When I started the ArtDates project, I was really excited about the products. When I meet with my collaborator, we're going to MAKE a THING and then put that thing out into the world! Over the years, different ArtDates have led to different artifacts, more or less finished, and I've gotten less tied up in the "what" as much as the "how" and "why."
This ArtDate with Kalila Kingsford Smith was a continuation of that deconstruction. The product of our ArtDate was not a dance or a video, but a map of our conflicting and intersecting processes, as well as more language to describe them.
Words about movement are what brought Kalila and me together. We've been working together at the online dance journal thINKingDANCE for several years now, but have never danced together. We began our ArtDate by talking about our artistic interests at the moment and quickly settled on investigating our practices of simultaneous speaking and moving. My speaking/moving practice has deeply informed recent projects Naked Dances from my Basement and The Chasm Project, but I've almost always done it solo. I was curious about how the delicate, trance-like state I slip into during my solo practices would be influenced by Kalila's presence.
We created an "attention score." We would start out moving and speaking without influencing each other (@0:00). We would then influence each other through speaking but not movement (@~5:00), then influence each others' movement but not speech (@~11:30). We would leave open time at the end to see where the improvisation took us.
I realized a few things within the first couple of minutes:
Our moving/speaking practices were very different. I felt opened up to more possibilities of how I do this thing and curious to understand Kalila's process.
The categories got fuzzy really quickly. A common starting place for me for speech is to verbally describe what I see, but wouldn't that be Kalila's movement influencing my speech?
This is hard.
Here is a video of the full improvisation- see if you can spot the moments where our attention/intention shifts. We were also really excited by the spatial dynamics that emerged here.
"What does influence mean anyway? What a strange word, influence... where does that come from?"
We turned to Merriam Webster to find an evocative web of associations: power, force, and an etymology related to ethereal star fluid.
I appreciated that, even without focusing directly on writing, we ended up deconstructing language as part of our ArtDate.
Kalila described her main speaking/moving practices as Self-Talk, Storytelling, and Conversation. She used storytelling in her piece I Spy, With My Little Eye. The movement was improvised and the speaking was semi-improvisational, but the story was pre-planned. This felt similar to the constructions I was working with in The Chasm Project.
I described my current practices as Translation/Description and Sound Morphing/Repetition. The first involves me verbally describing what I see, hear, and feel in the moment. This often creates a "translation" feedback loop where my body translates the words I'm saying into movement that feels related and my movement prompts speech that relates. The translation process allows for less linear thoughts to emerge.
I often find the sound of words fascinating and repeat them, finding variations in sound and meaning as I move. We dubbed this Sound Morphing/Repetition.
We talked about how these practices happen in subtle ways in our every-day lives. When someone asks "How are you doing?" there's a process of translating and describing our physical sensations and perhaps our self-talk into conversation/dialogue with the other person. Sometimes, we even shift in our chairs, using small movements to suss out how we're doing. Often the question prompts us to tell stories about our day or week.
We pondered what would happen if we responded to the question "How are you doing?" with movement instead of speech. There's something about movement that makes us want to transform how we're feeling, nourish ourselves, give ourselves what we need (nod to Deborah Hay). It's unlikely that we would move to describe how we were feeling so much as move to feel around the edges of how we were feeling and transform it.
There's much more to keep exploring in these processes! I'm looking forward to playing more with Kalila and seeing what emerges.
Watch this space for more ArtDates in 2022!