All posts by Meryl

Composing the Body:
Portrait of a Score

Deborah Hay, photo Sarah Granholm
Deborah Hay, photo by Sarah Granholm

In March of 2010, Deborah Hay performed her first solo in six years at Dancespace Project in New York City. This piece, No Time To Fly, became the foundation of a number of subsequent works. In early 2011, Bill Forsythe’s Motion Bank invited the performers Jeanine Durning, Juliette Mapp and Ros Warby to adapt this score — first as an individual solo and then into a new trio. This new piece, now called As Holy Sites Go was performed in 2012 at Motion Bank’s Frankfurt Lab.

Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby
Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby, As Holy Sites Go / duet

The trio adaptation of As Holy Sites Go, has been adapted yet again, but now as a duet, by two of the original performers, Ros and Jeanine. The digital score of the Motion Bank process, was set by Deborah on the twenty-one dancers of Cullberg Ballet in a new iteration called Figure A Sea. Both of these new works make up this weekend’s program.

Cullberg Ballet
Cullberg Ballet, Figure a Sea, photo by Urban Jörén

The process of this series of adaptations (which encompassed both live performance and digital transcription/performance), is documented on the Motion Bank website, and two of the resulting films are being shown on the large screens in front of the courtyard.

The evolution of this score, from the printed word though many modalities of performance and point of view is a sublime portrait of how bodies compose themselves. The written score of No Time To Fly reads like a prose poem, with interjections of notes, drawings, footnotes, instructions. It is a way of capturing space, and then presenting that space for others to capture, or re-capture, depending on your point of view. Deborah’s works have been described as being “more like rituals than concerts,” her scores give dancers an individual agency that is not as prevalent in more traditional choreography.

From No Time To Fly:
Note: My head is free to look down or away or to turn. It is not fixed.
Note: There is no repetition in live performance.
Note: I neither hurry nor linger.

Deborah’s scores are frequently framed in the form of “What if” questions, many of which are on display in the courtyard. Deborah wrote in 2014, “For as long as I can remember I struggled with whether the questions that are applied in the performance of my work be included in the program notes. My dances would not exist without them. The conflict about identifying the question in the program is that I do not want audiences to be looking for what might either satisfy or not satisfy their beliefs about what they are seeing.”

We also struggled with how much to reveal of the questions and the score before the lights dim and the dance begins. In the end, our wonder and fascination with the score and all it offers won the day. We couldn’t help but share some of it with you: not so that it would provide you with answers, but so that it might encourage you to consider your own questions.

this empty space
a song
an ocean
a figure moves
an ocean
the figure a sea
weaving her destiny
repeatedly
dh, 2012

Taylor Mac: Identity in Motion

Identity. I am. You are.

We search for likeness, we examine for difference. We make assumptions.  The outward markers of identity, specifically gender (although there are others), lead us to expect certain things.  On the playground, in the classroom, at home, in the workplace. These expectations both subtle and obvious, are everywhere.  How girls are supposed to act. How boys are supposed to act.  This past weekend, in collaboration with our partners WeHo Arts/One City One Pride, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and ONE Archives, we celebrated Drag Angeles at the West Hollywood Library.  It was a joyful  cornucopia of identity in motion.  Big Hair. Big Heels. Big Hearts.

IMG_1708     IMG_1709

Earlier this year, the Center had a conversation with the writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who many years ago wrote a groundbreaking novel about the fluidity of gender.  She imagined a society where gender was not fixed but malleable—organically fluid. The book was considered science fiction, and in the early 1960’s when it was written, it was inconceivable that it could have been anything else.

Taylor Mac, who brings his ambitious new production to the Center this weekend,  explores the fluidity of gender in ways that are pointedly intentional, impish, and outrageous.  In Taylor’s world, the message is delivered by a man/woman bedecked and bejeweled, feathered and fantastic.  Taylor’s identity is in constant motion, and it is a wild ride.  He demands that we look at him.  And we do—we cannot look anywhere else.    tm1He is both a reflection of us and a vision of what we might be.  He unsettles our basic assumptions.  He affirms our hidden inclinations.  Drawing from traditions of musical theater, vaudeville, music hall and drag, he becomes our partner in delicious subversion.  Disruption is de rigeur.

For many in my generation, an encounter with delicious gender disruption arrived in the form of a cheaply made, campy movie about a sweet transvestite from Transylvania.  It’s not a coincidence that this was also pegged as science fiction.  I remember my first encounter with this experience, I was very young and it unsettled all of my assumptions—so much so that I saw it once a week, every week, for eight weeks, during one hot, hot, humid summer.  The movie and the play it is based on, has its roots in the same traditions that Taylor explores.  The messenger is in heels and glitter, the hero is also the heroine, two sides of the same coin, one and both, joyfully disrupting our assumptions.  They each dare to ask, why not.  

To quote the one from Transylvania: Don’t just dream it. Be it.

Don’t miss Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music this Sat, Mar 12 at Royce Hall.

Ruminations on Creative Coding Lab

Linearity plus Travel Intensity plus Center of Mass plus Gaze equals…

Motion.

Movement.
Specifically…
bodies
in
motion.
in solo improvisation
enacting a written score
responding to visual prompts
navigating an aural landscape
mirroring another body
translating ordinary movements into 3D sculptures.

The final day of our Choreographic Coding Lab: CCL 5 was in many ways about capturing motion.

Motion.  /ˈmōSH(ə)n/ noun. The action or process of moving or being moved.

On Saturday afternoon, about 60 colleagues, friends, and observers moved through the EDA gallery space in the UCLA Broad Arts Center in an informal showing of projects, ideas, hypotheses, investigations and whimsy.  How does the body move – how does the structure of motion capture the intent of the one who is moving?   How does an audience or observer, interpret that intent?  In this final day of the CCL, movement was projected on screens, walls and floors, bodies caught by a thermal camera, a digital paint brush, or a series of lines and dots transmitted via sensors.  MōSH(ə)n.  We are captivated by it. We can’t look away.

One of the participants, also a gymnast, attached some simple Go-Pros and sensor devices to her ankles and wrists.  Jumping on a trampoline, her splits, scissors, rolls and tumbles were rendered digitally on a screen – capturing her flight though space.  We watched a complex web of dots and lines in constant motion, and it was totally clear what she had been doing, how she had been moving.  Her intent was to capture the memory of her movement, so that when she can no longer move that way, a record exists.  “I wanted proof,” she said, “proof that I could do it.  I wanted to see what my body feels.”

Motion. The action or process of moving or being moved.

It was such a thrilling experience to be a part of this week, to watch ideas take shape, change, and assume a different shape. It felt like things were being made, sparks were definitely flying.  As the day came to an end and the projectors were turned off, and the laptops were closed and the extension chords were rolled and the ladders were struck, the EDA space – our home base for the week – regained its old shape. Empty and quiet, but ready for the next wave of motion.

FullSizeRender IMG_9878 IMG_9891 IMG_9900

‘Bastrack’ Artists Inspire Student Curiosity

“First, I would like to say…thank you for your service.”

In a UCLA class of 400 students, young women and men raised their hands and stood to ask a question of Tyler LaMarr: Marine, actor and lead performer in Basetrack Live.  Before every question, each student expressed their gratitude. “My brother is a Marine and I want to say thank you.”

Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter's class.
Tyler LaMarr, star of Basetrack, talks about the project in UCLA Professor Robert Winter’s class.

“Can you tell us, do you ever feel angry about how some people say negative things about the military?”

“How do you feel when actors who have never been in service portray Marines or soldiers in combat?”

“Do you think the government is telling the truth about what goes on over there?”

The questions flowed for two hours, evolving organically into a conversation: thoughts, opinions, fears, hopes. Tyler’s path since graduating from high school was markedly different from the majority of the students he now faced, but any one of them could have been him — they were more similar than different.

“Can you talk about the stress you felt when you came home?”

“I want to ask you about sexual assault in the military – how bad is it, and what can we do?”

“Did you always want to be an actor?  How does a Marine get to be an actor?

The room was filled with laughter, hushed silence, intense listening.  You could feel the listening.  At the end of class, instead of the usual rush of students pushing to leave, hurrying to the next class, hurrying to lunch, hurrying somewhere, they pushed to the front of the room to shake hands with the young man who proudly talked about his choices.  One young woman said, “If you had to do it all again, if you could make any choice, would you do anything different?”

“No,” said Tyler.  No, I would do it all the same.”

Hundreds of handshakes. Thank you for your service.

 CAP UCLA presents “Basetrack Live” tomorrow night in Royce Hall. And our “Peace & Quiet” station on the Royce Quad, will remain up until after the performance. Join us to experience this unique theater work and join the conversation by visiting “Peace & Quiet” or contributing to our Tumblr

Tyler visiting the "Peace & Quiet" installation outside Royce Hall.
Tyler visiting the “Peace & Quiet” installation outside Royce Hall.

Bringing ‘Peace & Quiet’ to Campus

I am a civilian. 

I am a veteran.

Two stacks of small, white note-cards, each printed with the above words.  On each card, underneath the printed words are handwritten responses:

I am a civilian, and I want to ask…what did you witness?

I am a veteran, and I wish the world worked in a way that no one needed an army.

civilian

These cards were part of a public installation called Peace and Quiet. Conceptualized and designed by Matter Architecture Practice, the original Peace & Quiet was installed in Times Square in 2012 as a temporary dialogue station where veterans and civilians, two groups whose paths increasingly do not cross – could engage in conversation, leave a note, share a story, or just shake hands.  When the Center committed to presenting the Los Angeles premiere of Basetrack, a live performance piece featuring the real-life stories of servicemen and women; I began doing research into art projects that explored the veteran/civilian experience in new ways, and after much searching, I found Peace & Quiet.  Luckily, Sandra and Alfred, Matter’s Co-Directors were willing and eager to revisit the project, so Peace & Quiet will have a new life: re-designed and installed on the UCLA Quad, between the iconic Royce Hall and Powell Library.  The quad, one of UCLA’s great public spaces, provides an ideal circumstance to host a dialogue station, to initiate and inform an exchange of ideas, and to offer a highly visible hub highlighting the many programs UCLA offers the veteran community.

Last month, before a meeting with the team from Matter, I stood at the northern edge of the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where Matter has their studio.  The sky was impossibly clear and blue for an August day in New York, a vibrant backdrop for the Yard’s 200-year-old buildings, which stood their ground next to new construction. Established by President John Adams in 1801, the Yard’s first naval ship was built and launched to suppress the slave trade off the coast of Africa.

navyyard2

 

I am a civilian. 

I am a veteran.

Our country’s relationship to conflict is deep and complicated.  At the tip of the Naval Yard, surrounded by the bridges that connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, I hoped that our version of Peace & Quiet will be its own bridge: connecting stories, revealing history, closing the gap.

For more information on the upcoming Peace & Quiet installation click here.

For more information and tickets to our presentation of Basetrack Live, click here.

Help get the dialogue going by participating in our Peace & Quiet tumblr. We’re starting with the concept of service. Share a thought or a quote or a video or photo that answers the question “How do you serve?”