Project #7

This project was created in collaboration with a local dance company.  This was the first project I worked on with a collective group of dancers on the professional level.  The six participants have danced professionally throughout the tri-state, nationally, and internationally.  The majority of the participants went to school for dance from a very young age.  One of the dancers started their training as an adult, one trained abroad, and a couple of them succeeded in national titles in their adolescence.  The dancers had seen recent final projects on film from the study but were not aware of the process of crafting both the paintings and choreography.  They arrived open-minded to the first rehearsal, prepared to explore and collaborate creatively.    

Materials for the paintings included: 

I explained to the participants that my assistant and I would demonstrate the ribbon poor method used in painting. They had the option to paint their canvas individually or intersect their paint on one another’s canvas as this was a collaborative project. The dancers decided they wanted their paint to spill onto the other's canvas. They chose their colors, and the paints were poured in cups with a dirty pour method.  This is when paint colors are poured right into the cup, not worrying about layering the colors. Each participant filled two cups with four to five colors and then simultaneously began the painting process on their canvas. They were all wearing white and were not given any specific directions on how to paint their clothing, only that they could use their clothing to clean their hands and feet.  This clothing would end up being the costume for the performance. I stressed that this was a collaborative project, and it was important that their voice and choice were heard and shared and that their opinion mattered.

Once the participants started on their own, there was no holds bar. It became a time for experimentation, a time for play, A time where no rules or structure almost existed. It was as if the directions went out the window, and their creative intuition took over.  They started to paint each other, sitting in the paint that was poured off the canvases as they became canvas themselves.  

After the dancers were satisfied with their paintings and the permeant visual artwork was complete, they cleaned up and started exploring the movement tasks. 


Paint on Canvas

The participants were asked to embody the act of pouring the paint on canvas.  Not much direction was given as these dancers had a lot of experience with improvisation.  Their movement quality was varied and dynamic.  It was truly an inspiration to watch the dancers embracing this first task.


Manipulation of Paint

This task was meant to prompt traveling as the paint flowed from side to side and up and down on the canvas.  The participants were told this was a full-body task, not confined to a specific body part.  They could start at their head and start to travel to different parts of their body or focus on one part of the body if they wished.  The prompt was open-ended.


Painting Cells

The participants were asked to recall when the cells came out in their paintings. They were asked to embody the action of the cells (formed from silicone oil in the paint) popping through the other colors.  Watching the dancers, I could have let this improvisation go on forever.  The dancers were completely immersed in the moment of their movement; to me, this movement was breathtaking.

June 2022

Color Sticks

I brought the tongue depressors back again.  I ran around the room with a mason jar and had everyone pull a stick (tongue depressor) out with a color painted at the bottom.  The dancers were asked to locate the first spot in their painting with that color that calls them.  Then I ran around with another jar of sticks with a body part written on the bottom.  The task was for each individual to map their painting, depending on the color they chose, and guide the movement with the focus of a specific body part.  Everyone’s paintings were dry today, and they were propped upright.  I also asked each participant to pull out their phones to record themselves so they could individually watch their improvisational response in capturing the movement material generated.  After the first movement exploration, I had the dancers set the 30-second phrase they had just produced using their cameras on their phones to recall the movement.  This was going to be a set phrase for the dancers, and once we started to compose the movement, we would teach it to one another.  


This was a repeat of the task above.  The dancers picked new colors and new body parts.  Some participants welcomed the new body part, while others found the part they got to be challenging.  After they set their phrase,  I ran around with the jar again, and this time there were different dynamics written on the bottom of each stick.  Now the dancers needed to evolve the movement…record, improvise and set the phrase again.  This evolved into a new phrase.  Although the improvisation came easier for the dancers, teaching themselves their improv from the videos they recorded was difficult when sharing it with the group for recording and documentation. 


The participants were asked to choose five images within the painting they were drawn to.  They were then asked to embody the images as this transfer to construct the body as an architectural site to represent the shape within their painting.  Next, the dancers looked at their paintings and connected the images as if connecting the dots.  I asked them how they would map that pattern in space as if they looked at the canvas and the dance floor became their canvas.  They are asked to travel through space, mapping a connecting route to the next shape.  When they arrive at the next site, they are to mold into the bodily structure and then move on to the next space.  I told the dancers to be aware of the other bodies while traveling.  At times they all came together, and other times drifted apart.  I was unsure how this would be composed into the final piece, but I like the symmetry of bodies in space.


I had the dancers choose another image they were drawn to.  This time they were going to create the shape of their body in the air.  The challenge with this task was keeping the body suspended long enough to bring its shape to life.  Where and how would you land?  Would it alter your take-off and landing by generating this shape in the air?  How can you make this jump look different from jumps you are custom to performing?


The directives for the turning task were to choose an image within your painting that catches their eye and create a turn translating the image within the body as it is in motion.  How does the body prepare for this turn through space?  What form or shape does it take in motion?  Think of the body as a whole and embody this image as it rotates around the body.  

July 2022


There was so much texture to the paintings from the layers of paint and how they shifted and dried through manipulation.  I asked the dancers to feel their paintings with their hands and map the texture using a different sense to absorb information.  One dancer put their face up to the painting and rubbed their cheek against it.  I had the dancers improv for 30 seconds to a minute and recorded this act of improvisation.  They then set this movement as a phrase. 


For one of the closing tasks of this project, I wanted the dancers to connect their movements and connect.  The dancers knew one another but did not all dance together frequently.  I wanted to put them together with partners they may not have chosen for themselves for this task.  I asked them to physically connect their shapes from Task 6 with one another and develop a phrase together from the movement they had developed individually.  For the final task, I asked them to choose their favorite shapes and connect the movement to create new material.


We started to work to piece together all the movement material the dancers produced through the tasks.  Since some time had passed between sessions, it was difficult for some dancers to recall the unfamiliar movement produced in their dancing bodies.  The participants reviewed videos from the previous rehearsals and found it easier to recall their movements when teaching them to others.  We pieced together the dance phrase by phrase and collaboratively decided on transitions and placement of bodies in space.  We also discussed a site to film the dance to capture the performance on camera.

Additional Material

After reviewing the material put together with the participants in this project, I felt there was a place to add movement to extend the piece.  Maybe it was because of the music choice that prompted the dance's timing to be faster.  Nevertheless, I had a one-on-one rehearsal with one of the dancers who could not attend the final rehearsal.  I looked at her painting and started to embody the tasks I gave the dancers to add additional materials. After working with this dancer and adding material, I did not want my phrase work to finish the piece. I wanted more material added to the end and had an idea for the next rehearsal.


Two sisters in this group gel very well together.  I asked them to take a look at the video from the first task we did after painting, pull improvisation from the video, and work with one another to add material at the end of the dance.  Once they completed the task, they taught it to the group and worked on the timing of the music with the dancers which was in 6’s.  The dancers took over.  I was a facilitator in the process rather than a director.  This was my goal, to allow the dancers to have agency in the work.  For me to be descriptive in the tasks, but not necessarily prescriptive in the making of the work.  I have enjoyed working with this group and see how this research is applicable in all dancing bodies.   

End of Project #7...see Performances

August 2022