I am a Fringe Festival kinda girl at heart. I was only able to put one on the schedule for this year, so back to Elgin it was! Always a joy to see old friends, see what they've been creating. This was a piece with a great deal of interaction and participation, so it really needed to be put in front of an audience before I could figure out, what, exactly, it was. Nothing better than having friendly faces in the audience when you are starting to make that happen! I am quite excited about taking this to other audiences and letting it grow, because every audience brings something unique to the interaction. Also, there's blanket forts.
One of my dearest friends, colleagues, and collaborators Bridget Close has been pursuing her masters at Florida State University for the last two years. She came back to Idaho this summer to present some of her choreographic research at Old Town Actors Studio. She has developed a practice of gathering items while spending time outdoors, and then using them to create movement scores. We only had a week to work, so we got to just begin to explore her practice, but it was a lovely organic and evolving thing, with elements of ritual, and connection and conversation with the three other women who were a part of this. I have been thinking as of late, about exploring these ideas in conjunction with my Wander and Wonder work, it seems as though it would be a natural fit.
Sometime in May, I posted on facebook that I was bit sad about having no scheduled performances for either Shedding Skin or Weaving Webs for the year, and putting out the call if anyone wanted to host one or had an event they would like to bring me to. One of the owners of the Dragon Fyre Faire, where I had been a vendor for several years, posted in the comments, and I ended up performing Weaving Webs at the faire. It was fun to try it in a new setting, but my favorite part was that once most of the faire kids had seen the performance, they would all descend upon the performance space en masse when the saw it was time to start building the web. Great fun.
So, the beginning of the last year was a bit of a blur. I went from starting the Pathways project, to the residency in Florida, to finishing up Pathways, RIGHT into rehearsals for the annual burlesque show at Old Town Actors Studio. So, let's all pretend I actually put this post in the proper place after Pathways and before the Going Dutch Festival, all right? All right.
This was my sixth year doing a burlesque show. It's always a lot of fun, but I will be honest and say that the past two years (Since the 2016 elections) it's always been a bit of a hard decision to go be silly and sexy and fun with so very much misogyny constantly bubbling to the surface. But for me, burlesque has always been a way to use comedy and satire to mock and push back against ridiculous sexist double standards, and in the end it always boils down to not letting assholes steal our fun, our joy, and the happiness that can be found in expressing ourselves and our sexuality.
In the last post, I posted about the performance I took to the Going Dutch Festival, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the experience of going to the festival. It was a little odd to be driving to Elgin IL in May - WHERE WAS ALL THE CORN!? (It had not grown yet. Because it was MAY.) I once again stayed with the sweet and awesome family I had stayed with for the 2017 Fringe Festival, and they were gracious enough to let me crash their family memorial day festivities because I was not really wanting to be driving on Memorial Day weekend. (I adore you, Bouwmeesters! :))
I taught a class in dialogic devising/movement creation, and was tickled when a visual artist decided to jump in and play. I have really been enjoying working with people who don't consider themselves to be "DANCERS" as of late. They don't have as many preconceptions about what movement and dance should be, so sometimes they come up with some of the most interesting movement. Participants also included Maddy Rager and Scott Crandall of Thank You So Much for Coming who are delightful human beings, and also create absurd, thought-provoking, and hilarious art. (So yes, right up my alley.)
I participated in outreach classes with two other amazing women and teachers, Christine Hands and Dyana Daniels. It was fun to work with kids again, even though I was a little out of practice., and delightful to observe and talk with two other teachers. We all talked about how we were going to steal things from each other's teacher's bags o' tricks.
I took several classes (having the workshops and classes was one of my favorite parts of the festivals. Sometimes when you get caught up in performing and creating work, you forget to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new every once in a while. ) The "Queering Performance" workshop with Kristi Faulkner created a space that was somehow both challenging and welcoming, an interesting space of questioning and introspection. I took several workshops with Barbara Bickel, a meditation and a napping/dream scroll experience. I was very much drawn to Barbara's dedication to these types of long term, ever-evolving, and community based art projects. Christine presented her work and discussed disability in dance, something that I don't have a great deal of experience with, but have been interested in for a long time. I greatly enjoyed getting to see her work with her sister (who is disabled and uses a wheelchair,) the connection between the two sisters was a joy.
I watched... a lot of performance. Mostly movement and dance, but some theatre and interdisciplinary work as well. I'd probably have to go back through my programs to talk about all of it, but there was so much thoughtful, interesting, and risk-taking work being presented, I'm going to steal a phrase from one of the producers (thanks Erin!) and just say that it was a definite "art boner" experience. I had been feeling a little artistically worn down and (dare I say it?) bored when I went to the festival, and it ended up being exactly what I needed. Women rock, y'all.
Oh yes, I also created a dance film for the festival!
I had submitted dance film work to the 2017 festival in Elgin of works created by women, but when submission time came around again I decided I wanted to be a part of the festival in the flesh. Continuing with themes of travel and journeys, I created the Wander and Wonder piece. Going from someone who had only ever taken a two or three hour road trip to someone who had done several solo road trips of three to four days was something that had happened in the past three years, and I felt the need to explore that a little bit artistically. I set myself the challenge of creating part of this work on the road to the festival. This caused moments of sheer panic, along with the slow realization that the whole process of driving for long hours while the radio faded in and out of different stations and pondering what, exactly, form this piece was going to take was part and parcel of the whole experience.
The end result was a blend of movement, storytelling, and film work (I filmed along the way!) This is something that is in the plans for expansion, it feels like it needs to be an ongoing project. Although there is not much activity now, you can join the facebook group HERE.
I've been thinking and making work about traveling, about pathways, about journeys. I had made a dance film for the Going Dutch Festival in Elgin last year called "Pathways," and had the opportunity to expand upon those ideas and create an evening of live performance at Old Town Actors Studio in Pocatello. The biggest challenge was that the rehearsal period stretched out from December to the end of January, with me being gone for a three week stretch in the middle. It was stressful, but all worked out in the end and together we created an interesting evening of multi-generational and partially improvised performance. I don't necessarily make art "For Kids" but I tend to enjoy having them in the audience, and there was something very special about seeing all different ages, and parents with their kids, moving on stage together. The audience was invited to draw pathways or text relating to pathways on fabric panels as they came in, and we all joined together to draw big sprawling pathways all over the theatre by the end. Kelsey Rain Palmer gifted us with a beautiful song she wrote to end the evening with.
My favorite moment was when an audience member who sat in the back because she was very much NOT interested in any interactive shenanigans, was one the first people to grab a piece of chalk and start drawing paths at the end of the show. More and more, I am interested in creating work that breaks the fourth wall and encourages connection with the audience. I want to give them permission to bring a little bit of their own creativity into the experience we are having together. I believe that everybody has creativity within them, and sometimes we all just need a little bit of encouragement to let it out.
This is a show that I would like to expand upon and offer as a workshop/performance experience, you can check out my repertory page if you would be interested in hosting it.
After working with a group in geographically disparate areas (Australia, Atlanta GA, Tallahassee FL, Canada, and me in Idaho) via Google hangouts for a year, we gathered in Tallahassee to meet everybody face to face and work together. We became a little bit like a small creative family in those three weeks together, and every single one of them holds a special place in my heart. (And yes, I miss them and would love to sit down at a dinner table with all of them again. Our shared meals were a highlight of the experience.)
You can get a more in-depth look at this process and performance at the Callous Physical Theatre website here:
These are the reflections I wrote shortly after returning home:
When I boarded the plane in Pocatello, Idaho bound for Tallahassee, Florida, I was not sure exactly what to expect. I was heading toward three people who I had worked with in person for many years and greatly enjoyed the experience, and three people who I had connected with during the course of the year-long project via google hangouts and hoped I would enjoy collaborating with.
I had originally joined this iteration of Laptop Performance Laboratory: modular play for several reasons. It gave me a chance to work with people who had moved away and stay connected to them. It gave me a chance to continue the explorations I had been a part of in the Global Corporeality and Laptop Performance Laboratory: bridges projects. I looked forward to meeting new people and expanding my artistic connections once more beyond Idaho. It gave me a chance to return to a type of project I had began as a student after working and traveling as an independent artist, and see how that changed and informed the experience.
I went into the project without specific goals, but I did want to make sure I was productively and actively contributing to whatever the end result of the three weeks would be. I learned that even if I was unsure on where everything would go and how it would all work together, starting somewhere, no matter how small, was a way to enter into the work. (It was also necessary to be comfortable with the idea that suggestions and work may end up being discarded, and to make peace with that possibility.) The framework of the seven significant words helped a great deal in finding and scaffolding an entry point.
The days were long, and could be challenging. I discovered that while when working alone, I enjoy setting my own schedule and having a great deal of flexibility, when working with a group of people I felt much better once there was a set structure and schedule, it helped to have some expectations of what any given day would hold. I was expecting the work to be mentally and physically tiring, but found the emotional exhaustion to be a bit of a surprise. Looking back, I can see that it was the result of dealing with the conflicts that came up because of everyone being invested in the work. Conflict and tension have always been difficult for me to deal with, but at the base there was a deep respect between everyone involved and I soon realized that even if we were embroiled in a rough patch, with a bit of time and space everything ended up working out. I felt immensely lucky as well to be working with supportive people who deeply understood the need for occasional solitude, as well as a strong support system back at home. (It was a bit amusing to be using those same technological tools that had facilitated this project to help connect with family and keep on an even emotional keel during the residency.)
I was surprised to find some resistance in myself to the whole collaborative process, as well as taking direction as we were working on the performance side of things. It was an adjustment after several years of doing solo work and creating as a director that I had not anticipated having to make. I will always enjoy the independence and freedom of being a freelance artist, but this reminded me of the messy, complicated joy of community.
This project reconfirmed for me that I find something very satisfying in deeply and intensely diving into one project for a very focused burst of time, and has prodded me to explore artist residencies and other possibilities for pursuing work in this way. I have become more interested in visual art in the past several years, and I found the creation of a large installation and incorporation of it into a performance to be something that I definitely want to think about pursuing further.
The previous year has been a very upsetting one for me, and this opportunity to focus on creating so intensely was very cathartic, and I carried that with me after I got home. It was a reminder that even in times of upheaval, it is important to dive in and do the work of creating.
Gonna be working on using this blog more in the upcoming year, so in an attempt to get the ball rolling, gonna be doing some individual "year in review" posts for projects I did over the last year!
Hitting the road again in September to take a new show to the Elgin Fringe Festival. If you can spare a few dollars to support an independent artist, click here! https://www.gofundme.com/taking-quotshellquot-to-elgin-fringe
Hello, I'm Julie and Dance owns my soul
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