Algorithm - (S)(C)(H)(I)(S)(M) - Pyrolysis

This is some writing that I'm doing as part of my second year review materials in assessing my own work/progress in the MFA program so far. I thought this tidbit I wrote tonight was worth sharing here. Definitely still in progress - but there's something here to excavate. Oddly, the title of this post, which are also the titles of the works I've made and discussed below, are strangely reminiscent of my this process of discovery. 




Here's what I've been working on:

I’ve been working pretty tediously at defining the space between genres of moving, as I was tired keeping them separate. My first two experiments, Algorithm and (S)(C)(H)(I)(S)(M), both started to move away from, what I’m calling, the regime of metric time. I’ve been approaching this through a few different methods. One was by exploring the limits of sliding and friction in tap dance as a deviation from a strictly staccato, percussive texture. Another was by attempting to build parts that emphasized affect over cleanliness. I had a hard time defining this space for a while, and both projects only scratched the surface of what I was trying to do. I was still having trouble avoiding numeric phrases, and part of me thinks that is going to be a continual symptom of my work – the ebb and flow of metric and felt timing. Both works contain a section that is purely minimalist music scores that I made to be concise mathematically, but created a certain chaos through chance methods of construction. I find myself invested in the work of Steve Reich and John Cage over and over again. I’m not sure why this has been such a huge hurtle for me, but I was craving something messier – something where the line between modern and tap dance blur.

My latest work, Pyrolysis, felt like a huge breakthrough for me both technically and creatively. I happened to be making it at the same time as having Lisa Dixon has our teacher for Graduate Composition, and she introduced the Laban Efforts from a perspective I had not considered. We were working specifically with text, but it was the first time I had really been able to start creating from a qualitative place rather than a metric or physical place. I began bringing some of this into my process with Lauren, and the thing I feel so affective is the effort involved with doing the work. I began this work from a place of character development rather than from phrase development and that hasn’t happened in my process before. The quality of the work (“Slash” and “Flick” in Laban Notation) began to seep into what I researched. Fire. Friction. Exhaustion. Shedding. Unknowing. Rebirthing. I began really taking into account the role of the performer as she engaged these aspects. Lauren’s family is Jewish. The relationship between fire and Judaism is potent (Black Flame/White Flame, Sacred Fire, Holocaust). I realized later on that what I was trying to get at was destruction as a method of production; I was trying to create a phoenix. It suddenly didn’t matter whether or not she was doing modern or tap dance – what mattered was the ferocity of the performer. Starting outside the frame of genre, I  came the closest I’ve ever been to striking a balance between my tap dance and modern dance knowledge as a mover; and I made the whole dance while wearing sneakers. This feels like an important realization. The materials for radical change lie outside the lines of genre - they exist in the world of affect and quality.

Charles Maybee