On Tuesday we started with another guided warm up which eventually led us to exploring the space. I invited each participant to find a space to occupy and to find out how and why they felt that they belonged there. Following our warm up with proceeded with a check-in, which allows everyone to hear from the others as to how each of us is entering the space from a physical and emotional place.
We then began with our creative process which focused our attention on ‘setting the stage’. We are making use of several props and pieces of furniture, and so we collectively decided where each of the items ‘belonged’ in the space. After arranging the space, we occupied the chairs and began improvising with one of the small, wheeled dollies, by passing it from one person to the next. Eventually we explored the possibilities of people riding/scooting on them, still passing through the constellation of chairs with occupants.
We are becoming good at the ‘Valuaction’ step of the RSVP Cycles, and ultimately turning those conversations into more Resources with which we can adapt the Score.
We then shifted the space both physically and energetically by organizing ourselves into a straight line in the chairs, with backs to where the audience will be, and with our focus on the table in the corner. We set up a structure of ‘Rounds’, which is a creative tool that I learned from ‘The Performers Guide to the Collaborative Process’, written by Shelia Kerrigan and others. In this form, each person takes a turn improvising a ‘scene’, and the process continues until everyone has had a chance to improvise. This can continue through many ‘rounds’, or just one. We only had time for one.
In the Valuaction of this activity many remarked on how each person was clear in their intent with their ideas, and how it was clear when people were building on the ideas that others had presented.
In the check out process, I remarked that it was good to hear Susan share what she had to share, as this being her first rehearsal, she was sort of a ‘test subject’, and the ideas and themes that we are exploring were clear to her. I also remarked that I am now more clear in how we can structure the score, alternating between chaos and order.
On Saturday, we gathered for our first extended rehearsal, and had Paula Larke with us for the first time in the studio!
I led a guided improvisational warm up, focusing on the skeleton and space, and relationships within the body. After checking in we returned to working with the chairs. I proposed a very simple score of us taking turns moving to ‘the pointy chair’ and sharing a story of a time that we felt that we didn’t belong.
The stories that were shared demonstrated a range of experiences that despite their uniqueness also offered up many commonalities. The movement score also included the direction that for those of us listening, in the ‘soft’ chairs, we could adjust our proximity towards the story teller, and we could adjust our chair facing and our own facing within the chair.
A score that I had thought might take about 30-40 minutes ended up occupying almost the entire remainder of our rehearsal period. I had at first proposed that people try to limit their story to between 3 and 5 minutes, but as people shared their stories it become clear that it was more important to listen and less important to try to control the time/space.
Paula offered up the possibility of using a rhythmic chant that she introduced into the space between each of the stories, to help to ‘cleanse the palate’ between stories. And she also underscored the idea of listening, rather than planning your story in your head.
Each person presented their experience while the others listened. Each person opened themselves up into a very vulnerable place. Each person authentically spoke from their heart.
Pursing a space to allow everyone to belong may need the spark of reminding ourselves how it feels to not belong.
After everyone shared their story, we shifted into a fully physical ‘palate cleanser’, and played the game ‘Get the trash out of my backyard’, wherein we made use of a bunch of the paper from our Paper Project of several years ago, divided the space into two halves, divided the cast into two groups, and then engaged in trying to throw all of the trash to the opposite side. It was simple. It was task oriented. It did not require complex thought processes, although some people did try to devise methods that might facilitate an easier removal of the trash from their side. And it allowed for a joyful energy to come back into the room after the heaviness of the story sharing.
As we checked out, I remarked that my ‘a-ha’, or learning moment for the day was to recognize the White-supremacist cultural value of ‘adhering to a strict time schedule’ that I was compelled to impose in setting up the story circle score with the limitation of stories being between 3 and 5 minutes. I appreciated that I was able to shift and let go of that value as we listened to the stories, and to let the activity determine the actual score.
Last night we began with a guided warm up focusing on four points in the body—the four ball/socket joints of the shoulders and hips. We played with initiation from these points, and relationships between these points. We started on our backs on the floor, and then moved horizontally and vertically. Finally we began to explore movement and relationship to some objects placed in the space—a bench, three chairs and an empty aquarium on a small wheeled dolly.
After check ins, we continued with our writing exercise from our first rehearsal—a listing of places that one feels that they belong in. For those who had already started this exercise, we continued to embellish upon our original ‘maps’. And then we put these aside.
We jumped into crafting games in the form of movement scores. I began by asking for assistance in placing the bench in the middle of the space. The bench is a metal sculpture piece created for Beacon Dance for the third installment of our four-year Elemental Project, the piece we entitled Into the Inferno, which took inspiration from the element of Fire. Scott Silvey (https://www.scottsilvey.net/) created it as well as other metal objects that we interacted with in that performance. For this project we used it as an anchor to begin crafting our first score. The elements of the score were as follows:
The job of the referee was to alert the participant when they had broken one of the ‘rules’ of the game, and to send them out of the game and to introduce a new player. Rose was our referee and was excellent at the job.
We finished up that score/game, and moved on to a new game. We purposely did not create a score, but rather began to simply play with the task of sending the empty aquarium on the wheeled dolly around the circle we had created by sitting on the floor. Six of us were present. After doing this for about 10 minutes we again opened up a period of Valuaction to see how we might refine the score. We observed that when the aquarium is eventually full of water, it will be a very different thing to manipulate.
As our rehearsal time began to end, we had time for one more open ended score—to improvise with the chairs in the space. I put on some music and we all began to find a new way to play with the chairs. Towards the end Ashlee had somehow ended up with one of the chairs on her body, like a skirt. We did a very quick round of Valuaction, and I asked about how the music/sound had influenced people’s movement choices. All agreed that it did, indeed, influence their choices and tone of quality.
As we finished up, I shared some thoughts that I had had earlier in the day in preparation for our rehearsal:
Create a score for yourself that has at least four 'rules' or directions and perform that score for at least 5 minutes. (Example: Make contact with one wall in your home for no more than 2 seconds. Humm a familiar tune each time you are not in contact with that wall. Circle one of your ball and socket joints when you are not in contact with the wall. Focus your gaze on one body part when you are in contact with the wall.)
Last night (Tuesday, June 1, 2021), at 6:00 PM EDT, we commenced with the creation of our final installment of The Mapping Project 2020-21. We have been laying the groundwork for this section since the beginning of the project, as we explored the broad topic of power and how it manifests itself in our daily lives. This third section will focus our attention on ‘Belonging’, and personal responsibility as a function of belonging.
I was prompted to pursue this theme after reading an article in Vogue magazine, profiling Vice President Kamala Harris. In the article, the writer states:
‘Weeks after we talked, I thought of the Harris rally back in Bethlehem before Election Day, when the Trump-supporting protesters turned their attention to Harris’s motorcade as it pulled out of the venue. “You don’t belong here!” one woman shouted. For much of the last four years, for millions of Americans, that statement felt true—when it seemed impossible to belong to a place that had elected a leader who ruled by hate, when it sometimes seemed unlikely we would find a way out of the darkness.’
After a brief warm up which included an improvised exercise of inhabiting space and leaving space, we launched into a simple writing exercise, after we had shared our thoughts and reactions to a couple of articles that we had all read. The writing exercise was to write down the places that you feel that you belong in. We left it open-ended, so that each person could define just exactly what that meant for them. We took about 20 minutes to do this, after which we then began to use these new ‘maps’ to explore with movement. Each person would take a turn at sharing one of their places of belonging, and the others who felt that they, too, belonged in that place would gravitate towards that person. The distance towards that person indicated the strength of that identity.
After several ‘rounds’ of sharing those places, we returned to the floor in a circle and shared the other places that we had not yet shared. And following that we began a more in-depth discussion on the nuances of belonging and what that means. As we talked, we reflected on how the idea of a ‘game’ was present. Games can have winners and losers. And some games can have winners of different types.
We are seeing the wholesale rewriting of the rules of our country’s elections and who subsequently wields/holds power in our country today. This changing of the rules of our societal ‘games’ is just one way in which unfairness reveals itself. The results of elections help shape some of the answers to the questions previously posed regarding belonging.
I would like to invite you to participate in our creative process by making your own 'map' of the various places that you feel that you belong. You get to decide where you belong, not someone else. Ask yourself why you are claiming those places for yourself. Get a friend to do the same thing, and then compare your 'maps'. What overlaps exist? Where are there clear lines of separation?
I will share the next step with you after our next rehearsal! Enjoy!