Whispering Winds

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Perfect Site for Specific Dance

The Trio pondered hard over our video. We decided to focus on the movements of the wind, how it moves the wheat and grass in different ways. For our setting we chose the natural beauty of the lush green hills that surrounded us. It was almost surreal to be surrounded by such tranquil open space while we considered the Inter-war period.

Meanwhile, Antoine was pounding at the wall, at how we couldn’t understand the basics of making good videos. We were attached to flat two-dimensional paintings, and hadn’t graduated to the third dimension yet. We would become passive watchers of what we were seeing through the camera, and forget to move with the action. We needed to become aware of the act of seeing while we saw. He showed us different ways of watching – ex: focusing on a single person at a time, focusing on what was most interesting in the frame, choosing a specific backdrop for the action.

As Grace Elise and I began to narrow in on our ideas, we began to create movement. We ended up with 3 phrases, one from each of us.

*Grace made a phrase that portrayed a character who was resilient and strong in the face of change

*Elise made a phrase that showed the curves of the body and a sway where the arms were sweeping slowly and gently

*I made a phrase that showed the power of the rushing wind through swirling and sweeping movement in the arms

All these phrases looked different yet all showed an outside force acting upon the body, and spoke of a human relationship with time and nature.

Then we went out and scouted for the perfect place to shoot. We walked along the edges of Mélisey and that gave us more ideas for images in our video… Once Grace and I went to this field on the recommendation of a friend who knew about our project. It was perfect, not too flat, nor to inclined. The grass was just tall enough to hide a crouched body. One section had beautiful purple flowers. And it was right next to a hill.

We considered different angles and shots. The next day we brought some of the dancers to the space to try the movement in the location. After we watched the videos later that evening, it was clear that what we had produced were still shots. The camera was stationary, as if a passive observer.  We pondered over how the camera’s eye and the dancer’s bodies could interact more, so that it seemed as though whoever was watching was involved in the action in some way.

A video that influenced us tremendously was “Boy” from one of those Dance for Camera DVDs.

We also wanted to portray a lighter, more playful quality through our video, maybe even pushing the sensation to one of relief and peace. However relief can be portrayed through stillness as well as movement, so we thought carefully about what parts of the dancer’s exhibited these qualities when they danced our phrases…

The day we went to shoot, it was beautiful. The sun shined brightly and when we got to the field we were greeted by a rabble of white and yellow butterflies fluttering among the purple flowers! The trio was organized, we took turns behind the camera and Grace and Elise even participated in the video. I decided to stick to a directorial role so as to always have a larger view of our project.

We had chosen specific shots we wanted to take during our shoot time:

– using the depth of the field to create visual layers by spacing people at different distances from camera

– simple close-up shots of only nature

– natural shots of dancers making gestures and being humans in nature

– wind moving grass

– dancers running through field

– fragments of the dancers body while she is doing the phrase

– dancers hiding in grass and popping up randomly

– 360 degree shot where dancers are in a circle and camera is in the center rotating around

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The TRIO

It was decided. Everyone was divided into groups, each group worked on its own specific project that became a part of the final show. We were the TRIO: Grace, Elise, Tulsi. We were to co-direct a film that would be shown during the final performance.

Our ensemble had thought about the inter-war period as a underlying theme in our performance and we decided to try to connect our work to this era. Other groups worked on concepts from war like violence, desensitization, anger and frustration, being separated from loved ones, masses of people, memories… In fact Mélisey had faced some of the tragedies of war, and in the center of the town was a small memorial with the names of those that had given their lives for their country. But we wanted to find a connection between the inter-war period and people’s lives in France today. Even in the Art World, there were grotesque works that portrayed the first Great war, but people were also very relived that this war was over. Nobody expected the Second World War to come soon after. So many artists went back to Classicism and another movement called Positivism also emerged in this  inter-war period. There was a sense of hope and alleviation along with the loss.

All in all, our concluding performance was to become an “exquisite corpse” – a collective show of all our bits and pieces that were developed separately. just like this technique which the surrealists we studied used in creating group works, each piece would be different but they would all have a connecting thread – in this case, the interwar period.

We wanted to remember the war but somehow find peace within all the negativity. That’s the only way one can move forward, and today Mélisey is a peaceful quiet place with happy people. So we decided to make the calm and natural wealth of Melisey our project’s focus.

We began to brainstorm as soon as we got assigned our group and came up with many ideas inspired by the tranquility and beauty of Mélisey:

1.  WATER

Bodies floating in the water,

(dead bodies from war)

rituals involving water,

sacred power of water,

cleansing purifying,

flow

 ————————————————————–

2. EARTH

 

Road to escape,

(fleeing from war)

the town and its houses,

the green hills,

the animals

————————————————————–

3. SKY

climbing higher,

looking up,

freedom,

(being optimistic duing tough times)

big open space,

sunrise, sunset

————————————————————–

4. WIND

movement in the fields,

the force of the wind

change,

(the big transformation that war is and brings)

the flow of motion,

breath

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Drunk on Pork at the Musée des Arts Naïf de Noyers

DRUNK ON PORK – LIVE AT NOYERS!

Led by David Dorfman, DOP’s lead man and saxophonist, and his partner in time Alexa Cantalupo – famous and multitalented violinist – on the  trumpet, we paraded around the streets of Noyers, playing every kind of instrument possible, to invite everyone to the grand opening of the summer exhibit at the Musée des Arts Naïf!

When we got the museum it was time to transform into dancers. although we were still a little drunk on pork.

This museum is by far the most interesting, quirky, and thought-provoking museum i have ever been to, anywhere in the world. The layout of the space was welcoming and intimate instead of intimidating. The art was idiosyncratic and layered with metaphor. It spoke of people’s lives and experiences, obsessions, secrets.

A room full of boxes an artist had collected his whole life

A collection of pipes from all over the world

A wall of figurative sculptures and paintings in tiny cabinets all showing their butts

A wheel of fortune that displayed the sins of man

Paraffin wax body parts in a pyramid

Miniature worlds inside glass bottles

WHAT IS NAIVE ART?

Naive art is not a historical movement or a specific style in art. It is more a definition for artworks made by the “untrained” – in terms of traditional fine art and oil painting techniques. It is usually characterized by a childlike ease and simplicity. Naive Art is often called Primitive or Folk art. It often represents things that are universal in art around the world – figures, nature, expression. Derogatorily claimed as unsophisticated by elitists, Naive Art is often discovered, when someone finds an often poor often termed crazy person making art. key features of this art are its decorative nature, a lack of perspective and a scale that seems off, flat, frontal, bright colors, narrative content. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This museum was filled with ideas, and everyone was excited to come up with something cool and quirky to match the amusing vibe of the place

I CHOSE THE STAIRCASE…

The winding staircase was right in the middle  of the main room of the museum on its ground floor. It was the maim entranceway to the next level where people would want to go and I wanted to interact with them instead of have them watch me passively. Because there was so much to look at in the museum, it was easy to forget about the space as a space and get sucked into the world behind the objects and artworks, that were quite intricate and delicate.

So I chose the staircase.

Stellar, Jordan, and I wore black and red. We started out under the staircase and made a phrase (and variations on the phrase) that represented the spiraling yet sturdy architecture of the staircase. We followed each other around the staircases main pole before we switched to the next set of movements. Next Stellar wrapped herself around the edge of the railing in a stationary pose, while Jordan and I suspended ourselves by cloth from the pole and the railing doing movements where we were off-center and unbalanced – held from falling by the cloth connected to the staircase.  Then we took a walk around the pole before we followed Stellar and also wrapped our bodies in different ways along the railing , travelling higher and higher, one by one , as we finally reached the top of the staircase, the second level.

Our time at the museum was very exciting. This was our first performance in France and it was for an audience of art- appreciaters and  political patrons. It was part of an occasion , a celebration of art, and we were not sure how the small town of Noyers would like it if there were dancers in close proximity, sometimes blocking their path up the stairs.  But they loved it. People were intrigued by what seemed like live Naive Art and it did not seem to hinder their appreciation for the actual artwork on display.

At the end of the day, the lovely owners of museum treated us to a fabulous feast in the museum and we were sad to end our journey of artmaking and cross-cultural art exchange . It was truly inspiring to work with open-minded and wonderful people as these and in such an awe-inspiring space.

Thank you Jean Michel, Claude, Marianne, Marie Claire and Danièle

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Move to Mélisey

After 10 days in the beautiful city of Paris, we took a train to Bourgogne and arrived at Mélisey. We were greeted by a whole group of people from the town who had been kind enough to drive us to Champs Mélisey – our residence for the next few weeks. 

We were greeted warmly at the home by Dominique and Henri, the lovely couple that owns the place, and their fluffy dog Chi Gong

This home was our workspace and living space for the next few weeks and it was beautiful and green! the air smelled so clean and crisp and we were surrounded by lush hills.

Stellar, Elise and I got the OCEAN ROOM. It was all blue and had seashell embellishments.  We ate dinner – yummy homemade soup – and retreated to bed after a long day of travelling.

Champs Mélisey was one of the most tranquil homes i’ve ever visited. We had 2 studios to work in, lots of outdoor space, nice spacious rooms, and a lovely dining room where we ate meals together everyday. Dominique is the BEST cook ever!!

The house is the perfect place for artists- full of beautiful sculptures made of cardboard. There are many unusually and tastefully decorated spaces all over.

It was here that we met some of the most amazing and talented people of MADE, the ones that helped shaped our final performance.

David Dorfman led us through Modern dance technique classes every day for the 1st week. He taught us company repertoire and also guided us through our own choreographic improvisations. David sowed the seeds for what eventually became our show.

Peter Savel taught us some very interesting ideas about improvising and connecting with other bodies in space. He conducted improv exercises where we used all our senses and intuition to relate to each other. He also taught us some body work that focussed on the core and moving our limbs in relation to it.

Antoine taught us more about video and making films for dance. We broke up into groups and worked on short films which we edited to give us an idea of the whole editing process.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Chapel and the Dungeon

Our first tryst with:              

private and semi-private space                    

actual projects

video recording

   

 CHATEAU DE VINCENNES

    

There was a move back to the comfort of Classicism during  La Belle Époque – the period of optimism and positive thought that reassured people after WWI. Like many artists during that time, we also journeyed from the Modern Paris to this more historically grounded space.

This chapel – a magical colossal space with cool its marble floor and epic stain glass windows seemed to be right in line with a retour a l’ordre, although a specifically religious one. However we were free to deconstruct its context as we liked. I thoroughly enjoyed how we used everything from the chapel’s sacred connotations to formal elements of its design and architecture, to inspire our ideas for making dance on film here.

Some things we considered here :

Do the participants know/acknowledge each other?

Is there a narrative?

Is there a beginning and an end?

Does it continue?

is there a resolution?

 It was so much fun to be part of different people’s visions and to learn how to work in an environment where we just had to go with the flow and embrace any system that seemed to work. Jules’ music was the best part of the experience. He filled the chapel with unusual sounds and electronic rhythms; his music echoed off the walls reminding us of the vastness of the space. The music/sounds helped ground us in our tasks and allowed us to be in the zone as it also drowned out other sounds that may have been distracting. When I was participating in other’s works, the music  inspired me to improvise movements I may not have considered. JULES IS AMAZING!

    We also spent time shooting and making dance in the dungeon. This space was almost the opposite of the chapel, even though they were located in the same Chateau. It was dark, and had bars on every window. There were many small rooms, narrow passageways, and all over there were engravings on the walls. There was a large room with 15th century dust on the ground !

It was interesting to be in this space where people had been jailed, forced into isolation. How could we dance freely and cheerfully in such a space? The energy of the site invited bound strong movement, characters, mystery and solemnity.

Some of us played with shadows, the light and dark, our bodies bound by the frames of the windows which was our only source of illumination.

Some played with the passageways and many doors,  entering exiting encountering. Running from one side to another, lost in this labyrinth.

My first project idea (with me directing + cinematographing ) was executed here in the dungeon – it was about fragments of arms and legs seen through a door and smaller window. 6 dancers placed themselves in a room hidden behind the wall, outside which my camera focussed on the entranceway. I directed them to move their arms and legs through different gestures in the space of the doorways. They had some interactions with other limbs and finally retreated out of the door space.

It was challenging to complete the entire shoot within half an hour; collaborating with Jules’ musical skills, Dominique who helped me set up the camera, and the dancers. But somehow we managed to do it together and in the end it looked very enigmatic and bizarre, which is exactly what i wanted.

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A little History and a little Modernity

Lorraine Audric taught us some Art History from the Interwar period.

WWI: 1914-1918

Interwar period:

Positivism

Industrial Revolution

Abstraction -> Dada -> Classicism -> Surrealism

WWII: 1939-145

We went to the Centre Pompidou to see the real artworks she had talked to us about. I was surprised at the Modernity of the architecture of the museum and felt intrigued at the structure’s transparency both internal and external. The building was quite a colorful and surprising statement in the middle of the older architecture of Paris. I enjoyed the escalator ride up the side of the architecture and i especially loved the piazza right outside the entrance – Place Georges Pompidou – as it was a gathering space for people and performers and had a lively energy.

I saw this amazing self taught musician perform there:

http://youtu.be/nfHndDg-eKQ

One of my favorites in the museum was the collection of objects from a wall in Andre Breton’s home. It was fascinating how so many different pieces of art and artifacts from all over the world could fit so perfectly and blend so harmoniously along one wall. Breton, the “father of surrealism” was an avid art collector and his wall included objects from all over the world – the Americas, Africa, India… This was my first look at “NAIVE ART” which I have only loved more and more through my journey with MADE in France

Outside the Centre Pompidou is another interesting collection of objects: at the studio of the famous Constantin Brancusi, the famous Modern sculptor. His workspace was preserved as it was, his tools hanging by the hooks he had left them on. It was peaceful and quiet, his studio, although i imagined him chipping away filling his skylit space with sounds of metal on wood. I enjoy seeing people’s spaces and imagining their movements within them… perfect, im making site specific dance!

 

 

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Site Specific Dance in Strange Sites

Experimenting at the canal…

To make Site Specific Dance one needs first to consider the Site

What are the different surfaces the site offers? Who uses this site and for what? What sort of feeling does being in the site give you?

At the banks of the Canal St. Martin we watched groups of friends sit and chat nonchalantly. Open bottles of wine, half eaten sandwiches and laughter were strewn across both sides of this narrow water body. Pedestrians were in all sorts of postures as they read books, talked on the phone, and enjoyed this unusual oasis in the middle of the street. I noticed the reflective quality of the water. Even though it separated the large street, it reflected what was on both sides. Maybe the comfort of that thought was what drew in masses that made this a social spot.

There was so much to think about in this bustling site. Everything was giving me ideas – the natural, the manmade, the people and their bodies in the space, even the trash can. My mind was brimming with different dances that engaged in various aspects of the canal and the life surrounding it:

– hanging from the metal rings on the sides of the canal suspended by a cloth

– standing on the stumps surrounding the canal and moving very slowly

– dressing up in our 30s and 40s outfits and welcoming people on to and off the bridge

– making a phrase of pedestrian movements inspired by people at the canal and having people scattered around the space randomly doing the phrase in unison

– making ripples in the canal with movement

– standing on the edge of the canal and doing movement that incorporated the feeling of falling

– using props that pedestrians around us were using (books, phones, cards, cigarettes, food and drink) to make some interesting movement to be done in a clump

Unfortunately, we got rained in the day we were going to shoot at the canal, but at least we got our brains and bodies going in the right direction of collaboration, brainstorming and experimentation!

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Being the Camera

Who/what is watching?
Who/what is being watched?

Constantly pushing the choice of perspective, positon, focus, narrative, motion…

Theme: Dance for Camera

This year’s MADE in France theme really challenged us all. As a dancer-artist it was such an eye-opening experience to choreograph and perform for a camera instead of an audience. I was intrigued by the limitations as well as the advantages of the field of view and the perspectives a camera provided.

Things I played with in my experiments with the camera:

Scale: Small, big. Its all relative when you change the position of the camera. a small body in a large space; a large body in a small space. The proportions of everything within the camera’s eye can be changed using the same body in the same space.

Focus: Suddenly, the audience had less choice in what to see. The audience now saw whatever you recorded for them to see, whatever the director chose to focus on.

Compositon: composing what is on the screen and what is not. What is being fragmented by the frame of the screen and what is completely in view. What does this mean? What is the difference between composing the shot as if it were a 2D painting and a 3D movie?

In the beautiful Belleville Park I pondered over the eye of the camera and what it can tell you about movement and detail that the regular (even trained) eye cannot. I captured some images of my new friends as they explored these ideas with their bodies in the playground.

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Oh Paris!

What a beautiful city! Such an interesting mix of old and new, tradition and innovation... Even thought the city is bustling and burting at the seams with art and culture, the people know how to chill: sitting at cafés, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, watching the world go bye. People enjoy the company of their friends at wine and cheese picnics by the canal and also enjoy their own thoughts and the lovely city as they eat alone on park benches or near fountains. what a beautiful way to live!

What a beautiful city! Such an interesting mix of old and new, tradition and innovation… Even though the city is bustling and bursting at the seams with art and culture, the people know how to chill: sitting at cafés, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, watching the world go by. People enjoy the company of their friends at wine and cheese picnics by the canal and also enjoy their own thoughts and the lovely city as they eat alone on park benches or near fountains. what a beautiful way to live!

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