RE: RE: RE: Divide and Conquer

by Dance


Megan Murdock '14 shares her perspective on the creation of the December ’11 Dance Installation, to be performed December 2-3 in the Harvard Dance Center.

Not only is RE: RE: RE: a different type of performance than any I’ve done before, but the process has also been unique. Because of the large cast and students’ busy schedules, we spent most rehearsals focusing on specific scenes.

We began the process by learning three movement phrases, from which most of the piece has evolved. Scenes contain some established dance phrases or a score for improvisation, and in each rehearsal we work on developing these scenes. Working in this way was a little deceptive, because we never knew how much of the installation was complete. When we finally put the pieces together, I was amazed at how much we had actually completed.

In one of the most interesting rehearsals, we created a quintet. Jill Johnson began, as usual, with the three phrases. Each dancer started with a different part of the phrase, and used repetition and spatial arrangement to organize. By starting with the same phrase as our origin, we had a common vocabulary that tied the quintet to the rest of the installation. Once our arrangements called for more interaction with each other, we introduced new movements exploring the questions: "Where am I, and what does this remind me of?" Much of Johnson's choreography comes from using a known position to find an unknown place to explore, which can then be related to something else that is known.

Another new aspect of this creation process is the use of modalities for improvising during the performance. After working on the quintet and finding some set movement, we began to improvise using "stacks of tasks" as our modality. This modality uses some of William Forsythe's improvisation technologies that we have used in Johnson’s class Fundaments of Improvisation and Composition, but puts them together in a way that fits our specific purpose. It was very interesting to see how these technologies could be combined to serve a new function that very clearly outlined the movement for the performers.

This has been a great learning experience -- to create movement and to create a dance piece. I will no longer underestimate the value of "divide and conquer" by working on little sections of a piece, and adding them together to generate a whole. I am also now excited to try to generate my own modalities, and to create new dance phrases from parts of other phrases.