michael j. morris


“About” in the round
5 April, 2009, 6:50 pm
Filed under: creative process, Dance | Tags: ,

Today I staged two informal showings of my choreography “About” that premiered in March in the OSU Department of Dance Winter Concert. The cast and I were both interested in experiencing the piece in a circular space and how that spatial reconfiguration might effect the perception of the work, both from the inside and the outside. I was also interested in staging it in a circular space in which the piece might be viewed from above (re: the Guggenheim). Sullivant Hall has two rotunda’s, one that is left over from when the building was a museum, with marble floors and columns, a domed ceiling, circular walls, and intimate lighting. The other is the front entrance for the building, a major thoroughfare, that has a mezzanine above that wraps around the space, closed in with glass, allowing you to view the first floor from above. These were our performance spaces.

I am full of thoughts after the fact. I feel a deepening postpartum emotion, realizing that this was the “final” performance for this life cycle of this work. While I’m sure that this is a piece I will revisit in the future, recontextualize, and restage, this is likely the final performance with this cast, with this specific version of the piece. And I feel something akin to grief with that realization.

The other major thought process is how these showings did so much more than I expected of them. Not only did they reveal to choreography in a new way (there were structures that I never even realized were in this piece), they explored the social context of dance performance. The first showing was incredibly intimate, with an audience of five seated no more than a few feet away from the dancers. The second was perhaps one of the most public performances I have ever staged, and both of these feel into sharp contrast to the traditional theater context of dance performance. In the traditional space, no matter the size of the audience, there is a basic common understanding of what is transpiring. Whether or not the audience fully engages with or “understands” the work, they understand that they have come to a dance concert and that what they are seeing is being presented as dance. This common understanding was heightened in the intimacy of today’s first showing, with only a few of us watching with an intimate knowledge of dance, this particular choreographic work, and the purpose for presenting it in the space in which is was being presented. In poignant contrast, the second showing had no common understanding. Spectators were puzzled as they came upon a group of seven people dressed in uniform attire, moving so slowly that motion was almost imperceptible. Many simply stopped and watched with no understanding of what it was they were seeing. Several people asked what was happening, asked questions about specific gestures, asked about choreographic structures and what sort of information the dancers had been given to do what it was that they were doing. This was the treasure of the second showing, offering points of access into dance to two or three viewers, points of access that can potentially inform their future understanding of dance. Maybe. It makes me think of “Synchronous Objects” offering insight into the nature of choreography through the exposition of choreographic structures in a single piece, “One Flat Thing, reproduced.” The scale and scope are clearly incomparable, but something about having this viewing space removed from the work itself offered a real-time liberty for viewers to raise questions about what it was that they were seeing down on the first floor beneath us. This was an exceptional opportunity for me in my work.

I was also shocked at how vulnerable this second showing felt. Whereas as the first had a sense of immense privacy, the second felt as if we were undressed in a public space. This was my sense as the choreographer, and this experience was only amplified for the dancers in the piece, literally bare (the costumes are more revealing than one might find in everyday “street wear”), clearly Other by the nature of what they were doing, almost a world apart, and yet so clearly present in the natural world. The sense of exposure and of being on display were so much more than we imagined; I am incredibly proud of them for taking this step in their artistic/performance journeys as dance artists. 

And those are the only thoughts I have time to share at present. There is other work that demands my attention.

Here are videos of the first showing today:

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1 Comment so far
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LOVE it.

Comment by betsy




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