Over the past month I’ve been working on a collaboration that’s totally new to me—pairing painting with live improvisational dance.
I was approached by a pair of dancers creating a work for a NACHMO (National Choreography Month) presentation in Cambridge because they sensed some overlaps between our approaches. I spent some time in rehearsal with them talking about the process of drawing compared to dancing, and there were a lot more similarities than I would have guessed!
The challenges in this collaboration were fascinating. Every time I came across some difficulty there was an interesting question about what made it difficult, so we had a lot of great philosophical talks.
One of the recurring themes was the fact that both dance and drawing are time-based (as in, they both occur over time)—but it’s only in dance where that’s a given; in drawing the time-based process is hidden behind the final work.
We also struggled to create a process which had feedback in both directions. For the first few rehearsals I was just experimenting with ways to document the dancers as they moved across the floor, or in the different angles of their bodies.
We gradually came up with some options for the dancers to work off of what I created as well. This led to some interesting moments in rehearsal where I was aware that a dancer I was documenting was echoing my drawing, creating a short-term positive feedback loop.
Last Saturday was the final performance. I had just gotten in from 1.5 weeks in London and had not heard the music or seen the final versions of the scores (rules/patterns for the dances) that the dancers had come up with, and we’d never rehearsed under the kind of conditions in the performance space. But the experience of drawing in tandem with movement was just as exciting despite the changes. I found myself feeling bad for the audience: no one, probably not even the dancers, has as complete a view of the work as I do. It really is about movement in the moment, and I was both creating and experiencing that performance in full.