Reflections on “The Third Shift”

By Sara Nye, Dancer

Photo: Real Live People(in)Motion performance.

Looking back on our first performance of “The Third Shift” as part of the Make it. Break it. Rebuild it. Philly Fringe series this past Saturday, I can’t help but wonder in how many professions one is expected to create something and then destroy it, or forget about it, or make it different, or save it for later.

As a dance-maker, and in many other creative pursuits – theater, music, writing – that kind of thing happens all the time during the creation process. The first thing you make is not necessarily the best thing for that particular moment. Revision often makes the best work. However, much of the work we explored in “The Third Shift” was work that took place in factories. Physical tasks that people would commit to for their shift, at the end of which would be a product that would then go out into the world, a whole thing, a built object. Why then approach this kind of work during a performance series with the theme of rebuilding, of change?

When we learned that the venue was formerly Pieri Creations, a lamp designer at Front and Oxford Streets, Gina was interested in what else the factory had housed. We knew it would eventually be turned into apartments, but what did it used to be? The answer? A glue manufacturer, dye manufacturer, hosiery mill, and wool mill. And for a short time, it will be a performance venue and art gallery. We started to think about ways to represent how people had rebuilt this warehouse space over the years.

In “The Third Shift” we are always changing our definition of work. At times we are helpful to each other, fully supporting each others’ weight in order to traverse the space as a group. At other points we move together but separately, each taking responsibility for his or her own body and how it moves through space, unencumbered, unassisted. There is even a section where three dancers walk forward at an unrelenting pace, challenging a fourth dancer to keep the bodies at bay. In doing so, we imagine the lives of the people who have worked in the space, people who did some heavy lifting, got lost in repetitive specific individual tasks, were tired by goals that challenged the amount of work they could complete in one hour, in one day. We try to look like many people at once. Though we are indeed dancers, and must therefore look like people who are dancing, we want to pay homage to the history of workers who passed through these doors and be honest with what we would look like doing physical work, without too much flourish or embellishment.

In the new duet that Gina and I made we attempt to mechanize ourselves in an effort to access a memory of the pulsing, churning, machinery that used to live in this old factory. This was not often an easy task, for we didn’t want to look too hard or alien, our faces blank and cold. We merely wanted to look less like humans using machinery and more like the machines themselves, things with a clear purpose that communicate in a different way than humans do. We asked ourselves what a bottle filler looked like, a dyer, a hosiery weaver, a wool stretcher. As the duet progresses, we become more and more human as we create a machine of our own that combines all of these processes. In doing so, we ultimately make something that makes our jobs obsolete, and we bow out, leaving the building to be whatever it will be next.

My hope is that by physicalizing jobs that have disappeared from this building in particular and the Kensington neighborhood in general, we will help create a memory that will linger in the space, no matter what kind of condos fill it it in the future.

We have one more FREE performance of “The Third Shift” on Saturday 9/15 at 7:00pm. For directions and more information click here.

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“The Third Shift” Update

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First performance this past Saturday went even better than expected. The space was as huge as I remembered but this time it was filled with wonderful art for us to dance through and an audience who thoughtfully gave us their full attention.

A quick picture to whet your appetite:

Gina (left) and Sara performing their new duet in “The Third Shift”

Remember the show is FREE FREE FREE and we are next performing on Saturday 9/15 at 7pm at Pieri Creations, a warehouse at Oxford and Front.

Summer Inspiration #2: Joe Goode Performance Group

This summer took me (Gina Hoch-Stall, choreographer) all across the country for dance conferences, workshops and performances. Here are a few of the things that most inspired me.

Joe Goode Performance Group: Also while in San Francisco at the Dance/USA Conference I was lucky enough to see a dance company that I have been hearing about for years: Joe Goode Performance Group.

“You use text? Have you seen Joe Goode?”

“You do interviews? Have you seen Joe Goode?”

I felt like it was definitely time to see what this modern dance innovator has been doing on the West Coast for so many years. I booked my ticket, ran from my twenty-minute-late bus and sat down just in time to watch one of the most gripping, evolving, enlightening dance performances I have ever seen. Original set design, multimedia, use of text, original music–composed and designed–but none of that mattered compared to the content: stories of people falling apart.

I giggled, I teared up, I was ready to jump on stage and join the performers and, best of all, I remembered that modern dance can be a truly remarkable experience.

Click the picture above for more information about Joe Goode Performance Group.

“The Third Shift” or “How we made a dance in 16 hours”

By Gina Hoch-Stall, choreographer

“The Third Shift” is a brand spanking new piece by RLPiM for a FREE Philadelphia Fringe Festival performance in a raw warehouse space in Kensington. The performance is called “Make it. Break it. Rebuild it.” and it focuses on the process of creation, demolition and reconstruction in all of its forms.

There are a lot of art makers involved (over 20) and the majority are material-based artists but seven of us are choreographers/dancers and each performance will showcase three of our site specific pieces.

If you think this sounds intriguing, so did I when I was approached about participating in mid-July. Since I was out of town at the time (down in D.C. doing the Dance Exchange Intensive) we essentially had one month to make a brand new dance that would:

a) Fit the theme of the show.

b) Be appropriate for a raw warehouse space with a hard concrete floor, minimum lighting and an audience that could get up and go to the bar at any time.

c) Represent our own choreographic explorations (currently centered on jobs/work).

d) Not look like a hot mess.

Did I mention that of the four dancers involved (myself included) two were going on vacation/work related travel for most of the month? Whew!

But the good news is that we have done it! We have made an athletic quartet that focuses on the warehouse as a place of work (glue, wool, stockings, lamps and dye have all been made in this space in the past 200 years). Interviews and stories from the book, “Voices of Kensington” Vanishing Mills, Vanishing Neighborhoods,” by Jean Seder have inspired our movement creation: incorporating heavy lifting, gestures honed by the precision of repetition and echoes of workers who once used the space to feed their families and fill their days.

We are excited to share what we’ve created and get some helpful feedback as we plan to incorporate some of this material into our ‘Jobs Project’ moving forward. All the details about the show are below, hope to see you there!

“The Third Shift” part of Make it. Break it. Rebuild it.

Where: Pieri Creations, Oxford and Front Street

When: Saturday Sept 8 @ 6:30pm AND Saturday Sept 15 @ 7pm

How much: FREE!

 

Why jobs?

By Gina Hoch-Stall, choreographer

In the past few weeks I have often been asked why jobs and work are the inspiration for the company’s newest evening length dance. Here is my answer:

Because I believe that we often define people by their work. We categorize, label, stereotype and organize them in this way. We have all been victims and perpetrators of this type of sorting and I wanted to know, is it true? Does your work say something about who you are?

I am also curious about what different types of work sound like, look like; how people feel about what they do and what it means to them. This project is one way to learn about the human experience and it is something that I, never having had a ‘proper job’ with a salary and benefits, am not sure that I completely understand. It is also incredibly timely as ideas about work and jobs are currently changing dramatically.

I am choosing to make a dance because I love making dances; I love working with my dancers and performing. But I also think dance is a great medium for fully embodying what work looks like, showing passion/drive or casual precision. It is helpful for perceiving process and problem-solving and for tackling issues from multiple sides: telling a story, asking a question, and digging into all of the physical stuff in between.

However, I don’t want to overlook the reality that many people do not consider dancing or creating dances a job. Not because we do not work hard but because we are paid poorly or not at all.  We have no benefits, no retirement, no stability—and almost all of us have to retain other jobs to support our dance life. It is possible that this particular reality of a dancer’s life gives me a skewed perspective on the working world but I have also found that people’s reactions to my career and employment say a lot about what they believe work is about: passion, money, relationships, boredom. I am still figuring out how to incorporate my own experiences, as well as the dancers’, into the work but I’m sure I will find a way.

Summer Inspiration #1: Simon Sinek

This summer took me (Gina Hoch-Stall, choreographer) all across the country for dance conferences, workshops and performances. Here are a few of the things that most inspired me.

Simon Sinek: The keynote speaker at the Dance/USA conference in San Francisco was eloquent and witty but also and honest and direct. He helped get all of the attendees thinking about WHY we do the work that we do and HOW do we get other people excited about it. Click the photo for a link to one of his popular TED Talks.

A quick introduction to ‘The Jobs Project’

By Gina Hoch-Stall, choreographer

I don’t feel like I have ever had a ‘real job.’ I worked in an office once in high school; but my jobs since have been far from stationary, generally hourly and have not included healthcare or a 401k. I have chosen the topic of jobs as the inspiration for the company’s new work because I am interested in finding new answers to these questions:

-What is a job?

-What does it look like?

-How does a person’s work affect his or her identity?

Rather than making a piece of art that focuses solely on my experiences I wanted to gather stories and information from other working Philadelphians. In seeking out these workers I attempted to find a range in age, gender, education, and type of work. I met my interviewees through my dancers, through my own work as a fitness instructor and sometimes on the street. So far I have conducted 20 interviews and counting. The dancers and I have also traveled to the workplaces of a few of our interviewees to capture their physical work on video for movement inspiration.

Ilan Isakov, the composer and sound designer for this project, and I have now been transcribing these interviews and mining them for ideas and inspiration. Beginning in September the dancers and I will come together in the studio to start playing with the data from the interviews and the video footage, exploring the answers to those three questions through phrase-work, gestures and partnering.

In the coming months we will be opening our rehearsals to the interviewees as well as the general public. We are inviting you to come and see what our ‘work’ looks and feels like: all rehearsals offer opportunities for participation. If all goes as planned we may even be bringing some of the Philadelphia workers we’ve interviewed onto the stage with us next May when we will premier the work at the Latvian Society of Philadlephia.

In the meantime we are listening, writing, moving, trying and failing. Working, in our own way, to suss out what is interesting and necessary to address about jobs, work and our individual identities.

We’ll keep you posted right here.