The Practice of Self-Choreography

These series of posts document my research into self-choreography which began in 2020. I envisage ‘self-choreography’ as an intimate practice that extends beyond the setting of material or the expression of individuality, to encompass an embeddedness in space, place, time and body in a co-creative dance.

I-Ying Wu: Subtle Awareness, Emergence and Improvisation Workshop

February – March 2022

I-Ying Wu’s solo practices of Subtle Awareness and Subtle Emergence are based on Daoist practice and philosophies. Working remotely via pre-recorded videos, I collected this series of improvisations resulting from the exercises provided by I-Ying. Working from the inner space, embodying imagery, taking on attitudes of attention and noticing moments of emergence.

The notion of subtle awareness is a form of intuitive sensitivity that exists prior to the process of interpretation, and is achieved by nurturing a calm, relaxed, and focused state of consciousness. - I-Ying Wu

Session 1. Inner Space

Locating and sensing into the inner space, finding a sense of the 3 dimensionality of the body. Listening in to those spaces for sensation and then moving in response. At what point do we bring the outer into our awareness? Avoid moving to create sensation, and instead wait for sensation to arise spontaneously. Once we established different spaces, we were asked to oscillate from one space to the other, bringing spaces into relationship with each other. I found this very interesting as an idea and it recalls Rosalind’s work for me. I feel that the session was really valuable and that it gave me a lot of material to work with. 

Subtle Awareness: Session 1. Bouncing inner spaces

Session 2. Imagery

At each point I-Ying encouraged us to listen in to the image to develop the subtlety of movement via the image. She asked us to settle into the image but also to notice if we were leading ‘from the body’ as opposed to leading from the image. She encouraged us to settle in more, to let the image come to the fore. To stay calm and be more focused. The last exercise involved listening in to the lower (dantian) belly and to allow this to expand into an image. I found this very interesting particularly since it involved a coming in to my left psoas. I found this very fruitful and was able to really soften in to the feeling. She encouraged us to let it go and not have to name it, to allow the image to emerge as movement, rather than label it.

Subtle Awareness: Session 2. Left Psoas dancing

Session 3: Inner Disposition

As opposed to the imagery of last week, this week looked at disposition. I think of this as the attitude of… is this laban’s internal attitude of… or something similar? We started by softening into the heart to access a childlike disposition. gradually bringing ourselves to standing and allowing the eyes to open (it reminds me of baby eyes). We then kept working with the image of a child, open, curious, softness to access the softening of the internal space. We then did an exercise in responding to impulse. seeing something and going towards it without judging it or thinking about it. Not worrying about what or why we’re drawn, getting out of analysis and just acting quickly in response. The final exercise was to take an image from nature and assume its disposition. Not mimicking it, but embodying its attitude in some way. The wind was howling outside so I took on the image of a gathering storm, full of weighty, bursting potential, bounded up, but light and possibly fleeting at the same time, a darkness made of water.

Subtle Awareness: Session 3. The disposition of a gathering storm (a darkness made of water)

Session 4: Emergence

where does the movement impulse come from? I started by exploring the initial impulse for movement. What draws me to move? I-Ying called this impulse an emergence, which, to me indicates an inner impulse towards movement. When I started here, I found at first that I was pre-empting, moving out of habit and bouncing one initiation off another. In my habitual pathways I move in response to an inner need to stretch, to release, an inner rhythm to sink, shift, bounce, extend. But when I’m really careful to break this impulsive rhythm down, I find that I’m able to know what has caused me to move. The bird outside, the instability in my left knee, my desire to turn my head. I keep noticing my habits. Sometimes I allow only the very beginning of an initiation to appear. disrupting it’s conclusion. Other times I follow through, but tend to want to come home, or hit pause. When the chimes come in unexpectedly, I find myself caught in space and there’s a pleasing quality to these moments that arrest the movement. I’m aware that this is something else… But I feel it’s important to be conscious of why I begin moving, and whether I allow that movement to lead me, or whether I come in and disrupt/ halt it. 

Subtle Awareness: Session 4. Noticing what moves me to move

Deborah Black – Virtual Viewpoints Workshop

November 2021 – April 2022

This online course covered Mary Overlie’s 6 Viewpoints practices through 3 weekly sessions over 6 weeks. The workshop was my first introduction to the practices of Overlie’s methodology which identifies 6 key performance anchors: Space, Shape, Time, Movement, Emotion and Story. Working asynchronously, I followed the recordings of each session, making notes of my observations following each of the viewpoints. The richness of the work, and the radically new approach that it offered me, meant that my immediate research did not lead to any videos. On returning to the work subsequently, I have been recording my practices in response to those proposed by Overlie.

Turn off the impulse to control or own the material.Listen and see what already exists, instead of trying to manipulate a material into something that looks like art or theater or dance to you. Simply be there in it, be aware and be curious. This may be uncomfortable at first. It may also be a great relief - Mary Overlie

Space Practice

Feeling the Felt Sense of Space – (March 10th 2022)

Space (2) practice from 6STEMS: ZEN garden and the ‘felt sense’ of space. We used the material of walking and stopping first to sense our relationship to the space. We changed the walking to include backwards and added in the option to sit and lie down during the pauses. Lying and sitting gave me a greater sense of becoming a part of the landscape of the space. I imagined this as a precursor to having the audience take their seat, so that I meld into the space with them. Bringing us all into the same composition of location. When Deborah asked us to reach out an arm and ‘measure’ the distance between our finger and a point in space, I had a real sense of connecting myself to the physical dimensions of the space. She use the words ‘feeling the felt sense of space’ which became my final improv above.

Shape Practices

Moving Shapes: Filmed 17/03/22

Deborah talks about allowing the shape itself to direct the movement. After recording this practice I noticed that my sense of time had really sped up. My movement was more dominant in the upper body, more gestural. I had less sense of the whole body being in shape. Looking back I notice the regular timing of moving from shape to shape. Metronomic. To disrupt this continuous flow, I worked with using pauses to stay in shape as a primary focus of my material. The ‘composition’ below is one of these practices which I’ve called shape haikus

Shape Haiku: Filmed 17th March 2022
I’m particularly drawn by the way my material appears to compose with time, using the bells as markers of the space/time.

Emotion Practices

I found this very challenging because we did a lot of work with facial expression and I never want to go here. But I told myself to stay with it. I also notice how hard it is to share videos of these practices, because they are not art works in themselves. This is the work before the art-making so to speak. I share this out of a need/ commitment to share my practice research openly and to invite the viewer/reader into this process.

Emotion Practice: Filmed 24th March 2022
The focus is to stay with/ tap into the neural tone of the moment. To be fully present. And to invite the viewer to be there with me. I notice how easy it is to drift into narrative and story making, though this is not my interest of focus. On watching back, I notice how detached I am from the space and decide to film another practice that I call emotion/space.
Emotion/Space: Filmed 24th March 2020
I actively engage with the space, placing myself on the side of the frame to displace my dominance, embedding myself as participant, co-creator with space and emotion.

Related to this, I filmed this practice earlier in February 2022. It involves working with ‘lizard brain’ movement, allowing an impulse to emerge from the body. I composed the practice by allowing this unconscious movement to throw the body into a pose and then slowly dissolve. It’s a long and silent practice, informed by, but a slight divergence from Overlie’s work. I find it useful to return to this when I’m stuck in my continuous/ habitual flow.

Lizard Brain Movement: Filmed 10th February 2022
When I showed a version of this practice to a colleague, they reminded me that it might be quite disturbing for people to watch. It has a similar feel to a seizure/ fit. This hadn’t occurred to me, but on thinking it through, it would make sense, since I am essentially allowing a sudden surge of movement to arise, impulsive movement that is suppressed under normal/ social conditions. There’s something here about presenting material that feels raw and how difficult this is. I’d rather perform steps that I know and have rehearsed… this feels more exposed…

Movement Practices

The bulk of the practices in ‘Movement’ focused on using the ‘lizard brain’ exercise above. Deborah encouraged us to move from sensation and move to create sensation, to allow movement to arise. We began focusing on the sensation and tapping into what Mary called ‘kinetic logic’. I find this a very interesting idea, because it comes out of the organisation of movement around the organisation of the body. When I returned to this practice in March 2022, I had just been following a lab with Rosalind Crisp who was also talking about the ’emergent structure’ of movement, its own internal logic. The practice filmed below came out of a combination of the ‘lizard brain’ exercise and a following through, noticing and internal shaping influenced by Crisp.

MovementTimeSpace Practice filmed 31/03/2022
Following from Rosalind Crisp’s lab and Deborah Black’s ‘Movement Practices’ my concern in this improv is to allow space to be more present even though my focus is on moving from and moving to generate sensation. Time is interrupted/ distorted through sudden eruptions and long stillnesses… although it could go further….

Amy Voris

Forming, Returning and Deepening: Dance-making with the processual qualities of Authentic Movement

April – September 2021

how does 
feed back 
into it

 - Amy Voris (Returning Score, Voris, 2019)

Amy Voris’ practice engages with the methodology of Authentic Movement (through the mover-witness dyad) as a choreographic framework (Voris, 2019). Through a series of online conversations and practices, Amy shared her process that involved the practices of Opening, Harvesting, Returning and Deepening as a means of generating choreographic material from a holistic approach. We spent the time discussing her scores and working through the dyad format to begin to delve into my movement palette. Working alone, I used Amy’s scores as a prompt for my own practice. The video included below demonstrates my performance of Amy’s ‘Returning score’, which might be seen as an example/ demonstration of process, rather than a work in itself.

Amy Voris’ Returning Score – performance/practice September 2021

Rosalind Crisp: Choreographic Improvisation

November 2020- March 2021