The second exercise of the series
With this group of people I wanted to explore two levels of notation. In order to do this, I distributed the notation of a routine, and asked the performers to act it out without any guidance. I then distributed the keys of movement to them, and asked them to perform the routine again using this guide. This in turn means that I have two versions of the same performance.
The group took the task very seriously, as in, they did not hesitate and were hands on right from the very beginning. They were completely unafraid to challenge their bodies in order to recreate the shapes I had drawn, being unafraid despite the strong sense of doubt that surrounded all the movement. This doubt just did not seem present at all - no embarrassment, no registering of the fact that their moves may not be matching what I had envisioned.
The movements made by all the group members are strong and sharp, clearly defined. Decisions were made by each person and they were committed to, the moves did not evolve or wither into something else as the process continued.
Throughout, the group made close reference to notation throughout the construction of the routine as well as the recording of the routine. This is visible in the videos. Although the participants are very confident and decisive in their own movements, they stay true to my guide, they don’t try to stray from it as they begin to establish a routine themselves. This reassured me that a relationship is developing between me and them - they stay reliant on my influence, they do not begin to ignore my role as they gain confidence. I believe that this close contact with the sheet of notation enabled an accuracy - an accuracy which combined my thoughts and their thoughts.
There is therefore a strong connection between the notation and the movements that they have responded with - even if these movements are not what I envisioned myself.
All the individuals have an awareness of each other, even whilst completing very separate movements. They respect each others space and restrictions. They do whatever they can to ensure that their movements facilitate the movements of the rest of the group.
The group did not view it as one flowing thing which makes sense to me now. I now realise that if I want the movements to flow naturally then i need to make this clear somehow.
I would say that none of the individuals found any of the notation too difficult to place into movement. If anything, they really expanded the notation, they saw the potential in it and they gave it a prominent and clarified form.
The process is so essential, and this is why I recorded them working it out, working their way through this exercise. Although I would never exhibit these recordings, they are essential in understanding how the work became what it exists as now. You get an insight into HOW they came to the conclusions that they did, who contributed what, and how the 3 individuals found a midpoint between 3 suggestions - how they dealt with reaching a compromise.
There seems to be no leader, no one directing or dictating the routines. A leader is perhaps not necessary because of the constant presence of the paper, a visual aid. This stimulus is powerful enough to act as the leader of the group.
The group also articulate a careful balance of the pairs. Although at various points two people move together and afterwards (or before) one person moves alone, the movements are allocated so that no exclusion seems apparent. Each movement seems to hold as much weight, as much gravity and consequence as the others, even if less people are involved. Movements articulated by one body bears as much significance as movements articulated by three bodies.
I was concerned that the activity may not be exactly understood, but i was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the group accepted the task and begun its execution. There was very little, if any, hesitation, very little questioning as to why they needed to do what they were doing. It was nice to have a group so trusting and accepting of the workshop I had set up.
and they very much took the task into their own hands
I don’t have any complaints about how the activity was carried out because what I wanted, and have wanted for a while, is to witness individual interpretation of my choreography.
I want to restrict the participants as little as possible - I CANNOT restrict them if i want to witness genuine, undisrupted translation.
Consequently, I cannot criticise the actions of the participants, I can only criticise the way i directed them. And I can only compare and contrast their approach to the approach of performers i will be working with in the future.
My approach was a very brief explanation and then telling them to begin. I gave them as long as they needed to organise themselves and construct the routine. And i thought that was enough : discussion wasn’t prohibited but it wasn’t actively encouraged. If any questions were asked I would have happily answered them but I wanted the influence of myself to be very limited. The only limitation I wanted to be brought was the notation.
I think at this point however it is important for me to question - should I have not involved myself at all? Should I not have been present for the actual filming, as that initiated my involvement if in just a minor way ?
These three had the same exercise presented to them as I did to Jae, Chen and Lina.
I felt that it was important to repeat the activity so that we could make a solid and comprehensible comparison between the effects of the notation on two different groups of people. To allow us to see how the language may form, infiltrate itself, when placed in the hands of a new group of individuals.
This group were vastly energetic in first activity. They seemed to be very unafraid, actually excited by the prospect of having no guidance whatsoever. This energy, although still present, was vastly reduced in the second exercise - you could see clearly the effects of the implementation of a guideline. So really the routine was a lot more interesting, or at least, a lot more energetic when the it was surrounded with a lot more doubt
But I do believe that the incorporation of guidelines have different effects on different people. For example, more guidelines may give some people more confidence as they feel more assured about what they are doing.
This group just happened to enjoy embracing the creative side of constructing a routine, they had a vast amount ideas of their own. They seemed to have so many ideas that a visual prompt limited them considerably. This makes they would probably have been really good at the first activity!
“Confusing. Bit of a conflict in interpretation. Between each of the three of us. Everyone read it differently so there was compromise”
Having dealt only with movement of individuals before, this is a considerable and very significant change. In these activities I am having to deal with a compromise of intentions having to exist, because no two people can have the same vision. This complicates the process and slows in down considerably, because in addition to the time needed to come up with ideas, the time needed to reach a compromise of these ideas needs to be accounted for.
Within this group activity, there were definitely two strong leaders and one passive member of the group. This contrasted greatly to the evident stable balance of power present within the previous group. I do not mean by this that there were participants of higher importance - each participant, and the way that each participant acts, is integral to the final system. If any person had acted differently then the routines would not exist as they did at the end. There seemed to be almost a power struggle between two of the individuals. This did not end up causing a problem, delaying productivity at all. For me, it was just good to see participants actually feeling strongly about how they think the routine should be completed.
So the most important things to note here are the significant differences in outcomes - firstly across exercises and secondly across the groups of people. For the first group (Jae, Lina and Chen) the differences between the first and the second routine were not that extreme - they approached it with similar techniques, the same amount of energy, and some of the movements in the second were very similar to the movements in the first . The second group exemplified how the implementation of a guide can completely shift attitudes towards an activity - their energy was reduced, their movements more constrained, a self-consciousness became apparent.
Across the groups, the scope of interpretation was immense.The highly specific, exact and decisive ways that each individual responds to the notation feels so correct and purposeful, until it is directly compared to another person’s interpretation. Each interpretation feels right, yet each one is so far from the last. Interpretations have become so much richer for me whilst working with groups, because the responses I am given are a combination of a multitude of ideas, they are packed full of way more information than a response from just one individual.