"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The beauty of collaboration

As a post-graduate out in the world now, I am considering what kind of work I want to do and create.

When we produced our BFA thesis concert on May, we had been working with our casts since September. I was rehearsing with an awesome cast of six dancers, who are passionate artists and have intriguing, enthusiastic personalities. In the Spring semester, however, I added four Acting majors from the Theatre Department to my project, and they changed the whole tone of my piece.

To backtrack a bit, in the Fall, I was a part of a Dance Department/Theatre Department project, directed by guest artist Laurie Carlos (New York Avant-Garde Performance scene, Movin’ Spirits Dance Theater Company, Urban Bush Women...). This process was one of the most important, influential experiences of my college career. The performance piece we put together was made up of scenes that we created, with Laurie's instruction, throughout the entire two months of rehearsal. Rehearsal each night was a challenge for me, as I considered myself a "mover." I held back whenever I was asked to speak or do something more along the lines of "acting." Through collaboration with the actors, howerver, I found myself more eager to join in their form of expression, or at least add to theirs with mine. The performance also incorporated a fantastic combo of brilliant musicians, as well as moments that highlighted our own singing. Our lighting designer, stage manager, and ASMs were also intimately involved in all of our rehearsals. Laurie called this working in the "jazz aesthetic," the idea of a smooth meshing of improvisational elements within a context of ideas, evoking the feel of jazz musicians who gracefully modulate in and out keys. Working this way relies on the close collaboration and deep listening between all performers.

I feel like this type of inter-disciplinary work has the power to take root deeply within performers. As I worked with my cast of dancers and actors for my thesis, we shared stories with each other about our lives, and we created movement and song to echo these stories. After each rehearsal, I was left feeling like I was creating something meaningful. The dancers contributed through a unique set of technical and artistic skills, and the actors were able to offer suggestions that I would have never thought of, and make the work come alive in brighter, bolder tones. Everyone worked together by sharing parts of themselves.

Whatever I pursue next with art, I know now that I am driven by this inter-disciplinary work. I know I want to collaborate again with actors, musicians, tech crew/designers, and other types of artists. The many layers give the work depth and meaning, and I'm being to understand that it's this kind of art that speaks to the 21st century generation.