DANSCROSS 2009 » Katherine Mezur http://rescen.net/blog Dancing in a shaking world Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:31:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Swept Away http://rescen.net/blog/2010/02/swept-away/906 http://rescen.net/blog/2010/02/swept-away/906#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 08:52:17 +0000 Katherine Mezur Final blog Swept Away

I am swept away. You are not supposed to be “swept” away. I keep thinking about the references to Bruno Latour’s “intermediary” and ”mediator.” Perhaps I am a mediating intermediary? I go back to my first Sunday night in October in Beijing at the Beijing Dance Academy anniversary performance at one [...]]]> Final blog
Swept Away

I am swept away. You are not supposed to be “swept” away. I keep thinking about the references to Bruno Latour’s “intermediary” and ”mediator.” Perhaps I am a mediating intermediary? I go back to my first Sunday night in October in Beijing at the Beijing Dance Academy anniversary performance at one the national “Military” Theatres. The red flag, covering the stage, with its brilliant glowing five stars, one large representing the communist party and four smaller stars radiating on an arch from the larger one. Those brilliant four stars are supposedly the different kinds of people (or classes), as written by Mao Tse Tung: the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. I was so moved. I was so caught in my own history of this history, wanting so much to say that I dreamed of coming here for so long because of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Mao’s Red Book, Beijing Opera, the erhu, this red flag, and those revolutionary dance operas created by Jiang Qing. She had taken the ballet, folk dance, Beijing Opera, martial arts, classical Chinese dance, and folklore of the revolution to make this outrageous mixture into a ”teaching” dance drama for propaganda. Did she know she made a brilliant fusion of modern, postmodern, and avant-garde with melodramatic and pop sensibilities? How right on. It still works: I am swept away. (Stumbling, that afternoon of my first Sunday I felt that surge of the famous Beijing wind and dust storms. full of dust. I become a kite in the hutong and I am blinded. It takes a lot of time to get to places here when you are blown away and swept along.)

I am swept away by the power of Chinese dance, or of Chinese to use dance or dance dance to communicate kinaesthetic resonance that has a very specific aim. I still find it hard to understand the dance and the dancers without doing more research on the last two decades in China and Beijing. I have to do that, to understand the contemporary transformation in this powerhouse, the Beijing Dance Academy. I remember those stars on the flag: the large one and the smaller stars, radiating out from that central force, not unlike how the Beijing Dance Academy works: “star” power (and I do not mean soloist or fame or Hollywood stardom). What stays with me beyond all the choreographic changes, inflections, transformations … is this sense of power that dance has in China. What is this power about? Who does it serve? What does it have to do with the new/old China? I am sure there are many answers and more questions. There is something about the centralization of dance education for the dance stages, which will stage these dances and dance dramas that can and will “move” the audiences beyond and outside their daily lives. I will take that further in my essay for the Danscross book. It was remarkable how much the Chinese choreographers’ works “moved” (swept away?) the audiences and by contrast: how the ”foreign” choreographers’ works made the audience carefully watch and consider…I was told by one young dancer friend that perhaps I could not understand how much “feeling” meant to the Chinese. I know I must avoid ALL essentializing and of course I am swept away, but I also have to reflect and question this power “across” Danscross. I am an intermediatrix.

In Hongse niangzi jun (The Red Detachment of Women)

I went to this revolutionary opera ballet by myself in a 3000 plus seat Beijing theatre that was packed and sold-out. Everyone in the 2nd balcony seats was leaning forward toward the stage to the effect that I thought the balcony my very tip into the orchestra area. For this work, they had a full orchestra and chorus, and dance ensemble of thirty-five to sixty-five members. It was one of the most “power-full” performances I have ever seen. It was not about technique, but power in devices fueled by overwhelming beliefs and passion for those beliefs. You do not have to believe me, but when the Red Detachment of Women strut, leap, and swagger (with big rifles) down stage on the long diagonal for their first full out stage appearance, the whole audience came to their feet. And the soloist, especially when she is striving and writhing during her scenes of capture, liberation, and revolution, dances everyone’s heartache: Surge. Hearts beating. Wow factor. Dance Power. More later, more and more.

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Two ideas: on slippage and ways of considering transmission between dance cultures. http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/two-ideas-0n-slippage-and-ways-of-considering-transmission-between-dance-cultures/871 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/two-ideas-0n-slippage-and-ways-of-considering-transmission-between-dance-cultures/871#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2009 01:03:10 +0000 Katherine Mezur http://rescen.net/blog/?p=871 Missing Beijing. After seeing DV8, a ”Diaspora” dance series at Counterpulse, a stunning play performed by the Druid Theatre of Ireland and listening to Yvonne Rainer: new dance makes demands. Before I start reflecting and analyzing as I do with new works that were made under observation, I wanted to explain a process of live [...]]]> Missing Beijing. After seeing DV8, a ”Diaspora” dance series at Counterpulse, a stunning play performed by the Druid Theatre of Ireland and listening to Yvonne Rainer: new dance makes demands. Before I start reflecting and analyzing as I do with new works that were made under observation, I wanted to explain a process of live research that has always been exciting to me: watching the slippages of transmission between choreographer and dancers, dancers and dancers, and improvisation and setting movement. The point here may be obvious to dance makers and dramaturgs and dancers, but the shifts of gesture in time, space, and energy between bodies in different stages of dance making, is the progressive performance that one rarely sees. “Researchers” or academics, who have been dancer makers, probably tune to this right away. I even experience the sadness of loss when I see a choreographer move away from or skip something I thought was brilliant in an earlier edition. Also exciting is the brilliance of dancers who press their own signatures into new gestures, even when, minutely, exactly, taking on, the choreographer’s direction and energy (or another dancer’s). But this can only be seen if one has the time, privilege, and invitation to see and observe a dance in progress over time, and time again.

That said, I keep thinking of two important outcomes from the Danscross observation of process-in-process: on an uneconomic side: choreographers should repeat some of their dances, try them out on other dancers, see what happens, and perhaps make the audiences deeper observers? I see so much the second time. Further, why not invite a dance critic or researcher into your process?

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Questions on transnational exchanges http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/questions-on-transnational-exchanges/869 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/questions-on-transnational-exchanges/869#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2009 00:58:12 +0000 Katherine Mezur I am in need of feedback on methods and ways of considering what happens in transnational creative exchanges: while there are many books, articles, and even dances on this process of transit and transmission between bodies of different “cultural and political practices: I am curious what Danscross choreographers, researchers, dancers, and administrators found (during or [...]]]> I am in need of feedback on methods and ways of considering what happens in transnational creative exchanges: while there are many books, articles, and even dances on this process of transit and transmission between bodies of different “cultural and political practices: I am curious what Danscross choreographers, researchers, dancers, and administrators found (during or after) as the points of ”transformation” (focusing here about the space between not in opposition to):

1) What changes did you notice in what the dancers or choreographers or researchers did, directly related to the circumstances of being in Beijing, with Beijing-based dancers, trained at the Beijing Dance Academy? No matter how small and specific or broad and general: what caused a known pattern to shift, transfer, disengage, remain silent, empty out, or burst, self-destruct, or disappear?

2) Because “change” can be very difficult to know or write about except in retrospect, what was new or unprecedented or unusual in your dancing or dance making or observation process that was (again) directly related to these place/time circumstances of Danscross? In this case, could you describe what that was and what were the circumstances surrounding that moment?

3) While the larger and cumbersome “differences” of dance cultures may seem obvious to some of you, I think it may be still helpful to hear some of these. What were some of the first, most impressive, and continuing differences in this transnational encounter?

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I miss you… Someone out there answer back. http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/i-miss-you-someone-out-there-answer-back/820 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/i-miss-you-someone-out-there-answer-back/820#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2009 08:57:01 +0000 Katherine Mezur On the jet plane, somewhere where China becomes the mountains of the sea below me. My last morning I had to decide between taking ballet and one more classical Chinese dance class, so I went to the classical class and felt so charged with the lines of energy, the signs that drift in and out [...]]]> On the jet plane, somewhere where China becomes the mountains of the sea below me. My last morning I had to decide between taking ballet and one more classical Chinese dance class, so I went to the classical class and felt so charged with the lines of energy, the signs that drift in and out of arm movements, the curves and thrusts of feet, and as usual I always find the male movement my favorite.
I miss you.
This is a kind of love letter.
Someone out there answer back. I overheard Chris remark on Sunday that this weekend and the whole Danscross project was really one of the highlights of his life. I had said that to Min too. I do believe in alchemy, how innovation really arises out of daring and now knowing how something will work.

But I want to know how you all are? What pictures come up? What last gestures strike you in your memory planes? What disturbed you? What made you take a pause and reflect differently?
I miss you.

Can someone tell me about the last half hour speeches by the two women dance leaders? I was so struck by their vehemence and power to silence us all. But I did not understand their context? The meaning of their need and drive and desires… can anyone comment?

Paul’s mediator and intermediary were striking like having demons undo all those nasty binaries that are too easily made to frame any dialogue. Let us interrupt each other more, let us be less polite, like innovative choreography: don’t simplify into tensions “between.” Resist the polarized. But what does making it complex do? Take it further, Paul.

The limitations and rules theme panel: Please post those wonderful powerpoints!!!! English and Chinese please.

I did love how the simultaneous interpreter made us “he’s” and ”she’s” randomly. Lovely gender switching.
I miss you.

I miss you. k

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BIG questions http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/big-questions/816 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/11/big-questions/816#comments Fri, 06 Nov 2009 19:54:05 +0000 Katherine Mezur Wild show. Nov. 6 Big questions I want to ask during the next two discussion and forum times:

After viewing and viewing and viewing the Chinese and the UK, Hong Kong, and Other choreographic works in performance:

What is the deep sweeping emotionalism in the Chinese works? What does it do? How does it work? What does it produce? What is the abstraction of emotion through forms and stylization in the Other works? [...]]]> Wild show.
Nov. 6
Big questions I want to ask during the next two discussion and forum times:

After viewing and viewing and viewing the Chinese and the UK, Hong Kong, and Other choreographic works in performance:

What is the deep sweeping emotionalism in the Chinese works? What does it do? How does it work? What does it produce?
What is the abstraction of emotion through forms and stylization in the Other works? How does this process work? What does it do to ”meaning”?
Can we talk about the power and politics of emotions?
Can we talk about the power of abstraction?

How is dance “used” in these works?
How is dance “employed” in our different culture/nations?

How do you choose and shape the dance with your music, objects, lights, set?
How are we speaking and making meaning through every element of these dances in performance?

I feel that everyone needs to do homework on each other’s histories. Both of the individual and their “culture” and ”nation.” We do not create separated from our local space. We do not create separately from our given circumstances of daily life.

There is so much I do not understand.
Danscross crosses.

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Blogalong: October 31, 2009, October 30, moving backwards and forwards. http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/blogalong-october-31-2009-october-30-moving-backwards-and-forwards/779 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/blogalong-october-31-2009-october-30-moving-backwards-and-forwards/779#comments Sat, 31 Oct 2009 16:43:58 +0000 Katherine Mezur Where are we? We are in China, The People’s Republic of China. It struck me as I use the yuan money that is printed with many Mao images: a kind of ”Mao” is everywhere. The academy is overwhelming sometimes: dance in five or six studios down 7 floors of classrooms with windows: they are dance rich. In our project, the aim towards the proscenium stage concert might have added pressure [...]]]> Where are we? We are in China, The People’s Republic of China. It struck me as I use the yuan money that is printed with many Mao images: a kind of ”Mao” is everywhere. The academy is overwhelming sometimes: dance in five or six studios down 7 floors of classrooms with windows: they are dance rich.
In our project, the aim towards the proscenium stage concert might have added pressure on these last two choreographers. This is a relay between last choreographing sessions, rehearsals, and the ”sharing” gathering where we see and discuss the works. This is followed by some kind of review by authorities. I am told this is to check the quality of the works to make sure they are of the quality necessary for the funding….hmmm. interesting.
I am not surprised but everyone is very kind, no suggestion of criticism or other ways to do the program. It is certainly an honor to participate, but will this just pass and the impact of ”exchange” and moving across, into, and through each other, fade back when “nationalisms” are on the rise everywhere? I cannot speak.

(A small aside: the music is played incredibly loud at the sharing session, I could hear the molecules in my ears and the digital hissing. Why so loud?)
Tiechun
I see so much tension in Tiechun’s work, it never releases. I don’t feel the brilliant last roll as strongly as I do in rehearsal when it is a small section done over and over. He is eloquent during the sharing session. I wish his characters would tell me their stories or dreams. His students and Pan Li the Chinese researcher on this project say how radical this work is and that this has been an incredible opportunity for them to see him work in a different way. I see his work as a landscape, vast.
Jonathan and Carolyn
If Jonathan wants to keep the shifting, which keeps the ”life” in the work, protects it from stagnation and performance-performance, he needs to set up a trigger movement or signal that pulls the dancers out of the dance, for one moment you are not in the dance then back in. He could use that lighting designed block of light more.
Yesterday they had a talk with the performers about going back to the first encounter with the words, when it was fresh, and there was personal investment in that movement for that character. In the sharing, Wang Lei spoke of the characters of the their language having multiple meanings so that that encounter could be multiple depending on how or if you played with the character’s layers. I love it, language dances: makes us all aware of the indirectness of speech, writing, whereas gesture strikes us with potency of time, space, direction, weight, and force.
Dancers and choreographers should never say they cannot talk about their dances. Articulation of joints meets the symbolic and performative. Cool.

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Shake it up Oct 27/28 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/shake-it-up-oct-2728/752 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/shake-it-up-oct-2728/752#comments Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:03:26 +0000 Katherine Mezur October 27, 2009 Shake it Out Every morning before going to the rehearsals at BDA, I go to the nearby Zizhuyuan Park. The name of the park has something to do with royal bamboo, which is everywhere and there is a separate bamboo specialty garden-within-the-garden. At 7AM the park is hopping, literally with over 15 [...]]]> October 27, 2009
Shake it Out
Every morning before going to the rehearsals at BDA, I go to the nearby Zizhuyuan Park. The name of the park has something to do with royal bamboo, which is everywhere and there is a separate bamboo specialty garden-within-the-garden. At 7AM the park is hopping, literally with over 15 or more “dance” related groups. I walk past tai chi, Beijing opera singing and instruments playing, four or five ballroom dancing groups playing popular songs to waltz, tango etc., three or four types of Chinese Folk dance with fans, no fans, streamers, a soft jazzercise movement class, sword dancing groups, foursomes that hit a feathered ball on their up turned heels, (jumping between hits with turning), and in one part of the park people are in separate spaces and over a loud speaker someone is shouting movements, and they all do these commands in unison, like jumps, walks with kicks, and everyone responds loudly with short shouts. I pass between curtains of music from many boom boxes.
The dances have names: Tiechun’s is now “Ghost Money” (maybe “coins” is better and the word in Mandarin means “paper money” that is used at funerals when it is burned so that the person who died may purchase what they need in the other world—). This goes so well with the Mozart work’s background. Then Jonathan’s is now Beijing Ren or Beijing Man, the name of the play by the playwright I wrote about last week, Cao Yu, (1940). This also stands for the once earliest finding of a human-like remains names Beijing man. Ok now the work gets gendered no matter what you do.
Ghost Money
Tiechun refines and refines. He reworks sections for the two child-like roles after watching a video of the work. Now these two performers are in a stronger opposition to the primary couple. While the dance classes are really strictly divided by male and female styles (even ballet), this dance is coupled (hetero-wise) so we have an intertwining of genders, while the ”roles” are still male/female gendered with women lifted by men and men doing big jumps and turns. In Jonathan’s dance gendering is shifted to different variables of male-ness.
Twisting theme of Ghost Money “Zhi qian”
I took two female folk dance classes and found the twisting of the torso, legs/feet/ankles in walking, and arms/wrists/fingers and shoulders, even turning is like curling up, twisting. This action must have many shades and variations, which I know nothing about, but it seems to function as a movement theme. Tiechun is head of the Folk Dance Division at BDA and he spoke of taking this twisting as far as it could go, “…to extremes,” he said the second day of choreographing. What does “twist” mean? If you do the action, it means you have to hold onto one head of the twist and initiate it from the other, or the center is held and the two ends must twist. It is a contained, bound action. Tiechun frequently directs the twist inward, and on occasion he might emphasize the outward action or untwisting, but most move inward to consolidate the action, control it closer to one’s center. I think Tiechun said to his dancers after one run through: twist until you can go no further, then make the change. Don’t rush, energy is continuous and active … the twist itself has emotion.” An active/passive relationship is necessary according to Tiechun, but not too active nor too passive.

Beijing Ren
While I keep searching for the ”shaking world” theme in this work, the play Beijing Ren is actually quite appropriate, but the dancers nor the choreographer are making use of the work itself, just cut up dialogue. Just a little background on Cao Yu:
In 1940, Cao Yu completed the writing of his fifth play, Peking Man, considered his most profound and successful work. Set in Peking (today Beijing) as its name implies, and in the then present, surprisingly the work does not allude to the war with Japan at all, but chronicles the history of a well-heeled family that is incapable of surviving and adapting to social changes which are destroying the traditional world and culture in which they live. The title of the work is an allusion to the so-called Peking Man, the proto-human who inhabited the north of China several hundred thousand years ago. Cao Yu’s recurrent themes are present, emphasizing the inability of traditional families to adapt themselves to modern society and its customs and ways. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_Yu October 27, 2009

Backlog of stuff: Jonathan uses “dream” idea, a kind of surrealism is in the sections and movement but the music drives it differently/ Could the sound be silent for a section? How much do we see when there is no sound to move the movement? Working on relationships needs more work. They are invested but some of the gestures that are small and personal no longer carry that personal stuff. Sometimes seems a bit mechanical, very beautiful but controlled and ”cool.”
I would like to have some time to talk to each performer from this group by himself, because they group think sometimes. Are these dancers in their world of the dance academy perhaps unaware of the shaking world? Or is it hard to think or feel when your life seems set and stable in their system of state supported dance? Are any dances ever controversial? Do their dance dramas go back into pre-20th century Chinese culture to be safe?

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Oct 26 Music sound gesture http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/oct-26-music-sound-gesture/743 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/oct-26-music-sound-gesture/743#comments Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:35:11 +0000 Katherine Mezur Oct. 26 2009 Music sound gesture

Dancing to and beside music. At some point, I have to deal with the music going on here. Jonathan listened to his ipod while watching the work as we moved through last week. He was sorting and feeling out what was going to work best. I think it was Friday or Saturday when he played three music selections to the same movement sequence and asked the dancers [...]]]> Oct. 26 2009 Music sound gesture

Dancing to and beside music.
At some point, I have to deal with the music going on here.
Jonathan listened to his ipod while watching the work as we moved through last week. He was sorting and feeling out what was going to work best. I think it was Friday or Saturday when he played three music selections to the same movement sequence and asked the dancers how they felt and to hear the sound next to the image/kinaesthetic materiality. Two pieces did entirely different things: one a Bach fugue and the other electronic by a new music group out of San Francisco, (will get the name, sorry). Well two things happened, both worked but differently, and one of the Danscross works already has a Bach work on it. BUT, the fugue was spectacular with the movement because it charged the emotional side that the dancers have not really played with directly. See below

I THINK WE NEED TO STOP FACING THE MIRROR. In order to get out of the frontal gaze, the dancers need to be placed elsewhere to get the dance out of dance-hood or the proscenium stare.

Ok, so the Bach fugue channeled the emotional links from tender to silly but I think Jonathan also felt it could mask what else was going on and thus: the electronic work is now in place. As Jonathan also suggested, sometimes the music can run outside the dance and I was thinking how it streams and sometimes pushes the movement in interesting ways, but not forcefully. That is a problem though; the music does not create any kind of sound/body tension that can make a work really rich and provocative. The music seems to stand directly beside the dance.

Aside: the electronic choice can also make the dancers work very hard on an expressive encounter with each other and wherever
My last VOTE: This work grew out of these small moments of physical encounters with words/letters/sounds from poems and a play. It does not matter to me if those texts have been chewed and bitten and danced alive, but there were ecstatic moments that just no longer happen because the dancer does not speak the words… It was really wonderful when a sound/syllable/tone would hit the air and echo with the gesture. I would love even a whispered section or even one dancer doing that word/phase dance. It opened up the dancers’ vulnerability too because it is not something they do all the time. They are such brilliant dancers that sometimes they can sit back, away from their dancing and not tune in the way they did when the words made them be present.

Enough. I know the poly-stage is large but I have seen Pina Bausch send a dancer onto an opera sized stage and whisper making the entire theatre lean forward and reach for those syllables.
The encounter in language and gesture here is charged and nuanced because I remember the poems, the play texts, the choices made…

Tiechun
I walk in and the dancers have costumes on: I was concerned because this work needs costumes but I do not think they should look like Chinese Folk Dance costumes. They have big linen pants dyed so that the brown starts very dark and fades into the off-white.

I keep thinking of the things that are HUGE in Beijing: the Forbidden City, Tiananmen square, the new buildings like the National Performing Arts center (it’s a HUGE like a drop of water on the surface of the earth. Perhaps China wants to be BIG now, what does that mean?

Twists, like the Chung Guo Jie that is the woven/braided knot that is used in Chinese knotted hangings. Tiechun used every twist today: In one group encounter they hold hands and knit and unknot their bodies. Tiechun directed a powerful suggestion: lift through the weaving when you start, the chest should press forward up and over and then the limbs take over the ”twisted” distortion as he called it today. Keep the legs together, the knees in, tighter, concentrate, flow within that pretzel.

Back to those costumes and music
Tiechun is creating a world, the pants, the tops of with their layers of tucked and pleated off-white cloth, on the front of the shirts that are cut on diagonal necklines for the women. This makes them “Han” if they have that kind diagonal flap to close the shirt. Each dancer’s patterned folds are different. While the cloth and tops give me a sense of ”folk,” I am told that they do not feel that way to the dancers. They do add to the strangeness of this work.

A long ribbon of twisting bodies, a hurdle of twists, like a human “Bird Nest, ” the flinging flying stomping twists, followed by. …Those WONDERFUL FLOATING WHITE COINS made out of paper. These are the reappearance of the funeral practice like the early parade: These are the coins that are tossed somehow. Tiechun adds these small triangles of red silk that float like brilliant flames with the white coins over the dancers’ dancing.

Like the Mozart Mass in C Minor, the clothe and the changes in the shapes of gestures with sleeves and billowing pants wrench the work out of its simpler space into a public one.
There is that word again: Public. Dance making made public, an incredible way to challenge all of us.
Like Tiechun asking his dancers to let their breath and movement “coincide”.

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elegant distortion and markets http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/elegant-distortion-and-markets/719 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/elegant-distortion-and-markets/719#comments Fri, 23 Oct 2009 17:34:49 +0000 Katherine Mezur October 23, 2009 Elegant distortions and markets Only a short time in Tiechun’s room today. The problem is in this job of observing and blogging, one’s heart and attention is always divided because I have to move from one dance-making session to the next and they are happening simultaneously. Further complications: Jonathan has an interpreter assigned him no matter what, so the interpretation there is guaranteed and I am not totally lost [...]]]> October 23, 2009
Elegant distortions and markets
Only a short time in Tiechun’s room today. The problem is in this job of observing and blogging, one’s heart and attention is always divided because I have to move from one dance-making session to the next and they are happening simultaneously. Further complications: Jonathan has an interpreter assigned him no matter what, so the interpretation there is guaranteed and I am not totally lost in my own intuitive translation. But with Tiechun, who is always commenting directly to the dancers before, during, after, the dancing, even when the Mozart’s Mass in C minor is blasting decibels beyond our hearing capacity. I cannot understand his comments and need an interpreter, but it seems their times and hours are loosely defined. Luckily my student/friend, Min Zhu from the University of Washington is able to help too. I am very interested in what a choreographer critiques and how they say it and amend it as they watch their dancers deal with the text/meaning and stream it into their bodies and movement. When you teach dance technique, you never know if your exact correction or encouragement will really hit home and work for a student’s physical performance and focus, and their creativity.

Jonathan and Carolyn
Today is a short day with only the morning in the studio, but with new material, and new instructions. This is just fragment from Cao Yu’s play Beijing Ren (Beijing Man), but now reduced to one sentence and a longer response by one character. The instructions are 1) to have their own physical encounter with the text and avoid “meaning making” 2) (they drew names so they have one person in their group as their secret person) to have this encounter as the other person. So you have to become as much like that person, thinking of how you really know them inside out. You know their movement choices and how they move. Jonathan includes that this should not be to make fun of them in any way.
The dancers move to the floor and start working. A note on the text: It is one character’s short explanation of Tea culture, “Yes, talking about tea, …whenever he drinks tea, he has to first rinse his mouth, light incense, and meditate. …tea is only a way to satisfy our thirst, but to him, it is a philosophy, to do with taste and discernment.”
He just starts coupling these and we go to lunch to get “costumes” from the market and the mall. This is another whole adventure, strange, just looking for pants and t-shirts can be an encounter with material consumption.
Tiechun’s Twisting Bodies continue
After a long interview with him yesterday, I ended yesterday seeing their bent over from the waist crisscross walk from folk tradition (now upside down). Then he was have them put their hands or fists on the ground and literally stomp with their hands like the hoofs of a horse, or something like that but it was twisted and percussive. They practiced it over and over and over and over again finding rhythm in the percussive jabbing thuds of their feet and feet.
Today I return and they are doing the figure 8 turned in a near slow motion, still bent over from the waist but now the arms float up like the curving oppositional arms of the walk. Are they elegant ostriches? They remind me of egrets too or blue herons whose long long legs make them totally elegant in their picking and dipping for bugs and small sea creatures off the surface of the water or land.
Elegant yet he is asking them to bend their legs more, keep the knees in, float the arms up, and twist to one side until you can no longer go that direction, then start the spiral back the other way. Twist all the way, go further and it is becomes distorted and elegant. Tiechun finds these lovely contradictions. He amplified the cracks and pops in the old but beautiful phonograph record. Perhaps folk patterns are so deeply imbedded in our muscles and minds, we can only twist them, contort them, but not loose or destroy them?
Min notices how the dancers in both rooms use the front facing so much. Is this the use of the mirror now or is it from proscenium-based presentational dances that demand this frontal facing?

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October 22 dreams and twists http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/october-22-dreams-and-twists/713 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/october-22-dreams-and-twists/713#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2009 19:41:26 +0000 Katherine Mezur October 22, 2009 Both choreographers are shaping the movement material that the dancers have created, learned, absorbed, and discovered. Tiechun, Jonathan, and Carolyn compose and/or build these dances surrounded by cameras, observers, student helpers, interpreters, friends, faculty from the school, and designers. Outside in the bicycle lane: Beijing, I know, is not “China” but I see these radical signs of transformation: three wheeled vehicles fill the side “bicycle” [...]]]> October 22, 2009
Both choreographers are shaping the movement material that the dancers have created, learned, absorbed, and discovered. Tiechun, Jonathan, and Carolyn compose and/or build these dances surrounded by cameras, observers, student helpers, interpreters, friends, faculty from the school, and designers.
Outside in the bicycle lane: Beijing, I know, is not “China” but I see these radical signs of transformation: three wheeled vehicles fill the side “bicycle” lanes, where “anything that goes” is ok. Most are barely moving on tiny engines, or still pumped like a bicycle. These transport furniture, or garbage, or fruit and vegetable, or all forms of old junk like mini-moving vans. There are those that have enclosed “cabs” like mini-taxis, with room for one or two people inside. This fleet of patched and battered “expanded bicycles” move the old Beijing along side the giant glassy malls, the millions with shopping bags, and the dark brown population that still squats on the sidewalks and spits.

In a conversation with Tiechun: He thinks this experiment is really worthwhile. He has a chance to create a dance in a way that he has never done before: he usually has his own theme and vision but now he keeps the ”shaking” theme and does not know what will happen as he choreographs. He talks about the ”twists” in the bodies that he keeps putting in the movements. The torso twists are exaggerated from a folk or traditional body carriage movement. Perhaps this indicates the way that the world is coming apart. He is subtly moving the tectonic plates of the sedimented traditions. He explains this image of tossing paper coins at traditional funerals and how this enters the larger theme: the passage from life to death, we hover and/or shake at that precipice. More on that later.

Jonathan and Carolyn review and rearrange the poem, dialogue, and dream sequences into lines, formations, and astonishing unison works. I kept seeing these very idiosyncratic gestures (almost like hieroglyphs) that the dancers developed on their own, become dance phrases: is this a bit sad? Is there something lost in this transition? Sure, the tiny nuances that breathed with that individual dancer’s body and feelings are only traces in the danced version. Somehow in that passage, the movement becomes rhythmic, spectacular, and graceful, no longer the strange awkward and personal engraved gesture.
Still beautiful.

There is a dream sequence I missed the creation of: Jonathan asked them to think of a dream they had, put it into four phrases of movement that described the dream, These had to have an experiential quality that made the audience experience their dream’s feeling and we should also see the content of the dream. They had to create these spontaneously, without preparation. These phrases are filled with quick and large changes in body shapes and movement with facial expressions. These also are done in unison in different formations.

More on Jonathan’s structures tomorrow, but he said the work is really about dialogue. One instruction today to get movement more deeply in the body: “don’t fully do it, think about doing it.”

Each dancer reveals his own rhythmic dynamics, his own way of sensing the world, taking it in, struggling and pressing it out through gesture.

They still stay in place to dance most of the phrases. When Jonathan has them move in a line in unison upstage, it is like a gasp, a breathless space: we need that.

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yunlu and couples http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/yunlu-and-couples/711 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/yunlu-and-couples/711#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2009 19:21:36 +0000 Katherine Mezur October 21, 2009 yunlu and couples

What ever I hear or ask is filtered through different people. Even when they say that “primary source material” (like face to face encounter) is what a researcher wants to get, that this is the raw material of research, but really “in translation” means a kind of change has happened to the source material: it is already transformed. Thus research is creative [...]]]> October 21, 2009
yunlu and couples

What ever I hear or ask is filtered through different people. Even when they say that “primary source material” (like face to face encounter) is what a researcher wants to get, that this is the raw material of research, but really “in translation” means a kind of change has happened to the source material: it is already transformed. Thus research is creative and dynamic, not the ”truth.” Alive.

I keep wondering when Tiechun will name his “work.” The walk with the male dancer lifting the feet of the female as she glides forward, down stage in the hip swing, body twisting away from the center/ Emily, a walk from a Chinese minority

I would like to talk to each dancer about their ideas about this project from the beginning until now in its 4th phase. What does the theme of the world “shaking” mean to them now? How has this changed?
I would like to have an open discussion about the theme with the dancers, researchers. And guest choreographers. I will also ask the choreographers about any preparation they did and how they may be adapting their normal methods to this particular task. I need to see earlier works by the choreographers to see what their work has been like at least in the last few years.

Today I will make lists. Some very famous authors (Sei Shônagon) made themselves famous for their lists.

Tiechun’s room and ”making strange”
Perhaps surreal is not the word but absurd, like Beckett’s characters, we seem to be a strange family caught in its own tiny world. Is this ” shaking” like those little globe worlds used for souvenirs where you shake and ”snowflakes” flurry about this miniature fake world?
Two dancers work two wait
Tiechun wants the yunlu: the patterns in the movement, the rhythmic patterns, the deep structures, the rhythmic structures.
In this walk by Guo Jiao from the folk dance, what began as a distinctive walk almost parade-like appearance has become a walk with Yuan Jia lifting her feet one by one in her rhythm? He must be crouched on the ground to do this. Now she is literally walking on air in the hands of all the dancers, she walks upright across the stage with the hands of the dancers holding her up, until she falls backwards into Wu Shai’s arms.

Tiechun works on the two “children” Wu Shuai and Huang Dong Mei in their rocking and now whirling dervish dance. They must: stare forward with out blinking. They must get faster and faster, they practice many many times. They spin out they fall they laugh they spin they work with their heads to one side arms over head, spinning: bend straight bend straight bend straight, Tiechun calls and claps and makes them spin over and over and over again. But it works. The voice of the soloist in the Mozart Mass in C Minor begins her most sweet sad song with Guo Jiao’s raised walk downstage, and the doll-like rocking figures in the background. Figures in a landscape. Many phrases of the mother and father figure repeat but with slight variations, her fall and jump into his arms, crouching on his knee, again and fall, again and fall forward, again. This is a precarious world.

Jonathan and Carolyn’s room
Have they talked over the theme with the dancers? With themselves? Can we talk or maybe not. I am not sure silence works. I am not sure dancers only want to dance and not talk about their work. I do not think that brilliance disappears if you share ideas about your work.

I sit on the bench across the front mirrors so the 6 men are always looking directly at us to adjust their movements, posture, look etc. I feel invisible and like I am an obstruction.
Has the world disappeared outside of Beijing?
Jonathan puts the 6 into 3 couples to play the male and female roles in a play from the early 20th century by another Chinese playwright. It is a fractured love scene, with only tension and small talk between the characters. I love the small movements that come from an emotion that is lost but leaves traces. I will get an English copy of the play and scene. It seems to be about two people who no longer hear or know each other. Instructions from Jonathan: in contrast to other exercises and tasks think of the physical language as an emotional or ”charged” language. In his critiques: when you do not use the words while moving (to one couple who does not) it is a cop out, using the words gives the movements a different power, without the words, it becomes just a dance. They are asked to lean into the words, push response, and sometimes to wait, hold back, let the movement moment arrive. Wonderful moments where their bodies seem to have different meanings: from I am tired, leave me alone, hands to face, pushing legs between legs, rolling over and off each other. No one is violent with their actions, but something is masked. One dancer clasps his partner around the neck, and Jonathan asks for that moment to be more front, more twisted. The dancers laugh. Is it laughter away from the strangle hold?
One dancer traces the entire body outline of his partner: is this map of the person? Is this the boundaries that he must stay within? Is this the shape of a dead body on the pavement anywhere in a shaking world.

I am reminded of Pina Bausch’s different shoulder stands and parades making humans strange and strange humans.

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touch and duets October 20 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/touch-and-duets-1020/703 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/touch-and-duets-1020/703#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2009 17:59:48 +0000 Katherine Mezur October 20, 2009 Blog-a-way at BDA My context: Found out more about the Cultural Revolution. Depends so much on generation, more on that later. Took a Mongolian Dance Class at the nearby University of Ethnic Studies. Amazing revelations, incredible teacher. Could understand better where some of the gestures come from in the improvisations in Jonathan’s group and the dance training for all the dancers and one of the choreographers draws on this kind of vocabulary. All the gestures involve [...]]]> October 20, 2009
Blog-a-way at BDA
My context: Found out more about the Cultural Revolution. Depends so much on generation, more on that later. Took a Mongolian Dance Class at the nearby University of Ethnic Studies. Amazing revelations, incredible teacher. Could understand better where some of the gestures come from in the improvisations in Jonathan’s group and the dance training for all the dancers and one of the choreographers draws on this kind of vocabulary. All the gestures involve the focus of the eyes, the center is mobile and charged, gestures lift high and forward and out: onto the great grasslands of Mongolia.

Today I get this sense of frontal focus and the North South and East West planes of the dances dominate in both groups. There is very little use of repetition yet.

Zhai Tiechun’s group
Going over the section from yesterday, which keeps emerging differently every time they do it as Tie Chun probes and pushes and keeps pressing new relationships to emerge. I can notice the ”stray” gestures that arise from some of the folk dance training of the dancers, mixed with ballet. Tie Chun I very intense. On his feet in the middle of the studio, he moves with a dancer to get the foot action right, he does it to find it and then refine it with the dancer. When the dancer’s get stuck, he moves in tries it.

Two important concepts from Tie Chun today: (Remember this is in translation, and I should get the Chinese to look it up later)
1) After one run through of the current sequence, where they are moving in and out of family portrait-like tableaus, he asks them to use more mental rhythm, to get into synch with each other, to make the jump to fall to jump to fall to push to shove to slip to slide to pause to stop. He asks them to be stable inside, not to rush.

2) Nostalgia, he says inspires his him. I ask him about the way he starts with the dancers doing “natural” movements, like falling backwards from a crouched position, and then he keeps stylizing or refining the movement (to me) into a set phrase of movement that is no longer a gesture from everyday pedestrian movement. He disagrees to a certain extent and goes on from there. He is doing a new process here to move out of his way of doing things. He does not feel it is stylized, but stays very close to the original gesture from daily life. Instead, he says the dancers start making it something else and he pulls them back to the base of the gesture in timing, breath, and to me what looks like design.
He mentions old photographs of his family and that some of the images he has in his memory of his own family. He says the movement in this work so far must be life-like. It may become “generalized” from authenticity (his word/translator) of the daily. He says he works with a kind of ”internal logic” that seems from his gestures to take off as he works with the dancers, so he does not come in with a plan. His work here is to make the work with the dancers. He usually does not work this way.

The walk: “where the man makes the path and the woman walks” from traditional way, says the rehearsal director also a choreographer. He and Tiechun wear the same outfits, jeans, sweat shirt, shaved head with a baseball cap on occasion.
Tie Chun works over and over again with Guo Jiao who is the ”wife,” and Yuan Jia who is the ”father” figure (these are very loose “roles” not characters). This walk downstage by Guo Jiao is a very stylized walk from her classical Chinese dance and folk dance training. The foot is turned in and then turns out when wt. is placed on the foot, the upper torso twists away from the lifted foot and moves in opposition to the hips, which really stabilized everything. The head can remain center or move opposition to the torso, so you get a twisted and spiraling effect through the spine. This spiraling energy is in most Beijing Opera movements. Yuan Jia starts beside Guo Jiao just lifting one of her feet over his leg where he sits after a fall backwards. This becomes a dance of the father lifting the feet of the mother so she progresses downstage only by means of his lifting and placing of her feet. In reality, she is walking and his becomes more and more gestural behind her, shifting side to side.

Then Tie Chun works with the two “children” on an arm swinging and body swaying sequence. They are cute. He has them stand side by side like cutout dolls, legs in second, staring slight upwards, chest pressing up and back (changed this later). Arms swing, then this swing moves into a sway side-to-side, again doll-like with flexed feet off the ground.

When he plays the Mozart Mass for run-throughs of sequences, it gets this surreal sensibility. Like one of those greeting cards with a pop-up character or landscape, his dance pops out of the background, makes the Mass a strange landscape.

Afternoon
Jonathan and Carolyn
I notice how no one choose stillness, not just a pause, but deep stillness for a word or character. They do not use repetition very much. Not exactly, but some use a theme and variation process for a sequence.

The mini-works based on poems (as base only for engaging physically) and a scene fragment, continue. They review the exhilarating mass of gesture and words generated yesterday and make a new sequence with a new poem, a language-body-encounter. The dancers are amazing how they remember each gesture and facing and sequence. They use the words to remember. Prompting with words is an interesting body memory triggering.

Jonathan puts pairs together. A ”water” pair sequence is done in close proximity, with each having their own rhythms to maintain. One starts later, end together. Jonathan has them do it over and over again, while he is listening to music on his ipod with earphones. Interesting tech trick. Says he is playing Madonna. Interesting. Like a Virgin. Late this is done again with a kind of postmodern jazz-like electronic work, cool. Movements have a wave-like shiver, shaking, small hand gestures over face, hair, one stays in place while the other runs a loop, a diagonal back into same spot. There is an ending where they both have a hand and finger sequence, which they pop and punctuate to match the music.

When I see these sequences, I small dances like brushstrokes. But it is very hard to ”write” them here.

Instructions to 3 dancers doing one dancer’s sequence:
1 teach your partner your dance so you get it into your body too
2 learn it and teach it EXACTLY so you become his body
3 learn it so well that you can perform it very very quickly over and over again.
Cool variation: do it together but in your own time: produces a cool tension dynamic that pushes each dancer into more exact and focused sequences.

2 dancers doing both sequences
1 learn each other’s phrases
2 put them in an order and make transitions between
In this duet the two sequences become more dynamic and use more space.

They re-remember yesterday’s scene work with “dialogue.” I think this has produced really interesting sequences that have light and dark sides, some emotional spaces/relationships. Does what Jonathan has pressed for: breaking away from meaning, finding corporeal encounter with words or associations with sound/word spaces.

In general so this is not for ALL of these miniworks but there are small hand gesture sequences that are like tiny quotes or partial references left in mid air: these draw the eye, but have less kinaesthetic impact than the gestures of hands which move into and out of larger postures or locomotion or when they touch themselves. There are designed movements with great lines and patterns through space, but I am first drawn through my eye, not my kinaesthetic fibers….which means I am seeing deliciously but not “moved” and I do not mean emotionally or melodramatically, I mean the impact of some dance that rocks you out of your seat, from the skin and guts. More on this later. These are studies, just becoming dances.
Hand across a face moves the face, traces face and gesture into space.
Pointing becomes something like a million arrows going everywhere on a map.
Focus is internal because they are remembering; I am curious what will happen with that.
Would they rather be leaping?

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Cold birds and pets October 19 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/cold-birds-and-pets-october-19/701 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/10/cold-birds-and-pets-october-19/701#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2009 17:58:19 +0000 Katherine Mezur Blog October 19, 2009 k Mezur Cold birds and pets October 19 Beijing Dance Academy BIG BIRTHDAY party last night at the Military Theatre. Security at the door took your temperature on entering with a gun like instrument held near your neck, and you pass through a metal detector. But everyone else thinks this is nothing new. To enter the Theatre you must take off your [...]]]> Blog October 19, 2009 k Mezur
Cold birds and pets October 19
Beijing Dance Academy BIG BIRTHDAY party last night at the Military Theatre. Security at the door took your temperature on entering with a gun like instrument held near your neck, and you pass through a metal detector. But everyone else thinks this is nothing new. To enter the Theatre you must take off your purses and backpacks and put them through a security check. Then VIPs enter 20 min after followed by speeches, speeches, speeches. Three hundred students are about to present the anniversary dances from every type of dance from every region, in ascending order with the original choreographer listed. They bring out the older dancers and choreographers from these past times: about 25? Not sure. They are astonishing, men and women, some look not so old, but a few totter in on canes and with help. A pink flurry of young boys and girls flock it to bestow flower bouquets on these legendary dancer/choreographers/teachers. The audience is thrilled. Then the performance begins with a kind of classical Chinese acrobatic wonder as students fly and fling and bend and splay legs in amazing gymnastic stunts. Tricks to me. Sorry. The ”system” of showing me technique is ok but. In the next hour and half there is a medley of dances from the repertoire. The Cultural Revolution is the vacuum. Here we have bodies in front of us with all that history. Red flag billowing giantly from the stage: world here is RED. Heart =

Monday
Here we go: Letting you know I am going to use language like a dance sometimes, and not worry about sentence structures etc thanks.

Aware of organization: how will they meet and start. How gracious will they be? We (Westerners) seem really focused. Lots of media about. This makes Jonathan a bit uneasy. We work out how to use the interpreters. I suddenly feel like I have a body guard. Emily is like a shadow with Jonathan and Carolyn. He hands out the poem that is one of the texts of the work, Wet or winter Snow is the name, chills huh. Very beautiful choice as I see movement begin to fidget out the 6MALE VERY DIFFERENT BODIES. They move so differently from the Guadong Dance Company, recently in San Francisco. I miss having female bodies. Does this make the dance easier to make? Evens out the territory, there is a ”broad” gender difference here. See notes on the Chinese choreographer.

Working on ”words” or characters of the poem, not for ”meaning” I think; what does meaning do? How does it act or dance. Why do many choose to query “meaning”? What is meaning in Chinese. Tiny Shifts all day over Chinese words and English words. Like that.
Men moving so smoothly, silken, but use weight. Front and side and back facings. Diagonals used for locomotion not in place movement. Hmmm. I will add names tomorrow. Beautiful hands. Jonathan pushes for more commitment to feeling or involvement with each choice they make. They show each phrase 3 times with words 2x and then without saying words. I enjoy the words slipping out between movements, on top of a gesture, behind an impulse, creates a tension for them, something to challenge beyond the leg being so high. One tries to slip out of problem. Jonathan pushes him back.

Bird image, cold, wetness, a fisherman, 10,000 is next to alone, solitary, single, this poem is weighty but has birds to fly on. Don’t do images, break away from obvious. But this Tang poet was brush stroked these words into being, are we beating them back into the inked landscape?

I watch Jonathan watching for bodies, which speak. Repeating changes things. Tasks are gesture packages.
Transitions: energy drops happen. Lines are so strong with arms stretched, legs strike high like lightning bolts. Still technique-like. Shake out the dance and boogie.

Bodies: some make the same rhythms, hard to break your own patterns and comfortzones. Gumby arms, sensibility of everyday movement doesn’t stay still on their bodies, fist becomes turning and crumpling. My kinaesthetics may be jet lagged. I see lines and lovely bodies, but, hmm.

More phrase and sounds of ”words” hands over eyes. Slashes into the ground. Rolls over somersaults.
Transitions? Not yet, they blend easily, gesture to locomotion, birdlike stuff. When the guys prompt each other with words it is very dynamic too, layers of voices.

CaoYu is the playwright for tiny section of dialogue between two men from play Beijing Man, maybe written in the 20s or 30s. Famous playwright one of first to take on Chinese spoken drama “huaju”. Chinese and Japanese studied western forms simultaneously.

Chinese on Chinese
Four dancers two men and two women. Different energy. Different presence. Younger? Chinese choreographer is very direct, stands moves close to them. We sit together on the floor. He explains that he is from the North East China and is the Ethnic Dance specialist here at the school. He has a shaved head, bends slightly forward at the waist when he talks and moves over to a dancer in rehearsal. Direct: Something like this paraphrasing: “This is not the way I work. I work with a plan and make dances from vocabulary of a specific region. He knows the students? They are Classical and Ethnic dancers I think, must find out.

Ah, got his name: Zhao Tie Chun, starts talking about “Chinese-ness” what is Chinese? Way cool. Talks about how dances he teaches and makes are drawn from specific regional folk/traditions, very specific and set. Theme of shaking and other ideas of environment, chaos in world, very important, how can the folk/ethnic set forms change to work with these contemporary themes? Is it possible? He wants the traditional gestures to go to another level, the ethnic must do more than meet the modern, shows how a gesture in dance means “happy” in one ethnic dance, arms over head jutting upward expansive. So Xgesture EQUALS Xfeeling. He wants to question that. He has chosen the music already: (have to ask him about this choice) Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor and it may be a requiem because he talks about how the music like the traditional dance is “set: to, it is about mourning, after death and the gesture or practice that would go with that from traditional dance might be throwing paper coins. Wants to break that direct connection, press “folk” stylization into everyday.

Important to break from habits. He feels challenged. Talks about “expression”
Meeting dancers in hallway. They say they made an improvisation about typical family members with gestures of only everyday life. He gives them roles.

Later on stage rehearsal makes it harder for direct communication. Tie Chun has to walk up to stage and jump onto stage and jump off stage and down again. Active. Now dancers are in a configuration of father, mother, and two small “pet-like” children. Woman/mother does small figure 8 steps from opera or? Another kind of folk dance. Now Tie Chun stops and goes, picking out exact. Pulls bodies, presses, repeats repeats slaps for timing. Exacting. Says for them to make their butts ugly, wants more make it larger or way too small, miniature. Be freer.

Make a tableau: one figure center, male, is the center figure of woman on side, with two “children” like puppies beside her rolling and jumping and scuffing. No smiling, really strange, surreal quality of figures and gestures. Claps timing, controls and repeats. Wants angles of bodies and focus just right. NOT improv here. Setting it. Falls and rises timed over and over again. Two women make the dance different. NO ONE comments on the work. k

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