Category Archives: 2015-2016 Season

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.

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Gesture = Dance: Ann Carlson @ Creative Coding Labs

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Ann Carlson, our intrepid artist in residence and the creator of The Symphonic Body UCLA, joined the participants of the Fifth Creative Coding Labs on Wednesday to talk about her aesthetic, share insight into her approach to movement and explore what she calls “the movement of the movement.” Ann is the architect of a unique dance performance under construction that will be performed by workers from this campus on Nov. 21 in Royce Hall. (Check out videos of the progress of this piece here).

For Ann, the word “gesture” is synonymous with the word “dance.” Much of her work, The Symphonic Body in particular is focused on accumulation and inspiration, on “the aesthetic of the everyday.”

“The movement of the movement is taking a functional gesture of utility and moving it to something more abstract, metaphorical or ripe with symbolism,” she said.

Carlson talked about triggers in her conceptual development as an artist (hearkening back to moments that snapped her attention away from her childhood traditional ballet training). She talked about dismantling conceptions that surround what a dancer should look like and false constructs of what dance language should be comprised of.  She talked about movement as both a memory trigger and memory preserver.

CCL participants got a minimalist sneak peek at The Symphonic Body, with two performers rehearsing segments of the ever-evolving performance work in front of a rapt audience who seemed fascinated not only by the intricate and unique social structure of the project, but by the potential for emotion and self discovery that can be triggered by having an artist observe a person’s everyday movement and physical gesture and then collaborate with that person to manifest a highly personalized and idiosyncratic movement vocabulary based on it. This is what The Symphonic Body is all about.

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It’s interesting to watch Ann’s own gestures as well as they rehearse and create, to witness the gestural language she has developed that will allow her conduct the movement and score the physical symphony.

Her projects and presence seemed to energize the room and play on themes that had already started creeping in to this experimental space.

We’ve been working on this project with Ann for the better part of a year and have been enmeshed in the very UCLA-specific nature of this work, so it was also quite fun to see shades of Symphonic Body in a piece Ann created almost 20 years ago, titled Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore. For this, she shadowed four young lawyers in their daily work lives, then created a dance piece based on their movements, rooting their feet to the floor.

Here’s a look at an early performance in the mid 1980s

 

And the lawyers are still performing it. Here’s a 2007 interpretation of the piece.

“You can dance doing anything,” Ann said, quoting a lecture from Murray Louis that had inspired her as a child.

You can even dance while being a lawyer….

Who knew?

Photos by Calista Lyon

‘Desdemona’ Director Peter Sellars Says It’s OK to Fall Asleep

Well, maybe not exactly asleep, but while experiencing  his theater work Desdemona, if you find yourself slipping into a sort of meditative trance, or feel yourself straddling other unearthly worlds and universes…you’re doing it right.

Peter Sellars visited our offices last week to talk about our upcoming performances of Desdemona, a magical and thoughtful re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Othello, written by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison and the magnificent Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré, who performs in the piece with exceptional stage and film actress Tina Benko and an ensemble of Malian musicians. As he reflected on the attitude of this quiet piece, he laughingly recalled a sentiment often expressed in Japanese Noh Theater—“dozing encouraged.”

One of the things Peter very eloquently conveyed to us was the powerful quietness and absolutely intimate nature of this piece of theater.

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“It is one of the most elusive things I have ever put on the stage,” he said. “You do sort of feel like you are starting to fall asleep and dream…your heart rate slows until you are feeling differently and aware of this flowing space between waking and dreaming, and this beautiful work of theater touches the edges of the dream state.”

The physical staging is purposely simple, designed to evoke the feeling of traditional African mourning altars, he said. We enter into this benevolent graveyard to be greeted by the voices of women—songs from Rokia Traoré that defy translation sung softly, eloquent language from Toni Morrison spoken softly and with deep intent.  The technical sound requirements require precision instruments and exacting attention to detail so that every gesture, every sound, every movement from the stage may nurturingly welcome us deeper and deeper into a sense of otherworldliness, Sellars said.

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The scope and shape of the play itself evolved organically over the course of its creation, Sellars said. There was no initial vision or design that the performers and writers were trying to match. Morrison essentially plucked one line out of the play, one line spoken quietly by Desdemona to the woman her husband was having an affair with, and amplified that one line into an otherworldly experience for us all, one that will change the way we think about the character of Othello, the historically revered man who invented him and the racial and social themes that continue to emanate through our society.

“In this age of big spectacle, what we are doing here is examining how valuable and rich is a single human being, and how many worlds reside within each of us,” Sellars said.

It is ephemerality laced with ephemerality packaged in ephemerality—and these are the trappings of transcendence.

We have a brief shining moment with these words and these exceptional performers. Just four performances in Freud Playhouse, a 500-seat theater. After that, the cast and crew travel to Australia for two festivals and it is not likely the play will be mounted again anytime soon.  Traoré is a rising force in global music and will be focusing on her recording career for the foreseeable future.  She is so integral to the casting, Sellars says she doesn’t see it ever being performed without her.

Be here with us. Let’s take this journey together.