Jan 05 2018
I felt my performance went very well. With the audience I felt the work took on another level. It felt more real.
I knew that before the performance I would have to get in to the right mind-set, to remember the bodily feelings. At this stage I know the movement so it was not something I wanted to think about, I wanted to let the emotional state and the bodily memory to be seen over the movement. When I performed the solo I feel I did exactly that. I forgot about the movement, the technique and focused on the emotion. I lost all control, I felt exactly the way I wanted the audience to see and that definitely came across in the movement.
I got positive feedback about the performance. Comments such as:
“You could really where you started playing with the idea of losing control … You were obviously still in control but had the air of being on the edge and possibly falling”
“You could see the journey of the emotions you went through throughout the performance.”
“I’ve never seen it that let go, that free, that out of control but still within control … it was incredible to watch.”
“I really connected with the emotions, even though I don’t know your story, I was able to relate to different sections with what you were feeling and situations I have been in”
It was great to hear comments like these as it really reinforced my research process. It confirmed that what I was doing was working, as the comments I received were about the things I wanted the audience to see and experience.
I would like to gain some more feedback from a variety of people. I would like to be questioned further about what is seen, about the movement and intention. As a first showing of the work I am very pleased with the feedback I got at this stage.
It was interesting to see and hear about other peoples research during the symposium. Ethan Brockenshire looked at the theory of flow. After my performance and feeling the piece come together, no longer thinking about the movement but being in the moment and all the pieces falling in to place this research really resonated with. He looked at the work of Mihaly Ciskszentmihalyi and the optimal experience. This is something I would be interested in looking in to further and how it can inform my practice as a creator, performer and even as a facilitator and teacher.
Further more, Payge Dodd looked in to the embodiment of emotion from a psychological view point. The workshop she delivered started to tap in to different emotions, how we connect with them and how they are expressed and seen through movement. Relating this to my own research for this solo the workshop was very insightful and something I would like to use in the creation of movement in the future. I feel looking more in to this line of research will develop my own understanding of emotion and how to authentically show this in the work I want to create.
Moving forward I would like to continue to develop this piece and extend it to a 10-12 minute work. In my presentation I did say I wanted to extend the piece to 15-20 minuites, however after a conversation with my mentor, Tom Hobden, it was suggested that a solo piece can be more effective and leave a bigger impression if the work is slightly shorter. Further more, I feel a piece that is 10-12 minuites will be more viable for small choreographic platforms which is where I see this piece going. In the symposium I said the section I presented will form one of 3 sections to the work. The second will include spoken word, a poem or text written by myself with correlating movement. The final section will delve more in to mental health, specifically looking at disassociation as this is something I suffered from as a result of my experience in Peru. I am not exactly sure how this will look yet. It could be a disassociation of what is being said to the movement or disassociation of body parts or of facial expression to body expression. This will need more research in to the mental health issue and practice as research in to which way will best portray what I am wanting. I am still wanting to bring these ideas together but I feel bringing both ideas together in to one section will have more impact. I could use the text as a juxtaposition to the movement and/or still play with the idea of disassociating body parts. A further idea I had about this was to use tape to split the stage in to sections and explore how use of space can used to explore mental health. This would mean the solo is in 2 sections rather than 3.
Furthermore, want to research more in to phenomenology and extend that to other philosophical movements such as existentialism. As I said above I would also like to research psychology, specifically common mental health issues including anxiety, depression and disassociation. Additionally I want to deepen my research by looking at other dance practitioners who have created work and addressed issues similar to the ones I am looking at, questioning and exploring their processes and comparing it to my own.
Through my research I have found a lot of ideas, concepts and theories that have underpinned, supported and helped to develop my practice.
In this time researching other practitioners something came together and I had a light bulb moment. I was looking in to Sondra Frailigh and how she looks at phenomenology through her own practice and Soili Hamalainen with her thoughts on bodily memory.
Frailigh talks about how dance is not self-expression but is the art, the medium, that one has chosen in order to show one self. She talks about her time when she was training in Berlin:
“Dance was a means towards self knowledge – not a disclosure of personality but a construction of it, not self-expression as self-indulgence but a creation of self in expressive action that moves one beyond the confines of self” [Frailigh. S. 1987, p xxii]
To me this shows the movement created, specifically relating to my own work, is more substantial than self-expression. It is me. It is my experience. This is liberating to me, although also slightly terrifying, to be able to stand and move and just be me. To show my experience in the way I experienced it not the way I think it should be shown is so powerful. Reading this has given me more confidence in what I am doing and the confidence to be able to share the work.
Hamalainen talks about bodily memory, which is exactly what I have been trying to tap into without having the words to say that is what it is. Linking back to Frailigh’s thought on self-expression, Hamalinen also sees movement not as self-expression or an expression of what was felt but a memory in the body that is able to produce movement. The movement is a memory its self not an expression of one.
I remember times of being sat still but my body feeling so full of turmoil and movement. I wasn’t physically moving in that moment but that memory of how the body felt I have let come out now as movement. Similarly, my body remembers feeling trapped, which is what I was exploring during my last rehearsal. And feeling so utterly exhausted and drained, which is also an obvious moment in the piece.
“The way in which we comprehend our own body is reliant on a history of bodily responses to surrounding circumstances” [Hamalinen. S. 2007, p58/59]
All of these bodily memories have informed my work. It links back to the lived body theory that I have spoken about and how the experience is received by the body, it had time to process and now it is coming back out in the movement.
Taking these thoughts forward, I feel confident to share my work later this week. I know the movement, it will now be a case of getting in to the right mind frame. Thinking and recreating those memories both in the mind and the body.
Fraleigh, S. H. (1987). Dance and the lived body: A descriptive aesthetics. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Rouhiainen L. (2007) Ways of Knowing in Dance and Art Finland: Theatre Academy
Dec 23 2017
Continuing to develop the idea of feeling trapped and playing more with the motif I noticed in the last stage. To me this was a clear image of a struggle to get out but not quite being able to. This appeared through out the piece in small sections so I wanted to work on one of those specifically to develop and extend it. Then making sure it also appeared in other sections throughout the piece so it wasn’t a standalone movement.
It was insightful thinking about this and how my body felt trying to navigate the spaces. How uncomfortable, awkward and frustrating it was to be put in to those positions but not be able to find a direct way out without just reversing the movement.
I connected this back to the phenomenological ideas and theories I looked in to before the rehearsal. I was in the moment remembering how my body received that experience and then how that felt within my body. The turmoil my body was experiencing by wanting to get out of the situation but not being able to.
I previously spoke about the narrative of emotion I wanted to show so, in this rehearsal I decided again change a lot of the structure of the piece. Moving sections around made the piece feel more authentic to perform. It now has the arc and emotional narrative that I experienced in the way I experienced it.
The piece now feels like it is coming together. The movement and flow feels much more authentic than it did at the beginning of the process. I feel that I am at the stage to start sharing the piece and gain feedback from others to ensure what I want to come across to the audience is coming across.
It was suggest to me that I look in to the philosophical movement of phenomenology in relation to my work.
Phenomenology: the study of phenomena
Phenomena: stuff that happens
So, in layman’s terms:
Phenomenology: The study of stuff that happens
This initial research has brought up some interesting questions for me. Thinking about my piece, the starting point or founding thoughts for the piece, my experience and mental health/illness. I am becoming more curious about how they all linked.
When explaining the founding principals of phenomenology, Lewis and Staehler state:
“Phenomenology focuses not on what appears but on how it appears” [Lewis M. & Staehler T. 2010]
It is a look in to how experiences or things present themselves in the world.
The area that specifically interests me is the area or idea of the ‘lived body’. I mentioned Merleau-Ponty in my reflection of my last rehearsal. His work built on the initial phenomenological movement of Husserl and whom I have been researching further as he looks in depth at the idea of the lived body.
Merleau-Ponty believes, in order for the thing to be able to appear they have to appear to something ie. a person, which also means that person has to have a consciousness. The movement talks about how in order to experience this thing, this experience, the person has to have a physical body or they would not be able to experience or receive the thing that is presenting itself.
We wouldn’t have experiences if we didn’t have a body, at least not in the same way.
So, our body has to experience it in order for our mind to. Our body is the receiver. But more than that it also has feeling, a nervous system an intelligence in its own right. Another part of phenomenology is that the body and the mind are not two separate entities but they work together as one, which as a dancer I already know, understand and embody. Both parts need the other in order to experience.
From this my thinking went to mental health. My mental health issues came in part because of my experience. If we apply what has been explored above, the experience was experienced by the body, which was then process by the brain in a way in which was not healthy or caused trauma. I also know, from experience, that mental ill health is not just something we have in the mind but is experienced by the body as well, this connection of mind and body, and can create an output, usually in the form of movement. Therefore, there is this connection running from the world through the body to the mind then back to the body and out in to the world.
However, I have another question. What happens if the mental ill health started before the experience? The experience happened the same way and had the same connection through the body and mind. Did the mental ill health affect how the experience was experienced? Or how the experience was received and processed?
Then what if that mental ill health was started by another experience? Maybe it is just a cycle. And how does that fit with phenomenology? Does it fit?
As you can tell I still have a lot more research to do on this and look further in to the connection of this philosophical movement and mental health. These are just my initial thoughts on my research so far.
Lewis, M., & Staehler, T. (2010). Phenomenology: An introduction. London: Continuum.
Dec 02 2017
I wanted to continue this rehearsal looking at building the sense of struggle. The feeling of being confined as well as out of control. I felt like the sense of narrative within the work, building to climax that then dropping to a feeling of complete and utter loss of hope and strength, was missing.
I decided to add in more movement to extend the period before the moment of collapse. I feel this has really added something to the piece. I am still exploring the dynamics authentically and continue to be compassionate with the sense of self empathy.
One thing I did notice when I was watching the video back from the last rehearsal is a specific motif. It was not intentionally put in but appeared in the movement. The motif depicts the trying to fit body parts though spaces created. Analysing this I can see that is how I was feeling in the moment. An authentic expression of being made to fit in to spaces that weren’t right and having to mould myself to fit and not being able to get out.
Ponty talks about the reaction and understanding of gestures.
“The gesture does not make me think of anger, it is anger itself” [Ponty M. p214]
He is saying that a gesture that shows, in this case, anger does not make him think it makes him feel, he feels it with a connection through his body, he understands the movement as emotion itself. This is what I want for my piece in general but is specifically linked to this motif I have been describing. I don’t want the audience to think ‘oh, she is trying to fit through awkward spaces that don’t fit’, I want them to feel that. I want them to connect on a bodily level to understand how it felt. This is a hard thing to try and get right and also hard to know if and when I elicit that reaction. I think this will be a question I pose when asking for feedback on the piece.
For now I want to continue to develop this idea and movement, put more of it in the work and make it as awkward as possible. Press references Ellen Dissanayake when discussing aesthetic in her article Self Psychology and the Modern Dance Choreographer (2009) she looks at how mothers act with young babies saying they exaggerate movements and facial expressions. She goes on to talk about how through this the baby is able to respond and understand as it has not developmentally learnt to recognise small nuances of human behaviour but does understand this exaggerated form. Linking this to art and dance Press states
“Art brings forth what is primal to our existence and our intersubjective relations from birth onwards” [Press, C M, page 221]
Therefore, through more exaggerated movement aesthetic there is the potential to elicit more of a response from an audience or viewer.
Merleau-Ponty, M. (2002). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge Classics.
Press, C. M. (2009). Self psychology and the modern dance choreographer. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1159(1), 218-228. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04354.x
Dec 01 2017
During this rehearsal I focused on the dynamics and feeling the piece portrayed. After watching the piece back from the last rehearsal, this was the one thing that really stood out. There wasn’t enough feeling of frustration, confinement, of feeling out of control.
Concentrating on the first section of the solo, I thought more of the experience and the feeling whilst going through the solo rather than the movement I had already created. I found it interesting to see how, although kept to a similar structure, the movement changed. This change in the dynamics and thought developed the movement considerably, connecting more to the emotion and experience. What really struck me was how much more authentic the movement felt. This feeling links to Carol M Press’s thought on self-empathy.
When I first came across the idea of empathy and how it related to my work I was very excited but also a bit wary. I wasn’t sure whether self-empathy would become another way of disassociating, a mental health condition I have struggled with in the past. However, when I read more in to this and started to explore the idea in my rehearsal, it felt right. I was doing the opposite of disassociating.
“We establish a relationship with movement, and in doing so we establish a self-empathetic relationship with ourselves, for we (or our dancers) create the movement” [Press, C M, page 223]
I found it became almost a self-therapy to go back on this traumatic experience and explore it though movement. I found I was being more compassionate towards myself and the experience I had. I was relating to it in a completely different way to when I was in the situation, which as I said earlier was also when I was initially creating the work. I discovered that because I have had more time and distance, and have started talking about the actual experience in a narrative form outside this process, I am really able to explore how I felt and what was going on internally as well which helps the healing process.
Press also talks about empathy in regards to an audience. This is something I really want to consider moving forwards with the development process. I don’t want to the piece to become so self-indulgent it is all about me and my experience. I want the audience to be able to relate to what I went through, what I experienced, what I felt. Whether that is because they have been through a similar feeling or experience or whether it will help them relate to someone else they know who has felt like this.
Another thing I introduced was music. I went away and spent some time looking for a piece that would work choreographically with the structure I had but would also represent the emotive aspect. The piece I am working with is November by Trentemoller. This piece has helped with the dynamics of the work whilst still being able to use the breath as a major part.
I can see there is still more to work on in this section but this a first step in that development process. I can now see how I am going to press forward with this line of thinking.
Press, C. M. (2009). Self psychology and the modern dance choreographer. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1159(1), 218-228. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04354.x
I have been thinking a lot about the direction I want to go with this solo. After seeking some advice I looked at going down the route of Somatic Practices. I wasn’t wholly convinced it was quite the right direction but at least it was a direction.
I did some research in to somatic practices and found that a lot of it was relevant to dance in education and dance training rather than in a choreographic process. Although I didn’t think this would connect I pursued this and found some interesting thoughts.
“Feldenkrais believed that movement was the ‘language’ of the brain” [Batson. G, p3]
This is an interesting concept that I will take in to my next rehearsal. My understanding is that the movement will come, and through studying the movement we might be able to better understand the mind. Linking this to the experience and emotions I want to explore in the solo it may be a good idea to do a short improvisation just thinking about the experience and see what comes out. From this I will be able to study and develop the movement fitting it in or changing sections of the solo.
Another idea bought up during my research was that somatic practices are about breaking the habitual movement, noticing what is repeated. I find this a lot in my own choreography so is something I would like to challenge.
At this point, although these thoughts I had are relevant, and will be used, it isn’t the direction I want to go with this solo. It has taken me a while to sit with the discomfort of not really knowing what it is but absolutely knowing what it isn’t. Upon further research and discussion it has become apparent that what I want to look at is the theme of identity. This is something I will be able to do further research in to looking at practitioners such as Miranda Tufnall, Carol M. Press and Soili Hamalainen.
Batson, G. (2009) Somatic Studies and Dance International association for Dance Medicine and Science
Nov 28 2017
Through this process I am going to look at the development of a solo piece of work. I initially wanted to recap both the movement and look back at what the original starting point was for the solo. Asking why I created it? Who was it for? What did I want to say?
The solo I am looking at is one I first created during my residency in Peru. I was initially looking at the question ‘What is beauty?’. Throughout my training I was often told that I dance too beautifully, so I wanted to challenge this. It was a piece that was aesthetically driven.
During the initial process feelings came up from past experiences, of worrying I wasn’t beautiful enough or wasn’t good enough, worrying that I was different. Upon further exploration of this idea the wider concept of what beauty is came up for me. Who tells us what beauty is? Who enforces these ideas? The key idea was the feeling of oppression and not being allowed to be who you really are.
Interestingly, during this time I was also going through a difficult experience. One of feeling trapped and becoming something someone else wanted me to be. It wasn’t until this rehearsal and a lot of personal reflection on this period that I realised the solo isn’t just reflecting and exploring the experiences of a teenager but directly being influenced by the experience I was living.
During this first rehearsal I went over the material I had already created. I didn’t really want to change a lot at this point as I wanted to have the framework before I started the development. I also wanted to do some reading and research in to what this could be, I knew this would heavily influence this solo. What I did do though, was take away the original music the solo was choreographed to. Although I liked the music a lot, it contained lyrics that didn’t really link to the piece. Instead I focused on using breath.
I did adapt some sections a) because of memory and b) to make the movement flow.
Whilst going over this movement there were many sections that I knew would change over the process. I am starting to develop more of an idea about what I want to express and how it would come across.