I learned very directly the power of play from one of my most important mentors, choreographer Della Davidson. In her rehearsal processes we would do long improvisations, that often started out feeling artificial and forced, but then eventually, if we could just hang in there, would lead us to deep, dark places in our psyche–and allow for some kind of transformation of what we found there.
I felt in those improvisations that I was able to access parts of myself that rarely come out even a little bit in my public persona. Violence, perversity, extreme silliness, manipulation, terror, domination, effusive sexuality, absurdity, and ecstatic pleasure. The space that Della created with her simple structures and her somehow magical quality of witnessing were very healing for me.
I found myself doing a lot of “shadow-work” in these worlds that she would open for us. I was able to own so many parts of myself that never see the light of day otherwise.
I feel so fortunate to have experienced this with Della, and then to have been able to carry my own version of this type of exploration into my work with Dandelion.
Lately we’ve been doing 20 – 50 minute improvisations every Dandelion rehearsal. Things can get very bacchanalian sometimes, diffused and unfocused at others, and then there are those moments where it seems like something cracks open and undeniable truths leak out. The whole energy of the room shifts at these moments. Time seems to slow down, or disappear altogether, and my whole being comes alive, quivering in response to whatever is being revealed.
These are often then the moments that I want to bring forward into a performance piece. Sometimes they are born fully formed, and sometimes they are just the seeds of ideas. But I sense power in them and feel that my next step is to allow that material to teach me how to shape it. I have to listen with all my creative facilities to hear what is important in this image or movement or collision of elements, and how can I facilitate its development into a communicative performance moment onstage.
Here are a few moments that felt particularly alive to me so far in our residency. In some of these it is a particular image with a particular person that grabbed me, and in some it was the whole collage…
Improv Images #1
Improv Images #2