The excitement of not knowing: Elise on RLP Presents

RealLivePeople 5-9-15-406Performing in RealLivePeople Presents was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed sharing the space with such talented and fierce artists. Just watching what the other performers brought to the table was thrilling. Each piece had a strong and clear approach, whether it was about the exhaustion of explaining your move to the city or taking the spotlight from someone. I was inspired by the way the artists took their ideas and put them into movement, like Molly and Marlee smothering each other while asking the typical questions about their big move to New York or Sara removing Gina from the space so she could perform bigger than her. I was so inspired, it made me want to start investigating my ideas and create a piece of my own.

And that was just my experience from watching the other pieces! Performing in a piece with RealLivePeople was a different type of  opportunity to investigate myself as a dancer. I performed in Gina’s listening piece 3 times, a piece where the audience is invited to write down their interpretation, which we then use as an influence for the second and third time we perform it. Performing in this piece was totally out of my performance comfort zone, but I loved it. The excitement of not knowing what the intention of the 2nd and 3rd repetition would be was so fun. I have never performed in a piece that involved the audience so directly. I learned how different perspectives can influence movement, like having to scale my movement from little to big to follow the audience’s idea of the growth from childhood to adulthood.

As a dancer I get stuck in developing movement with the sole purpose of looking good versus movement that is created from a real feeling or intention, like RealLivePeople 5-9-15-204making the choice to do an inversion because that’s my way of not listening to someone rather than doing it to show everyone that I can do this cool upside down move. Performing with RealLivePeople was a fun and exciting learning experience; I am thrilled to continue to grow as a dancer.

Would I lie to you? Definitely.

LBrowningPhotography10

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

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.

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…

Exciting new video!

We were lucky enough to perform as part of the Arden Theatre’s First Friday series this past October and when we got the footage (shot by the talented Jorge Cousineau) we knew we had to share it. Hope you enjoy it and feel free to tell us what you think!

Rehearsal Update: The Jobs Project

By Gina Hoch-Stall, Choreographer

Rehearsing can be such a private experience. It is possible to get together at a set time and location, warm-up and make dances without ever connecting to the outside world and I don’t like it. I would rather have interaction with the people we hope will be coming to our shows and watching the work down-the-line; almost like dance company market-research.

With that in mind we’ve been having open rehearsals for our new evening-length work, “The Jobs Project” and we’ve gotten some excellent feedback–and movement ideas. We’ve also made some brand new material that I’d like to share with those of you who couldn’t stop by and see it in person.

Disclaimer: Molly and David will want me to tell you that this is REHEARSAL FOOTAGE which means that it is a work-in-progress and not all clean, polished and sparkly yet.

“The Third Shift” Preview

We are excited to have been offered an opportunity to perform “The Third Shift” again at the Arden Theatre as part of their First Friday Performance Series. If it was difficult for you to make it out to Kensington for our Philadlephia Fringe performance in early September we hope you can join us this Friday (details below).

To get you pumped about the piece we’ve also created a short preview from some footage shot of the warehouse version. Remember that we were dancing in and around paintings, sculptures and installations created by 25 artists and it was pretty hard to keep us all in the frame so I apologize for the few shaky camera moments.

Performance Information:

Arden Theatre: 40 N. 2nd, Old City Philadelphia

Performing on Friday October 5th at 6:30pm, 7:00pm and 7:30pm

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.