtown St. Pete during “business” hours, preferably in locations and at times of commuter traffic when people are going to work. I think that one of the biggest obstacles for the sustainability of the field of dance is the simple fact that people don’t know how much it really costs to make a dance. I want to make a poster board with the actual cost of making and performing the “urban duets.” We will display that while we dance to give people a context about the labor of art-making while they are on the way to the labor they themselves perform. We are going to perform regularly in the same location over the course of a few weeks and then try to talk to people about it. I would like to know what it would take for someone who has never seen a dance performance to pay to see one. And what is like for someone to see dance as public art? And how much would someone pay to see a dance performance?

 

We are aiming for late summer to start performing the duets --- I’ll keep you posted!

She forgets Herself

Hello hello! I am truly honored to receive a 2017 Artist Fellowship in Choreography from Creative Pinellas. As part of the award, I am to keep a public blog about my activities, and I am excited (and more than a little nervous) about the prospect. While I enjoy writing, I am not a journal-er, nor do I keep a diary, so I welcome the task of writing regularly about my work (and other stuff).

 

Ok, so first, a little about me. I am choreographer, and movement is the filter through which I make sense of the world. I often utilize technology in my work, most often through video projection design. By creating abstract animations in Adobe After Effects, I have used projection as lighting design and also as a set element, with videos of birds, or clouds, or other visual content. It is important to me to create a context for each dance I make, and projection has been one way for me to “place” dance in relation to an idea or visual reference. 

 

I also like to literally place my dances in non-traditional venues by making site-specific dances. I have made dances in a creek, under a tunnel, on a wall, in a tea-house, a botanical garden, among other locations. Most recently, I created a work for the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, as part of OUR TOWN, a walking tour of site-specific works that I curated for SPF 16 this past September. One of my current projects is a performance of three new dance/music works in three cities along the Pinellas Trail, an expansion of OUR TOWN called OUR TRAIL. The three choreographers are Helen Hansen French, Kellie Harmon, and myself, working with three composers that will be curated by Elizabeth Baker of the New Music Conflagration. I am sure I will talk more about OUR TRAIL in subsequent entries.

 

Most recently, I have been working on what I think is becoming a series of dances. She has a Particular Relationship with Memory was the piece I created for the shuffleboard courts last September. It was a site-specific dance for 6 dancers who performed in the alleys between the courts. She engages in a sequence of Surrenders was a solo I created (and performed) for BEACON, a performance series curated by Helen Hansen French and Lauren Sloane. For this work, I was working with a physical sensation of surrendering, which translated at times into the sensation of “giving in” to the movement, and at other times following a line of energy through my body, or through a shifting of weight. A small video of birds in flight was projected onto the left side of the back wall for the duration of the piece.

 

I am beginning a new solo in this series – She forgets Herself, which I am creating for/with dancer Nathalia Guzman. Our first rehearsal is May 4, and I am really looking forward to getting into the studio. In the spirit of artistic process, I thought I would share my initial thoughts and ideas for this new work:

 

She forgets herself

Grey hair going grey from root to tip

Core to distal

Memory echo

Deconstructing reconstructing

Mind racing

Trying to track the thought

Path path path open space lost find

The key back into the maze

Privacy vs secrecy

 

Go before you’re ready

 

Do you remember the first color you ever liked?

What was your first favorite color?

What was your first desire?

What was your first favorite shirt?

What was your first favorite thing to do?

Etc etc

 

What is your favorite feeling?

 

The now The then The here

 

When was your first disappointment?

When was the first time someone was mean to you?

When was the first time you were shocked?

What was the first really mean thing that you did?

When was the first time you were selfish?

When was the first time someone let you down?

When was the first time you let someone down?

When was the first time you were embarrassed?

When was the first time you were embarrassed by your parents?

 

When was the first time you remember shaping your identity?

When was the first time you remember shaping your identity based on someone else’s values?

 

What happens when we remove fragments of time?

 

Andee Sun Scott

Andee Scott is an interdisciplinary dance artist based in St. Petersburg, FL. As a choreographer, her work often investigates the intersections between light, projection design and the body in motion. Her work has been performed nationally and internationally, most recently in the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival and Barnstorm Dance Fest, as well as Beijing, China, and Guadalajara, Mexico, as part of Proyecto al Margen, funded by FONCA (El Fondo Nacional para Cultura y las Artes, Mexico). She curated and performed Woman’s Work: Reconstructions of Self, a solo dance project, working with five international choreographers and toured works from the award-winning project in the U.S. and Mexico, and in Italy, as a member of Deja Donne. She has been a member of Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks and Blue Lapis Light in Austin, TX; has performed with David Dorfman Dance and AlienNationCo., under the direction of Johannes Birringer; and toured solo works in the US, Italy, and Mexico. She was a resident artist at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program (2011) and was Creative Loafing’s Critic’s Pick for Best Dance Scene Mover and Shaker (2015). Andee has conducted residencies and taught master classes around the world and is on faculty at the University of South Florida.

In 2014, she created Dance Linkages to build a contemporary network of artists connecting across geographies and disciplines to develop, perform, and tour new work. Projects include Sola, a curated evening of solo works by a national company of female dance artists; Between Here and Now, an international collaboration with Proyecto al Margen; and Our Town, a walking tour of dances performed in historic sites in downtown St. Petersburg.