Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Work for the Concert...Flowers I'm Playing With

100 Flowers: Dances Inspired by the Work of Georgia O’Keefe

Saturday Jan 30, 7pm and Sunday Jan 31, 4pm

At the Stone Church on Main St, Brattleboro, VT


Jack-in-the-Pulpit Series:

#1 Jack-in-the-Pulpit Abstraction

#2 Jack-in(and out of)-the-Pulpit

#3 the jack in the pulpit is a broken flower

Choreography: Cindi L’Abbe

Performance: Cindi L’Abbe, Angie Muzzy & Tammi Squires

Music: Heysátan (Sigur Rós), Superstar (Sonic Youth) & Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (The Beatles)

ballet skirt or electric light

Choreography & Performance: Cindi L’Abbe

Music: And the birds are about to bus (Set Fire to Flames)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

100 Flowers





Saturday January 30th at 7pm

Sunday January 31st at 4pm

At the Stone Church on Main St. in Brattleboro

For more information call 802 348 6699 or email

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making Movement: Part 1

On January 20th I presented a Creative Movement Workshop at The Starving Artist, hosted by Impetus Dance Collective. This workshop was part of a regular series, taught by different artists on the third Wednesday of every month at 8pm.

During my workshop I presented a snapshot of several tools for creating dance. by the end of the 1hr class (just one!) the participants had created solo dances that were visually compelling and complete. They moved through several levels of composition in the short period of time and were able to experience these levels in a connected way, which is uncommon in expanded time (often it is difficult to recognize that after weeks of phrase-making we've shifted into shaping the arc of the piece or editing).

Because these tools are useful for all dance-makers, I'm sharing them here. I'll just describe the way we used them in the workshop and share some ideas for alternative approaches. Most of these methods can be adapted for a wide range of purposes. I'm going to write this in sections, so be alert!

1. Phrase-making:

This collaborative phrase-making game (adapted from Liz Lerman's toolbox) warmed us up, and took away some of the stress of making a dance "from scratch".

In the workshop, we stood facing center and I made a movement, saying "One. This is movement number one of an eight-count phrase; what is movement number two?" Taking turns we each added a beat to the eight count phrase until it was complete.

Part of the purpose of this activity is to use speed to bypass our internal editor. There is some amount of pressure to create a movement quickly. There are no wrong answers and the phrase often is pretty interesting and danceable by just about anyone.

The phrase-making game can be adapted by adding text and creating a movement for each word. It can be used by a solo dance maker to bypass that internal censor in the early stages of choreography (e.g. "I'm making and 8 count phrase. Go! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8!). It can also be used in a technique class as a method of increasing our movement memory by making it into an accumulation phrase. (This could also be combined with learning people's names).

For the purpose of our workshop, phrase-making expanded the warm-up, created a sense of community, jump-started our movement making skills and provided the initial "seed" for our dances.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Drafting Dances

I'm currently working on dances inspired by the art of Georgia O'Keefe for 100Flowers, a dance concert featuring the work of Brenda Siegel and myself at the Stone Church in Brattleboro VT on Jan 30 and 31.

Brenda and I had discussed the idea for this concert almost a year ago, so I began toying with the idea last year and thus have had a lot of time to play with my pieces.

I've been thinking a great deal lately about the way that some artists (O'Keefe is a good example) come back to the same idea again and again and try to access that idea in different ways. This is something I wrote about in my review of Candice Salyers' work, "You are Welcome Here" (see below). I've noticed that following the work of one choreographer (or artist of any medium) over time and seeing the recurrence of various themes or motives, and the increasing depth at which an artist explores those motives is extremely satisfying for me as an audience member. I think that in other art forms, where the art is set down in a solid way and exists in the context of the stream of work that's been created it is easier to see---consider O'Keefe and her flowers, or her abstract landscapes, or her skyscrapers (not to mention the recurrence of methods of abstraction, color, shape etc.). However, choreographers do not exist separate from their past works either, and they are subject to the same obsessions.

I am a case in point. I began working on one of my Georgia O'Keefe pieces (based on her Jack in the Pulpit abstractions) last year. I performed the solo (Jack-in (and out of)-the-Pulpit) at Open Marley Night at Experimental Movement Concepts (Baltimore). The piece at that time was a merging of the shapes I saw in the flower painting and the emotional feeling I got from the painting tossed together with my own emotional garbage of that time. This is not the type of work I normally do, and I was uncomfortable with it. I felt it was too literal, too emotional and not cohesive or well-crafted.

Months later, I began to re-work the piece and decided that I wanted to use this literal and emotional movement and re-interpret it against very different music in order to show that the same solo with changes only in tempo, music and facing was not the same piece at all. The piece was performed in progress at Keene State College in November and fell flat completely. Juxtaposing the vastly different moods created a feeling of disconnect amongst people in the audience and I was still not comfortable with the piece, which somehow felt both too personal and untrue.

However, by this time, while I still felt the "emotional garbage" attached to the piece was somehow making it difficult to turn into real "art", I was also obsessed (like really obsessed) with the puzzle of how to use this movement and create different effects. The movement material for the piece is not (I don't think) extremely inventive, and it is often literal---however, I'm convinced that much of the "meaning" we attribute to dance has more to do with the context in which we present the movement than with the movement itself.

The Jack-in-the-pulpit Series by Georgia O'Keefe includes six paintings. In my initial choreography, I had only looked at two. I began to realize, that O'Keefe had looked at the flower and chosen to interpret six different elements of that flower. I decided to turn my piece into a suite, a series, and interpret multiple perspectives of the emotional, shape-oriented and constructive elements of the original piece.

At the first Official Alumni Dance Concert at Keene State (Dec. 1, 2009), I presented two parts of my Jack-in-the-Pulpit Series. Part II: Jack-in (and out of)-the-Pulpit is a duet in which the original solo is presented by one dancer, while the other dancer sits and takes notes while observing the soloist and smoking a cigar (a la Freud). The first solo is extra emotional, slow and with very literal, music. The soloist does not seem to notice the other dancer. At the end of the first solo, there is an interaction (in silence) where the second dancer drops the notebook and pen and comes up to the first dancer, hands her the cigar (which the first dancer views with disgust and confusion) and then repeats the solo in a new facing at double time and with very different music (still with literal lyrics). The first soloist views this in confusion and disbelief, and the second soloist is clearly performing for the benefit of the first.

Part III: the jack-in-the-pulpit is a broken flower is a solo, performed in silence in an intimate proximity to the audience. In this section, there are piles of novels stacked in towers in a row, and the dancer is partially obscured by the books as she performs the same movement material and interacts with the books. She also reads text from the books out loud.

I have not yet finished and presented Part I: Jack-in-the-Pulpit Abstraction, but the piece will be a group piece and (using the same movement material) will present the abstract shapes and images from the paintings without the emotional subtext. On January 30 and 31, the parts will be performed in order as one piece.

My hope is that the repeated viewing (in a short enough time to see the connections clearly) will add interest to the work for the audience. It has been interesting (obsessing also) to me that the re-visiting of the material started out on a meta-level for this piece (perform, revise, perform) and has become so consuming as to drive the piece itself. Interpret; re-interpret.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

(I, (s)he, they) You

am floating on
a plane of subsistence
usually never quite existing
lives (sort of) in 2 dimensions
but with curved spaces
rounded bulging places
is/am/are indeterminate
crowding the limits
of infinite universes
(marijuana-type thinking)
cannot, willnot, amnot
violating (mis)understood
axioms am-->are idiomatic
of unrealized ideals
skips along edges of
since all edges are the same
width (less-ness)
are eliminating
that can be
(n)either created (n)or destroyed

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I hope they'll take me...

Here's a smattering of what I'm telling SLC about myself. I hope they like me...

It is so obvious to me that my late start in dance, and my love of literature (and words and syntax) are connected to the process and the product of my choreography. My passion for creating dance is constructivist; it is the same passion that some people have for building cabinets. I am inspired by exploring concepts, creating images and then manipulating movements and phrases to build a work of art. I construct dances similarly to the way I would write a story, poem or (even more so) a research paper. This is likely because, of all of the arts, literature moves me the most deeply, allows me to enter into it the most fully, and seemingly would be the ideal direction for me to go in my own expressive endeavors. Words are like magic to me. However, I dance instead of writing. Why? I’m not sure; myriad reasons, but most likely: I dance because it feels good and right. My body wants to move, and I love to create patterns of moving bodies in space—to see bodies move. It turns out that the challenge of expressing myself through dance is somehow more do-able than the challenge of living up to all these great novels and poems I’ve read. The novelty of dance keeps me intrigued and adventurous. I don’t feel bogged down by rules, and (perhaps in my naïveté) I act out of a sense of joy.

My body “thinks” differently than a highly trained dancer’s body. I create movement that other dancers might not because my most ingrained habits as a mover do not come from the barre. Unlike most of the dancer\choreographers I’ve met, my dances are conceived outside the studio with a long process of research, writing and diagramming before I even begin to move. In addition, much of my choreography is directly influenced by literature. I have choreographed narrative and non-narrative pieces inspired by favorite stories and novels and have even danced with my favorite books on stage with me as props.

While there are too many writers whom I admire to fit in the allotted space here, there are fewer choreographers who really make a strong impression. The world of “art” dance is relatively new (although dancing has been a part of human life since before written language), and perhaps that is why there does not seem to be a rigorous and theory-based aesthetic like there is in other arts. Of the few choreographers who really move me, I am impressed and inspired by the work of Bill T. Jones, because his layers of complexity, meaning and imagery allow audiences to enter his pieces from wherever they are. I feel a strong connection and affiliation with the work of Miguel Gutierrez and Candice Salyers, two very different choreographers who respect and illustrate the humanity of performers and thus of all of us. These choreographers allow and encourage vulnerability and interpersonal connection to take place on the stage. I’m interested in that exploration and believe that it may be the next change in dance. It is the opposite of what is happening in “contemporary” dance, which is an ever-increasing level of technicality with an ever-decreasing level of craft and meaning.