If Only (2021)
Dramaturgy - Constructions deconstructed
Sneaky runs came out of a conversation with Ingrid Berger Myhre when trying to figure out the dramaturgical order of the performance. It was used to get an overview of how the materials could be connected and linked together. Ingrid's suggestion was to playfully try out several fragments and sections of existing material to see how it potentially could fit together. This suggestion came in the first production week. As it was early in the production period I didn’t state is as a run to the performers, rather I portrayed it as a longer exploration involving several parts. It was used as a way to get into the work, and get an overview to see how material could work together. It was also used to explore the understanding that arose out of the different ordering of modules, without stressing the performers with a “run through”. The point of sneaky runs was to do it in a nonchalant way, get the performers to take ownership, build stamina, create potential options for an order and to do longer stretches of explorations.
I often began each rehearsal with a sneaky run, as it got the performers into the mindset for working —activating them and tuning them into our research. From there we would dive into sections, re-working and fine-tuning aspects of the choreographic work. It was a tool for me as a choreographer to see the work with some distance and get an overview of how the space was being used, activated and who was in each section.
photo by: oliver paulson
Questioning own methods
In attempting to decentre the meaning hierarchy that language often has over movement, I realised in the process that I had indirectly given language more importance by using this as a point of departure. Suddenly there was a feeling that my whole work had prioritised the language aspect and movement material came secondary. I wondered how the movement materials could have as much weight and significance as the text landscape being explored? What was the movement material? What were the principles that linked the text explorations to movement? How could they weave in and out of each other? These reoccurring questioning informed the “weaving” process of the materials. I recognised the need for balance between the materials; space between the spoken language, enough repetitions of text and movement material so that the reading could be understood in the accumulations over time. If there was too much focus on language in several modules after each other, as an audience I would stop listening. Therefore, the dramaturgy was based on what each module needed to be distinguishable; how all the elements supported and enhanced the intention for the module.
One of the biggest challenges was creating a performance including five performers with only three being present for over half of the production period. It had a direct effect on the dramaturgical structuring of the performance and strengthened the choice of working with modules.
At a certain point in the production period in March I considered taking the two missing performers out of the work as I wasn’t able to imagine them fitting into the materials that were deepening and maturing during rehearsals. Ideas became fragmented and it was challenging to develop strategies and structures for the various modules, when I knew that the process had to be repeated to include the two performers who were missing. My explorations in “bulks” was showing its weakness of not having a consistent group. This was a challenging period causing uncertainties around the work. These feelings were reliant on not having a full overview and constantly needing to adjust each rehearsal dependant on who was present. The module format was a solution to the problem, yet it raised questions of what the performers should do when they were not “active or in the foreground”. The best solution at the time was to keep the modules separated, finding the “least disturbing” thing for the performers not in focus to do— resulting in the performers watching the modules unfold at the sides of the stage. The dramaturgy of the performance was structured due to the practical circumstances surrounding the project, including availability of performers and restrictions of contact based choreographic work being prohibited by the institution due to the covid-19 pandemic.
When considering the dramaturgy, there was a question of what is being communicated in the work. Was I building up to something through the construction of language? Or deconstructing the structures of language? The absence of linear narratives does not place my work into a landscape of randomness. Rather, the work can be seen as sketches of meaning being explored; not quite full sentences, fragmented words in motion, colliding with movement motifs - reaching to say something precise yet impossibly ambiguous at the same time. To keep a playful lightness to the work, it was vital for the performers to go right into each module, with tempo and rigor.
The movement, text and sound material could indicate variations on a similar theme; each fragment branching out and taking the references in a new direction. A multilinear narrative, building connections based on what comes before and after— meaning accumulating and understood in relations. I continually questioned if anything actually could be experienced as multilinear in my performance, when the conditions of a performance involve an event happening over a certain time span. Being aware of this dilemma, the dramaturgy progressed with a balance of predictability and unpredictability.