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The Dance Current Canada’s Dance Magazine
By Susan Lee
I was a wreck when I first arrived at Swell: a Contact Dance Intensive and Eco-Poetic Approach to Improvisation, a workshop presented by Mocean Dance this past June in Halifax. The four-day intensive was led by acclaimed teachers and dancers Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser, American improvisers and dancemakers who currently teach at Smith College in Massachusetts. In the two months preceding the workshop I had been mostly bedridden, unable to eat solid food and too weak to be on my feet for more than a few hours a day. I couldn’t speak because of the painful canker sores in my mouth. The rules of the game had somehow changed – recovery did not follow rest. I rested and rested and rested and still I couldn’t speak, falling down from dizziness and crawling to my bed because of fatigue. I was frustrated by the breakdown of my body, and angry and disheartened by my inability to heal. Three weeks before the workshop I was taken to emergency for IV rehydration and pain relief. And now I came to dance – or to observe, in case I could not dance.
But funnily enough I could dance. Somehow, over the course of the workshop my body and spirit began to heal. By the end of the workshop I could speak with less pain, eat solid food and dance more than I had thought possible. Two weeks after the workshop, I was still improving.
During those four days in Halifax the twelve of us worked on shaping attention, gestures of intention, the dialogue of the body in relationship to gravity, spinal integration, and researched the ecological relationships of our dancemaking with the world. We cultivated an awareness of how our connective tissues feed information to the interior architectures of our bodies. We danced many scores, watched each other, fed each other, carried each other and shared. We created a fluid intentional community for those four days. You know, the usual.
So how did attending this workshop help me to heal? I could simply posit that I love to dance and to do what I love is healing. I could say that a big part of improvisation is listening to one’s body and deepening one’s experience of “now”. “Beginner’s mind” is cultivated, and if one quiets one’s mind, one can find infinite space – space to create, to be and to heal. I could also say that letting my parents (who live in Halifax) take care of me like I was a child by feeding me soft foods and driving me to the workshop was a factor in the healing.
But in my fanciful mind, I feel that what really helped was dancing the idea of eco-poetics. Chris and Angie proposed that we approach improvisation by cultivating our ability to see ourselves as part of the web of nature and the human ecosystems of culture, history and socio-political forces. Our bodies are micro-systems that absorb and are in relationship to those influences over time. We dance in relationship to gravity and our histories, in an intricately reciprocal relationship between creating and responding.
I love the work because it connects me to the world and locates me in time and space. Somehow, by nudging my body towards those connections I became aware of the circles of communities I belong to – overlapping sets and subsets of people over time like a four-dimensional Venn diagram. I was in Halifax (my hometown), surrounded by family, dancing with old friends and new ones. The interweaving of kinship and history created a web of support I felt in my body that allowed me to surrender to healing.
Fanciful yes, but real nonetheless.
In the months since the workshop my health has improved slowly, but steadily. I don’t fall down anymore (except when I choose to), the cankers are less virulent and if I rest a lot I can more or less function. The reason for my illness continues to be a mystery to my doctors and naturopath and we are still working towards making me stronger and less fatigued. When struggling with a prolonged illness, it’s easy to feel isolated. I think the lasting benefit of this workshop is that it reminds me to connect with my friends and family, my garden or with my body in movement when I am depressed or ill. Acknowledging that – sometimes invisible – web of connection helps me realize that all I need to do right now is take a deep breath and be. The rest will take care of itself.
A link to the article here
Go to Earthdance website to register.
A letter of interest and experience required.
September 28, 2013
Moving Target Boston
Contemporary Dance Technique Master Class
with ANGIE HAUSER
The class is open to intermediate and advanced dancers interested in sampling Hauser’s approach to dance training and choreographic phrase work. Some things that might happen are floor work, Modern dance movement vocabulary, inversions, pointing the feet and kicking the legs, paying attention to how we use our spines, improvising, walking, running, being still, and most likely some DANCING.
Hope to see you there.
Location: Green Street Studios, 185 Green St. Cambridge, MA
Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones will be performing Bebe Miller Company’s “A History” at Bates Dance Festival July 26 & 27, 2013.
These are the last performances we have on the calendar for this piece so if you want to see it now is your chance.
JUNE 8th and 9th, 2013
Chris Aiken & Angie Hauser: Minneapolis Guest Artist Residency
The Shape of Attention: A Dance Improvisation Workshop
This workshop creates opportunities to develop the perceptual and poetic skills that underlie dance improvisation. We will access and develop the physical intelligence needed to create and adapt to dancing and composing. This evolves from our individual and collective choice making. We will engage with emergent form on a micro and macro level, through various lenses including image, gesture, physical states, design, and our sense of the evolving performance landscape. Come ready to dance.
Saturday June 8th and Sunday June 9th
at Studio 206 in the Ivy Building
Tuition : (sliding scale) $100-150
pre-registration is required to save you a spot, $50 pre- registration fee
To pre-register please contact Taja Will at firstname.lastname@example.org
Angie Hauser is a dance-artist and teacher. Her work and research is grounded by questions of improvisation, performance and collaboration. Since 2000, Angie has been a member of the Bebe Miller Company. In 2006 Angie was awarded a BESSIE (N.Y. Dance and Performance Award) for Creation and Choreography for her work with Bebe Miller Company. She has taught dance technique, dancemaking, contact improvisation and improvisation throughout North America as well as Switzerland, Germany, France and Scotland. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Smith College in the Department of Dance where she teaches choreography, creative process, improvisation and dance technique.
Chris Aiken is a leading performer and teacher in the field of dance improvisation and contact improvisation. His work has evolved through ongoing investigations of performance, learning, perception and imagination. His work has been significantly influenced through the somatic practices of the Alexander Technique, ideokinesis, yoga and structural integration. He has received numerous awards for his artistic work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as commissions from the Walker Art Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Dance Theater Workshop and the National Performance Network. Chris is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Smith College and the Five College Dance Department.
April 30, 2013
They Have a History
Choreographers quote themselves all the time, recycling ideas from earlier works and earlier rehearsals, and thus a new dance is often a palimpsest. There are clues to where a choreographer has been, if not outright recognizable references, and an audience witnesses a dance’s history expanding before their eyes. And, just as each new dance represents a new chapter, each performance of that dance is a mini-chapter, and everything that occurs in it is a footnote to the past. This layering is the subject of Bebe Miller’s most recent work, “A History.” Miller, who is in her early sixties, has had a company for more than thirty years and has made many dances. The core of them has been human relationships, enacted in emotionally charged, very physical choreography—fertile ground for a work like “A History.”
For this project, Miller collaborated with her longtime dancers Darrell Jones and Angie Hauser (Jones began working with Miller in 1998, Hauser in 2000). To assist in what Miller has called “an archive of our practice, an incomplete and completely subjective accounting built on ideas, movement, and conversation from the past ten years,” she enlisted another regular collaborator, the playwright Talvin Wilks, to act as dramaturge. In making dances, there is a lot of talking—it’s a process of problem-solving, requiring negotiation and repetition and reliance on all the participants’ memories; for “A History,” Miller and Wilks put together a text from a variety of sources—fragments of rehearsal conversations, personal writings, pieces of literature—which formed a revealing verbal reflection of process and collaboration. But the visual and choreographic elements spoke just as strongly.
At the Kumble Theater, on the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, the set designer Mimi Lien had placed large sheer panels that floated at the sides and the back of the wide stage, through which were visible the raw walls of the theatre, creating a kind of room-within-a-room. A screen hung stage right, and behind it was a large, wooden-topped table. As the piece began, a video played on the screen, of people setting up the table in some other space, and of Hauser and Jones putting on headphones. Onstage, Jones, wearing brown pants and a blue long-sleeved shirt, entered from a cutout doorway in an upstage corner and launched into a wild, loose-limbed solo, a kind of controlled thrashing; beyond the stage-left scrim, Hauser sat in a chair, writing. On the screen, the video had ended, but projected onto it were the words “Darrell Drive”—perhaps a reference to a special gear that Darrell Jones can access in his dancing. Then Hauser, in a purple top and dark-yellow pants, left her chair and danced alone, more gently than Jones, her arms carving the air, her face expressing delighted interest at the volumes she’d discovered. The word “Angie-ness” appeared on the screen. It was like being let in on rehearsal shorthand.
Miller was very clear about what was going on here. Accompanying Hauser and Jones’s first duet, the screen informed us, “They are ‘they’ now,” then, “They have a history.” This was not merely a construct for a dance work, then, but also real life—we were getting artistic and documentary treatment at the same time. And we were getting it on many levels. In addition to the projected text, Jones and Hauser also spoke, often wearing large black headphones, which seemed to cue them in their speech. In the first iteration of this, Jones placed the headphones on Hauser as she sat in a chair that he had brought onstage, and she began talking about waiting for her cue to enter for a dance. As she continued, speaking about “the miniature wood house” that she encountered once she arrived onstage (a reference to Miller’s “Landing/Place,” from 2005), a soft, painterly video of a small house in a field appeared on the screen, first in black-and-white and then changing gradually to color.
Lily Skove’s videos were ravishing accompaniment to the live dancing and speaking, and sometimes were the sources of the text. In one segment, Miller herself stood in the field, at some distance from the camera, and talked about what it’s like to confront what you’ve done before in making something new. “I remember, in that moment, everything,” she said. In black-and-white footage of Jones and Hauser, wearing headphones and lying on a bed, Hauser spoke at length about the “collision of unspoken processes” inherent in dance-making—a clever bit in a work that incorporates text.
As this played, Hauser and Jones hauled the table out from behind the screen, and for the remainder of the dance it provided another kind of stage for the performers, as well as a subject of their conversations. Jones used it as a playground, splashing his body on it, against it, around it, levering himself off its edges and corners; and, in a seated duet, it functioned as a kind of canvas for Hauser and Jones as they painted the table with their sweeping hands and arms. At another point, their headphones on, they engaged in a fragmentary exchange from an earlier discussion about working with a large table—bringing in references to Thomas Adès’s opera “The Tempest” and the Wooster Group’s “I Am Jerome Bel.” Thus, Miller gave us a re-created past conversation about a future dance that ended up being the very thing we were watching. The exchange also introduced the idea that “A History” is as much a play as it is a dance.
Hauser and Jones are tremendous performers. “A History” allowed the audience to bask in their talents, both of them fully committed to every movement. In a beautiful passage, Hauser danced while video of her played on the screen. What Skove had made captured color and movement and angles, but right in front of us was this radiant woman, bringing everything she has ever known about dance to the stage in that moment, then collapsing, spent, on the floor. Standing behind her, his hands on his hips, Jones gathered himself, then took off around the space, running freely, his arms out at his sides. When he stopped, Hauser rested her head on his shoulder, tenderly, then Jones was off again, dancing for us hungrily, as his image from an earlier time played on the screen.
Watching them dance together, a history became clear; their partnering was marked by a sixth sense, which comes not just from rehearsal and repetition but from deep knowledge, when bodies and brains are in synch, and an organic rightness takes hold. When Jones and Hauser lifted one another, it was as though one was suddenly supported by the other, without our seeing, or their understanding, how that came to be. The bond between dancers who have worked together for many years is very strong. The history builds, and, with it, so does the ease of conversing without words, and only with bodies.