Atypical Day

By Sara Nye, Dancer

There is a piece of the Jobs Project that, in rehearsal, we call the Typical Day section. It is an amalgamation of many different interviewees describing snatches of their ‘typical day.’ Thus far we have approached this section choreographically by creating a tight improv structure that governs our movement choices and involves the handful of us taking turns and moving only when a new person in the sound score speaks. We are slowly becoming accustomed to hearing various interviewees talk about what a typical day in their work life entails. We are learning not only what they say but how they say it and matching our movement to their vocal inflections. We try to anticipate when the score will shift to a new speaker. I find this task very satisfying, as it organizes the dancers in a clear way and I love following patterns in dance, both as a watcher and practitioner.

I have begun thinking more about how this section relates to my working life because, in a recent rehearsal, Gina asked us to incorporate movement grounded in tasks from our own jobs. I struggled to find something ‘typical’ because each of my work days is different from the others. This fact will not ultimately matter for the execution of this task: I can choose any work task from any of my jobs and it will work in the context of the piece, but that initial struggle opened up a line of thought that would not stop pestering me. Surely no one has two work days that are exactly the same? There are similarities, but no one does the exact same thing every day. Then I thought, let me think outside the workplace – is there any one thing that I have done every single day for, say, a year?

Bike. No, not when I’m travelling, or when my bike is in the shop. Check my email. No, thank God. Talk to my husband. No, I think there have been small trips we’ve taken apart where we didn’t talk every day. Leave my apartment. No, there have been days where I’ve stayed home. More basic. Eat. Yes – here we go. I have eaten something every day. Walk. Yes, I have walked around my home, at the very least. Breathe, smell, see, sleep. Yes, I am lucky enough to have done all of these things every day. But if I dial back my personal history further, even some of these go away. When I was a baby, I did not walk. When I was in college, there were days I did not sleep.

My journey down this rabbit hole of technicality is mostly an interesting thought experiment I created for my own enjoyment, but it helped me see the Typical Day section, and also my own work days, in a new light. Because compared to what I just learned about myself, most of my days are actually atypical, no matter how typical they seem. Every day is unique. Kind of a refreshing thought.

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Meet Molly! She is ready to teleport.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

Molly fish face

Photo Credit Lindsay Browning

Interviewer: David Konyk

Interviewee: Molly Jackson

1. Do you feel any connection to the Jackson 5?

I don’t know if it is the last name connection, the initials connection (MJ ❤ MJ), or the sweet dance moves connection, but yes….yes I do. One of the first CD’s that I became obsessed with as a young kid was “Kid Rock”. It featured classic hits such as “Rockin’ Robin”, “Who Put The Bop in the Bop Shoo Bop”, “Chantilly Lace”, “Red Rubber Ball” and or course “ABC” by the Jackson 5. I listened to this album until it was so worn in that it would barely play anymore. To this day, every time I hear the Jackson 5, I feel like I’m 5 years old again. ABC, easy as 123! These songs completely formed me into the young lady I grew up to be. A 60’s baby at heart.

2. Without thinking about it, what is the first song to pop into your head right now?

Well, I’m listening to music right now, so I’m not sure that I can answer this question honestly. I had a gig dancing at Sister’s Nightclub last night, so I suppose my brain is on pop song overload right now. I’m cleansing myself with some Velvet Underground radio of Spotify. It is an absolutely amazing station…you should give it a try.

3. Was the answer to question 2 by the Jackson 5?

Now that you mention it, I think I’m sensing an awkward and slightly terrible mix of “ABC” and my current song “Waving Flags” by British Sea Power, happening in my head right now. I hope the rest of these questions aren’t about the Jackson 5, because I’d like to forget about this terrible mix of songs and focus on cleansing my mind of the pop song overload called Sister’s Nightclub.

4. Do you make your bed in the morning?

I’m still sitting in bed right now, actually. I don’t plan on getting out of it anytime soon. I got home from work at 2:30 am and it’s 10:30 right now, so I see going back to sleep for a little while in my foreseeable future. However, on days when I am not still sitting in my bed, yes, I am an avid bed maker. I have trained myself (and my boyfriend, Ryan, for that matter) to not leave the house in the morning without making the bed. It makes me feel calmer. Ryan and I share a moderately small room in a house with 4 other roommates, so it can easily get cluttered and crazy with all of our stuff occupying a small area. Walking into a wild room and seeing an organized bed helps me not feel like I’m going insane.

5. Do you get nervous before going on stage, (performing)? If yes, what things do you do to reassure yourself?

It depends on what I am going on stage to perform. If I feel confident and comfortable with the movement and setting, I would say that I’m less nervous and more so focused and excited. If I am feeling a little uneasy and unsure that I’ve had enough rehearsal, I visualize what I am about to do and steady my breath. I find that if I can see the movement in my mind, then it is a good indication of knowing it in my body. If I am feeling confident about the performance, I shake out my nerves, try to get myself in an excited and positive place, and then focus on coming to a calm state of mind and relaxing my body so that my energy is focused into the ground and not up in my shoulders or in an unstable place.

6. If you had to give up, (lose), one of your five senses completely, (sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling), which do you think you could live without?

This is a scary question. I’ve thought about it before, and it makes me so sad to think of life without all of these senses.

I am an incredibly visual person. I can’t imagine living without color, texture, visual art, being able to see human emotion and movement.

Hearing is a lifeline for me. Without it, music would cease to exist in my life. Hearing a song and allowing my body to soak it in and respond to all the layers and textures of the beats and vocals. Yes, I”d also miss hearing voices and sounds in the world….but music is what I don’t know if I could live without.

Feeling I also don’t think I could give up. I tend to get anxious if I go for a while without feeling human to human contact. Really feeling and responding to a hug, holding someone’s hand, or feeling a hand rub my head or back. And a life without getting the full enjoyment out of sex….don’t get me started.

Smell. Hmm….living in the city, sometimes I wish that I didn’t have the sense of smell. Is it true that if you lose the sense of smell, you also lose the sense of taste? I think it comes down to either smell or taste. I have always said that although I appreciate and fully enjoy and LOVE tasting a delicious milkshake or bowl of mac n’ cheese, I am a very texture based person when I’m eating or drinking something. If something tastes good but has a creepy texture, I can’t eat it. And vise versa, if something is bland or sort of foul, I’ll eat it if it feels interesting in my mouth. So, as long as I could still feel food, then maybe life wouldn’t be absolutely terrible….and maybe I wouldn’t want to have that 8th serving of cake.

7. If you could have one special ability, what would it be?

One special ability. Of course my go-to answer is the ability to fly. It would be amazing to soar in the sky and feel completely weightless. However, I think that it would still be hard to get to places long distances away….and would I be able to carry any bags with me? Questions questions. Probably not. I would like the able to teleport and have the ability to teleport anyone who I was touching. I want to travel to every inch of the world, but it’s hard to do things like that living on the salary of a barista/dancer and when your schedule is full of rehearsals, gigs and work. If I wanted to grab lunch, I could teleport to a cafe in the South of France. If I had a day off and was sick of gloomy weather, I could suddenly be lounging on a beach in Brazil with a few friends. Or if I simply missed my family, I could zip to Boston and take a yoga class with my mom and dad.

Meet Hedy! She is probably wearing black underwear.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

hedy growling

Interviewer: Adams Berzins

Interviewee: Hedy Wyland

1. If you could change someone else’s life, who would it be and how would you change it?

I wouldn’t necessarily change anyone’s life because its not my place but I would have made my moms life easier as a single mom with three kids.

2. What is your favorite color underwear?

Black, because I’m really pale and I like the way they contrast my skin tone. On someone else: any color, I like to see people in their undies.

3. What would you do, if you couldn’t dance anymore?

If I couldn’t dance anymore that would mean that I was really old or lost my legs so I would probably become a talk show host. The show would be called, “Hed from the bed” and I would broadcast from my bedroom. Guest would have breakfast with me in bed and we would discuss inappropriate topics.

4. Why do you hate cilantro?

You know it’s funny, if you had asked me this question five years ago I would have said that it tasted like dish soap. Recently I have been eating it in soups or dips and I’m slowly becoming a cilantro fan…sort of.

5.  What 3 people, alive or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

At this moment I would have to say my grandma Peggy, Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger

6. What’s so great about Pittsburgh, anyway?

Pittsburgh is so great because its where I’m from and where my family lives still. People are super friendly and humble. We have the best football team in the U.S and we make a mean sandwich.

From real time to real world, setting improvised material

By Gina Hoch-Stall, Choreographer

For those of you who do not read and memorize every word on this blog, let me bring you up to speed. My dance company, RealLivePeople(in)Motion, is currently in rehearsals for two upcoming shows: the first is a collaboration with Tongue and Groove Spontaneous Theater that will be entirely improvised, the second is a brand new piece exploring jobs, identity and what it means to go to work–the choreography in this piece will be set.

Photo by Craig Harris, Dancers Gina Hoch-Stall and Adams Berzins

Photo by Craig Harris, Dancers Gina Hoch-Stall and Adams Berzins

I love working in these two mediums: real-time versus set choreography. The juxtaposition allows me to see the strengths in each. I relish the immediacy, surprise and serendipity that come from doing all improvised work; however I also love the clarity of movement and concept that come from setting a piece and rehearsing it to perfection. Luckily I have dancers who can do both. In fact we build a lot of our movement through structured improvisatory exercises.

Back in October when we were first starting our work on ‘The Jobs Project’ we were in pure try-anything-to-see-if-it-works mode. Any movement idea we could think of we played out: we matched snatches of choreography with text and tried a lot of very silly and overly literal ideas. Most of these things were not ‘set material’ but rather improvisatory structures, built quickly to see what did and did not work.

Returning to the process after a brief winter holiday we began to take stock of what we had made. We had two rehearsals to run through all of the material with the fresh eyes of our dramaturg, composer and artist. They were enthusiastic and hopeful but I found myself getting more and more frustrated.

While I love watching (and participating) in the improvised creations in our rehearsals for PIFA, I was no longer interested in watching bare bones outlines of ‘sections that will be’ in our Jobs Project rehearsals. I was ready to flesh them out and see if they had enough substance to stand up to the editing process. So that’s what we’ve been doing.

In the past month we’ve taken three sections from gestation to birth and now we are figuring out what they’ll become when they grow up. The process is challenging for the dancers and myself. While we each have different levels of comfort in improvisation I think we all enjoy the freedom to make mistakes without being held accountable. Once material is set and codified that freedom no longer exists. There is now a right answer, a specific relationship and a clear tone–not that everything won’t change a million times over, but in the moment, the most recent version is final.

I have been told that I am bit of a control-freak (I prefer ‘pragmatic leader’) but whatever you call it, I love the feeling of completing almost as much as I love the creating. And no matter how exciting it is to improvise, I am not sure that I will ever completely abandon set work. I love the ability to build a piece one idea at a time and to be able to return to completed sections knowing that they will exist in roughly the same form that we left them, living in the bodies of the dancers (and often on camera). Perhaps it is the extremes that I enjoy, I don’t know. But right now I am quite excited to be doing both.

If you want to see examples of both types of work in motion, check out our video of “The Third Shift” at the Arden Theater. The first half of the video is all structured improvisation while the second half (duet with Sara and I) is completely set. See which you prefer…