Breaking Structure

October 21, 2013 by

When we started this blog the idea of daily practice was so specific. We meet in the studio, with a defined improvisational structure of 3 minutes of doing; taking turns so that we also experienced 3 minutes of watching. We asked ourselves questions about if we were “on” and what that meant. Years later, while this improvisational structure still comes in and out of my dance practice and my creative process – I look at the title “daily practice” and I think about the questions of being “on”, of “doing” and “watching” and I realize I am still deeply interested in these topics, but i no longer want to compartmentalize my experience with them to a rigidly structured and controlled environment. The idea of practice (or what we traditionally call practice in our field) no longer feels adequate in a discussion about daily practice, being on, watching and doing, and the body as an instrument for making art and performance. I find practice is no longer always such a formal and familiar setup – in a dance studio, “dancing” – but rather a daily practice of tuning into ones body and being present, in varying scenarios and activities. It feels critical to let the ideas of daily practice permeate more aspects of my life. As I age I feel that my work as an artist and dancer is not confined to my work in the studio and on the stage. That everything that happens to me, or that I do, resides in my body and becomes a part of my art and my work. That my former idea of practice or what it means to be “on” has been only superficially researched by framing it in such a rigid and controlled environment. So I am going to engage with the ideas set forth in this blog, but break out of the structures that have been put in place. I am not entirely sure what it will look like but I am curious and will try to share my questions and discoveries here.

Place and Space

May 12, 2010 by

I had access today and yesterday. RS2-J3.  Felt like shit yesterday so I spent my time in the space improvising to Vitiello’s music streaming off the web.  No daily practice but I did record a small improvisation.  I was just happy that I made it given how I felt.  Looks like I have the space from Wednesday to Friday and today was a better day.  I did do a sequence of three daily practice structures and I recorded the rehearsal so an outside eye is watching and I’m aware of it.  I set up the Daily Practice space in the field of view of the camera so it should have 3 minute moments of me just sitting in the chair looking at the studio.  I felt brittle and thin today, a product of the cooling weather and lack of humidity.  Since arriving in Sydney the humidity has been present most days and even in the coolish morning the temperature would rise to mid 20’s Celsius with humidity by midday.  I tried something different today structurally with the Daily Practice.  I watched the first 3 minutes and then I did the second.  Why start with doing? I find the watching is almost more potent to what I am exploring anyway.  Fidgeting and mind wandering best describes how I felt during the watching and the doing of the practice today.  Questions related to, ‘am I on’ were distant from my mind.  I’m still feeling out my body after not moving seriously for 7 or 8 months.

I did begin to question my thoughts about rehearsing alone and how that leads to madness or self-imposed torture.  Slightly dramatic thoughts I know!  I have been spending time in rehearsal spaces for the better part of 25 years.  I find it hard to work alone in a space and prefer having others to work with, but today I softened my stance on rehearsing alone.  In an odd way there is something comforting about being in a rehearsal space, even doing the Daily Practice alone brings with it a sense of familiarity and a sense of purpose.  I sometimes felt this was just me being in a situation that I knew and was familiar with but now I wonder if there is not something more to it?  An ephemeral combination of lived experience over the years that I bring to each rehearsal, each moment in the space.  A structure and place whose boundaries I understand explicitly.

Rehearsal Space 2 – Jason 1

May 11, 2010 by

Well, of the three mornings I have shown up to the Dept of Education’s rehearsal space only last Friday have I had access to actually engage in a rehearsal process.  The first day the door was locked, which could be a result of me being 15 minutes late and today (Tuesday) I arrived early to find the room full of people preparing for a class.  Apparently this class wasn’t on the schedule I was given to decide when to rehearse in the space.  Not so much a complaint and more just a statement of the process so far. RS 2 – J 1.  The result of this schedule mixup will probably mean I won’t be rehearsing in the space on Tuesdays which makes my four day practice become a 3 day practice.  However, maybe I should mix up my sense of place and do the practice outside?  Sydney is beautiful and the weather is beyond what I could have expected.  I am here from Fall through Spring and it is late fall.

Since there was a mix up I thought it might be good in this post to describe the process I was going to start today and continue through the week.  I was planning to continue the mad solo version of the daily practice with watching and doing alone.  But I decided to try adding an outside eye – the video camera.  I received a Flip UltraHD in the mail yesterday from a friend and the thing is easy to use. It records video and makes it easy to post online for viewing.  So for this week I will set it up as an outside eye recording the hour of practice.   More tomorrow – hopefully in the space.

Peirce Quote

May 8, 2010 by

Thought is what it is only by virtue of its addressing a future thought which is in its value as thought identical with it, though more developed.  In this way, the existence of thought now depends on what is to be hereafter; so that it has only a potential existence, dependent on the future thought of the community.

No present actual thought (which is [in itself] a mere feeling) has any meaning, any intellectual value; for this lies not in what is actually thought, but in what this thought may be connected with in representation by subsequent thoughts, so that the meaning of a thought is altogether something virtual.

Accordingly, just as we say that a body is in motion, and not that motion is in a body, we ought to say that we are in thought, and not that thoughts are in us.

— Charles Peirce, Writings 2: 241,227,227n

Disconnected – Daily Practice

May 7, 2010 by

Back in the studio at a university again (University of Sydney) but this time as student and not teacher.  I have space from 8-9am, tues-fri in the dept. of education’s dance studio.  It is one of those dance studios that just feels like a place where work is not made.  A ‘teaching about dance’ dance studio disconnected from the professional world.  Anyway, I am starting a daily practice or some sort of form during my hour there 4 days a week.  The original collaborators are not here so I’m going to see if I can find some new folks to engage in this process.  Currently I am reluctantly and nostalgically thinking of those past sessions and the creative/inspirational fusion of what the three of us did.

Today I did a sort of mad solo recreation of the daily practice structure.  I focused on watching and doing.  I used the familiar dog bark from the timer on my iPod Touch – the same app from Lindsey’s iPhone in AA.  I set out to do a series of watching and doing repetitions starting with a 3 minute doing and then a 3 minute watching of the empty space.  I approached it as if somebody was doing the practice with me but I didn’t imagine or try to imagine some imaginary dancer/improvisor (I’m not that mad!).  I looked at the room with the same kind of experiential focus and waited for the bark from the timer, I then reset the timer and went into the space and did another 3 minute doing.  No speaking (well I WAS alone – not like that has stopped me in the past!) and when the 3 sequences of watching, doing, watching, doing, watching, doing were over I wrote some notes and left the space.  Notes I have elaborated on here.

In an odd way I did find the same focus as I did with Lindsey and Christian or maybe it is better to characterize it as a moment when the physical and mental fidgeting stopped.  This happened after the second repetition.  I was always aware/conscious it was just me recreating something that was never meant for one person.  I wonder if that thought will disappear?

Some thoughts …. I have the space for 4 weeks.  Let’s see how it progresses.

Missing —

February 20, 2009 by

I have been thinking about a modified daily practice.  A solo version that modifies the idea of the doer and watcher.  In this case it is still a series of 3 minute physical practices but between each 3 minute physical doing practice is 3 minutes of meditation or inward watching to compliment the doing.  The 3 minute aspect is arbitrary.  I enjoyed it in the realm of trading off 3 practices in 3 sets.  But like the video daily practice, time – the determined limitation of a length – is definitely adjustable.  Maybe the doing is not the same length as the inward watching.  My sense is the ‘meditation’ aspect would be longer then the doing but maybe that is just my need for more time to focus.

Where dp meets performance work

October 25, 2008 by

Performing in Tami Stronach’s “But it’s for you… ” at Danspace Project this weekend I am begining to really see/feel the impact of daily practice in a performance setting. Although the concepts we explore in daily practice come from our experiences performing, this is the first time I have really felt them effect my approach to and experience performing. It is a most exhilerating experience to have pulled particular questions from performance and explored them outside of a formal performance setting and now feeling the deepening of performance because of it. All of the work to find something genuine in front of “eyes”, even in it’s exploratory or unknowing stage, played a large part in my entrance into and journey through last nights performance. As I have been negotiating the relationship between improvisation and set material for some time now, I discovered a clarity in their relationship through these notions of feeling my way through something, as we have been examining in the daily practice. The notion of negotiating my way through set material rather than “dancing the steps” is not a new developement for me but can be well articulated through the seeking of that physical place where one is fully present in a moment and not “performing” but rather dialoging with a watcher with an honesty and awareness that comes from an internal sincerety and an external acknowledgement of ones environment which includes an “audience”. The obstacles are slightly different, in daily practice we are improvising and the uncertainty comes, in part, from a place of “what to do”. But the same kind of detachment from a genuine place can come from the opposite – of “knowing” what you will do.

Some thoughts….

October 22, 2008 by

The following is an excerpt of writing I did to try and understand what it is I want to research as part of my doctorate thesis in Performance Studies.  It is a reflection on the Ann Arbor Daily Practice sessions earlier this year with Christian and Lindsey.  I decided to start from the beginning of this wild adventure I am embarking on to see how my current thoughts relate to the initial creative and intellectual stimulation that birthed this craziness.  I know that some of what is written has been posted already by both Lindsey and Christian but I wanted to share my take on it as well.  And I definitely invite clarifications on any of these thoughts from C&L as I realize my memory of that time is becoming less clear.  And I apologize for the formality of my writing, it just reflects where my writing brain is right now and maybe it is something I should be aware of …… 🙂  

—-notes—-

The root of my interest in this thesis comes from a creative research project with 2 other performers (Christian Burns, Lindsey Dietz Marchant).  For a month and a half we engaged in a daily physical/performance practice.  Monday through Friday we would meet at first inside a studio and later outside in a park.  The final structure of the daily practice evolved over the first couple weeks.  The daily practice was a bridge in many respects between technique class and rehearsal.  It wasn’t a practice focused on training the body in the way that technique class does and it lacked the goals of a rehearsal process.  We were not building a dance.  The original process started out with a ‘warming up’ of the body that would include the usual chit chat that is common during rehearsal and then we would turn to improvisation.  At first we started with solo improvisations that had a specific length.  The task of the improvisor was to have complete freedom to do ‘anything’ in a set amount of time.  Those not doing would watch and wait their turn.  In the first couple weeks this first task of the solo improviser would build to 5 minute sessions with two people improvising, or 5 minutes all improvising (no watchers), or 5 minutes without contact, five minutes all with contact.  For reasons I can’t remember now the 3 of us ended up settling on a structure of 3 minute solo improvisations rotating into the performing space 3 times for a total of 9 minutes of improvising and 18 minutes observing/watching.  The practice would last no longer then an hour and we would time it in such a way that we never went over.  It became important to me to stick to this structure and abide by it regardless of weither we wished to do another round or not. No matter how ‘good’ or dissatisfied we felt about the practice on a particular day.  The daily discipline of following the same practice became very important to me and it was fascinating to observe the initial feelings or sense data when we finished each session.

Some observations about daily practice. 

– I prefered to start the day with a daily practice and felt although without any data to backup my ‘feeling’ that it was important for me to engage in the daily practice before my mind got filled up with the responsibilities of that day and the greater responsibilities of my life.

– At the time I was teaching at a university and there was always a positive creative after effect to every daily practice.  My mind was open to new possibilities and my class became more creative and in turn more satisfying to me.

– After the end of some daily practice sessions I felt what I called the ‘two scotch’ effect.  That feeling of clarity, optimism and relaxation that I have only felt through artifical stimulation such as drugs and alcohol.  It was something that  would sneak up on me, that I could never recreate if I tried to recreate it consciously.

– Being on or off.  The phrase or question, “am I on?” grew in meaning and by the end of our daily practice sessions uttering the words ‘am I on?” meant volumes of exploration.  During the three minutes I struggled mostly with being physically honest in what I was doing.  It was a constant struggle of mind and body, conscious thoughts and unconscious impulses.  I enjoyed the struggle of ‘finding myself’ below the layers of taught craft and manufactured self-awareness.

– The doer and the watcher.  Daily practice didn’t click for me fully until I completed the loop of investigation between the doer and watcher.  It was one thing to do, but it was another thing to watch.  As the doer knowing the watcher was there was important, trusting the watchers to watch and building that trust as the doer increased my own sense of self trust to explore in those three minutes sessions.

-The way in which I watched changed from the first second to the last.  It was similar to warming up the body physically.  I went from an un focused mind to a more focused mind and with every second of watching my mind and attention became more focused on the doer.  This took a lot of concentration at the beginning of every daily practice but my ability to be distracted became harder and harder and my ability to focus and ‘watch’ and take in what the doer was doing became easier.  I sometimes felt that the ‘two scotch’ feeling started to creep into my system not when I connected as a doer but when when I connected as a watcher.

scale and seeing

September 30, 2008 by

Images from august practice sessions in Holyoke, Ma. 

Seeing our movements within such an open setting was in itself a practice of concentration. Not due to content but due to the eyes willingness to follow anything in its path, or unwillingness to want to fix on a human within an inhuman scale of place. Perhaps this notion of scale is something to consider for further investigation. What is human scale? What is inhuman scale? How is scale in and of itself playing itself out within these sessions or within any dance creations/presentations. Can scale be danced? How do we direct the outside eye into varying degrees of scale within the body – another landscape. 

To both dance and watch dance with an outdoor environment can feel like pushups for the eye, but when the muscles begin to respond, there is an ever wider view to appreciate. 

I appreciate my partners dancing in this particular endeavor.

ambient intimacy

September 14, 2008 by

As I begin work on our new piece, “ambient intimacy”, I am thinking about the space between us, near, far, physical, emotional, psychological… the distance we can see between our bodies… the distance we can’t see but can feel from those far off.  the closeness we can feel to someone whose physical presence is not visible but felt.  the real intimacy and the imagined intimacy that these close and far distances BOTH allow for.  Imagining this space as tangible and full.  How does that change, inform, redefine my own bodies edges, my emotional boundaries, and my physical sensations?  While these questions are examined in a much broader context for this new work, it somehow carries me back to what is a central question and exploration that keeps popping up with these daily practices.  the boundaries and edges between us as doers and watchers and the impact, both real and imagined, that we each have on one-another in both of these roles…  there is something key, keen about that space between us that is felt and permeates our own edges to blur what is you and what is me.  it is a connectedness that is both engaging and essential while also probable cause of the fear and walls that keep such a strong desire to maintain our “mask” and to keep a delineation between ourselves and others so clear.  how much are these “distinctions” necessary in order to have a real dialogue and how much must they dissolve?  what is the balance between the thickness and mobility of the space between us and the potency of our own edges…?