Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 38: write a song

#38 write a song

And on day 38, the artist was prompted to write a song, and lo, she wrote a 22 second, 3 chord song:

Fall comes around and around again
I keep on falling and falling again
For you
Scraping my shin
For you
Bruises and blisters for you

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 37: adapt and wear

#37 Adapt ideal of 36 to what is available and "move" whatever you've saved from 21-23 in costume

Typing this now I realize I didn't read the numbers right. I was meant to move what I had saved from 21-23, which in turn were: revisiting material from 15 ("rabbit hole"), compiling from 17 (select a book), 18 (improvisation from the text of 17), and 20 (a drawing). Maybe pulling this now comparably ancient material might have been more interesting what I did, which was to pull the saved material from 35 (which was itself drawn from 25-34). Perhaps I heard the prompt I wanted to hear. Now my head is spinning a bit from all of these references to days past.

In any case, what was fun about the costume was the sleep mask component. I don't own a sleep mask, so I fashioned something out of a necktie and moved my phrase blindly.

I like this story in stills, but there is video, too

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 36: costume

#36 Design a costume drawing from your memory of (25)

Day 25 was sense of touch. I pretty much rolled around on and around my bed in my PJs. And that was good. So, this costume is essentially pajamas. But better! Fabric would be something soft and stretchy that feels good to the touch. Bottoms are subtly bloomer-shaped. The look is completed with big slouchy socks and eye mask.

Also, I don't know how to draw. Hands are impossible!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Day 35: compile, save, throw out, edit

#35 Compile, save, throw out, edit, draw from 25 - 34.

I've deep in making a piece for the past week, which, wow, it's harder to do this while involved in another project that demands my focus and creativity and planning. And after a couple of exploratory days at the beginning of that process, I am now very much in MAKE THE THING mode. And being in MAKE THE THING mode, naturally, I took this prompt and found the easiest thing to do (easiest being best at the moment) was to make a phrase with some of the bits in and pieces from prompts 25 through 34 (which were mostly about working the senses, for those who haven't been following along.) There is a lot of stuff there, and having been prompted to dig back into it or revisit a few times, I see small fragments that are pleasing in some way. Much more than I used here. Observation: the fragments that I find the most interesting also seem to be the hardest for me to reproduce.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 34: Naming

#34 Make up your own language from 32-33. Practice in naming.

I was at a loss with this one. About a week ago, I accidentally turned an extra page and read this prompt and was like, what the hell does that mean? And with relief, I turned back when I realized I had jumped ahead. I'll understand it when I get there, I figured. But alas, not really. So, I might not be doing this right. It's more of an exercise in defining than naming. But it's something...

activation: Turning on something that is already there.  Excitement.

belonging: Being an integral part of something. Having a place. Or possession, property.

claiming: This is mine. This is true.

curious: need to know more

drifts: wanders, wafts, gentle piles of snow

exploratory: Looking but not knowing what you are looking for. Fingers crawling over surfaces, eyes widening, ears tuned.

familiarity: our relationship the everyday stuff that we don't notice anymore. The water we're swimming in.

headache: an uneven pressure squeezing the front of your head and face

greenery: plants and trees and things, perhaps surrounded by things that are not plants and trees.

luxurious: unnecessary for survival and yet deeply desirable, delicious, pleasurable

layered: everything all at once

lazy: unwilling to exert effort

pleasurable: delightful to the senses or mind. Ex: stretching, a well-constructed sentence, triple cream cheese, skin against skin, close vocal harmonies.

retrospect: looking back (and usually knowing and seeing more)

self-indulgence: being motivated by personal pleasure above other considerations

shadow: a bit of darkness in the light

sniffing: getting stuff into your nose using the power of the nose

space: The not-stuff between stuff.

specificity: it's this. Exactly what it is. Not any of these other similar things.

urban environment: city, people, action, graffiti, murals, transit, trash, businesses, concrete, asphalt, all mushed together.

vulnerability: your soft underbelly exposed and unprotected

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 32: writing

#32: Write about (25-31)

Seven days of improvising with the senses.  Looking back...

The day improvising with touch looks the most exploratory in retrospect. My hands reaching out in search of something. My upper back curious about the feel of the floor. It's all sensual and luxurious.

The day of improvising with smell looks like other days when I danced in my apartment, but the sound of the sniffing is an animal sound. My eyes look a little lazy. I see myself trying to find whatever this is. Smell is hard to engage with actively and continuously. It fades into familiarity so quickly. Trying to smell changed the way I breathed.

The day of improvising with taste  is not too interesting to watch for the most part. It was about giving in to self-indulgence and I remember it being pleasurable.

The day of improvising with hearing has some bits of movement that I actually find interesting. Tempos and initiations are different. Paying attention to sounds enlivened my awareness, like my whole body was pricked up like a horses ear twitching back and forth, catching the sounds.

The day of improvising with sight forced me back into my apartment. I tried to take it in, but was so tired of my dancing and particularly in this space.

Then came the day of combining all of the senses and going out into an urban environment. And after that came combining all of the senses and going amongst greenery. Both were full of sensory information, but the thing I rode on top of all of that input and my responses was a feeling of the vulnerability of being out in the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 31: sensory improvisation / greenery

#31 Repeat sensory improvisation in some kind of greenery - grass, park, tree...

It's raining and the park is totally empty
Empty like I've never seen it
And I'm charging up the hill like I have somewhere to be
That tree up there maybe
Then I realize
I'm already there
This is the dance
Right here right now
And I slow down a little
to feel my feet on the ground
the resistance every time I lift a foot
the mud suctioning my boot
not wanting to let it go
It makes a squelping sound
I hear it more than I feel it
The sound is the feeling is the sound

I head over to the biggest tree
The not a palm tree tree
I don't know what kind of tree it is
rough bark
I touch it of course
It's stopped raining
but the tree is still shedding
in big voluptuous drops
that sound surprisingly crisp
almost exactly like when you stick your head underwater
and hear fish munching on coral
Just twice a cold drop lands on the top of my head

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 30: combining senses / outside

#30 Combine (25-29) to improvise outside in as urban a locale as is safe to do.

Heaven is other people.

I am so very grateful that this prompt coincided with a day when I was getting together with other dancers to improvise. The idea of going outside with what I've been doing was and is scary. Or at least awkward. Having other dancers along for this part of the ride with me made it safer. There is a kind of legitimacy to a group doing a weird activity that I don't feel comfortable claiming on my own. Maybe that is why I am not a solo artist.

And even with six of us out there, it was still a little awkward in practice, honestly. A man stopped on the corner and asked if this was some kind of flower child thing. And then, "is this yoga?" to which I awkwardly answered "mmhmm" and kept on with my moment, pressing my butt against R's butt in the alley outside Dance Mission. This was about as safe an urban locale as there can be. Right outside a theater. Hundreds of people must have performed in or above or around this alley over the years. The woman who drove through, parked, and then walked back out the way she drove in, was totally unfazed, bless her heart.

And we weren't out there to blow people's minds or even to communicate with people. We were out there improvising with our senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight. We were just out there for 10 minutes. It felt silly and complicated. It was overwhelming to the senses. I'm in love with the visual texture of the city, and this little alley was a fine example. The sky was blue with clouds above. Flock of pigeons flew overhead.  There were the sounds of cars, people talking and shouting, wind chimes, someone singing. It smelled a bit like just outside the bathroom of a taqueria. There was the feel of painted bricks and dry plants and asphalt and cement underfoot and each other. I have to admit the idea of taste fell by the wayside for me. Layered on top of the sensory overload was people, the city and its history, the gentrification that artists are a part of, echoes of yesterday's and recent week's protests. It was really too much.

I felt grateful for the dancers who were with me. I felt too vulnerable and self-conscious to be really connected to the environment. If I were making something for that environment, it wouldn't be an exploration of the senses. On the other hand, awakened and active senses seem like a good starting point for anything. Turns out it's hard to stay with the senses when self-consciousness is peeling my mind away from the present moment.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 29: sense of sight

#29 Improvise sense of sight, in your apartment with all of your "stuff"

I'm sick of dancing in my apartment.

I'm sick of dancing in my apartment, but I do. A little. Don't like it. Not today anyway. New tactic. I try taking me-as-subject out of the picture. Walk around my apartment taking video. Sense of sight through a screen. Upon editing, I feel a little nauseated from the POV shakiness. So, pictures. Here's what I see:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 28: sense of hearing

#28 Improvise sense of HEARING, but don't use music

This was my favorite day so far.

I loved the way listening to ambient sounds focused my attention and provided countless things to respond to. The hum of the lights or heat in the room, distant voices, motorcycles zooming by, the click of the sensors over the door, something that sounded at first like a basketball, but that I think was actually people jumping in another studio, my own feet on the floor, helicopters and sirens that made me wonder what's going on with the protest. Paying attention to all of this made me feel connected to things even as I danced alone in a studio.  Everything felt more receptive.  Using my ears even changed how I used my eyes. And I was less bored with my own movement. It was spikier in places. It didn't feel like I had to dredge up movement from somewhere inside me. I could really just respond to the sounds I was hearing.

None of the sounds were audible on the video. I stuck my phone out the window and recorded the sounds outside my apartment and added that to the video. Texture!

Day 27: sense of taste

#27 Improvise sense of TASTE

I took a couple of gaga classes recently, and one of the things I liked was the focus on connecting to pleasure. In both classes, at some point the teacher prompted us to have a delicious taste in our mouth. Both times, the taste I conjured up was this incredibly sexy triple cream cheese with truffles. It's the most decadent and purely enjoyable taste I can think of. Dancing with the idea of the sexy triple cream truffle cheese did indeed amplify my pleasure.

I considered improvising with imagined tastes for this prompt: the sexy cheese again, or lime, or buttered popcorn or curry. I brought some dark chocolate (85%) with me to the studio just in case. When I got there, it just made sense to improvise with the chocolate. Dancing with dark chocolate slowly melting in my mouth gave me permission to indulge in pleasurable movement. I indulged even further by giving myself music to respond to as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 26: sense of smell

#26 Improvise sense of smell. Try cooking first!

It's the storm of the century, they say. Certainly it has been raining all day. I brought my herbs in from the fire escape so they wouldn't drown. To prepare for this prompt, I made oatmeal cookies. This may be the first baking I've done in this apartment that I've inhabited for over three years. More often than not, it smells like the onions from the last night's dinner in here. Fresh baked cookie smell is a welcome change. I also had the fire escape herbs handy while I was moving, and a danced for a bit with a mint leaf between 2 fingers.

Some observations:

Smell as a sense gets exhausted much more quickly than touch

Smell is difficult to connect to movement

Smelling is breathing

It's often just at the moment when I first consider ending an improvisation that I start to get interested

The improvisations I've been doing tend to last about 15 minutes

I'm bored with my own movement, but in the same way that I tend to like tonal music, I'm aesthetically drawn to certain movement qualities and lines.

Day 25: sense of touch

#25 Improvise: sense of touch, maybe recall some of friend's gestures

I love touching stuff. When I go for a hike, I'm compelled to touch moss, leaves, bark. When I'm with a lover, I'm compelled to touch their skin. I touch door frames as I pass through them. I want to touch the artwork in museums. I like to eat with my fingers.

Improvising with touch was thus unsurpisingly pleasurable. Turning up sense of touch gave me a sense of contentment that lingers now, though now writing this, I have a tinge of regret that I did not indulge even more in the pleasure of this improvisation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 24: tea and gesture

#24 Have tea with a friend. Observe gesture.

Mindfulness fail.

I didn't have tea with a friend today, but I had a lunch date booked, and my plan was to observe gesture over sandwiches or stir fry. Instead, I got all swept up in catching up. Damnit. I didn't even remember that I had forgotten until I was in the studio waiting for gaga class to start. So I spied for a minute on another student who was signing up while I was stretching my calves. Observing strangers for something specific (like gesture) is a pretty entertaining exercise. She made loose air quotes, her fingers wiggling several times. My fingers wiggled sympathetically. She wiped at her collarbone with the tips of her fingers. She fanned herself with both hands and smiled.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Well, today's prompt involves having tea with a friend, and that is not in the cards or the stars or google calendar for this evening. Instead I'll be doing some movement investigation on the dance floor at Madrone a little later. So, raincheck.

In the meantime, here is what I am thinking about today.

You know how when you are in a new relationship, you can be on your best behavior for some period of time? And in that golden time, you are so charming and funny and sexy. You wear your cutest underwear and lipgloss all the time, and you don't leave clothes strewn all over your apartment, or get impatient and irritable, or spiral into a weird existential funk after crying at the grocery store because of low blood sugar. And you DO NOT FART. But at some point you cannot be on your best behavior anymore. No one can maintain that. Eventually you have to fart.

This project didn't start out in a particularly golden/charming/funny/sexy way. It's warts-and-all documentation of a process. But now I think it has reached the flatulence in the presence of the loved one stage. It's the dailyness of it. Throwing something over the wall every day. I have always resisted things like work in progress showings because I want to present my best work. (I did start showing work in progress to select colleagues during my last big project, and it was difficult and it was great for the work.)

I feel a little exposed. But also kind of comfortable.

Hey, could you pop this zit on my back for me?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 23: combine and throw out

#23 Combine 21 + 22. Throw out.

Aaaah! More combining! Major internal resistance today. Maybe it's coming from my sore body, my burning shins. Or maybe it's the prompt. The past few days have been 20) remembering, 21) revisiting, 22) compiling. And now combining. These activities have been more difficult to approach than starting fresh with something new, which is weird. In the process of making a piece, one of my favorite parts is when a bit of material just starting to take shape. That involves remembering, revisiting compiling, combining. So why am I having to drag myself into it now? Again, maybe it's just the shins.

An obvious difference between the usual process and 100 days is that pulling things together is usually at least somewhat product oriented. I'm making something. And here I a am specifically not making anything. That's not particularly problematic on a day of improvisations. But for some reason the idea of "combine and throw out" makes me ask, why bother in the first place?

Getting up and moving is one solution to this problem. I did that. For a bit. And for brief flashes, movement made things self-evident. Or movement is self-evident. Or it doesn't require answers.

But also, I could feel that I wasn't so committed today as I crawled and fell and reached and gestured around my bedroom. (In the spirit of "throwing out", no video!) There is a lot rattling around from the past few days - plenty to draw from. Today it's scattered, and I couldn't quite gather it all up. I noticed that I have insecurity about how long to stick with something when improvising. It was particularly noticeable today, but it has been floating around through many of the past 22 days.

And now I am throwing what just happend out. It's gone.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 22: Compile

#22 Compile material/memories from 17, 18, and 20

#17 Select a book from a bookcase at random. Read one entire page.
#18 Improvisation drawing from (17), reading/word(s), your memory of first reading of the text
#20 Make a drawing of (what you remember of) 19's spatial design

What is the difference between revisiting and compiling?

For the past couple of days, I have had to actively resist looking ahead to upcoming prompts. Because, compile for what? Into what? Am I making a dance? Despite the suggestions/instructions to do prompts in any media and try not to make anything, I keep assuming that the prompts are pointing to something, and that something is MAKING A DANCE.


So, I took a breath, looked back over the material, and realized -

No, I do not have to make a dance!

I made this instead. It would be even more fun if it was a video with the three photos running through video and some of the text animating a bit, but I've had enough computer time for today.

Day 21: revisit the rabbit hole

#21: Go back to (15) and revisit material

I revisited the rabbit hole material by way of video. I felt a little guilty about not revisiting it physically, but I always prefer being the outside eye in my own work, and video is just about the only method I know of for stepping outside when it's your own body dancing.

Having a few days distance was a good thing. Turns out I had pulled a lot of material from those improvisations to hold onto in video form. I watched it all, noticed what remained interesting today, and hacked the rest out. Maybe I'll dance it tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Day 20: drawing

#20 Make a drawing of (what you remember of) 19's spatial design

Here we come to the bit where I post this without commentary about my lack of drawing skills.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day 19: Sports

#19 Watch at least 10 minutes of a professional sports event or international news footage.

I have no idea how rugby works. But I remember seeing a bit of a match on the TV at a bar where I was waiting for my boyfriend-at-the time a few years ago. I was always waiting for my boyfriend-at-the-time back then. Rugby was on and I, then as now, had no idea what was going on, but I couldn't tear my eyes away. All of those men in shorts slamming into each other! It was chaos.

So, now.  Today. Waiting for no one, I just watched 12 and half minutes of New Zealand v. South Africa in a rugby championship. Most of that time went by with introductions to the players in cute baseball card frames folding their giant arms in front of their giant chests and then unfolding them just before they disappear and the next set of cards comes up. Oh the theater of it! Then a little locker room footage where the pre-game camaraderie seems really quite sweet and so masculine I don't even know to do with it.  Then the national anthems, during which the players stood in a long line with their arms around each other. They all sang along, some of them with their eyes closed looking really soulful and earnest. And then - ohmygoodness - the New Zealand team did a DANCE all in unison with foot stomping in kind of a wide 2nd position plie. They slapped their biceps and stuck out there tongues. Wow.

Then the game started and it was, yup, chaos. A ball moves around, and then they collide and end up with it looks like 6 or 10 guys in a big pile and more guys standing by the pile fending other guys off with an arms outstretched stay-away sort of gesture.  Sometimes someone kicks the ball. Very high. Sometimes there is a pause, and one of the players throws the ball in to the rest, and there is this beautiful thing where a bunch of them jump up, and they lift someone in the center up high to grab the ball. Or he jumps up and they catch him and let him down? It just looks like he levitates for a moment.

More colliding, more piles. Slow motion replay of 2 very large men ramming their shoulders into the torso of another very large man. The announcers keep mentioning something called a 22.

I still have no idea how rugby works.

Day 18: memory of the text

#18 Improvisation drawing from (17), reading/word(s), your memory of first reading of the text

Lots of very important work happening here at 100 days HQ:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Day 17: bookcase

#17 Select a book from a bookcase at random. Read one entire page.

I close my eyes and pull Stephen Elliot's The Adderall Diaries off the bookshelf. I skip past the prologue, which opens with:
My father may have killed a man.
I skip to Chapter 1. Page 13. It does that old fashioned thing where it lists everything that occurs in the chapter in italics up top:
May; Golden State; Suicidal Thoughts; A Year without Speed; Floyd Mayweather Comes Up Short; "Your Guy Just Confessed to Eight Murders"; Lissette; The Part about Josie
It's nonfiction. On Page 13, he writes about taking Adderall, crushing the beads from a time release capsule, trying to write, playing cards instead, going to a party...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 16: Spine

#16 Improvisation for spine: flex, extend, side bend, rotate

This would be a nice one to do on a regular basis. Made me feel gooey like a freshly baked cookie. Working with the spine came from a surprisingly muscular place for me. Not bound, but lots of activation in the muscles from head to tail. Maybe there is a way to approach this more skeletally.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 15: rabbit hole

#15 Follow each chosen moment down a "rabbit hole". Don't sequence/combine. Call each "thing" something = name each. File for later.

For anyone who is keeping score, I took a few days off while I was on vacation in Portland, so the chosen items from days 13 (make a phrase) and 14 (simmer) have been on the back burner for awhile. I treated myself to an hour of studio space to jump back in today.

The first rabbit hole I ventured down was 1) the beginning movement on the knees with hands creeping slowly around. I started with the movement as I remembered it from the phrase and let it evolve from there. And it did move through a few different phases. The unifying element turned out to be the hands on the floor, carefully placed or sliding, feeling their way along. Maybe because this was the first moment I worked with and "rabbit hole" suggests a spiral, this "thing" also keeps winding around and around through the different iterations. Since there are several distinct vocabularies here, I gave each part of this thing it's own name:

"creeping circle", "dead shoulder", "twister"

The next rabbit hole started with this: "Viewed from the back: starting with elbows together, pinky fingers together, the hands separate and spread outwards becoming visible on either side of the head." I stayed anchored in one spot and focused on the back of my body. The original movement was symmetrical, and this became a longer study in symmetry. This ground has been well-trod by Jess Curtis in The Symmetry Project, of course. That didn't stop me! The prompt led where it led and this project seems like the perfect time to not despair about whether something has been done before. I could even view this like a scientist validating another scientist's results by reproducing the same experiment.

When I realized I was moving symmetrically - that that was where this particular rabbit hole led - I committed to it. And as I dropped in, I really felt the allure of symmetry. It's both familiar and not. It made me feel my movement initiation habits (I really want to pop one hip up, shift my ribs to the side, lean off balance). But it didn't feel too restricting for most of the 10 or so minutes I played with it. There was something deeply pleasing about moving symmetrically(ish), both in the doing and the watching.


And my goodness, there is one more. All of that simmering boiled over. This rabbit hole began with "A hand in the opposite armpit being awkwardly pulled out against resistance". This one was hard to find. It kept getting stuck. I left it and did the symmetry thing above. I came back to it with something looser. Slapping, pushing, and pulling initiate most of the movement. It's kind of a lot of flailing. The video here is a bunch of very small fragments from that improvisation that I think might have the potential to be interesting.

"slap happy"

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 14: simmer

#14 Choose 2-3 events or moments from (13). Let simmer.

The moments that will be simmering:

  1. The beginning moment on the knees with hands creeping slowly around
  2. A hand in the opposite armpit being awkwardly pulled out against resistance
  3. Viewed from the back: starting with elbows together, pinky fingers together, the hands separate and spread outwards becoming visible on either side of the head.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 13: make a phrase

#13 Make a phrase from (12) writing(s)

There is a little talking in this movement phrase. I might hate it, but I left it in.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Another day 12: expanding the lenses, part 2 - spirituality

#12 Choose 2-3 angles/lenses from (10) and expand on each

Yesterday was day 12, but I only got through one angle/lens, so in Groundhog Day fashion, it will be Day 12 over here until I'm done.

Spirituality lens (take 2)
Yesterday, when I was ostensibly writing about this dance phrase through the lens of pop culture, I didn't get to the bottom of what makes me feel kind of squicky about it. The biggest part of the discomfort, I think, comes from the narcissistic element that lurks deep in most performance work, particularly in solo work, and seems prone to amplification through the media of youtube video and blog/social media. The look-at-me factor. The ego factor.

Dear solo performance artists, I don't necessarily think you are narcissistic. It is more that I don't make solo work because I don't know how to approach in a way that isn't just feeding into my own narcissism. Among other reasons. It's not you. It's me.

Approaching creative work as a kind of spiritual practice is, I think, a potential antidote to the narcissism/ego squick factor. It's not how I've approached my performance-making work in the past, though my last large piece was partially about prayer (and also primates). I don't know whether I'll approach my future dance-theater making processes as spiritual practice. Maybe yes, maybe no. For the next piece I'm planning, about 2 couples and the way their relationships follow seasonal and extreme weather patterns, I'm trying out working less experimentally. Start with a structure and fill in the pieces, rather than building a whole bunch of stuff around a concept and trying to figure out where it leads. The more structured approach itself is an experiment in it's own way. Will the work be more focused? Will it be limited? Will it go deeper within the defined boundaries?  None of this necessarily cries out for a process or product more connected to spirituality. At least not beyond the sort of general Buddhist ideal of everything being meditation. Washing the dishes is meditation. Biking to work is meditation. Rehearsing is meditation.

This 100 days thing, on the other hand, falls naturally into the realm of spiritual practice. It is a daily practice with a bit of the "do it just to do it" ethos of Zazen. I hope I am not misrepresenting Zen Buddhism here. Avalokiteshvara knows, I know nothing. I will say that one of the things I like about Zen Buddhism, at least as it is practiced at Zen Center, is that there is a kind of practicality. If you sit for hours looking at a wall every day, don't be surprised if you are sometimes just looking at a wall. There are no promises of mystical experiences. And yet, the practice does have real effects, one of which is maybe getting glimpses into the true nature of things.

There is something similar in this. 100 days of responding to prompts. 100 days of moving and exploring and writing and just doing whatever it is, has the potential (I think, I hope) to clear some channels and to reveal something inside. And maybe that will also affect the world outside in some small positive way.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 12: expanding on the lenses

#12 Choose 2-3 angles/lenses from (10) and expand on each

Pop culture lens (take 2)
I didn't dig too deep into this on day 10. Not sure I'll like what I find.

The format that I've chosen for the documentation of this 100 day practice, namely this here blog right here, intersects with a segment of pop culture that I have conflicted feelings about, which is basically social media and youtube. It's this realm in which anyone can potentially be a STAR, by force of personality or weirdness or falling off of something in a hilarious way or even actual talent. And wow, internet, you have shown me some incredible dancers. You have shown me beautiful things. It's great. It's democratic. It's accessible. You can put yourself out there and be liked and viewed and shared. What performer does not want to be liked and viewed and shared?

So is there a problem? Not inherently. This project/process/practice is... well, I was going to say an experiment, but I'm not exactly sure that's right. I'm not testing any particular hypothesis. It is a practice. I am practicing. Each day I open the booklet and read the prompt and try to respond wholeheartedly. Documentation is part of the process. "Document EVERY prompt however you like." I embrace it. On some days the documentation and the response to the prompt are one and the same, like today. And I've chosen to document publicly for some reason. And this part does feel like an experiment. There is no hypothesis, true, but there are questions. How will it feel? What will happen? Who if anyone will read and watch? Will it have any effect?

This feeling around in the dark seems totally valid as an artistic exploration. Oh! Exploration! That's probably a more fitting word than experiment. And artistic exploration is a kind of a shield against popularity. No one wants to see exploration! Or rather, some people very much do, but most people do not. It's not going to be popular. "Experimental Theater" is never going to be popular theater, by it's very nature, although things that become popular emerge from it. Am I right about this? Just trying it out. So, the artistic exploration shield is also protection against, for lack of a better way to put it, success in the marketplace. But I wasn't trying to be popular! I'm experimenting! Because I am a serious artist!

But seriously, I am exploring and experimenting and not making something. So I am totally not trying to compete with Honey Boo Boo or whoever.

Out of time! I'm going to have to come back for the other lens/es. Maybe late tonight. Maybe tomorrow. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 11: shedding

Throw out (9) movement of phrase. Do a shedding dance.

It's a good day to shed.

The shedding dance felt necessary today. Necessary and elusive. I started moving. The need to shed got stronger as I moved. The detritus of the past week clung to me in bits and strands and I tried to shake and fling and slap it off. I kept going. There were tears. I may have shucked off a layer of surface muck. It's still settling now.

I did record video. I did manage to move without thinking much about the fact that the camera was there. I did not want to watch the whole video. I did go into the video and mark each minute, then cut most of what was in between.

So here you have a 22 minute shedding dance in about three and a half minutes:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 10: different lenses

#10: Write about (9) from perspectives of design, theater, pop-culture, politics, etc - at least 6 different lenses

I see lines and arcs traced by extremities on the ground and through the air. It's a three dimensional drawing. At ground level, straight lines and right angles scraped into the surface by flat feet. A series of unfinished rectangles. What do you call a rectangle with 3 sides and an opening? Above, fingertips at the end of swinging and slicing arms describe arcs in different planes. A line tossed in interrupts the arcs, but they return. An arc of the fingers of  the right hand closes into an oblong. Round and round it goes, and the foot creates an orbit of it's own. Traces in spaces.

I immediately read "theater" as meaning "narrative". Where did that come from? Next comes to mind theatricality, drama, heightened emotion or style. None of of these are much in evidence here. I look to the focus to tell me something. What do the eyes give away? There is a sideways glance at the start. There seems to be a false start. Sideways glance. Try again. Then comes the shoegazing, or rather footgazing. Eyes are not telling me much until the very last moment when I see something proud or watchful for a split second. So then I wonder, does the body have a story to tell here? The long journey across 6 feet and back again?

Pop Culture
This is not going to go viral. I am not going to become a YouTube sensation. The format is essentially the same. A person dancing in front of a cell phone. What's the difference? Well, this is not impressive. It is not a showcase of my sick skills (is it?) This is not funny. This is not even primarily intended for an audience, despite being public. This is documentation of a task. This is an investigation. This is a process. This is unpopular culture.

There is so much more that could be said here. Popularity, success, legitimacy as an artist are all springing to mind. But I am going to leave it here today.

I don't know how to talk about politics. The personal is political will have to do here. Is there a politics of a woman dancing in her bedroom? This bedroom is in a studio apartment in San Francisco, which I can afford to do because of a part time gig in tech. This has come to seem like an almost unspeakable luxury. Not only a room of one's own but an entire apartment. In San Francisco! Wow. Fucking jackpot. Yes. And also, dancing requires or at least desires more space than writing. This bedroom dance feels a little cramped. There are hints that some of the movement wants to go wild, but a visual field full of walls and bookshelves and bedroom furniture keep it a little contained. I see that it doesn't have to be that way. Maybe it is also the domestic nature of the space demanding a certain modesty of phrase. Over there I cook dinner, right over there I sleep, and on this patch of floor I will make a little dance phrase. I see this little dance phrase and in it I see the lost spaces for dance in this city. All is not lost. There are spaces for dance. It all feels a little tenuous lately. I also see in this little dance phrase a scrappy determination to make things out of the materials at hand. Make it work, to quote Tim Gunn. This is not a bad thing, right? But I also see my own scarcity mentality. Things are getting a little cramped even in my head. All this making do, making it work, making something out of nothing, it requires creativity and limitations can make work better. Lord knows I love me some low tech theater magic. But I'm just realizing I feel a little hemmed in and that has something to do with a perceived lack of resources or support.

E recently told me about setting a piece on some college students. One day, one of the dancers pulled him aside with some complaints about the process. One of the complaints was, your work is not original. It's derivative.

One of the things I am enjoying in this 100 day process, is feeling freed, at least temporarily, from concerns about originality. That inner complaint: this is not original still frequently pops up. But my task here, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't have anything to do with originality. Yes, one of my not-so-secret hopes is/was that this process might lead me to something new. I keep bringing myself back around to: Feel free. Try not to make anything. No gaining idea.

Which is all to say, I don't see anything original in this little phrase. As I was making it, I remember feeling something Trisha Brown-like in the contacts with points in space and in the attempts at loose limbed clear lines. The passe moment with the twist and arm slice ended up way more like something from Katie Faulkner's dance class than what I had been aiming for. And then there are all of the influences that have worked their way so deeply into my body that I don't even recognize them as not my own. This way of moving is now "natural". This is me. Not an amalgamation of Joe Goode and Kathleen Hermesdorf and Ellie Klopp and Debbie Taylor and all of the other teachers and their lineages. This is now me. The turned in, hiked hip lift of the leg has been part of my vocabulary for so long that even my non-dancer neuroscientist ex-husband called it out some 10 years ago. Where did that come from?

This one applies for me not so much to this phrase, which I see as more of a formal and anatomical exploration, as to the whole process. I wrote the other day about ballet class starting to feel like something akin to a spiritual practice. And now I am thinking about how my creative process can and does overlap or mesh with my spiritual practice. I surprise myself a little, admitting to having a spiritual practice. For some years I've been jokingly calling myself a wannabe Buddhist or a drive by Buddhist or a bad Buddhist. Bad Buddhist is a particularly fun, but probably not that useful construction. Not-entirely-committed Buddhist might be more accurate. I can't honestly imagine really committing in this lifetime of mine to saving all beings, thought I've chanted it a bunch of times.

This process seems to invite the possibility of approaching creative process as a practice as a meditation practice. You keep just keep doing it, keep coming back to it. You lose focus, and come back to it. You let go of attachments. You get attached.  You let go. You get attached. You let go. You practice being aware, awake, available, open, compassionate. You try not to give into the feeling of constantly falling short.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 9: "best of"

#9 Select "the best of" 5-8 and organize into a phrase

I inwardly groaned a bit when I read this prompt. Then I proceeded to put it off. I washed clothes, bought groceries, read short stories, watched a videos of tango dancing and a dog on a trampoline. Doesn't Christy hate making phrases? Or at least have mixed feelings about making phrases? (Despite the fact that to all outward appearances, she could crank out interesting movement phrases all day long.) Today I also had mixed feelings about and resistance to making a phrase.

I finally settled into it. I had done a lot of the work of sifting through the material on the earlier days, when I plucked out interesting bits of the videos to include here and here and here. I looked back through them and was most interested in the kind of stiff and linear "frame" movement from day 7, and some of the more flingy key and parasol movement from day 5. I started learning and adapting the movement from the video and putting things together. I remembered I sometimes like making phrases, particularly when the stakes are low.

So, here is the first official phrase of my 100 days in all of it's 1-minute glory. While I was putting it together, it felt kind of Trisha Brown-ish, but watching the video, it doesn't look that way at all. I also noticed that a couple of movements, when codified, lost some of the quality that interested me in the improvisations. The space constraints of my studio apartment also influenced the phrase. Not in a bad way, but this would have been a nice day on which to have access to a larger space. But we must make do.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 8: no gaining idea

#5-8 Move the residue or echo of (4) in three different environments

I did a little math and it doesn't quite add up. Three different locations. Four days. Hmm. I could repeat a location. I could do any number of things. What I'm going to do is take today as a freebie, and just do a little reflection.

It's Saturday. On my calendar, every Saturday rather optimistically says, "9:25am zazen", which is shorthand for meditation and a dharma talk at San Francisco Zen Center. For most of this year, I was actually getting there about 3 out of 4 Saturdays, but for the past two months, I've been skipping it in favor of taking ballet. This choice might not seem to be doing me any favors in the obsessive thought department, but this ballet class is not unlike a spiritual practice. At the very least, for 2 hours I do not think about anything other than my pelvic floor and the connection of my little toe to my butt dent and how to not give up at the end of a pirouette and other things of that nature.

But today, with one week of my hundred days behind me, I find myself thinking about thinking about Buddhist stuff, like Suzuki Roshi's admonishment to have no gaining idea. (Shunryo Suzuki is the founder of SF Zen Center. He died well before I started sporadically showing up, but his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is often the basis for talks.) He talked about practicing zazen with no gaining idea. Practicing without the idea of achieving enlightenment. Without even the idea of becoming a better person. You practice just to practice.

I just googled to confirm that I'm not completely misremembering this concept, and goddamn, sometimes I love the internet. In Suzuki Roshi's own words:
When you are idealistic, you have some gaining idea within yourself; by the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal. So as long as your practice is based on a gaining idea, and you practice zazen in an idealistic way, you will have no time actually to attain your ideal. Moreover, you will be sacrificing the meat of your practice. Because your attainment is always ahead, you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future. You end up with nothing. 
(The rest of the talk is here.)  

Looking back at the beginning of my 100 days booklet, I see again:
"document every prompt however you like"
“Try not to MAKE anything.”

I wonder what gaining ideas I have about this hundred day practice, and are these ideas blocking something? So far, it is different from the usual process of going into the studio to make a piece. That seems right. I am less concerned about whether what I am doing or making is good. Sweet freedom! But I suspect I am making things. And making these things - dancing and moving and editing video and writing - feeds seamlessly into my irrepressible need to feel productive. These things, and perhaps some others, make this process seem less pure and pristine than my idea of it. And okay, having an idea that anything about this process, or any creative process, should be pristine is a little ridiculous. But putting that aside, and putting aside the worry that I could get more out of this if I did it BETTER, I still think it's worth looking at the hidden ideas and expectations that I've encumbered myself with...
I will discover something new.
I will break through my movement habits and patterns.
I will become a better writer through the sheer volume of writing I'm doing to document this process.
This will be interesting to other people. (This one is the worst.)
I will come up with brilliant ideas for new things to make.

In the spirit of day 1, I am going to try to shed these ideas as I go on through the days.

Practice is just practice is just practice.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 7: residue part 3 (corner)

#5-8 Move the residue or echo of (4) in three different environments

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

But perhaps baby should reconsider.

After yesterday's adventure in the studio, I am back at home for the 3rd day and 3rd environment of/for moving the residue or echo of my items. I squished myself into the corner where I had been keeping the items. It was certainly the most time I've spent in this particular little corner of my apartment. I found it to be a cozy spot. Foldout ironing board on one side, window on the other, kitchen table a few feet away. Calm. Comforting.

Also, I played with Final Cut effects. Perhaps if I slap enough sketches together, I will really learn my way around this program.

Day 6: Residue part 2 (studio)

#5-8 Move the residue or echo of (4) in three different environments

I think I thought that the studio would feel uninspiring or sterile after being up on the roof yesterday. I think I thought that. But it turns out that an empty space that was all mine for 90 minutes felt pretty good. The sprung floor didn't hurt either.

Funny story: After warming up a bit, I turned on the camera and improvised for about 15 minutes. Then I took a peek at the camera to see if it was still running. It was. Great! I kept going. 5 minutes later when I felt done with that round, I went to turn off the camera, and... ERROR! The whole video was lost.

Which really doesn't matter at all.

I've been documenting with video for some reason I'm not totally sure about yet, but it's not important. I laid on the floor for awhile deciding whether I was done for the day. I decided I was not. I decided to repeat the task in basically the same way without trying to reproduce anything that had happened the first time. I experimented a bit with this kind of repetition when I was doing the Sandbox Series at ODC. (Sandbox Series is a program that gives choreographers free studio space, paid dancers, and a chunk of money to just experiment with no obligation to make anything. It was great). During Sandbox, I had a day that was all about repetition. I had the dancers do a phrase building task with the exact same parameters 4 times in a row. I tried something along the same lines for my 2nd round of improvisation here.

Both times, I basically went through the items one by one (keys, tiny picture frame, parasol, seed pod necklace, bark) and danced something about that item. I moved about a set of keys? Danced inspired by a parasol? Attempted to capture some essence of a necklace through the power of my dance? I don't know. It seems sort of silly. I am reminded of a woman I met in my college years. She had some long ago dance training and was working as a stripper at the time. I had just discovered modern dance! She made fun of that "I'm-a-tree modern dance thing". I explained it's not about that, but sometimes we count to 7 instead of 8.

So, I'm not a tree, but I am a piece of bark, and a set of keys, &etc. That's right. I just decided not to feel silly about it. And it felt good, I must say, to play. To be easy with myself and think about the qualities of these items, both physical and in the residual memories attached to each, as I danced:

The keys were led me into the spirals of the metal keychain and distant memories of the man who gave it to me.

The tiny frame was all about corners and lines and right angles.

The parasol was about the shape, and a kind of gentle popping expansion, and maybe an element of protection.

The necklace pulled between the lightness and bounce of the pods to the limp tangle of the cord.

The bark... I skipped the second time around. I lost steam, I guess, or maybe I couldn't find my way into it. The first time I remember thinking about the textures, really rough on one side and smooth on the other, and I tried to feel that in my body.

And then there was a little silliness at the end:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 5: Residue part 1 (roof)

#5-8 Move the residue or echo of (4) in three different environments

Today it rained. It rained! Somehow this seems significant, though when I went up to the roof to do today's prompt, it wasn't raining yet. I raced home from work to beat the dark and the sky was textured with clouds. A roof in the Mission was not a bad place to be at that moment. I brought a couple of the items up (the parasol and the keys).

Dancing on the roof became as much or about the roof and the view of the city all around as about anything else I might have intended. There is a lot to see up there. And hear. Wind, crows, the sound of the street, strange banging noises that I couldn't determine the source of. I peered over the edge and my neighbor was sitting below on his fire escape, and I wondered if he heard me jangling my keys up on the roof where I was not supposed to be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day 3: Collect 5 items

I ended up gathering items that did not come to me by way of purchase. I'm guessing they will come back into play on another day soon.

item #1
Keys. The keychain was given to me 10 years ago, and is now both an utterly ordinary everyday object and a kind of talisman. Also, I spend approximately 4% of my life searching for these.

item #2
Bark. Maybe from a madrone? I picked it up on one of many hikes I took during a Djerassi residency. The bark had peeled off in these big strips and curls and was all gorgeous and wet on the floor of the woods. Taking it was probably some kind of attempt to bring some of the magic of that place home with me.

item #3
Necklace. R bought it for me at a supermarket in Kauai when we were there celebrating my birthday. At her request/insistence, I wore it constantly while we were there, except when I is was in the water or sleeping. It's made out of some kind of seed pods and weights almost nothing.

item #4
Frame. This picture frame is 2 and a half inches high. It was part of a diorama in a Mugwumpin show. We took the show to Europe and assembled the diorama there. It was full of sundry items - an eiffel tower, a ceramic lion, small furniture and picture frames. After the shows were over, we dismantled the diorama. I pocketed some of the items, including this frame, and carried them with me for the next 3 weeks as I travelled around France, England and Germany.

item #5
Parasol. A recent acquisition. I apparently accidentally nicked this from a lovely wedding where I was a +1.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 2: Writing: your wildest desire

I opened the booklet. I slid the paper down to reveal "(2) Writing: your wildest desire". Oh dear. Not ready for this. Certainly not ready to expound on whatever my wildest desire is publicly. Blog the whole process! Great idea, Erin!

I pulled out some paper and a pen. I wrote "My wildest desire" at the top. And then I started writing and tried not to resist the prompt. But I did resist it. I do. Wildest. It's the superlative that made this so hard. I do experience desire as wild. Desire is untamed and difficult to control and defies rationality. As I sit here just thinking about desire, I can feel something in my chest tugging forward towards I don't even know what. The desire that is not wild is something else. It's aspiration or hope instead. Desire pushes me in random directions, and most often, it seems, away from my best self. But the wildest?

Here's where I started with the writing (as opposed to this, the writing about the writing).
When I started hanging around with J, he told me he was trying to rid himself of fear and desire. Some kind of Buddhist notion. Fear I understood wanting to be rid of. But desire? No way. I was waist deep in desire. Nipple deep. I was in it over my head over TB. The Boy. It was exhilarating and excruciating. And the thing is in the end, the several-years-later end, I'm not sure it meant anything at all beyond some raw animal surges of feeling.
Still not writing about my actual wildest desire here, notice. Further in, I try to work my way through real present desires to find my way to the WILDEST. I do not arrive there.

A desire (not the wildest, I admit) that I can name here: to fling my body into and over things, to hurl myself through space, to move in all directions and never get hurt.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 1: Shedding

Dance/move/make a 10 minute shedding dance

I start by sweeping the floor and clearing out the space in my studio apartment. Attempting some transformation of my every day living space into something else. Maybe this is misguided, but clearing the space seems like a necessary preamble to the shedding dance. I swept yesterday, but still the broom catches so much hair and dust and bits of things. All of this accumulated since yesterday, or I missed it yesterday. Either way, there seems to be a metaphor lurking in all this dust and debris. The bottoms of my feet feel gritty. I wash them and this also feels right, like shedding.

I'm not sure if this preparation for the dance or the dance. I'm inclined to think of this activity - sweeping, tidying, washing, as the dance. But there is a time specified in this task. A 10 minute shedding dance. In the spirit of documenting, I spend some time fiddling with a tripod and my cell phone, and finally settle on propping it up between a water glass and an apple on the kitchen table. I start the video and set the oven timer for 10 minutes and start into the dance proper.

Right away I hate having the camera on. It doesn't feel right for this. It brings up too much that is too hard to shed. All the ideas about what something looks like, how it will be perceived, what it means. I say to myself out loud that I am not going to pay attention to the camera. And then I start not paying attention to it. This is clearly going to be a struggle with the this project/process.

Shedding feels like cleansing at first. Almost like a ritual cleansing. I think that this is connected to the bucket showers I've been taking lately. A friend introduced me to the concept. She was recently in Haiti and that's how she bathed there, and then she kept doing it when she came home. "I love bathing now", she said. And I think it was her attitude that made me love it too.

I stroked my limbs, my neck, my face. As the attention of my critical mind passed over what I was doing, I thought, maybe this is cheesy. But it felt kind of right. I did some shaking. Some wandering around. I swept my body across the floor. Sometimes searching for something. Is this the right thing? Is this the answer? Usually doing that really. It was hard to settle. That damn video camera. I kept finding myself wanting to perform aesthetically pleasing dance, and then fighting that because it didn't feel right.

Of course I took off my clothes. I mean, shedding, come on. That felt good. The camera spontaneously turned off at 5:38, so the naked dancing was truly just for me.

Before I begin

Christy came over last night. I made mac n' cheese. We drank wine and talked about art and non-art related things. And she dropped off the booklet. Inside are my 100 prompts and a slip of paper to be used obscure the coming prompts. It's one day at a time. No looking ahead. No expected end result.

I considered delaying. I do have more free time at the moment than I have for the past 8 months, but I'm still concerned about finding or making the time every day. And my neck is pretty out of whack. Wouldn't this be better if my dancing was uncompromised? And what about when I'm at my zen retreat? And and and...

But ok, when establishing a daily practice, it seems like there is really no time like the present.


The inside cover of the booklet says:
  • prompts can be done in any media
  • try not to look ahead
  • other people can be brought in at any time
  • document every prompt however you like
  • try not to MAKE anything