If Only (2021)
Formats for working
The choreographic work emerged out of series of tasks that have developed and accumulated since the first year of the MA program. I’ve had the privilege to work with a number of different performers in the studio exploring the relationship between language and movement. The groups have varied in size and numbers— from solo, duets, trios and groups. My intention was to develop methods to work with spoken language and movement, with a goal of decentering the meaning hierarchy that language often has over movement. This format of experimenting has allowed for experience to be accumulated over time.
Throughout my masters I’ve been working in bulks; trying out specific ideas with the dancers that were interested and available to experiment. The performers that have taken part of this research process have different levels of experience and insight. Due to these working conditions the process was slightly fragmented, making up a collection of material and ideas that could take many directions. After a work in progress sharing at Oktoberdans 2020 (BIT Teatergarasjen) and close discussions with my mentor Janne-Camilla Lyster in January 2021, I decided to continue developing the work based on already accumulated ideas, methods and into choreographic material: becoming what I refer to as their own modules or units. These modules consisted of various landscapes for improvisations structures, concrete ideas, tasks and set material.
By structuring my choreographic material and ideas into modules I was able to get an overview of the different developed materials— what was particular about them and recognise specific qualities. For the production period in early 2021 I made paper squares of each module, defining the intentions in the choreographic material, textual objective, sonic qualities, as well as spatial changes. As a result of this I had many physical and movable modules that were used to piece potential material chronologically. This allowed me to experiment with the dramaturgy of the performance from early in the production period Feb/March 2021.
Each module explored a different aspect of working with language:
Module: Word Journey explored how language moves,
Module:G.Score explored how language builds,
Module:Anne Boyer - The Method explored how meaning is (re)constructed through repetition,
An important discovery was made during a rehearsal where supervisor Ingrid Berger Myhre was present. Ingrid suggested that I allow the performers to loop their explorations of Module:G Score. The exploration consisted of simple rules from respective solo-scores, and movement material that had already been mapped out. The task was to use a set trajectory in space based on a graphic score and play with the established materials, their ordering, timing and qualities to the sound of an asymmetrical pulse generated by sound designer Mike McCormick. It was interesting to notice that the first round often had a feeling of indulgence, using time to establish and get into the exploration. While in the second round there were clearer intentions, movement was more direct and precise. The movement material matured and found its form by repeating this process and adding layers of information. I discovered that the modules were stronger as their own specific ideas about the construction of language and how it moves. Therefore, it was important that each module stood as independent sections rather than fusing them in together in transitions, which had a reducing effect.
photo by: takumi morozumi
photo by: lisa colette bysheim
photo by: oliver paulson
The term pliable form came from a conversation with Janne-Camilla Lyster when writing my program text. I had originally referred to my performance being structured with an ‘open form’; meaning that the materials at work weren’t set or fixed. Janne-Camilla raised an awareness of open-form´s historical relevance; that it pointed to open-form scores which were composition methods developed and explored by artists such as John Cage and The New York School in the 1960´s. I realised that this wasn’t the best fit to describe my performance.
In the choreographic work there were different apparatuses at work; text, movement, sound and dance mats. In the materials there was a feeling of flexibility, that they were malleable and adaptable. In the end we landed on the term pliable; I felt that the word was active and tactile, which the materials in the performance also were— ready to change and be transformed .
I refer to my work as a pliable form, as the scores and strategies that have been developed have very specific intentions and goals, yet the form of movement material is open within the research. The term pliable indicates something that is supple and can be formed or changed without breaking. The openness of the text and movement material is established through boundaries and structures in the form of oral instructions. My concept of pliable form lies in the extension of my work with graphic scores, including the delimitation given through oral instructions. The work is designed through rules, structures, instructions and graphic scores - this is the framework that determines the performances´ orientation (it is not an open improvisation where anything is possible). There were particular and specific strategies, thoughts and intentions that went into each module in the work.
Delimitation vs restriction
Something interesting I noticed in the process of giving oral instructions was the role certain words played in the understanding of the meaning. Particular words were loaded with meaning and associations which in turn had repercussions in improvisation explorations. Words had the potential to close, end or restrict possibilities, yet could be experienced as openers— creating options. An example of this was asking the performers to explore what contain the collapse could be physically vs structure yourself into a container. The first exploration was experienced as creating a limiting condition that restricted potential directions that the body could go in, in a sense it had one direction. The second task on the other hand created options, the task was experienced as active, within certain boundaries. I realised that semantics and the composition of oral instructions played an important role in how they were interpreted and understood. This informed how I worked with my concept of pliable form; creating improvisation situations within set limits or boundaries, rather than restrictions that reduced creativity.
Structuring the unanticipated
The core of the process has involved working with indeterminacy; exploring how elements in language and movement that are not precisely fixed or established could interact. Throughout the creation process, I framed explorations that allowed for moments of chaos and not yet known materials to unfold. It was vital that my choreographic work wasn’t set, meaning that there was not a fixed form controlling the outcome which the performers reproduced in each performance. In my work I've created tasks that can function as entrances into a research, that can continually be explored and new discoveries can be made in performance settings. I consider the work as real-time explorations based on structures, scores and orally given tasks.
The dancers had to be willing to take part in this journey and allow themselves to be surprised in the creative process. To achieve this there was a need for elements of risk— not quite knowing how the outcome will turn out or if aims are achieved. By supporting the performers through clear structures and frames for researching, there was a potential for unpredictable occurrences to arise in the moments between what was known and not yet determined. It was vital that the performers ventured into these unknown and in-between spaces as it resulted in an unforeseeable specificity in the choreographic materials. In this state of working, the performers were moving out of their comfort zone and taking chances. To support the unanticipated, it was important to create a working-culture that encouraged playfulness, openness and the opportunity for failure.