Andie Mock

Writer, choreographer

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Call Me Ishwhale

Q: What are the six scariest words in the English Language?

A: Let's go see some modern dance.

I've been complaining about modern dance choreography for years. It's time to eat my own dog food. Let's see if I can do better.

My big idea is to use literary and rhetorical techniques to create choreography.

To ensure I'm not blowing smoke up my own ass, I joined this class to do usability research to verify that indeed, the customer is getting what they want out of seeing a dance of mine.

I have a grant of 24 hours of free studio rehearsal space and a low-tech performance at ODC/SF's theater in SF April 12. The show is called 5 at 5. I win more free studio space if my 5 minutes of dance is the selected by the audience as the best out of the five choreographers showing their work.

Currently I'm working on my List of Five, an adapted writing exercise from "Discovering Story Magic" by Laura Baker. I imagine the piece as a solo about Moby Dick from the point of view of the whale.

All comments and suggestions about how to improve are very welcome!

I'll post my first case study that will go into a non-fiction book called "Remark-able Dances: Dances Able to Be Remarked On".

As work progresses I'll post little dance phrase videos of this project.

CASE STUDY - CALL ME ISHWHALE

Change Happens:

1. The title for this dance is now "Call Me Ishwhale"

2. Instead of a solo it is a duet between Moby as the protagonist, (i.e. the one who changes the most) and Ahab, the antagonist (i.e. the one who causes the protagonist to change.)

3. I printed out my Character Grid, List of Five, and Storyboard and a great article Marjorie sent me about writers deeply imaging their characters even if wildly diff from who the writer sees herself to be, and challenges her self-concept.

3. Casting

In my experience, I've had great results following the advice of Woody Allen's casting agent who said she didn't care who the person was, she cast based on excited they were to do the role.

I put this ad in the Dancers Group weekly listserve:

"Insanely great EQ (Emotional Quotient) and decent dance technique needed for performance April 12th at ODC Theater in SF. Rehearsals in one week at ODC TBD $100. Send resume and video clips."

Three dancers responded. I arranged to meet with two that seemed the most enthusiastic. I cast Becky as Moby (She had previous experience choreographing and dancing as a large mammal, an elephant. How cool is that!?!?!)

I explained that I had cast Moby to the other dancer, Natalie, who had also expressed interest in playing Moby and asked her if she was still interested given that she would be Ahab. She would need to imagine the emotions and physical sensations of a 50 year old, 19th century, entitled, crippled, vengeful sea captain that even Daniel Day Lewis w.uld be daunted to play. (Of course DDL did have previous experience as Lincoln and as the cripple in My Left Foot so maybe it wouldn't be so daunting. Note that Natalie is a gorgeous petite blond, 21 year old recent UCB graduate double-majoring in Dance, and Peace and Conflict Studies.)

She shot back an email that she was totally excited, had used our discussion to have her dancers do an emotional improv at her rehearsal and needed to explore power and fierceness in her movement.

YAY!!!!! MANY times over because you-know-who doesn't have to play Ahab and get my self-concept challenged!

Oh wait. I still have to imagine Ahab's inner life to come up with the emotional story line so I'm not off the hook.

Damn. Being an artist is not as easy as it looks.

**************************************************

First Usability ResearchStudy, Feedback and Lessons Learned

I posted this tiny movement video on my blog and asked my two dancers for feedback:

http://andreamock.com/2013/03/10/moby-movie-1/

Here is the feedback from one dancer, my thoughts on her feedback and lessons I derived. 

(The feedback from dancer who plays Moby is indented)

Moby Moves: I think that is a good jumping off place for us to begin looking at movement. After reading (some of) the score I feel like that would be a good phrase for  when Moby is just kinda minding her own business at the beginning. Just eating her squid and being aware of her surroundings. Maybe? I am also interested in what that movement would look like inverted on the ground somehow? And with different emotions attached. I don't know. We can play with it and throw away what isn't relevant to the arc of the score. I was playing around with some movement phrases too around the harpoon... this small annoyance that festers and builds. And it builds partly because its going untreated and thus is physically probably becoming infected or deeper. But is also builds psychologically because Moby knows its just this small thing that shouldn't being bothering her as much as it is. Is this a direction you are interested in? Video soon.

I had this terrible thought last night that when I did that Moby Move 1, I wasn't eating my own dog food. I wasn't thinking about the emotional or internal sensations but I did think about my tummy  being full of squid ...dang woman, you picked up on that...amazing especially considering it's lo res video.
AND you hit the nail on the head with a solution. I forgot, this Moby Move is a "jumping off" point. The lesson for me is, no matter what order the ideas come to us, pure movement, emotional, sensations, etc. we can add the other stuff in. Like adding in the festering wound. 
yes! 
totally! 
more festering wound please. And have it build! 
Isn't it always the smallest festering wounds that drive us completely stark raving mad?
Oh and of course (I smack my forehead) have this move on the ground!!! yes. brilliant I tell you, brilliant!
My lesson here is that inspiration is not an ordered process. It's artist's job to structure the inspiration for maximum desired effect for a defined audience. 
Argh, which brings me to another problem:
The ultimate audience for this "empathy technology" is theater goers who find modern dance incomprehensible. 
But the audience we're performing for on the 12th won't be that. Prolly most will be dance technologists who aren't going to "get it" and may even be hostile. 
<Name of well-known choreographer who funded this project> and other choreographers who are seeking a solution to the problem of greater audiences for modern dance is the target audience though.
The target at this time in the development life cycle are known as Angel Evangelists - aka Angelvangelists in the tech world.
They have three characteristics:
1. Have a problem
2. Have tried multiple ways to solve it without success
3. Have money to pay for a solution
<Name of well-known choreographer who funded this project> fits this bill perfectly. The performance needs to speak to her problem.
I wonder if <Name of well-known choreographer who funded this project> will attend this quarterly shows? No matter. Finding angelvangelists is the task that needs to be done at this time whether it's <Name of well-known choreographer who funded this project> or whomever.
But how to design the communication to angelevangelists while not turning off dance technologists. Hrrrrrmmmmmm. Any thoughts?
Okay. I must focus now on the rest of the score. I will put in "festering wound that builds and builds" and know we'll expanding as we go along.

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