The initial idea for this performance stemmed from themes I was working on for my solo surrounding control, being trapped and looking for a way out. However, I decided to take it out of the African context and make it more relevant to a Western audience. I felt that I had already explored the African theme when I was studying for my degree, and I didn’t feel it was the right time to be pushing this further. Instead I explored these themes in a context closer to home by focusing on how we are becoming slaves to technology.
My aim for this piece was to create a world that is easily relatable for a modern audience, where it is shifting between happy and bright to dark and dangerous, and linked together with the idea that these differences are formed both in reality and online, but sometimes the barriers get blurred. Cyber bullying feels as real as getting punched in the face, happiness online can mean despair and depression at home, seeing some social media users exaggerated happiness can be either dysphoric or euphoric for the viewer at home.
Up until almost the end of the devising process, I had lots of scenes and good links that morphed to became scenes of their own, however I didn’t have anything tying the whole show together. It wasn’t until I started exploring text with the other performers that I picked up on the dog theme and saw a tangible, clear way to flit between the bright and dark worlds by using a simple story. I will talk about this more later but I think it is key to note here that by collaborating with my other performers the piece underwent a major upheaval which helped tie the show together and give it a backbone.
My inspiration for this theme has come from many different places, including shows such as Black Mirror that twist the use of technology into a dysphoric digital age; Doctor Who with specific focus on a recent episode looking at emoji's and a land where you have to be happy or you are killed; and also exhibitions where photographers are editing out smartphones from social situations and analysing the interesting effect this has on the subjects being shown and their now seemingly strange interaction, or lack of it, with each other. I was intrigued by the flat, almost robot face people have when engrossed in looking at their phone and used this as a starting point for how the performers on stage interact with each other in their ‘normal’ state. By having this as the first layer, it was a blank canvas to work form, so during the devising and rehearsal process we could experiment with heightening and dampening emotions and interactions, to find the correct level for each scene and put my message across clearly but not obviously for the audience. For links to specific articles that inspired me please go to the ‘Inspiration’ blog page where you can read more; inspiration.html.
As this was a group piece but we couldn’t always rehearse together, I used weekly rehearsal sessions alone to choreograph movement and establish a plan of action for when in the studio with the other performers. Like I’ve already mentioned I was initially fixated with the idea of becoming drones, people in trance who are slaves to technology. Physically I experimented showing this by adding these layers to 'pure' movement I devised…
It was interesting the effect of having different combinations of layers, and teaming the physical with the mental either contrasting or complimenting. I did find it a challenge to self-motivate at the beginning and sift the good from the bad but I think I improved at this as time went on! I was then able to go into the studio with some work, so if energy was lacking we didn’t have to start from zero. For an example of this layering process with videos please see the ‘Adding layers to create a character’ blog post; adding-layers-to-create-a-character.html.
I tried to have a combination of different ways to create material. Sometimes I worked alone and taught the performers, sometimes I set them tasks to reach a goal, sometimes I worked collaboratively on duets or trios and asked an observer to take the role of director and help push the piece along. (For more on this please see ‘Creating material and editing’ creating-material-and-editing.html) I found this was a great way to work; it meant the performers didn’t get overwhelmed with too much information seeing as they still had their own pieces to create, but they did feel ownership over the piece and involved in the process. I hoped that through working with the group to create the piece as collaboratively as possible I would have a bigger range of artistic decisions to choose from, making the final piece much more collaborative and therefore different to work I would usually create.
In the collaborative studio, I split my piece into 3 main parts to tackle. For the first I came in with set choreography, taught the group then allowed them time to edit it and change it for themselves before adding layers on. This worked well because I wanted a 'cheesy' dance, with everyone doing a similar style but with their own twist on the moves. From here, I added on an element of competition with the aim to be centre of attention and made this improvisation more set by taking elements I liked and setting them into a sequence. By having mostly set choreography, it removes the risk of poor improvisation during the performance, but by setting these moves from improvisation it keeps the element of surprise for the audience and organic-ness for the performer. From here I tried adding a layer on in the form of voice, where the performers were desperately trying to tell us about the happiest day of their life but due to the music getting louder, or others interrupting or the disruptive movement they were struggling to do this. It didn’t quite fit with the rest of the piece as they suddenly had stopped manipulating me, so we also experimented with them just telling their story to stop me being able to tell mine. It was interesting because once all the layers were added I felt the scene was strong, however when placed in the show it lost power because it was showing something which we had already showed in a better way; the other performers not letting me speak; earlier in the piece. This was a good discovery and a lesson well learnt that although material is sometimes good, it may not fit with the overall vision so needs some tweaking before it can enhance the piece.
For the second section I again came in with set choreography which I devised alone using inspiration of 'proving that I am happy'. I then asked the group to do whatever they could to stop me from performing this movement. As with the first section I then took movements that worked from this improvisation and set choreography, and throughout rehearsals kept tweaking this to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. For the 3rd section I started with a blank slate and only gave 2 instructions for creating movement; feet and jump. My end goal was to have smiley faces on the heels of our feet with a live feed camera showing this projecting onto the back wall. I knew I wanted different visual angles of the performers on stage compared to the projection, I knew I wanted unison and I knew I wanted the contrast between drone characters and these strange emoji feet but the product was so different to my vision of it, and much better because I drip fed instructions to my performers and allowed them to take on the creation process instead of getting stuck in my own head and only following one creative path.
I also looked back through my solos and decided to edit my 'Ove' solo (meet-ove.html) to become a turning point in the piece where my character is no longer accepted by the other members of the group because of my reluctance to be a passive observer like they have become. This was the aim for this part anyway, but it turned into a continuation of me being controlled by the group into the first time I realised I could manipulate them as well as them manipulating me. This discovery only came very late in the devising process, once I had added on the idea of telling the story about a dog. As I threw the paper onto the floor I began to explore if there were ways the other characters could snap out of their zombie like trance and react to something very real. This worked well, especially with the reference alluding to a dog with a ball, so it allowed the piece to take a different turn and for me to be in control for a while. Of course, this couldn’t last so I had to look for ways to stop this and have the other characters back in control. I experimented with duets and trios in which one person starts with control and the other ends with it, or finding trigger words to change these characters but I felt it needed something much subtler so I ended up discarding these pieces of material and simply having the text noise to draw performers and audience alike back into the cyber world where these drone characters are in control.
The prop I decided to use in my show was paper. I chose this because I had already used it in the props weekend (for more information please see ‘What is a prop?’ what-is-a-prop.html) and I had really enjoyed experimenting with how it can influence my movement. I loved crumpling it up and echoing that with my body, then looking at how it has different qualities when it is flat or in a ball or being ripped up. I also thought it would be nice to have paper in a technology inspired show, allowing for a subtle link and nod of the head towards the good old-fashioned pen and paper! When devising the paper section, I gave each performer some paper and asked them to create a few movements that were inspired by the quality of the paper. From here I created a sequence that we performed in unison. It was a shame because as rehearsals went on we lost some of the detail in our movement, especially as we added text and emotion, so although I did re-choreograph this to try and catch the nuances next time I think I would spend more time with the prop creating movement to explore even more possibilities.
As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t until I asked the other performers to write about their happiest days did I find a structure and through line for my piece. In my opinion, it was missing another layer and the text brought that depth I was looking for. First, I asked everyone to write a paragraph about the happiest day of their lives. I then swapped the texts around and we all had to edit the text to make it as exaggerated as possible. We then swapped texts again and tried performing them in different states for example very cold, cocky, shy, excited. I loved what happened to the texts as they came alive, suddenly each character had their own backstory and reason for being there, the texts were warped and funny, they allowed for exploration of movement and they inspired relationships between the characters to grow. It really was a turning point in my devising process and I feel that it added a lot to the piece both in terms of possibilities when devising and the finished product. (using-text.html)
The technology weekend really changed the creative path I was taking. Before that weekend I could see a very clear 'world' that I was going to set my piece in. A world where everyone had to be happy and where this was very quickly established through cheesy music, 'happy' dancing and big smiles. However, I had also been experimenting with the noise of texts and images of emoji's but didn't know how to incorporate this into my work. It felt almost like 2 separate ideas that hadn't quite merged together. But as soon as I started experimenting with the text noise, projection, light and vocals I realized I don't need to be so obvious, I don't need to spoon feed the audience. Instead I can create this world in a much more atmospheric way, and it felt right to be experimenting with using technology in the piece seeing's as it's all about tech! I enjoyed using the live feed to create different viewpoints for the audience, I liked the link it made to how what we see on social media is often a warped version of reality, the idea that there are 2 sides to every story.
In terms of technically using this equipment, I found it challenging because I have never done it before and always shied away from it thinking I wouldn’t be able to use it properly so it would just look rubbish! However, the technology weekend really opened my eyes to simple and effective possibilities and I really enjoyed the experimenting process. Please see the ‘Multimedia’ blog for some more information and video examples; multimedia.html.
I hoped that by exploring the sound of texting, which everyone can instantly identify with, and setting up the idea that how you respond on social media vs in real life are often different the audience would understand that the piece is showing the contrast, struggle and loneliness that can be associated with technology and social media. I do think this came across, however it was very interesting when talking to my Mum and friend after the show because my friend instantly understood the social media referencing and could follow the journey of my character as it turned dark and she could see the difference between telling story’s online and the stark reality. My Mum however, is not a social media user and she didn’t pick up on that link at all. She understood from the piece that the other characters didn’t like the fact I was so happy and wanted to either sabotage my happiness or have some for themselves; which is a perfect and unintentional response when viewed without the social media references. Audiences are amazing at coming to their own conclusions and I was right to pair back how obvious I was and allow room for their own interpretation.
The process of creating this piece was a very enjoyable one. I was constantly questioning myself and my artistic decisions in a way that allowed me to look at the work from a different perspective and analyse as I was working. Of course, there were struggles; making smooth transitions, not letting my head get clouded with too many ideas, being clear in both instructions when devising and intention when performing, and managing my time well. But I think the hardest thing for me was being a leader in a collaboration. I really did want this piece to be a group project, however obviously I had to take the lead. In the past, I have either been the director or a performer so it was strange to get used to the idea of handing control over to other people and then ultimately making the final decision anyway. I also found it a struggle being in all the other 4 pieces, so 5 in total. As it got nearer to show day I was finding myself getting frustrated during other people’s rehearsals because I wanted to be rehearsing my piece or I thought they should be managing their time more effectively, but I just tried to be as productive as possible for them whatever stage they were at and in the end, it all came together nicely! Saying that, on the flip side I did enjoy being in the other pieces because I got to experience different director’s approaches and expand my own repertoire in terms of movement and character development, and it helped me reinforce all the skills learnt during this course.
There are areas of my piece that could have been explored more, of course, for example using the paper to influence movement. Props are great for contextualising, setting the scene and inspiring movement and I only explored one way to use it so this is something I would like to expand on. In terms of sound I think I could have given the text sound more importance; it got lost a little and although I liked that it was subtle if I were to do this again I might have a movement motif that repeats in different styles depending on where we are in the piece each time it plays. I would have also liked to have made more use of the live projection, maybe having the audience projected onto the screen at some point to explore making a link about being passive observers or used lights more impressively to alter the image. On that note, there were some technical problems with the placing of the camera to see the happy soles of the feet and the performers as they came towards the camera so this is something to work on through either using another camera or finding a way to make the placing of the camera more consistent.
On reflection and in conclusion, I am pleased with how I managed to use the layering process to convey my original idea. I feel like I had the time and space to explore the techniques learnt and apply it to my own work. I am grateful that I managed to incorporate props, music, costume and multimedia into my devising process and although I know I don’t need to include everything every time I create work; at least I now have the confidence to try it. I love the fact that an end goal can be reached in many ways, and it is the journey that is full of the rich goodness that makes a great show. My mind has been opened to performance possibilities and I will absolutely take all that I have learnt forward as I continue devising, performing and teaching.
Overall, I am pleased with what I achieved and am now brimming with ideas to continue this project or begin a new one!
I haven’t mentioned all the additional blog posts in this essay that you can find on the homepage, but please feel free to browse through them if you would find it interesting. I found it very useful to keep a log of what we did throughout the course as it went along and to constantly evaluate how these methods were helping me with my final piece.
As I mentioned in my final evaluation, it was both challenging and rewarding to perform in the other pieces. Here is a brief evaluation from my point of view being a collaborator and performer in the pieces.
I loved performing in Sam’s piece! He was clear from the beginning that my character was going to be the office bully, but he gave me lots of free reign within this instruction to experiment, explore and push the character as far as I could.
Sam used the layering technique well during rehearsals, it worked when we created raw movement and tried layering different intentions on top of this until he found exactly what he was looking for.
I enjoyed being able to explore my character through movement and voice because I think it brought out different qualities to the character and made her have more depth. Once I had arrived at my character Sam was a great director in pushing me to explore physicality further, and making my movements much more stylised and consistently in theme with the rest of the show whilst standing out as the leader.
Sam realised part way through the devising process that he had to make this piece unique to himself and something that no one else could have created. That was a turning point where he really switched it up a gear and was as precise and detailed as possible in everything he did. It allowed the piece to develop into a more unusual style; he started encouraging more experimenting with the props and worked on many different endings until he found the perfect one.
Overall, I think Sam encouraged us to use the techniques learnt in the course to create his vision and it was a very enjoyable experience!
Welcome to the Show!
For Julia’s piece, it took a while to get going because she wasn’t always sure of her creative ideas, but once she decided on the Circus theme we were away! Very early on she paired Sam and I up and simply directed us towards making 2 duets: the first a duet where I am being humiliated by Sam, and the second a duet using the hula hoop as a prop. We were left to our own devises then given extra layers to add onto the work as we went.
I think the final piece did show what Julia was aiming for; it touched on the cruelty of caged animals, explored the poor working conditions lots of performers face and showed that there are 2 sides to every story. She used the layering technique well and was a good director for letting us as performers explore possibilities before setting anything.
As a performer, the duets with Sam were in a style I enjoy performing. It was strangely fun being humiliated and I like the earthy, heavy movement quality this theme provides. I liked being able to use the hula hoop but I think we could have explored it more, especially using it as something different and seeing how far we could go.
Although this piece came together at the end I did find the process slightly frustrating. It was sometimes difficult to work with Laura as she hadn’t been there for a lot of the course so we weren’t used to her movement quality, way of working and directorial skills. I felt disconnected from the piece, I wasn’t given many opportunities to create material from a given starting point and because of this I didn’t enjoy the process so much.
The final group scene was the climax of the piece and worked well to tie all these different characters together and give a change of pace, spacing and scene. I liked how it got faster and more manic, eventually culminating in a circular structure that took us right back to the beginning of the piece. I think that gives the audience a nice sense of completion and settlement.
As a supporting character in this piece, it was lovely to see the work unfold as Anatoli gave herself and Sam different tasks for each section. By being clear in her commands she could make each part unique and personal to the memory or photograph she was basing it on and I think you could really see in the final piece how personal it was to her. The layers she added worked well and she wasn’t afraid to try things and discard them if it wasn’t working.
She had slight difficult with defining who me and Julia were, but once she decided we were mischievous almost wood nymph like characters it gave us both much more purpose and stopped us being so much of an instillation and more like performers in the piece.
I think Anatoli used projection, set and sound well to enhance the work. They all got added in at different points to provide greater depth and it worked well, especially to show the changing randomness of the journey and to break up the linear structure.
I think her ideas came across well and it was lovely that the piece was so personal and honest. Also, what a brilliant title!
Postgraduate Certificate in Physical Theatre 2016/17
Choreographed by Anatoli Tsampa
Dancers: Katie Alexander, Julia Dunstan, Sam Eastop, Anatoli Tsampa
Choreographed by Sam Eastop
Dancers: Katie Alexander, Julia Dunstan, Sam Eastop, Anatoli Tsampa
Choreographed by Laura Obiols
Dancers: Katie Alexander, Julia Dunstan, Sam Eastop, Laura Obiols, Anatoli Tsampa
Welcome to the Show!
Choreographed by Julia Dunstan
Dancers: Katie Alexander, Julia Dunstan, Sam Eastop, Laura Obiols
My Dog Skye
Choreographed by Katie Alexander
Dancers: Katie Alexander, Julia Dunstan, Sam Eastop, Anatoli Tsampa
Tutor: Mafalda Deville
Special thank you to Mafalda Deville, Libby Worth,
Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company and our technical team.
This is a tough question...!
I think whereas a SET places you somewhere to set the scene, a prop is something that relates to a character or an action; someone or something interacts with it; it can have many meanings and it must add to the character or scene.
A prop can be...
Manipulating the prop vs being manipulated by the prop
Why is the prop there?
Is it necessary?
What does it mean?
How do performers react to a room full of props and time to play?
1. How did you feel?
Interesting because I make children do this all of the time but I find it really difficult. Much harder when I over think and I find it challenging to do something other than what the prop is or using it to influence a character.
2. Favorite Prop
Paper or bag for inspiring movement
Slinky or baton as body extension
Mop, hat or glasses to make another character
3. Task easiest to develop
I have no idea! They are all hard...but I found it hardest to be manipulated by a prop.
4. Prop vs costume - can you consider a prop as something you wear?
YES! Costume can become a prop in the same way a set can. But a prop is different in that the performer needs to rehearse with it but they don't need to rehearse with costume or set - maybe??
I have really enjoyed working with PAPER as a prop. I find the changing qualities very inspirational for movement especially when crumpling it up and then allowing it to release, burning it and ripping it.
My 'Ove' solo initially had no prop, then I added paper in later and it made huge changes to my movement and the story that went with the movement. For my group piece I am looking to include paper again and continue exploring how my movement can be inspired and altered, and how I can be manipulated by using this very versatile prop.
When working with a partner or in a group, or even with an outside eye for direction there isn't the problem of self-motivation that I get when working solo. To try and get over this I like to make a plan of action, then even if I don't stick to it at least I have a path I can follow. I am still finding it hard to let go of material, but I have found the joy in going along with new themes that are found during collaboration or when directing others and finding different paths to an end goal.
This is an example of the structure I have been using (generally speaking, not set in stone!) to choreograph parts of my piece starting with raw movement as opposed to a clear character.
First, Julia and I discussed what I was looking for in this section of the piece. I wanted to be manipulated by Julia, so we thought about the ways this can happen through contact, manipulation and movement.
Initially we improvised around the theme...
As there was no outside eye, we filmed the improvisation and highlighted any parts that worked particularly well in terms of satisfying movement visually and parts that fitted with the theme of manipulation and control.
1. From the movement found in this improvisation we set a sequence,
then spent a little time editing and refining (but not too much that we would get attached to it!) before adding layers.
2. Add Julia saying 'smile then' (aim; heighten the control she has over me in a different way than just movement to add colour)
3. Incl. Julia's insides are on fire, lava ready to explode (aim; increase the urgency)
4. Incl. Katie shiver/icy every time Julia touches (aim; add repulsion and a sense of being forced)
5. More suspense and echo that in Julia's voice (aim; play on the fact it's starting to get creepy)
Each time we would watch the film back, discuss what we saw, see the positive and negatives and decide which part to push further and which parts to remove. I personally find this easier to do 1 element at a time and have a layer approach rather than do too many things at once as I think things can get lost. However when being directed I often have to go faster than I usually would and some very interesting material does emerge.
We were self-directing through collaboration to reach an end point of me being manipulated. We went down different route to what I was planning and pushed the physicality of us both as different characters more and only touched on our relationship. Exploring the relationship between Julia and myself was initially my main aim, and still something that needs to be explored and added.
From here I will go on to further editing as a lot of material doesn't progress the story or add to the characterisation. I would like to make it have more condensed nervous energy from me, waiting to explode to play on the control Julia has over me.
Repeat same as above as many times as needed.
I have never used multimedia in my performance work before, I have always felt like I wasn't confident enough to use it well and I felt I would need a big team around me to make my visions come to life. So I came into the multi-media weekend thinking it was something that would be fun to try but that I would probably never use it...how wrong I was!
After the first day we were asked to bring in images, text or sound to play with. I decided to use the below images as visual inspiration, to tie in with my theme of becoming slave to the digital age. I also bought in the sound of texting, with the typing and sending sound which is so easily recognizable to the majority of people.
Using the lights, I initially wanted to achieve the effect of a phone light shining up onto someones face. Please see images below. I found this fairly easy to convey so I started experimenting with having this visual projected onto another surface, so that the audience can see both reality and projection. The sound of the texting added to this effect, and by experimenting with putting the sound through the system and also just placing the phone close to the microphone, I enjoyed finding out how I can make the most of having control over the effects and therefore not relying on a tech team.
I also enjoyed experimenting with moving the light towards and away from the camera. I loved the effect of the light flashing on and off as it came too close to the camera, the color changes and the slow fade as the camera adjusted to more or less light. I saw a theme of circles emerging, and so decided to use the 'word' LOL and use my mouth to echo the circular shape I was seeing in the projections. Please see videos below marking some of my process...
LOL (projection and use of LOL)
Laughter 1 (start of increase, show lighting)
Laughter 2 (show 2nd stage of increase, camera angle)
After this stage, I started looking at moving the light towards the lens and therefore into the audiences eye, and so forcing them to look at the projection instead of me.
Laughter 3 (show 3rd stage of increase, projection)
This shows the projection, I just used a table covered with a white cloth. It works better to have the projection onto white as it reflects the light away as opposed to black which soaks all the light in so doesn't show as clearly. You can see how the light has spilled onto my face and onto the projection, so the effect of looking at a screen isn't as strong as in 'real life.'
I got a little stuck at this point as my work was so static. But as soon as I realized I could move every thing I was using, from the microphone to the camera to the projector I was away!!
By experimenting with having the camera from the side, the audience see a different angle in 'real life' and in projection which I really like as it gives the performance a feeling of being in the round but it is much more manageable than actually having the audience in the round because I can control when it happens, how long it happens for and exactly what the audience see. I also like the fact you can zoom in and choose specific things for the audience to see, that is a privileged only film makers get but now I have realized I can get that in live performance too!
The multimedia weekend really changed the creative path I am taking. Before the weekend I could see a very clear 'world' that I was going to set my group piece in. A world where everyone had to be happy and where this was very quickly established through cheesy music, 'happy' dancing and big smiles. However, I had also been experimenting with the noise of texts and images of emoji's but didn't know how to incorporate this into my work. It felt almost like 2 separate ideas that hadn't quite merged together. But as soon as I started experimenting with the text noise, projection, light and vocals I realized I don't need to be so obvious, I don't need to spoon feed the audience. Instead I can create this world in a much more atmospheric way, and it feels right to be experimenting with using technology in the piece seeing's as it's all about tech!
Inspiration comes from many different places. It can be a tiny seed, a vast idea, a conversation, a character, a trait, a movie, a book, nature... the list is endless!
For my final piece I want to create an exaggerated version of our world. One which is ruled by smart phones and laptops and looking down instead of up. One where how much battery life you have left is more important than how your friends are. One where 4 year old's have iPad's. Sound familiar?
Really, this is a continuation of a theme that emerged during my interim assessment. I found the idea of being manipulated in a world that you didn't understand or want to be in compelling to explore, so I have taken this out of the Africa context and bought it closer to home, and in doing so I can hopefully make it more relate-able.
Here are just a few places I found inspiration for the initial idea, movement qualities, how to progress the story and character development...
By this stage, I have a clear conceptual idea for my final group piece. Most of the parts will be choreographed collaboratively, however I know there will be at least 2 solo sections so I have begun working on them. Here is my process...
Create movement inspired by being 'HAPPY'
Add physical state
Choose physical states that lean towards my end goal and expand them
END GOAL = movement piece that shows being forced to be happy
UNCOMFORTABLE - SHOVED - ON TUBE - DEHYDRATED
Expand on the restricted quality...
Expand on my hair covering my face...
Add an intention
e.g. to not laugh, to be still, to be seen, to be bold, to be hidden, to patronise.
Explore one contrasting to movement and one matching
As a practitioner who always leans towards using words before exploring the other physical options, I have found exploring text extremely useful.
When I first made Ove, the text wasn't needed. I was telling the audience what they could already see through my body language.
When I performed my solo interim assessment I added text at the start to, what I thought, contextualize the piece, but in actual fact I just confused the whole thing and took more away than I added.
When improvising with Sam, and adding text on top of a duet AFTER seeing what messages were conveyed through the movement I started to understand how text can be used as an addition to movement as opposed to a start point.
WHO is speaking?
WHAT is being said?
HOW is it being said?
WHY is is being spoken?
WHO is it being said too?
WHAT words need emphasis?
1. Work on saying the text in different moods
2. Identify VERBS in the text in order to give them focus
3. Split the text into different parts
The first video of Sam and I looks at the stage in our process where we had created movement initially based on some key words - concentration, imagination, scale, tumble, jeering and rise. We began by splitting the text equally and having the movements in unison but it wasn't clear who we were, where we were or what we were doing! So after some feedback we went down the route of 2 sides of consciousness and instead of splitting the text equally instead split it positive vs negative and made my movement quality and therefore my vocal quality sharp, constricted and frustrated.
The next video, shows a progression and development stage into me having a clearer disgust towards Sam and his words and movements having much more of an effect on me. It gives the duet a sense of oppression, putting yourself down and struggle which the rest of the class seemed to like. From here we would work on making the relationship between Sam and I even clearer.
I would like to use the text from the well known song 'If you are happy and you know it' as part of my final assessment.
I have started of by exploring HOW it can be said, experimenting with the quality of my voice due to the physicality of my body and how this changes the rhythm. To be slow and punctuate every 3rd word gives a dark, sinister feeling; to smile and be full of air creates a childish, playful quality and naturally goes faster; to speak in a monotone voice with a stillness in the body gives a depressed state and therefore a bold contrast between the text and voice/physicality.
From my initial exploration to the final piece, I consistently filmed my work and tried to narrow down what to focus on exploring in greater depth so as not to get overwhelmed. The first link is to one of the first attempts I had at making material.
The second link is to the final piece, minus the bricks. I see now that using a prop which can't be rehearsed with consistently is a very bad idea...lesson learnt, however the two videos do show the difference adding text, different intentions and states made to my work.
Below is my written account, which goes over my process in much greater detail. I know I only skimmed the surface in adding the layers to my work, but I am learning that by structuring rehearsal time and making artistic decisions for myself as if someone was prompting me I can push the exploration much further, much quicker.
This piece is based on a young African girl I met in Sierra Leone in 2014. She was 22 at the time, the same age as me and I couldn’t help comparing the vast differences between our lives. Me, the privileged white woman on the trip of a lifetime; the epitome of freedom vs her, a girl already being forced down a path she doesn’t want to follow due to pressure from family, religion and tradition. She was a quiet, peaceful girl when I first met her. But the more time we spent together I saw a struggle within her as she started to come to terms with disobeying her family to forge her own path. This is a global theme for children all over the world, and it comes down to the simplicity of growing up and all the complications that come with that.
The themes I have been exploring through my movement are struggle and being held back. I was intrigued by what happens to the body when it is being physically held back, and the image of forward momentum with nowhere to go. However, I realised this movement was too bold for my character and instead I started to see unbalanced physicality emerge.
I wanted to use props to enhance the performance because I felt they would add another dimension and be a physical representation of just one way the girl was being held back. By using chairs that in my mind represented different members of the young girl’s family, I was able to develop a movement dynamic which explored tension and elements of choice, as well as helping me explore the girl’s timid physicality. The problem with having chairs on stage is that they are used a lot in theatre and as with every prop audiences always read into them but I felt it gave too much of a Western office or home feel, as opposed to the earthy, natural feel of Africa. I took the chairs away and worked on choreography inspired by being held up by a support system that is being precarious and pulls you back down and away from your aim. Repetition worked to give the feeling of monotony and being stuck in a pattern. Using the movement vocabulary, I went through a series of improvisations using props to replace the chairs. I felt the prop I chose needed to be able to take weight, be stackable and be easy to move. I tried rubber tiles, pieces of paper, books but settled on bricks.
I feel the bricks fit most logically as well as being very visually pleasing. They represent a wall, building, foundations, so parallel the fundamentals of a family structure. They are also full of texture, and although solid are made of thousands of tiny grains leaving them a single part of a much bigger picture. The bricks also challenged my movement, pushing me in new directions as I explored their texture and potential. Also from a personal level, I first met the girl who was the inspiration for this piece in Africa and she was making cement for her family’s brick business. It feels like it ties up the process and allows a further link back to the origins of my inspiration.
The text spoken at the beginning of my solo is part of a poem written by the girl. There was a point in my process when I was really stuck going in circles and this section always drew me back to the feelings I am trying to convey. I’m not sure at this stage if the text is needed, however I decided to keep it in because it does contextualize the solo and was an integral part of my process. This is similar for the music, it takes me and hopefully the audience directly into Africa so helps to contextualize whilst adding juxtaposition between the tense and contrived movement vs the upbeat African tune.
During this solo, I hope to have achieved a feeling of struggle and being pulled down on a path that isn’t right for the character. The physical attributes explore being timid but needing to break free, something which I have displayed by experimenting with darting vs still and steady eye contact. To progress from here I see the arc of the piece going through the girl escaping from being trapped, but after experiencing that freedom turning back to her roots as she realizes she has left too much behind and regrets her bold decision, which is very out of character, to walk away from everything and everyone she knows and loves.
I'm a unicorn. And I'm pink (although you can't tell because Katie tried to be all artistic by making the pictures black and white). My owner is Millie. That's really all there is to know about me!
Ove is a 59 year old nosy neighbour. He glares, stabs his forefinger, mutters, continuously checks his watch and is quite overwhelmingly misunderstood.
Ove is the perfect man to base a physical character on...
I created a solo about Ove very early on in the course, and have come back to it over and over because it was the first time I felt I had used the layer technique effectively to create a physical character. I decided the arc of the piece by making decisions about the first and last state, then adding a transition. In class we then worked on the timing, use of text and adding a prop. The first video below is my 'first draft', I hadn't included props yet but had added words. I worked through removing the words as they weren't adding anything the audience didn't already know. I also worked a lot on timing, because I have a tendency to rush some parts and take way too long over others, so I need to learn to find the perfect balance. The second video is the 'finished' work in progress Ove piece, where I had settled on using paper as a prop due to it's wonderful crumpling quality which linked to my idea of an old man and his crumbling bones. I also loved the sound it made and how I could manipulate my body in the same way the paper was being contrasted. The next step would be to add more material and possibly music, but I don't think it needs any text to give further context as it has clear intention but is open enough for the audience to add their own contextualization.
I am now using this 'Ove Solo' as a starting point for a section in my final piece. It feels right and good and clear to be going back to this early stage and applying what I have learnt on top. I hope to keep the clarity, sound transition and forward momentum that I achieved in this solo as it progresses into something deeper.
Improvising is something that feels incredible to get into when you are in a group, but alone it seems almost IMPOSSIBLE which poses some problems when creating alone... I have found it helps to film the improvisation, but I then still find it extremely difficult to push myself and turn off my judgmental brain as I am constantly wondering which state to try next. The element of surprise is lost which is a shame, but I love the idea that after an hour an a half improv there could be just 2 or 3 wonderful moments to expand upon.
Key points to note
As most people do, I have a bank of moves that crop up over and over again regardless of the character I am exploring. To watch back these improvisations is a great way to find new moves that are still your own and very organic, but that aren't just the 'go to'. I found this very useful when creating my interim solo and final group piece, as I didn't want to become 'predictable Katie' but to surprise myself in the direction I took my work.
Unsurprisingly this has yet to be caught on camera. Watch this space!
Let's start at the beginning...
The lessons I learnt at the very beginning of the course are becoming a key part of my artistic process whether I am creating for myself, with an ensemble or even teaching children. If I am creating work that doesn't seem to be going anywhere I now know it's probably lacking a state, quality or intention. So I look back to these lists and work on incorporating a specific state, quality or intention (or perhaps a mixture of them all if I am feeling adventurous!) onto the choreography or character I am working on in the simplest and clearest way possible which is usually to start with the basics and layer more up after.
1. MENTAL STATE
scared, confused, in love, sad, happy, excited, guilty, anxious, jealous, depressed, surprised, manipulated, confident, calm
2. PHYSICAL STATE
ticklish, twitchy, need the toilet, shivering, horny, hungry, hot, tired, nauseous, in pain, numb, itchy
3. 'AS IF' QUALITY
melting, on fire, helium balloon, glass, under water, flying, stone, old person, no weight, tight, dead, heavy, wood, made from string
walk forward, protection, seduce, patronise, bully, take off clothes, to amuse, to scare, be silent, grab attention, hide, to be liked, to lift
When I am adding these instructions, whether for myself or someone else, it's good to remember the clearer the better. For example 'playful' isn't very clear, but 'childish' is clearer. Also 'caught in the rain' doesn't work so well because it's an outside entity so doesn't directly influence your movement like 'out of breath' does.