Some thoughts….


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 …… 🙂  


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.


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