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Honoring the Process
On December 7, 2011
Months ago, my colleague Sara inspired this rumination on the collective similarities and differences of various art forms. As I read her last blog posts, I wondered, what is the distinction between performers across mediums? How do the performances of dancers, actors or musicians differ? I like to imagine that we all have a common seed in our bellies whose roots and stems and fruits find the path of least resistance through our bodies and out into the open air. Perhaps dancers let the seed spread like wildfire through our bodies and out of our pores, and musicians see the most growth through their ears and fingertips.
The issue of artistic ownership also came to mind. It’s difficult to brand or copyright artistic inspiration. I’ve worked in a few collaborative processes where performers have been possessive of their artistic input, unwilling to alter it in a way that seems personally compromising, even at a director’s request. Naturally, this works in both directions. I’ve also been in processes where a director recognizes if a performer has reached a sort of personal clarity with a movement, phrase, or development of character. As Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre ages and solidifies, we increasingly notice and celebrate these kinds of discoveries. In fact, we’re propelled by them. Each member of the company was trained in the same institution, yet we propel and challenge each other in ways our mentors at school did not or could not.
During my venture this fall as Artistic Advisor for our premiere of Bound, my dancer seed felt stunted because my mode of participation changed. Without the use of my limbs to explore or respond to a problem, I had to use my voice – a skill that has not had an equal opportunity to germinate with confidence in my body. Plus, I missed a long and intensive chunk of rehearsal over the summer and felt out of synch with the ebb and flow of the creative process. I wasn’t around for the crucial and familiar undertaking of character development which has always felt intrinsic to my work with the company. So, the proscenium became an unwelcome wall that I couldn’t avoid, tear down or jump over. I had found my obstacle and it proved a momentous obstruction between myself and the performers. However, my fellow artists ensured that I had things to say, and that they would listen despite my literal out of body experience and feelings of distance. In fact, I realized that my feelings as an outsider at the back of the theater could actually benefit the progress of the piece and my comments were attune to those of an audience member. I was an extra pair of eyes and lips as the video and lights were integrated into the world of Bound and stepping off the stage seemed a truly valuable leap. Perhaps we all have the ability to produce and nurture new seeds of interest and capability. I just have to give myself time and space and the confidence to do so. Something like microadaptability.
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