You know what they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear“.
I’m pretty sure what Buddha really meant by this was “when the teacher’s class is a requirement at NYU, then the student follows said teacher around like a groupie”.
Claire Porter’s Laban Movement Analysis class at NYU was a bright spot in my first semester of graduate school. I liked how we physicalized the content in class, had choreography and writing assignments (my two favorite things!), and I appreciated Claire’s sense of humor and creativity in class. For my final project, I attempted to come up with a formula using LMA language for comedic choreography based on observations of the hilarious ‘Mistake Waltz’ by Jerome Robbins. I don’t think the formula was particularly successful, but what a fun starting point of investigation!
Further proof of how cool Claire is, check out her Wikipedia page which details some of her own comedic choreography. Yes, she has a wiki page.
After class ended in December, I continued to bother- I mean, KEPT IN TOUCH- with this amazing teacher which led to the opportunity to work with her Bergen DanceMakers Group and to begin workshopping ‘7 Words’.
I was able to continue the development at Claire’s ‘Text and Movement’ weeklong workshop held at Bearnstow in beautiful Mount Vernon, Maine earlier in August.
Here’s a tidbit of info about Bearnstow from the website:
A unique summer retreat dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of our natural environment. Weeklong workshops are offered for youth and adults that explore the natural world through the lens of creative arts and sciences.
About that natural world bit: on the first night, a bat was fluttering around my cabin shared with two other ladies. It scared the living daylights out of one, and was kind of amusing to me and the other roomie. Apparently Dracula wants to learn how to write and dance, too.
This was the most diverse summer dance program I’ve ever attended. Men and women, dancers, writers, psychiatrists, physical therapists, puppeteers, musicians ranging from teenagers to seniors coming from the East Coast and all the way from France gathered in this woodland camp site to create new work and offer feedback.
Over the course of the week, we developed projects starting from a postcard and gradually incorporating and editing accompanying movement and text. It was a fantastic experience to see how everyone’s piece grew into funny, poignant, individual creations from Monday to Friday. I don’t know if I was lucky to be in a group of particularly smart, creative people but I was impressed by all of the final outcomes. It is also possible that Claire is a master of coaching the kind of quick, creative practices which lead to something with substance, or humor, or enough content to make the final product layered and interesting. This is what she has called, ‘getting out of your own way’.
I think most of us who ‘create dance’ or writing have that fearful feeling of where to even start when tasked with the instruction, ‘make a piece’. I’ve certainly been there. Even if I’ve had a clear idea of the inspiration, or some structure, even the content itself, it can be so easy to over think especially when you have an expectation that whatever you’re working needs to be ‘great!’ and ‘new!” Claire gave us many tools to just create without being too precious or attached to every word, every step, to change the order, the levels, to rethink how to approach the possibilities of creating. Pretty soon, we had a bulk of material in both movement and writing from which we could connect, see patterns, edit, and make choices of structuring the whole thing together. And feedback from each other in small groups or pairs really helped too, both in the construction, and in getting used to showing what you have started, regardless of if it makes into the final piece or not. This is good practice for both creating and for confidence.
I made two new pieces, one from the postcard and one which I showed on the final day with a group of wonderful performers: Kei -my awesome cabinmate and fellow-survivor of BatGate2017-, Owen, Marc, Foster, Ann, and Alison. This piece is either going by the name ‘Neuropathy’- very to the point- or ‘On My Last Nerve’. I am undecided. It isn’t finished anyways, a work in progress, just like me. PS, I’m the only person who did not fully memorize their text and had to read from a paper. Kudos me.
I think the best thing about this workshop, besides Claire’s instruction, swimming in the lake with new friends, crowded meals, trading in waking up to the sound of construction to the sound of loons, having coffee made for you in the morning….
was having the chance to hear open feedback. I showcased ‘7 Words’ on Tuesday and have so many ideas about where it needs to go from here from the amazing reactions and reflections I received.
- Here’s where 7 Words started: 7 Pictures for 7 Bad Words
- Ok, ok, here’s where 7 Words REALLY started: my uncle introduced me to George Carlin while my Dad was on palliative care and it was the only time during that terrible week that I laughed at anything
I think it takes a lot of bravery, a real openness, to make something, something that feels like a representation of yourself, one of your ideas, or as this piece is for me, what feels like a new way of revealing yourself to the world. It takes even more courage to do that thing and then say, ‘What did you think?’, equally as open to constructive criticism as praise.
In this spirit, I’m sharing just a bit of that showing here. This is a bit of my text from the beginning and end of the piece, which frames the movement to the classical music and to Carlin’s spoken word.
I might do a full video of the piece once I’ve tweaked and included some of the suggestions I had from the workshop. Still lots of open debate about what I should do in terms of costume. Some said full on tutu, or leather push-up bustier, or go more simple with my hair in a bun. In the meantime, what do you think? This student is ready.