Sunday, 23 December 2012

3. The role of the performer

The dancers have suggested that, as performers, they feel they have a particular insight into the perspective of the protagonist in Fly. For example:
-          they find it hard to embody 100% ambition because it feels more authentic to admit that they feel some level of doubt, however small
-          they seek to please me (as choreographer), or to do the task ‘right’, as they think I want them to do it. For example, when I set up a task in which I asked the dancers to embody 100% ambition, several of them said something like ‘I suppose that would be like just running forward, initiating from the pelvis or the whole body’, but because I didn’t explicitly say that they could choose to simply run forward, none of them did it. Even though we are improvising in workshops, and we are dealing with an imaginary situation in which there are no life-threatening limitations (i.e. I’m not really taking the dancers outside to a cliff edge and asking them to jump off), the dancers still feel that they need permission from someone else before they can do anything that either feels like it is ‘breaking the rules’ of a movement task or going against what they would naturally do in that situation. (I’m generalising here, as some individuals do find that they can bring themselves to do this – everyone responds differently of course)*
-          they feel an affinity with the act of ‘rehearsing’ or planning the jump as a way of enabling themselves to get to the point where they can make the jump in reality – the central character in Fly makes a pair of wings to help him fly, and does so “lovingly”, indicating that he has given the process time and attention. Through active preparation, there’s a sense that the individual is in control of the outcome of what they are about to do (the decision to jump therefore dictates the shape of the overall journey), and that’s a big part of being able to visualise how you will reach that outcome. In terms of the film I will make, this suggests that maybe it would be appropriate to see the end first, although I am not certain about this yet.

*These observations indicate the significance of the way in which I set up movement tasks and when and how I choose to explicitly ‘give permission’. I had thought that the dancers would accept they had permission to respond however they wanted to tasks because of me explicitly saying that in introducing the workshops and because of the way in which we all worked together to nurture a supportive, exploratory, non-product-orientated environment. However, it seems that this is something that needs to be reiterated throughout the workshops in order for it to be more fully taken on board by the dancers (as before, Csikszentmihalyi  describes that a flow state can be “made possible by the clarity of goals and the constant availability of feedback”). Although they do not necessarily feel the need for constant positive affirmation from the choreographer or person giving external feedback (see previous blog post), they do need continuous feedback, which in turn leads to their clarity of understanding the purpose of what they are doing.

This may become particularly relevant as/if we go on to ‘set’ movement material, when I will want to encourage the dancers to continually rediscover that set material in order to keep it alive and responsive in the moment. As the dancers discussed this week, setting material has its place because, for example, “set material can focus your [many possible] options, therefore enabling you to go deeper or further”. Setting material, whilst also continuously receiving feedback about that material as it becomes set, enables the dancers to “pick up on the bits of the movement they didn’t fully realise” and to “constantly build” on the information, including being reminded to constantly stay on task, and to respond to the initiation points in their movement in a genuine way. The dancers described that their ability to feel flow when working with set material depended on how well they knew that material to begin with, and on how precious they felt about that material (once again, this would be a result of the particular way in which a movement task and the overall working environment was set up, and the way in which I expressed my expectations as choreographer). I was reassured to discover that there could be a place for set and unset material in this particular film (choreographically, I like to work with both), as long as I am clear about why I am using each kind of material, and share this (through an ongoing feedback process) with the dancers, therefore facilitating their agency/autonomy within what they are doing.

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