What happened in the making – all the back at the beginning
The Here Trio premiered at The MAC, Belfast in February 2020, commissioned by and programmed as part of Maiden Voyage Dance’s Boundaries and Belonging programme. The trio was created with dancers Sarah Cerneaux, Gloria Ros Abellana and Ryan O’Neill. A further version of the piece, influenced by the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic, was premiered as a dance film in February 2021. This version was a mixing of the original performance recording with a second socially distanced version that preserved the original cast on film and added a ‘live’ Ryan O’Neill with Lucia Kickham and Justine Cooper. The creative process began in November 2019. I sent the dancers an email that questioned their thoughts and experiences of being “here”. I asked them “how do you know you are here?” – in terms of what physical sensations confirm to then that they are present. I also asked them to think about the traffic of life that passes through a space and how patterns of that movement are laid down over time.
They sent me their responses and I began to form texts that would set the investigation once we met in the studio together. In the rehearsal room I explored the dynamics that emerge when three people are in relationship in space together. I instigated long improvisations of up to an hour and recorded them. I played radio interviews throughout, or sometimes simple playlists unrelated to the subject matter being explored; anything to instill a sense of life passing through a moment. Over time, the energy of the “three” in the space began to emerge. This led to my forming of choreography that explored themes of ‘displacement’ where each of the dancers vied to either displace or replace one another as they moved throughout the rehearsal space.
I identified and edited the movement that they generated which held interest for me, adding spacial and rhythmical disruptions to be overcome, as well as instigating further explorations into physical textures and sensation. I generated none of the original movement, instead taking the lead from the dancers as the movement deepened and developed within them.
In the process I could see how there bodies would intuitively continue the direction of a phrase once the known movement had ended – the afterglow of potential movement would then be encouraged to keep going which would yield more movement in a similar strain. If the movement generated by the dancers began to go in a direction that did not make sense for me, I would then return to the earlier improvisation tasks as a way of reaffirming the core tenets of the investigation.
As I was not generating the movement as such, I undertook the design of both the set and costumes. This is not usual practice in the making of my work but somehow I found that I needed to have control over those elements. I would normally collaborate with creative designers but in this case, a very clear image of the set structure and colour came into my head very early on in the process and I was curious to explore it. It also became important to me, in terms of my connection to the work, to have had these other inputs into its making.
As I was not dancing myself or generating the movement through my own physicality, I did struggle, at times, to remain connected to the material and to the piece itself. I can only describe this lack of connection as a “void” in my thinking when problems of direction or where to go next might arise. I found it difficult to remember why sections of movement had developed and for what purpose, and therefore continuing work on them could be stilted at times.
As I was not the materialized physical source, I could not rummage around in the sensation of the movement itself in order to find further inspiration, nor did I have the layers of memory that built the movement up daily to draw on. I could not recall in my own body when a movement morphed from one texture to another and as such began to determine a different meaning. I could remember the prompt but the journey was sketchy.
One reflection on the making
The ‘disconnect’ felt as if my eyes were creating the piece as opposed to my subconscious. My ‘eyes’ were reading the movement and codes within it as well as the scenography and the music, all the time searching for and finding/creating dramaturgical cohesion. It was a sense of ‘seeing’ or demonstrating that the piece was going the right direction as opposed to ‘knowing’ that to be true at a deeper level. In this piece I would describe myself as the author, and to a lesser degree the audience, as opposed to being its maker. I am curious as to why I framed that as an experience of loss at the time, I don’t feel that way now.
Also see Still Moving Blog