Megan Quinn: From dramaturg to dancer

megphotoLast year, when Gina and RealLivePeople made The Jobs Project. I served as the dramaturg (the role Jenna now plays). This year, I am performing in Would I Lie to You? Creative adviser versus performer: there are some obvious differences between these two roles. As a dramaturg, I attended rehearsals sitting down with my notebook. I took notes, made observations, and served as a sounding board for Gina. As a dancer, I attend rehearsals to rehearse. I learn and practice material, engaging in the physicality of lying. There are obvious constants as well: same dance company, still run by Gina and still in a dance studio, most often the Latvian society. But the way I enter and experience rehearsals is very different.

When I was a dramaturg I saw my role as keeping an eye on the overall structure and consistency of the piece. I made connections between various sections, I noticed how details applied to the theme (the many faces of jobs) and I helped Gina plan the arc of the piece from beginning to end. This year, as a performer, I am focused on the details and my contribution to the work. I am constantly asking myself how I am able to support the theme of lying, through movement and personal narrative. The difference is a bit like moving from seeing the forest to focusing on the trees. As a dramaturg, I worked hard on observing the information and physicality presented by the dancers. It was important to relate to the work, so that I had valuable insights. But the focus was on seeing others. As a dancer, I need to put myself in the work. The focus is on what I can contribute, physically and creatively.

Gina does ask her dancers to be mentally and creatively involved and so in that way, there is not a solid line between performer and creative contributor. In both roles, I need to find and use the best way for my strengths to be present and useful. But as a dramaturg, I used strength of observing, connecting and articulating, and as a dancer I now am trying to use the strength of being open to share and create, applying both my personality and dance technique to the work.

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Would I lie to you? Definitely.

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Photo: Lindsay Browning

Would I lie to you?, like previous work by RealLivePeople, is an exploration of our sense of identity and common humanity. But this time it’s all about lying: who we lie to, when do we lie most often and how we feel about it?

Rather than asking these personal questions to strangers we’ve stayed a bit closer to home: each of the dancers started the process vigilantly (and not so vigilantly) tracking his or her lies and reporting them back to the group. From there I conducted an interview with each dancer about their lying habits – the text from these interviews will form a large portion of the sound score for the piece.

What we’ve learned so far is surprising (and also not): pretty much everyone lies all the time but we feel really differently about it. Some dancers believe that their lives would be better if they never lied while others believe that lying is a necessary part of many of their relationships and interactions – it keeps thing cordial. Along with the moral pondering there are also discussions about cheating, familial patterning, text/email deceit, chronic exaggeration and long term self delusion. It’s kind of juicy.

Oh, and there’s dancing:

lie rehearsal video screenshot