Reflections on Collaboration and Community

July 17, 2010

Reflecting on the work we’ve done this summer, both in creating A Sense of Place, as an event and the piece EveryBody Dances (and of course all of the works in the concert, and other work that I (Cindi) have been doing since I don’t know when) reminds me of the challenges and opportunities presented when we work together. A Sense of Place is a practice in community building. It is an event designed to bring the community together, to share in the creative capital available to all of us and to remind audiences that they are more than passive observers, but instead, they are the lifeblood of the work that artists do. EveryBody Dances is a completely collaborative work. Jessica Howard and myself have worked together to create a structure and theme for the piece, and to find ways to assist the community dancers in creating movement and learning to express themselves through dance. It is remarkable to watch the dancers (many of whom are “non” dancers) work together to create movement based on our cues and suggestions. The piece does not exist and could not exist without collaboration and improvisation.

In May, I created a work called Strings Attached (you can see info about that on this page and at http://www.dilettantedance.blogspot.com). The piece was an exploration of interactive performance, and in the process of creating the work, I reflected on the nature of improvisation, collaboration and the role of the audience vs. artist. In my research, I came back (and was directed by my mentor Cathy Nicoli) to the book Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch, especially the chapter called “Playing Together”.  There are many insights in this work, but I wanted to share one that seemed especially apropos of A Sense of Place and EveryBody Dances (and hopefully when you attend the event on July 24th, this rings true for you):

The separate beings of audience and performers can disappear, and at such moments there is a kind of secret complicity between us. We catch glances in each other’s eyes and see ourselves as one. Our minds and hearts move together to the rolling of the rhythm. This is more likely to happen at informal performances where there is no stage and no fixed seating to impose a dualistic split between active performers and passive audience. Through subtle but powerful entrainments, the audience, the environment, and the players link into a self-organizing whole. Even the dogs int he room are entrained. We discover together and at the same time the rhythmic and emotional scene as it unfolds. The skin-boundaries become semipermeable, then irrelevant; performers, audience, instruments, the room, the night outside, space, become one being, pulsing.

Baltimore Performance of Strings Attached in August 2009

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One Response to “Reflections on Collaboration and Community”

  1. By the way, that photo is by Maili Godwin of Baltimore, MD

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