Grad School in the Times of Covid-19
This is an odd time of uncertainty, social distancing, and expanded at-home experiences. Making work during this time is anything but normal. These contexts are preventing me from approaching process in the ways that I would normally (with ample time spent in the studio sweating, partnering, and collaborating with other people). Our current circumstances have brought up fears and insecurities around art-making that are new for me. The thought of the solo artistic endeavor is nerve-racking, to say the least. I worry about the negative self talk while trying to be creative in isolation, and I fear that I will encounter a lack of self-discipline when I am alone. I am, however attempting to outweigh the nerves with an openness to the new. While the circumstances are preventing me from leaning on the process I’ve built over the years, what they are creating is a new field of play for everyone. This is the first time that any of us have been in a global pandemic. This is the first time that any of us have been forced to do so much online. This is the first time that any of us have had to juggle so many stresses simultaneously in so many realms of our lives: health, economy, social justice, politics, and how all of that effects personal relationships. The great thing about newness is that you’re not stuck in the habits and techniques you’ve learned previously. The great thing about newness is that it’s ripe for experimentation. And what is the first year of grad school for, if not experimentation?
My goals within my compositional explorations this semester are these: that I develop a consistent at-home creative practice, that I reach outside of my comfort zone, that I awaken a sense of rigor (especially rigor of play), and that I make work that surprises me. I am excited to find ways to safely collaborate with new people, as collaboration pushes me to learn more about my process and evolve in response to the process of bumping up against how another person thinks. I am purposefully holding my expectations loosely—attempting to remain in a present and open mindset that will allow me to be effected by the process, by the curiosity, by the accidental.
I do hope that as time goes on and as the circumstances shift (fingers crossed, in the direction of a world that has a safe vaccine for Covid-19), that I can take what I will surely learn during this time of discomfort and newness into a trajectory toward the large-scale, multi-disciplinary, multi-media work I want to be making. The at-home-ness and technologically-mediated-ness of this time offers and necessitates an exploration with technology that I normally don’t tend toward unless I am making large-scale theatrical shows. I am interested to see how smaller, more simple experiments with technology inform my applications of it within theatrical performances later.
Photography by Mae Koo
As I have be reflecting and journaling from this time, with a little space from my normal mode of creative process, I have come across some thoughts that feel like truths about my process and curiosities. I list them here out of an interest to keep them within my awareness in the hopes that they inspire and inform the work that I make:
I enjoy being in practice with other people: collaboration, sessions, the practice of training and creating in tandem with others, failures and vulnerabilities out in the open for everyone to see.
I am troubled by the racism and white supremacy that effects my students, friends and colleagues of color. The urgency I feel to dismantle the structures that keep systems of hierarchy and individualism in place is one of the biggest reasons I decided to go back to school. I have not figured out how this urgency affects my choreographic work, but it has greatly influenced my teaching in recent years.
I am interested in the physics of quadruped and sliding, horizontal movement on the floor—hence my proclivity for floorwork.
I enjoy the feeling of rollercoasters and being disoriented or dizzy, which relates to the manipulation of momentum that I strive for in floorwork, as well as the floppiness I tend toward while improvising.
I love state-based improvisation—diving into altered realms of consciousness that make me move in ways I would never in my normal selfhood. I love discovering those places in myself—the unexpected, unplanned, unknown, and sometimes unrepeatable.
I’m interested in mind-altered experiences—be they spiritually induced, psychologically induced, physically induced, or drug induced. I am interested in what the experience of these states do for embodiment: heightening, masking, transforming, awakening, exaggerating, fictionalizing, etc. our perception and relationship to our embodied experience.
I have realized that I most enjoy watching narrative contemporary dance. (I wonder if I would want to collaborate with a screenwriter/playwright in the future…though I have apprehension in response to the idea of working with actors).