Moving Parts

tiny dances

From February 23rd to May 4th, I made a tiny dance everyday, on the spot at 3:15pm. Scroll down for details of what happened each day February 23 – March 22. What immediately follows is a general musing about what I learned/thought/gained with regards to the project………

This fall I intend to pick it back up for at least another two months to get closer to figuring out what the lessons are – since I know there are a lot, I’m just not sure what they are.

In an effort to somehow step outside of myself, away from my process, and put contemporary dance/performance more in the public eye, I decided to make a dance everyday, wherever I was, at 3:15. That was it; no further parameters. And even though I was somehow trying to “shake it off” and get away from the fences I felt I was walking into in my process, I ironically ended up having to spend a lot more time with myself and with my process.

The project really pushed into focus how much I evaluate movement experiences on the good-bad spectrum. I had to actively work to move past an immediate distaste or feeling of jubilation to get to the richer info of what was resonating and holding my interest. And ultimately, I found that that was what I defined as “good” – when an exploration held my interest. I sought saturated experience – something that was so densely full of itself and of its feeling of fresh discovery of whatever that I wouldn’t become distracted. I wanted to feel unclear about what was leading me – my body or conscious choice. I wanted the vivid experience of being inside something ambiguous but also incredibly clear and having an active sense of internal observation without judgment about. If that makes any sense.

As I went further, I found it easier to let each one be it’s own and to recognize that in order to have this rich, saturated experiences, I also had to have 20% dances or dances that were tossed off or that just weren’t what I “wanted”. I enjoyed it when it happened around other dancers who would play with me. Sometimes it was hard to have an audience – could be distracting – and I never found how to seamlessly use language inside a 3:15 dance.

Susan Hess witnessed one in her kitchen when we were having a meeting – she described it as a sliver of experience. Seeking experience not something that matches an arbitrary definition of a dance, and I agree with that.

Towards the end, I sometimes grew to resent the dances – I would feel interrupted sometimes. But I wish that I had pushed through that rather than just stopping when I did – I believe there is more information beneath the surface and in fact, further info in the feeling of resentment or anxiety, itself. My relationship to doing the dances is as important as the dances themselves.

What else? Oh just in terms of how the dances related to my day to day and general emotional well-being, I loved the practice of it. How sometimes it was just one idea whereas other times I wanted to see how long I could focus through a series of physical explorations. Once I was in a sour mood, just really blue, and my dance alarm went off and I began to think big, as if I was performing in a dance installation in my own home. I settled, my breath dropped, time slowed, and my anxiety faded as I intentionally filled a room that had been previously full of stress with new focus and curiosity and intimate exploration and patience. Pretty awesome.

The shortest was probably 10 seconds, the longest 30 minutes. On average the dances were about 2-3 minutes.

I never documented it, which was not the most prudent decision, but that wasn’t the point. The point was my experience and what happens when you change the framework within the exploration occurs. For the first month, I tried to write down what happened during each dance, and what follows below is that writing. From there on out until the end though, I felt weighed down by the pressure to write and also at times anxiously unclear about what I was doing or learning so just wanted to loosen my grip a bit. Let it happen and take the pressure off.

Day to Day breakdown_______________________________________________
Feb 23 – I was just in my kitchen and I sort of stood up all intentional, announcing my actions to no one.  It didn’t feel so different than just improvising in my house, but it did immediately raise the questions – do I compose a tiny dance at 3:15, taking the time to edit and craft or do I just improvise?  And how do I decide when the dance is done?  What is that feeling – one I’ve felt before but to spend this much time with that question is daunting.

Feb 24 – I was at Govinda’s vegetarian restaurant waiting for my order.  I couldn’t figure out why my phone was vibrating and when I noticed it was my dance alarm, I just grabbed the first movement impulse that rose up.  No one really noticed but I also was being quite small in size of movement.  It occurred to me that this is going to be a project not just involving a lot of different locations but props – i was holding my phone and reading the paper when the alarm went off.  Do I just drop those things or start with them involved to transition away from them?  or just dance with them.  ‘dance with phone while reading paper.’ nice.

Feb 25 – embarrassed to admit it didn’t happen.  somehow i managed to turn my alarm off, and i’m still not used to it so didn’t realize i’d ‘skipped school’ til 5:30pm.  whoops.

Feb 26 – oh yeah props and costumes and music you don’t intend.  I was holding a shopvac, cleaning the house when my alarm went off.  my girlfriend and dog were in the living room and totally stopped and gave me their attention.  it was nice to have an audience even in my own home.  i improvise in my house all the time but this time was different – i dropped in really fast and was full engaged and captivated by the incidental ‘dance’.  i felt bold in a way that i hadn’t at govinda’s, when i was self-conscious about being in public.  i was startled by all these choices that hadn’t been intended as creative elements – costume of house clothes essentially, the sound score of my phone alarm and npr, the odd lighting in our house.  all these ambient elements that to go through life i think we have to make invisible – i let them fade into the background.  but in performance and art the goal is to illuminate all components and create intentional relationships of scale and proportion – degrees of illumination/visibility and meaning.  the lens through which i was looking and experiencing my surroundings shifted in quite a profound way where i was really noticing and responding – letting things vibrate forward anew.  huh.

Feb 27 – alone. i don’t even remember it.

Feb 28 – working on fundraising in my kitchen. hated flip flops. amazing moment with chair.

March 1 – at Dance/UP for jaamil. site specific. daily document. i should videotape.

March 2 – at ECFMG, in my fake exam room. longer dance time – really exploring the room. had a problem thinking about what i was doing while doing it at times in an overly critical, outside the thing way. that’s the worst.

March 3 – stoned space. imagined audience. facing assumptions. what’s the difference between this and just jiggling around, improvising in the grocery store? performing for someone, eating jaamil’s corn. sloppy mess, deep rubbing and chewing on skin. feeling fierce and like i’m working through something. ‘stay in it’. get rid of the good/bad paradigm. do anything you want.

March 4 – at a friend’s house. an audience of one. it was self-conscious but silly and meandering.

March 5 – in the car driving to NYC. head and hand dance without a clearly imagined viewing orientation. hip hop music was on the radio so i ended up doing some highly repetitive, small, syncopated movements with my head and hands. it was hard to give over to it obviously because i was driving, but it felt nice to frame something that i might normally toss off as play as a formal ‘dance’.

March 6 – at Urban Glass in Brooklyn. A lot of people were there and so people would drop in and out of watching. i was really engaged by how much space i had and the sensation of my shoes on the concrete floor. swooping and falling. i gave myself the structure of working with one front and in a long corridor. that really held my interest. i built up as i went on, danced for a good chunk of change – i should start keeping exact times and videoing if i can – and got bigger in action which married tightly with the idea of traveling back and forth inside this corridor. tight and loose.

March 7 – at Red Thread rehearsal. a covert and quick dance – with Lisa interacting without her knowing. i had a duet/trio! We were doing the dance as she was speaking to us so my attention was divided between doing my 3:15 dance and being a good listening dancer. That half in, half out attention felt nice, fresh, light. Michele Tantoco joined in, knowing what I was doing, and Gabrielle Revlock spectated from the inside, giving the dance an amazing stillness and visual clarity which I hadn’t tapped into before since all of my dances have been solos really centered around my bodily experience. She helped bring me back outside. I think I should take that as a goal sometime soon – to engage more with a visual composition. and then just like that it was back to work, and the dance was over.

March 8 – should this whole thing be increasing my vocabulary? i’m just wondering if i should be structuring my reflections more or something – or if it’s sufficient to just recount what happened. i’ve decided i want to do the 3:15 task longer than one month; there is a lot to be learned that i can’t even name yet. what does this daily practice, daily document reveal for me? today i did a hand duet with Carmichael that blended so seamlessly out of and back into us just hanging out reading next to one another. It felt like myopic behavior.

March 9 Lost dance. I have no idea what happened. Sorry.

March 10 Outside on Walnut Street with Infernal Noise Brigade on my ipod.  I started with geometry – huh, I think I do that a lot, it’s my ‘in’ – by walking back and forth on the side, so the opposite of the long, straight traveling line people normally take when walking.  i enjoyed narrow misses with bikers and other pedestrians.  then i began some ‘lush’ on the spot solos in the middle of a line.  then i’d continue forward – dance, toss, drop, swing, again – then continue onward until finally i just kept walking and somewhere in there decided it was over.  the end point is always so weird.  there is a slight consciousness shift, but is it that shift that determines that it’s over or does my consciousness shift in response to me deciding it’s over or feeling something in the movement/moment that feels like an end.  i loved the sensation of dancing with the weight of my bag and objects in my hands, watching my shadow flick across the sidewalk, and sneakers on concrete.  so good.

March 11 At Red Thread dress rehearsal and did a warm-up upside down dance with Michele Tantoco, watching her through my legs.  it felt mostly concerned with play, like dog play – action was secondary – and making myself super disoriented.

March 12 A reluctant hand duet with Carmichael in bed where I felt I had to cut off the parts of my body that weren’t engaged in order for it to feel like a ‘dance’.  What is that?  Why sometimes do I have to picture the context and framing of the moment to deem it an ‘acceptable’ choice?  I’m making assumptions there about what constitutes dance.  I liked watching Carmichael’s hand choices and being her quiet partner.  My hand was the straight man to her flair.

March 13 I was taken by surprise by my dance alarm backstage after the Red Thread matinee.  I did the first thing that came to mind – a detailed, short phrase that felt gestural but upon reflection it was pretty whole body with just a heavy focus on the hands and head relationship.  then i sped it up til i couldn’t maintain it anymore.  it was a one idea, one off 3:15 dance.  one thing.

i’m curious about that though – i do that a lot where i think about ‘how long could i do this?’ “how far could i take this either as is or slowing it down or speeding it up?”  “What’s the thing that makes me change?”  And when i walk around the city, i feel picked up and hyped and curious and imagine myself literally leaping at buildings and crawling up them like a tree frog.  But if i’m so interested in my work in what it ‘means to be alive’, and that imagining of physical possibility is what i want when i imagine my bliss or something (really?  is that it?), then why don’t i make more extreme movement work?  or get into parkour or triathlons or something?  or make myself pass out on stage?  what’s weird is i know if someone asked me to i would – but i don’t do it on my own?  do i need to?  where do all these desires meet up in my life, in my physical practice, and in my work?

March 14 Oh I felt imposed upon.  just wanted to rest and not live in a crazy house.  i did a short, forlorn dance in my living room.  it was like i was reluctantly giving my 3:15 dance master something i didn’t feel i had.

March 15 I did a dance at the dining room table with Carmichael.  She was so jazzed about it for me.  She provided the soundtrack, picked some hip hop song that I can’t remember.  I started methodical and with an odd ‘everything is resonant’ aura but then i just dropped it and wanted to play.  i massaged her face.

March 16 At ECFMG in the hallway. I was rushing to get outside because I wanted my 3:15 dance to happen there but I caught in the hallway. I played with being a statuesque gatekeeper and did a 10 minute dance holding onto and eating my apple. I enjoyed playing with my coworkers walking past and interacting casually with them – most did not find it odd that i was dancing in the hall and relating to them through movement – while i was being very deliberate in making finite movement choices. i barely traveled by rather stayed on the threshold that I imagined i was creating and marking with my dance.

March 17 At Dance/UP I did a solo dance inspired I’d say by three things: the Daniel Nagrin footage that I’d been watching (anything can be a solo in any context), the small rug that gave me a small spatial constraint, and all the amazing images on the wall. I felt very separate from them, that as I was dancing I was not only observing my own movement choices but observing my environment and the incredible amount of disparate information present.

March 18 I did a long ritual dance with super soft edges and lines in my bedroom working with the walls, laying against them as if they were the floor or a partner, and standing on my bed. I was really sad and low at the time. I decided to dance until an external marker stopped me, either once Carmichael came home or my dance alarm went off on its own. the latter ended up happening, and I did a dance for 20 minutes. I felt fuzzy and big – responding to tiny details about the space and to big details about how i was feeling emotionally.

March 19 Small bathroom dance, quick repetitions. One note. I was trying to replicate the exact same short sequence of gestural movements over and over again. I wanted it to be over quickly and wasn’t in the mood to do a 3:15 dance. But it did continue this image I had of my dances as installations that if someone walked through my house they would dancers doing dances within and specific to each room. like little worlds or pockets that someone could encounter.

March 20 At Christina Zani’s house, I started by mimicking her actions silently. It gradually evolved into a dance with the table and chair i was sitting at. slow and sculptural i felt like i was really engaging with the properties of the chair object – how i could wrap around it or not. i tried to meld myself with objects as much as possible and then just decided it was over. Christina mentioned that in her site I had become one with the furniture, sort of a non human creature of the environment/of the house. i liked that idea. like i was a houseplant that sometimes you notice and sometimes you don’t.

March 21 I was on the corner of Passyunk and Dickinson loving the sun, dancing outside, and working with reflecting the angles of the intersection with my arms and making ‘poses’ – putting my hands on my hips, etc. i started to move through different poses slowly whilst rotating. i thought of how i was placing my hands so specifically and so followed that line, beginning to place my hands in different locations on my body, that were altered and so no longer ‘pedestrian’ standing poses. i was marking out points on my body as i rotated and then got faster and more ‘dancey’ gradually. still thinking about angles and marking points on my body and in space. stopping. starting fast. stopping. playing with rhythm and marking time as i was on my body. i think someone took a picture of me. but in general very few people took note. it felt really good.

i need to start providing more detail – or what am i gaining? – what are the questions that are arising?

March 22 Doorway dance at Dance/UP. Erin and Michele were in the room, and I was first unnoticed so I felt like furniture (again – ha). I walked through the three rooms of the office, drawing a clear line from one place to another and then stopped halfway back in a doorway. I liked being in a transitional place. I place my arms against the doorjam, measuring against it, fitting into, matching, and began to rotate. I thought of Richard Wilson’s building sculpture with the rotating wall as I was doing it. Because I was trying to keep my arms in the exact position so that they would just slide back into their fitted position with the doorframe once I’d rotated 180 degrees. Even though I was moving the whole time, it was super slow and actually a pretty static and grounded dance ‘object’. i liked the simplicity of it – how it highlighted tiny shifts in my torso, when the rhythm of my lower body got slightly off sync with my upper body, dragging behind. It highlighted how I’m not a ‘static’ animate object (meaning of course that all matter is mobile but you catch my drift..) like the wall of a building. I’m not a sculpture. And even when I try and so tightly control my body movements, the edges quiver, the lines aren’t always straight. yeah?

But anyway, then Lois Welk and Curt Haworth walked in, took notice of me, and boom, I had an audience. Before their appearance I had allowed my internal focus shift to other aspects of the my slow, rotating dance – letting my hands curl into soft fists over a longish period of time – and engaging with my visual focus being active and really seeing versus just letting everything blur slowly past – but once people started asking me what i was doing, my body totally went off on its own course. I was explaining to them about the 3:15 dances as I was dancing, and my body started moving faster. making specific shapes and finding awkward positions, energy knocking from one body part to the next – see I can’t remember quite so specifically at this point – but what i do remember was feeling that my body was doing something like sleep walking. and i was talking on top of it so that i had two different trajectories going on at once. and once i drew attention to that, and played momen(pause)tarily (space) with the rhythm OF what [does that make sense?] i was saying and how i was saying it, the dance changed completely. i was so aware of being watched. attentively watched. Kate Wawa walked in and i got a little aggressive, putting myself into her view, intentionally ‘showing’ and with an altered focus. and my physicality became stretched – i was pushing the shapes against the doorway -as if i’d collided with it as opposed to melded with it.

what does this communicate?

then it was over. and the whole part during the talking felt oddly bold and self-conscious and more dense and complex – things i can’t pick out and name – than the first slow rotating dance which really felt like one sentence. deep and self-assured. one statement. which lasted at least twice if not three times as long.

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