Dance artists Greer Whillans, Jenn Edwards and Carolina Bergonzoni write about the work they have been developing during the spring edition of 12 Minutes Max, which can be seen at a free studio showing on April 11 at 6pm.
I naively began this 12 Minute Max process investigating the relationship between vulnerability and authenticity. Yes, I know, a very ambitious task indeed. I knew it wouldn’t be simple and I knew I would be challenged in many, many ways. Little did I know quite how much! I began my first rehearsal thinking…. Oh no, what have I gotten myself into… Of course I knew these two topics were hefty, but I hadn’t taken into consideration, that in order to investigate thoroughly, I’d have to go there myself, connect and generate movement from those places. It was in those moments that I was most grateful to have such supportive, lovely, open hearts to share the studio with. They helped me tremendously to make this task less intimidating and open up the discussion. We discovered so many wonderful and surprising things in our individual movement and as a collective. We’ve been exercising improvisational techniques as a means to settle into our bodies and get connected to the task at hand. The improvisations reveal questions that continue to lead us down many different roads. Discussions naturally develop such as: how and when are you authentic in your reactions? How does one recognize if someone else is being authentic? How do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? And under what circumstances? Or at what cost? Most recently the idea of using voice was introduced. This obviously excited and terrified us all at the same time. Dancers don’t usually talk on stage! We move… that’s why we became dancers. Nonetheless we are tackling it in the spirit of exploration. While the April 11th preview date rapidly approaches and the 12 Minute Max time limit seems not nearly long enough to share all that we have discovered, I’m grateful for the encouragement and challenge to explore, experiment and get lost in the chaos of playing.
I came into this process with a very specific idea of what I wanted to make: a solo about my fear of heights that also speaks to a resistance to change, an aversion to losing control, and our unending wrestling match with the concept of death. I've always been a "grounded" person. I am strong, level-headed, and quite tied to our earthly, human plane of existence. People around me take comfort in my groundedness, but with this solo I wanted to explore the underbelly of this comforting identity I've carved out for myself. I've grappled with death this year, as I watched my father become very sick and pass away in November. This experience forced me to take comfort in a higher reality, on which we are all part of one universal consciousness and fears are irrelevant. My initial goal with this solo was to discuss the tension between earthly fears, aversions and desires, and a wider, more spiritual perspective that has the potential to eradicate fear. These are pretty lofty ideas for a 12-minute solo to tackle!
On the day of my first rehearsal, I came into the studio with a notebook, camera and playlist, ready to sculpt something right away. And then one of the program mentors, Chick Snipper, encouraged me to let go of all of that and go back to basics. She asked me simply to improvise how I like to move, and then we discussed my strengths, my go-to movements, and most importantly what I was avoiding or holding too tightly. This brought my process out of an intellectual cloud and straight back into the body. What I’m discovering during 12 Minutes Max is that it’s useful to start small, to begin each rehearsal with improvisations that allow me to simply feel my body and not create or perform anything at all. Working this way, I find that once I do start to generate repeatable movement, I’m able to access more authentic impulses. I can more quickly arrive at what I’m trying to say when I take my time getting into things. I trust that this solo will still be about all of the things I set out for it to be (and more) in large part because I’m slowing down, and letting go of some control in the studio.
I began the process of 12 Minutes Max with the intention of investigating the notion of "being at home" and "not being at home" with five incredible dancers from All Bodies Dance Project. Sarah Lapp, Peggy Leung, Harmanie Taylor, Cheyenne D. Seary and Adam Grant Warren have been essential parts of the development of the piece from day one.
My main focus was to explore ways to facilitate an inclusive, safe, and truly cooperative choreographing process. At the same time, I challenged myself to be responsible for every single final decision.
I investigated - and struggled with - ways to own the choreography, while co-creating in a collaborative environment. Indeed, we worked as a unit, but I was the one in charge of the final yes or no. As a final result, we will present some combinations of movement sequences created by each dancer, that I then choreographed in terms of transitions, positions in space, and directionality.
The process has been a roller coaster of failures and successes, but was very exciting from the beginning. I was interested in understanding how to translate movement from my body to each dancer's body, and then between the bodies of the performers, including myself.
We are very grateful for the opportunity we had to explore, discover, and grow together with the support of The Dance Centre and its beautiful studios.
12 Minutes Max Studio Showing
Tuesday April 11, 2017 at 6pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Photos top to bottom: Mavreen David; Werner Puntigam; Carolina Bergonzoni.