Tag Archives: creative process

From Lucy Guerin: On ‘Weather’

Editor’s Note: Lucy Guerin’s program note about “Weather” was so insightful, I wanted to give it a pulpit here and give everyone the chance to crawl deep inside the philosophy of this important work well before they arrive at the theater. We have weathered some challenges to get Lucy and her company here and we are extremely proud and excited for the performance on Friday. Enjoy.

The ideas underpinning this work stem from a desire to explore the possibilities of the human body’s connection to the elemental forces of weather. The range of this subject is limitless and universal, but for me, weather has a natural expression through dance and movement. It can be defined as the ‘state of the air’, and in this work, this invisible drama is made visible through movement and design. The cause and effect of moving air to create pressure systems informs the choreographic structure of the work, and defines the dynamics and performance of the movement material. Weather affects our mood, dress, food, activities, sports, conversations, architecture and our identity. Many works of art and literature have used the idea of a drought, a storm, the tropics or the icy outreaches of the poles to speak about the psychology of individuals, relationships or societies.

Making “Weather” has been for me a visceral immersion into choreographed movement and the body on stage. The motivation for the material has stemmed from the physical sensation and impact of the elements on the body, abstract representations of weather through maps and diagrams and our identification of human emotions with different weather phenomena. It occurred to me many times throughout the process that the human body shares with weather the qualities of moving air, water, mist and heat, and that the air we breathe in and out becomes part of the weather at some stage.

In today’s world, weather is acting like a barometer for our environmental disasters. As the polar ice caps melt and the holes widen in the ozone layer, we have to accept that humans are now a factor in the creation and alteration of weather. Our actions have tipped the balance resulting in uncertainty in the ‘natural’ order of things.

The attempt by scientists to understand, record and predict the weather is only partially successful, and I think it is this ability to defy our logic and to overwhelm us with its force that ultimately draws me to this subject. This aspect of nature cannot be controlled or subdued and is a poetic reminder that we are not the masters of the universe. Dance shares with the weather a resistance to easy interpretation. It is about force, direction, dynamics and form. But once the body stops dancing, nothing remains, and once the cyclone is still, we are left with only air. It is motion that brings them both into being.

This work has been a return for me to a focus on pure movement and the fascination I have for choreographing the human body. These exceptional dancers have contributed to both the choreographed and the improvised movement in Weather and without their willingness, superlative talents and belief in what we do, I could not have made this work. The stimulating dialogue I have had with my design and music collaborators has also impacted strongly on the creation of this piece and I owe much to their having strong visions within their own practices to bring to this work.
–Lucy Guerin

In Residence: Heidi Rodewald and Collaborators Dive into ‘The Good Swimmer’

‘In Residence’ will be a periodic feature of this blog as we check in on the activities of our residency artists throughout the season. For more information on the complete list of artists who will be working on projects at UCLA thanks to space and time residencies with CAP UCLA visit: cap.ucla.edu./artinaction/residencies

Heidi Rodewald, who you may know as an essential creative half of LA.’s own “afrobaroque” rock band Stew and the Negro Problem, is branching into an exciting new creative direction that we are incredibly proud to be a part of. It’s always intriguing to get a glimpse into an artist’s process, and last night Heidi and her partners Donna Di Novelli and Kevin Newbury shared some of that with a handful of high profile CAP UCLA donors and staff, offering insight into her new musical project and playing a few recently recorded demo tracks from the work-in-progress.

The three have been closeted together here at UCLA for the last week, living in the dorms and working on their upcoming stage project, “The Good Swimmer,” an ambitious, melancholic and thought-provoking pop requiem that explores kinship, heroism and grief as told through the experiences and sorrows facing a family of lifeguards in the early days of the Vietnam war. The storytelling is based on “found texts” including The American Red Cross Livesaving Manual, the story of Antigone, The Army Guide to the Culture of Vietnam, and quotations from ancient Vietnamese warriors The Trung Sisters.

Di Novelli has been extracting song lyrics from the texts and Rodewald is setting them to her distinctive brand of pop-rock. When paired with Rodewald’s haunting and riffy compositions, the initial randomness of the varied texts alchemizes into a kind of erasure poetry that, even when heard in a sparse room with just our imaginations as a guide, created a compelling visual of what this unique stage work will look and feel like when it comes to life as early as next year.

Rodewald is no stranger to applying her substantial rock sensibilities to the stage. She has embarked upon this new project with obvious relish and the seeming effortlessness that comes from being simply a quintessentially cool L.A. chick. She said she especially liked the challenge of working with found texts.

“I like homework assignments,” she joked. “I’m from rock bands and it is so interesting to work with something like this. I give myself the assignment of ‘I’m gonna make this sound like a pop song.’”

Di Novelli first encountered Rodewald’s work when she saw the Tony-award winning “Passing Strange”(which Heidi wrote and performed with her longtime musical partner Stew) on stage at the Public in New York in 2007.

“I thought, ‘I have to work with this woman,” she said.

Kevin Newbury, erstwhile “Good Swimmer” director said he jumped at the chance to get involved.
“It’s a unique piece that has something to say, in a way I haven’t seen before.”

Newbury said the staging will be simple and versatile, letting the dialogue inspired by the found texts, the unique lyrics and constant original music that will underscore the entire piece drive the theatricality of the work.

Next the team is planning to do an intensive workshop with actors—they are intrigued by the prospect of seeking out performers who are the same age as the 17 through 19-year-old four main characters of the piece, knowing the natural vulnerability those performers might bring to this deeply nuanced libretto. (There will also also be a small greek chorus of female lifeguards clad in the iconic red bathing suits of the ‘40s and ‘50s).

Heidi, Donna and Kevin said it was an invaluable experience to have the time and space carved out at UCLA to simply be together as a team, try things out, shed ideas that aren’t working, investigate new directions—all with no pressure to produce anything beyond their own investment in the creative process.

That’s what our residency program is all about, giving safe harbor to new or risky ideas, investing in the possibilities and aspirations of an artist, and manifesting new ones.

Keep your eyes and ears pealed for more from this team as “The Good Swimmer” continues to take shape.

We thank Heidi & Co. for giving us a glimpse at their work in an exciting and nascent stage and look forward to hearing more from them in the future.