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In(ex)ternal (Dis)trust

Study in Alien Body – Solo A:

In the first weeks of my Choreography Workshop class, my professor Susan offered a challenge to me—to explore various personas within myself and to create a study placing those personas into conversation. It sounded like an interesting prompt and a nice way to check back in with my moving/making self after a six-month-long, stay-at-home-order hiatus.

Entering into creative process again was…difficult. I felt rusty and distracted and out of touch with my body. My first rehearsal was one of those push through the awkwardness, force myself to make something (make anything) sort of rehearsals. I mostly just laid on the floor, looking at the grain of the wood panels, listening to the creaks of the old unfamiliar house as my duplex neighbor shuffled around upstairs, allowing my weight to smush the underside of each body part into the cool surface. I felt unsure of my body, my movement, my impulses.

(How do I explore the multiple personas within me when I’m having a hard time getting the one physical me motivated enough to dip into any amount of productivity in a rehearsal)?

The movement that made its way out of my body that day was…segmented. I was tentative and timid in my decisions, moving one body part at a time. I was outside of my body, as though I was moving in response to impulses other than my own. I felt puppeted. Body before mind, lagging focus. Disconnected parts. Happenstantial arrival. Waiting for…the next. Rediscovering body. Witnessing body. Distrustful of body.

My first round of feedback was enlightening. Feedback sessions have that way of bringing into focus portions of the fog that surrounds me when I’m making. Hearing outside impressions tends to widen my scope of understanding about the thing unfolding around/before/from/within me. Location and environment (realm?) presented themselves. I realized that while working through this thing in front of other people, I felt as though I was transported to a new plane of reality with different law of physics. I was learning about the rules of this world via the alien movement of my body, often feeling like I could not predict what body part would respond in which way to each impulse.

So it started there. The effects of unfamiliar surroundings emerging from within my body.

Study in Alien Space – Solo B:

The next week I stepped away from the alien body and began making something that I thought was another piece entirely. I had this idea about making a something connected to a piece I’ve been working on for the last year or so—[Enter Wilderness, Location Unknown], a piece about emergency preparedness and the wilderness of our (my) own mind(s). I entered into the rehearsal for this new chunk with a purposeful intention of being on high alert. I surveyed my surroundings, locating myself in space and time. The material that came from that rehearsal was protective, suspicious.

At the end of the rehearsal I had a conversation with my roommate (picture these rehearsals taking place in my living room, with the potential for any train of creative thought to be interrupted by my partner or roommate). As I was speaking with her, and witnessing the words form on their way out of my mouth, I realized that the uncomfortable environment from the alien body solo had come with me into this rehearsal. My distrust of self had become distrust of surroundings: alertness, protection, surveillance, skepticism, and hyperawareness of the space I was occupying. Solo B had become the external response to the same unfamiliar scenario that Solo A was responding to internally.

[Enter Wilderness, Location Unknown]. Photography by Scotty Hsieh.

Study in Combining:

The idea of playing between the internal experience and the external experience intrigued me…the swing between various reactions to significant shifts in reality/circumstance/perspective. On the one hand, I had the reaction to place responsibility on the self, responding to change with a lack of self trust—this felt familiar to me. On the other hand, I had the reaction to place responsibility on the perceived external reality, responding to change with a distrust of everything and everyone—this too, felt familiar to me. The probability for both of these reactions to take place simultaneously within the same psyche seemed likely—reflecting over the times in my life when trust has been in question, the distrust always blended into many realms (scales) of thought and experience.

In physical practice, morphing Solos A & B felt unclear, as I would lose the performative nuance of each when trying to do both, so arose the imperative to keep the two states of being distinct. Susan suggested experimenting with how the two would splice together. So I tried it: a splice of B, a cut of A, a loop of B, a portion of A, and so on…While the conceptual jump between the two was pleasing to me, the physical transition from one to the other was troubling me in physical execution. So I cheated—I used blackouts to hide the transitions.

After another round of feedback, I felt less like the blackouts were cheating, and more like they were allowing the audience to experience a jump in time—a bouncing forward and backward in story, a sense of potential simultaneity, a switching between parallel trajectories.

Were I to continue this project, I wonder about exaggerating the two states—about playing with agitation (tempo, density). I also wonder if both of these solos are indeed part of [Enter Wilderness, Location Unknown].

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