Monday, September 28, 2015

Collective Experience

Thank you to those of you who came out to experience Fixtures this weekend and to the City of Santa Monica for this unprecedented opportunity. It has been an intensive period of development and I want to express my gratitude for this time, space, and support.

It is only the morning after these performances so my reflections are fresh and lacking distance but I do want to acknowledge something that we shared this weekend. One guest in a post performance talk observed that in viewing Fixtures she was not only aware of the performers but she was noticing the rest of the audience and those people who were recreationally on site but whose heads turned as Samantha and I traversed the sand; children who responded openly and at times drastically joining in our crawl as well as overheard comments and surprising interactions from passersby. It is uncommon in other contexts for viewing dance that we might be privy to the reactions of our fellow viewers and even less to the reactions of a public whose presence and experience of the performance is often more spontaneous and at times confrontational. This particular reflection resonates with my experience working on site in a perpetual mode of exposing my process to a public and perhaps more importantly this speaks to the implications of public performance and site responsive dance. When the body is presented in unfamiliar or vulnerable ways in public, how do we respond? How do we support each other? What do we notice of ourselves, amongst each other and in our physical environment?

photo by Samara Kaplan

On perception and how the brain makes meaning in the physical world:

Thank you again and goodbye for now.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Entering Performance

In these moments prior to our first distinct showing of Fixtures I wonder what we will learn in the process of performance and how the energy of a viewing public will inform our understanding of this work. I am also feeling the familiar sense of ease that comes with knowing all we can do is enter what we have created and open up to discovery. We have been in practice for an intense and short period of time, which has allowed for a unique kind of focus and now the ritual of performance day begins. 

But how does this ritual manifest, as we enter this vast site not necessarily defined for performance and enter a work, which less asserts itself in a space than, wants to be part of its surroundings? What does this imply for an explicit meeting with a public? I hope to arrive today with sensitivity and concentration for receiving this encounter and I look forward to being with those of you who will join us.

Here is a video depicting the craniosacral rhythm motion in the skull, brain, and spinal cord. Remembering this helps me inside of Fixtures.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dance Process in Public Space

The site continues to evolve and change over the course of each day. Sometimes a lone structure sits fixed, looking out onto an expanse of sand, unmarked skies, and glints of rippling currents. Only familiar fixtures like trash cans, sporting nets and lifeguard towers root into the sand and contribute to an encompassing sense of stillness. Today the sand, absorbed with rain water from last night's storm, is tough and and to walk to shore feels like stepping on rubber.

Sometimes the site is covered with activity inside and out. People cool off at the pool, fountain, or fix themselves beneath an umbrella at the shoreline. Tour guides fondly and expertly impart history; an extensive Marion Davies Guest House archive living within in them. Groups gather for meetings, workshops, game playing, and writers with their notebooks and laptops stake out their ocean side veranda seats. Chairs and tables are carted between rooms and buildings, rearranged and expressing the future. We've seen the skies transform in minutes taking on a spectrum of colors, textures and shapes and our skin is getting to know the sun-warmed concrete and muggy September air.

We are visitors here and to make a work in response to this site is to engage with an enormous amount of information. The site is animated constantly even in its most quiet hour and we are perpetually in conversation with the elements, matter, and the public. On Monday's rehearsal I was laying on a concrete pathway between the pool and the courtyard. I could hear a child's voice behind me ask, 'Is she ok?' and then some conversation. When a father and his two sons passed me he asked if I was alright. I responded to say that I was, and that this was a rehearsal for a performance.

This moment highlights some of what it means to bring dance process to public space and what kind of effect a body on the floor has in a space that is not reserved for performance. The implications of a body, a person, horizontal on the ground in this case was different than a body in the same position inside of a gallery or theater space.

During this part of the work, Samantha and I are attempting to embed our bodies into a transitional pathway between the parking lot, Beach House, pool, and courtyard. We are connecting with some of Jane Bennett's writing in her book, Vibrant Matter - a political ecology of things:

"Perhaps the claim to a vitality intrinsic to matter itself becomes more plausible if one takes a long view of time. If one adopts the perspective of evolutionary rather than biographical time, for example, a mineral efficacy becomes visible. Here is De Landa's account of the mergence of our bones: 'Soft tissue (gels and aerosols, muscle, and nerve) reigned supreme until 5000 million years ago. At that point, some of the conglomerations of fleshy matter-energy that made up life underwent a sudden mineralization, and a new material for constructing living creatures emerged: bone. It is almost as if the mineral world that had served as a substratum for the emergence of biological creatures was reasserting itself.' Mineralization names the creative agency by which bone was produced, and bones then 'made new forms of movement control possible among animals, freeing them from many constraints and literally setting them into motion to conquer every available niche in the air, in water, and on land' In the long and slow time of evolution, then, mineral material appears as the mover and shaker, the active power, and the human beings, with their much-lauded capacity for self-directed action, appear as its product. "

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Week 1: Responding to Site

Samantha and I had our first day on site yesterday. We allowed our bodies to respond to various spaces within and around the Annenberg Community Beach House site which led us through a rich process of discovery and the first stages of creating a new work. We collected research material, began developing choreography, experimented with some movement scores, and were blown away by the sky's immensity and color of last night's clouds. 

Looking forward to another work day at the beach!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Modern Dance Forms - an artifact of interest

Following is the introduction from the book, Modern Dance Forms in Relation to the Other Modern Arts written by Louis Horst and Carroll Russell, 1961:

Long before the time of recorded history dance must have been a developed and complex skill. Early man used it to help him surmount the riddles and complex tragedies of his daily life. He lived at the mercy of nature forces which we have learned to understand and in some degree control, and dance was for him a powerful way to conciliate these forces. It was his religion and his poetry and his science. Ritual dances were his insurance of success against natural enemies of hunger, disease, and death - fertility dances, harvest dances, war dances. He danced to celebrate his joys in triumph or his sorrow in defeat, and believed that his very survival depended on a dance of such strength and agility that it would be worthy of notice by the gods who controlled his destiny.

Thousands of years of civilization have endowed us moderns with only a veneer of refinement to separate us from our crude and naive ancestors. We accept unthinkingly the essential importance of communication between us marked by involuntary movements of hands, of eyes, of breath, etc., which express human emotions directly. We all have an instinct to use movements as a release for deep feelings of gratification ("I felt like jumping for joy") and frustration ("I was hopping mad"). Its elemental nature is conspicuous in the impulse to dance, so evident in every young child. The dancer's will has a relationship of intimacy with his body like the child's, whose demands, joys, and alarms are immediately told in physical movement. The dancer knows that his mind quickens his body and his body enlivens his mind, and he glories in the responsive obedience of one to the other. The feeling of oneness of body and spirit which is so obvious in the child must have been more nearly the condition of the primitive. We know, because provisions were left in his tomb to sustain the physical body on its trip to the after world, that the primitive's conception of immortality was unthinkable without his body. He did not relish the prospect of leaving it behind to rot in a grave while the soul escaped to dwell in austere purity.

Of this deep responsiveness between body and mind the art of the dance is formed. Henri Bergson, in his essay "Laughter," has said of the artist (and it applies with special vividness to the dancer) "He grasps something that has nothing in common with language, certain rhythms of life and breath that are closer to man than his inmost feelings, being the living law - varying with each individual - of his enthusiasm and despair, his hopes and regrets." This "something grasped" is given form by the performing artist. It may be mounted on a stage and offered to people who do not themselves possess the rich power to discern these "certain rhythms of life/" It is built of symbols abstracted from daily living and intimately associated in the memory of experience with action and emotion. To Enjoy it, the trained eye of a connoisseur of painting or the trained ear of a music lover are not needed. Any human being who is willing to give it his attention should be enlivened by dance.

Why is it then, that dance, with a venerable history and an ability to speak with directness, is now considered as entertainment and that few write of it? Dance is not even recognized by most aestheticians as an art. It is no longer an essential of living, no longer qualifies as one of those things - not bread - without which man cannot live. This is a very new emphasis and arrangement of values in man's long history. When he fought for his existence against physical odds, his body expressed his life directly and vividly. But the present day fellow who goes from down to up in an elevator, and from here to there in an automobile, who does his hunting at a desk or with a can opener, has a body that is nothing but a shell which miraculously shelters the complicated biological functions which keep him breathing. As abiding places for our personalities, our awarenesses, our bodies are dishonored and atrophied with disuse.

Words serve us where actions once did. No wonder modern man has forgotten what gratification it once was to him to express his participation in life in disciplined movement. One has only to look at the proud posture of the trained dancer - the carriage of his spine and his head - to sense his enjoyment in the knowledge of power in bones and muscles. But lacking this knowledge of power, most people respond to the concert dance as to a language only half understood, and their fears of the unfamiliar are more acute than fears of the novel in the other arts.

The dance as an art form, like an easel painting or a mounted piece of sculpture, is a fairly new phenomenon. Even the ballet, which was the first dancing to be presented in the Western World as spectacle, grew out of court performances in which the king and queen and the ladies and gentlemen-in-waiting made up both cast and audience. Folk dancing, social dancing, still are widely enjoyed as forms of self-entertainment. The principal connotation of dance, therefore, is of physical stimulation and emotional release through action. But any present-day concert dance production, although it does accomplish this effect through an automatically sympathetic physical response in the audience, also proffers emotional refreshment and intellectual quickening. To many, at first, this seems highly inappropriate to dancing.

Because of the inferior status of dance in the culture of the Nineteenth Century, the rebellion against outmoded forms in the dance world didn't appear until the other modern arts were somewhat established. The manner and the reasons for the rebellion are strikingly similar, however, to what occurred with painters, sculptors, musicians and poets. Although there are scores of books about the visions and values in the other modern art fields, little has been written to explain the techniques of the dance as a means of aesthetic communication.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hello. It is with great pleasure and anticipation for being on site that I am greeting you for the first time. Thank you for having me! In preparation for this choreographic residency in September I have been meeting with some collaborators to begin the conceptual and material development for the choreographic work to be, Elemental Forms, and here I would like to share with you some of our current inspirations in thought and image. My sense is that this work wants to become a kind of embedding into site, space, and time. A way for the human body to become 'of' a space beyond being 'in' it and an attempt to experience the body in performance as a 'fixture' while shedding some potential expectation around what it means to be a dancing body in public performance. Some of the words I and my co-dancer and collaborator, Samantha Mohr, are bringing into our process are: fossils, mark-making, imprinting, embedding, reflection, fixtures, and shell formations.
When contemplating the notion of becoming a 'fixture' and also presenting a dance work, time becomes an interesting consideration. How do we define the durational boundaries of something that wants to be fixed? I feel that many of the choreographic gestures will not only engage the natural elements on site as well as the aesthetic architecture and its history, but will also take their time to resonate. I can see Elemental Forms becoming a durational work performed as an installation. What would it be like to take our time and sink into being there with each other, the site, and the public? We'll find out what this all means and what changes, falls away, or remains during our creative process, but I will continue these lines of inquiry as a way of approaching 'site-specific' dance-making at the Annenberg Community Beach House.
Lynn Ellen Bathke, collaborator and costume-designer extraordinaire, has already begun construction on what will be a series of garments that layer and peel away based on the ideas mentioned above. Her work also looks at the styles and fashions depicted in photographs within the Marion Davies Guest House. I could not be more excited to be working with her on this project! Here are some of Lynn's initial designs and fabric swatches:
These last few images are sourced from this site: and depict the Denishawn School of Dance and Related Arts founded in 1915 in Los Angeles. The lineage of early American Modern Dance in Los Angeles will be yet another thread of inquiry for this residency and potential source for movement generation.
That's all for now. I hope to see you at the Body-Mind Centering workshop with Gillian McGinty on August 18th!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome to 2015 Choreographer-in-Residence Rebecca Bruno!

     photo by Safi Alia Shabaik

This fall, Choreographer-in-Residence Rebecca Bruno will be creating a new site-specific piece in the Courtyard of the Beach House, September 8-27, 2015. Tentatively titled Elemental Forms, her work will create a dialogue between dancers and the natural elements of the Beach House site – exploring the interactions between sand, water, air, sun, space, and people.

Join Rebecca at the Beach House on Wednesday September 16, 9-10am for free Beach Walk with a choreographer’s focus. Her final presentations will take place in the afternoons of Friday-Sunday September 25-27 (check out for info and to make reservations.)

Rebecca Bruno is an active member of the Los Angeles dance community as a performer, choreographer and producer. For the last two years, her project “homeLA” (, has investigated dance process in interior spaces, presenting large-scale dance events in residences with hundreds of performers and thousands of guests. Rebecca has worked as a dancer and collaborator with Pablo Bronstein at the REDCAT Gallery and Le Mouvement Festival in Biel, Switzerland; as associate choreographer with Julien Prévieux at FAHRENHEIT Gallery and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris for What Shall We Do Next?; and as a member of the temporary performance company, WXPT, initiated by the artist taisha paggett. She is inspired by the tensions between public and private space, the strange and the familiar, and the possibilities presented by bodies in architecture and the natural world.

In celebration of Marion Davies’ support of artists, and to further the work of artists in all disciplines, the City of Santa Monica created the Annenberg Community Beach House Artist Residency program. Several times a year a local artist works out of an office at the Marion Davies Guest House, sharing their progress with the public both in person and online.