michael j. morris


click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit

A morning reflection.

Two shows down. One to go.

Every time we do this piece, it’s different. And maybe it’s partly because of the way that I am thinking about my own work right now, but it is so completely conflated with life and living and loving, in the dancing, in the movement/content, in the structures and organizations of the content, in the facebook status updates, in the bruises and bouncing curls and kisses and massages and body piles and pairs back stage . . . it is in no way something that we put on, and for me there are not characters: the way that we are (I am) in the dance, what we do on stage, is coming directly from and feeding back in to everything else. This is us, this is Michael and CoCo and Eric and Jeff. That’s part of why I still have not yet completely made my peace with bowing after “the piece,” because the bow feels like such a theatrical trope, and admission of something like spectacle, a confession that “what has transpired here has not be ‘real,’ it is simply something we do, not who we really are.” But a good friend of mine said that it doesn’t feel that way . . . the whole thing has been so intimate up until that point, the intimacy carries into the way we stand there, looking at the audience, fold at our hips, and strike our “set.”

After the first show, I commented on my facebook status that it felt like an ending, and that from now on the piece would have to be something else. I think part of last night’s permutation of the piece was partially in mourning for the what the dance had been (what we had been?). Today will be something else entirely. In response to the comment on the “ending” quality, this dialogue unfolded via facebook status/comments between CoCo and I:

“Did it feel like an ending? For me it felt like I never got going. Could be b/c the wifi was dead at first. Felt like playing catch up the rest of the time. I could feel you 3 pouring everything into the space however. Also feel a bit like a traitor b/c I’m not observing in the way that I want to. Total immersion in other words. It’s all very fragmented for me. Like I’m not respecting the experience. I’m certainly getting a new perspective on this whole digital interaction/connection thing. And am knowing now that i want the real version of humanity as a general rule w/out the computer screen in b/w.”
-CoCo

“So I think you have landed on another potential “theme” of this piece. The potential between the digital and the human connection. And you situating yourself at the edges of both. Maybe you are revealing something more than just your personal predilections. Maybe this is part of the “commentary” aspect of the work. And maybe the unfolding “human drama” on stage is something like a commentary from the other side? If every human interaction has indeed become a collision, maybe we create buffers like facebook and status updates and video cameras . . . these are my morning ramblings, but maybe there’s something there.
One more.”
-Me

Ambiguity with specificity. This was something that my brother said about the piece, the Friday night performance. And I think it has deep resonance for how I know the work, how it is unfolding for us (how I understand the universe right now?): each thing, each moment, each experience, each phenomenon is incredibly specific, completely and entirely itself and yet elusive, fleeting, gone into the next moment, another distinct intersection of complex contexts and perspectives and perceptions. Each moment is in itself constantly “yet to be revealed,” and yet is dissolves, evaporates, is lost into the next moment, full of its own ambiguity and specificity.

Then there is this quality in the gestalt of experience, the piece as a whole (life as a whole). We tend to be categorizing creatures, we tend to find names for things, labels, taxonomies for organization. I think we do this for ease . . . it’s easier to assume that identities are persistent, fixed, unchanging, recognizable, and not entirely unique. And yet maybe that is not the nature of things. As we look at a gestalt, this dance for instance, we tend to need to know “what it is.” We need to recognize it, to have a name for what it is, clear distinctions for what it means. And yet it may not be so pin-down-able. Besides the moment by moment shifting ambiguities, there is the ambiguity of what we read as the “whole.”

This relates to the perpetual idea of the “in-between,” an idea I return to again and again. We know a thing by what it is not. Knowledge is contextual, established by contrast (we are aware of light because there are shadows, we establish what we think of as male because we compare it to female, etc.). We do not simply know what a thing is, we know what it is in-between. We know that it is not this or that, but it has a kind of relationship to both. For many of these experiences, we either as individuals or as cultures have established names, labels, categories. I would question the fixity even of these experiences. But besides that, there is the question of all the experiences that lie in between our categories, our labels, our recognizable forms. We know them, we experience their specificity, their meaning (more on this later?), but it is completely embedded in its ambiguity, its in-between-ness.

Meaning. This is a question that has continued to come up in a course I am taking this quarter called “History, Theory, Literature of the Analysis of Movement.” Most analysis assumes a meaningfulness, attempts to identify and illuminate the meaningful. This has raised the question over and over again, “What is meaning?” or “What are we referring to when we refer to ‘meaning’?” I has established a working definition of meaning for myself. It is something like: “Meaning is the substance by which a thing is recognizable.” It is broad. I do not intend meaning to be a synonym for “interpretation.” It is before interpretation. It is similar to recognition, but recognition implies a cognitive process, and I think meaning is more sensation, situated in sensory perception, not the cognition of those perceptions. It is the substance of that by which a thing is recognized. It is the specificity in the ambiguity.

The meaning for “click here . . . ” changes every time we do it. There are elements that are persistent. The choreography is set, the sequence of the piece is set, the points of my body that hit the floor, the expanding bruises, they testify to the persistence of certain elements. And yet there is something about it that is continually unrecognizable. It’s meaning, the experience by which it might becomes recognized, is unfamiliar. It is not a situation or intersection I have experienced before. As we go out onto the stage with CoCo and take our poses upstage in the red light, it is something new and unfamiliar, even as we are enacting familiar actions. I don’t yet know what it is, and part of the dance is trying to come to more of a place of knowing, maybe even recognizing the gestalt.

 

All over the place . . . this post is all over the place. To cap it off, some images, taken by CoCo on stage as part of the piece/performance. Something of the dance is recognizable in these images, and yet I am acutely aware of the fact that they are not the dance nor are they what will transpire at 3pm today at Columbus Dance Theater. One more show. Another permutation/translation/expression/specificity.

clickhere_loop

clickhere_michael_leap3

clickhere_michael_leap1

clickhere_michael_leap2

clickhere_jeff_screen

clickhere_michael_eric



Ballistic creative update

I don’t have time for paragraphs today. Or maybe even sentences. But I have these little snippets of info pertaining to the dances in which I am involved. Here we go:

Jeff said this and it feels true: “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit” almost feels too intimate to share. It’s been our little secret since June, and now doing it in front of people . . . well, it feels very different.

I felt really unstable (physically, emotionally, contextually) last night during our piece. I think so much shifted so quickly from the private to the public. I hope to find my ease and grounding by tonight. This is such amazingly familiar material, it’s been living in my body for months . . . and yet that quickly, given all these intersecting/shifting contexts, it changed.

The dancing feels like loving, in both projects, and the loving is complicated as loving often is.

Even though it was necessary, it feels strange to think of Erik and Amanda rehearsing the “autumn quartet” without Eric and I last night (we were at dress rehearsal for “Anthro(pop)ology II”), almost as strange as Eric and I rehearsing without them last week. It almost feels illicit when the dance is so tangled up in interpersonal intimacy.

I saw Anna Sullivan’s new piece for “Anthro(pop)ology II” last night and I was stunned, amazed, horrified, and elevated, all at once. I think it is wonderful. Shocking. I didn’t feel that there was anything about it that was not fucked up, and somehow it embodied that condition so completely . . . it’s sexy and dark and twisted at parts, athletic at parts, lots of skin, lots of touching and contact and an exciting sound score . . . I am so happy to be dancing in a show with this piece.

So come see the show!

“Anthro(pop)ology II opens on Friday, November 13th and closes Sunday, November 15th. Friday & Saturday shows at 8 pm, Sunday matinee 3 pm. Buy your tickets early at www.amerifluff.com

Anthro(pop)ology is an on-going theatrical series of collaborations between edgy performance art groups committed to creating works that think and frolic outside the box. Each group presents a sharply honed 30 minute performance that showcases its unique artistic panache while at the same time re-enforcing a playful, unifying agenda aimed at critiquing pop culture superficialities, incongruities, and/or injustices.
Anthro(pop)ology II includes premiere performances by Anatomical Scenario Movement Theatre, TUPACO Dance, and cocoloupedance.

purchase tickets at www.amerifluff.com



Autumn Quartet

I have been neglecting my blog ever since this quarter of grad school started. Which I regret. I have rehearsal in less than an hour for “click here 4 slideshow or 6-8 character limit,” the piece previously entitled “3 boys & an old prophetess,” to be premiered in a couple of weeks in Anthro(pop)ology II at Columbus Dance Theater downtown. The piece is devastatingly beautiful, and rocking with pop culture. This is one project on which I am working, and hopefully in the next half hour I will have time to share some info about a few other things I’ve been doing.

I am creating a new piece right now with three amazing dancers (Erik Abbott-Main, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt). I feel like I hardly know what to say about this piece yet. The creative process is very different than anything I have ever made before. It reminds me modes of approach that we explored in a “creative processes” course with Bebe Miller in the spring. In the spring this way of working was so foreign, and frankly frustrating. It has to do with pursuing points of interesting, interrogating those interests through exploration, and spending time with a thing to discover what it is rather than starting out with a concept to materialize. In a previous post I detailed the list of interests in between which this piece is evolving. Rehearsal have involved exploring some Butoh, enacting KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY), a piece I designed last year intended to privilege the body as the site of identity and interpersonal knowledge, learning and repeating movement material, discussions, writing exercises, degrees of undressing, watching video clips (Uma Thurman’s way of moving in Kill Bill vol. 2, a kind of snapping wispy-ness, the cooch dancers in Carnivale, a kind of disinterested, detached, and almost clumsy attempt at sexy, and the angry crowd of men watching Jenny strip at the end of season 2 of The L Word, my source material for escalating angry gestures, the kind that are demanding intimacy; all of these have shades of movement interest that relate to the movement I’ve been generating for the piece.)

If there is an idea or concept about which the piece seems to be orbiting, it is “getting inside who one another are,” through movement material (by learning my movement the other dancers in the piece are accessing something of my identity), by biting (coming from my interest in the vampire craze in pop culture, but also relating to a forceful entry, and welcome intrusion), undressing/being undressed/perhaps redressing in someone else’s clothes or literally getting inside their clothes with them, writing and reading (personal body histories adapted from Andrea Olsen’s Body Stories, and answering a series of questions offered below), etc.

Some of the questions we’ve answered and shared with on another (maybe you would like to answer them and post them as a comment, contributing to creative research?):

“My body is _____.”

“Sex is _____.”

“A man is _____.”

“A woman is _____.”

“I am ashamed of _____.”

Describe when you were most happy, or a memory of a time when you were truly happy.

Finally, I can offer a video clip of our progress. It is a rough cut, mainly for our own purposes of seeing and analyzing the movement, but I offer it as further insight into what is being made. Enjoy:



Current Ideas

Because I have neglected my blog since this Autumn quarter started, I feel the need to offer a quick update on thoughts/ideas/creative activity/etc. It will hardly be comprehensive, but I need to take a break from reading; blogging will be my break.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a Butoh class with Marianne Kim. It was amazing. it was the most pleasure I have taken in movement in years. I’ll confess, directly after the class, I wanted to drop out of grad school and just go do Butoh somewhere. This is of course not what I’ll be doing, but it did reawaken a need for that way of moving in my life. I’m not sure how that will affect my physical practice, my choreography, or my research . . . but Butoh has been essential to my evolution as a dance artist, and it feels like it is time to return to that “movement home.” I’m not yet sure what that will be.

Last week I started working on a new trio (maybe a quartet if I dance in the piece; I haven’t yet decided). It is one of the most ambiguous works of choreography on which I have ever embarked. I don’t yet know what it is going to be or even what I want it to be; I simply have a field of disparate interests, and this piece is forming somewhere in between those interests (it’s always about the in-between). I feel now that Creative Processes with Bebe Miller in the spring affected me more profoundly than I could have been aware of at the time. I have never just gone into a studio with a cast to see what happens; I always have a plan, an idea of what the piece will be, and even if I deviate from that plan, I have the fundamental structure as my anchor; that is not how I am working with this piece. I began by casting the piece; the cast went through several evolutions. As of now it is comprised of: Erik Abbottmain, Eric Falck, and Amanda Platt (plus myself). I generated several movement phrases. I listed my interests and shared that list with the cast. it included:
-the cooch dancers in the HBO show Carnivale
-the cultural fascination with vampires, with biting, the sexiness of it, the tension between predator and willing prey, the possible relationship to rape fantasies
-Undressing/Redressing; the actual body v. the socially presentable body (many of these ideas I began to explore in the solo I performed in 60×60)
-How we know one another, how we “get inside” who one another are
-Getting inside one another’s clothes (a metaphorical action)
-KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY)
-My larger research interests concerning the constitution/negotiation of identity as the body, the extension of identity in the generation of movement material, the intimate act of choreography in which the movement material (extension of the choreographer’s identity) is transmitted to the body of the dancer and integrated into her own corporeal/kinesthetic identity

I don’t know where this piece is going yet. For this week, we will likely engage in KNOW(TOUCH)ME(YOU)(MY/YOUR BODY); we might try biting one another; I may teach more movement material, and we will review the material we learned last week. The existing movement material is dance-y and a little vulgar; there are choreographed facial expressions (this is likely influx from my History, Theory, Literature of the Analysis of Movement course; we’re looking at Delsatean systems of theory and training; more on this below).

This course (HTLAM: The History, Theory, and Literature of the Analysis of Movement) is a core Ph.D. course in the department. More than anything, the meta-inquiry of the course is, “How do we find movement meaningful, and what are we looking at in order to apprehend that meaning?” We began doing readings in phenomenology, then into analysis of movement for meaning (work by Paul Ekman, David Abram, Charles Darwin, John Martin, etc.) Now we are looking at Delsarte and his theories about the meaning of the body (this is what I am reading about tonight). I am already starting to consider my potential final paper topics. I am thinking about something like: the construction of female identity through Delsarte, compared/contrasted with female identity as constructed through contemporary lesbian dance club practices. Both evolved in primarily homo-social settings but exist(ed) in social structures driven mostly by male power/dominance. I’m not sure yet, but that’s the direction I’m considering.

I finally saw a video of the piece I co-choreographed last year (I supplied a libretto that was the interpreted into choreography) with Audrey Lowry called “Observing Solitude.” I am not yet prepared to write a description/analysis of the piece, or even describe my experience of it beyond simple, stunning beauty. I was very pleased.

I am still in rehearsals with CoCo Loupe, preparing for Anthro(pop)ology II, the piece now entitled “click here for slideshow or 6-12 character limit.” Here is CoCo’s blurb about the piece:

“cocoloupedance will be premiering click here for slideshow or 6-12 character limit. Choreographer CoCo Loupe has structurally designed this piece to metaphorically resemble an internet slideshow. Composed of interconnected (still-framed, slideshow-like) solos, duets and trios danced by Eric Falck, Jeff Fouch, and Michael J. Morris, this work examines the kind of dehumanizing social fragmentation that results from overwhelming over exposure to current trends in rapidly developing technology and mass mediation. CoCo Loupe will sit “in a cafe” on stage and engage in blogging, texting, emailing, and tweeting activities directly related to the performance. Her real-time computer interactions will be projected on a screen in such a way as to question what it means to interact socially in today’s touch screen (rather than touch each other) world.

For more information about cocoloupedance or CoCo Loupe, visit http://www.cocoloupedance.com/

I am writing a grant right now to hopefully travel to San Francisco in December to view/review a show or prints by Love Art Lab at Femina Potens Gallery, and to interview Annie and Beth about their work. Here is my working “project description”:

“I am requesting funding for travel and lodging in order to interview performance and mutli-media artists Annie M. Sprinkle and Elizabeth M. Stephens—who together make up the artist couple Love Art Laboratory—and have the opportunity to experience an exhibition of their work entitled “Sexecology Solo Exhibition” at Femina Potens Gallery in San Francisco. While Sprinkle and Stephens are not specifically identified as dance artists, I find the work of the Love Art Lab to have profound implications for politics surrounding the body, the emergence of progressive physical cultures, and the body as the site for sexual, ecological, and political activism, all of which are relevant conceptual situations for the evolving field of dance. These ideas are expressed and explored through their performance work, including their annual performance weddings, various gallery and alternative space performance installations, and theatrical stage productions, as well as their photography, paintings, and prints.

In addition to the relevance of their work to issues surrounding the body, I am also interested in interviewing Sprinkle and Stephens about their integrated art-and-life practices and the concept of sustainable practices in arts professions. In my analysis of their work, the Love Art Lab seems to produce work that functions not only as their profession, but also as an expression of their personal relationship, their sexuality and sexual identities, their creative interests, their politics and activism, and their ecological concerns. I am interested in hearing them speak on these subjects, and how integrated life/art practices contribute to personal sustainability. I feel that Sprinkle and Stephens may in fact be authorities on these subjects, and there exists very little critical writing about their work as Love Art Laboratory.

It is my intention to review the show of prints at Femina Potens, potentially for publication, and also generate critical writing surrounding their work and the issues discussed above, also potentially for publication or conference presentation. I feel that I have exhausted the limited literature that has been produced about the work of Love Art Laboratory, and I believe there to be value to expanding critical dialogue surrounding their work by contributing to the existing literature. I have yet to have a first-hand encounter with Love Art Laboratory’s work, basis my understanding and limited analysis on existing literature and web documentation of the work. Having the opportunity to experience Sprinkle, Stephens, and their work first-hand would profoundly enhance my ability to write critically about the work, and its relevance to issues that concern both the field of dance and art practices as a whole.”

It’s a draft. it will probably evolve. But it offers a sense of something I am working on/towards.

And that’s all I have time for. That’s my brief offering about my creative life.



POP solo for 3 boys & an old prophetess

So in collaboration with CoCo Loupe, I created this solo today, as part of her new work in progress “3 boys & an old prophetess.” It is choreographed to Lady Gaga’s “Like It Rough.” It is unlike anything I’ve ever choreographed, it is a mild parody of pop music structure . . . but there are many reasons that I am in love with it. Thought I would share it.

Here is another solo I made from a “fishnetting” process, in which each of us (CoCo Loupe, Eric Falck, Jeff Fouch, and I) each improvised material and each of us structured our own material from whatever we retained from the improvisations.

Enjoy.

FYI:

This piece will be performed in
“Anthro(pop)ology II”

Date: Fri, Nov 13, Sat, Nov 14 (8pm shows) & Sun, Nov 15, 2009 2:00pm – 3:30pm at Columbus Dance Theatre

Event Description
Anthro(pop)ology is an on-going series of collaborations between edgy performance art groups that consistently critique pop culture crazyn-ness in their own uniquely entertaining ways. More to come on what local performance groups will be performing soon!

Contact: Anna Sullivan
Email: annadroid@gmail.com
Phone: 614-893-0264

More Info: www.amerifluff.com

Location Details
Columbus Dance Theatre
592 East Main Street
Columbus OH 43215 USA