One day I was scrolling instagram when I saw Miranda July’s post. It struck me that there could be some kind of collaboration between choreographer and dancer over zoom. I was thinking a bit about how to make the work I’ve made in the past in my dance pieces happen with less people and more process. Part of this inspiration came from local theatre-maker, Evan Johnson who had recently talked to me about his process in making his works where he reached out to collaborators, a sound designer and a director. This idea of making with a team of three seemed really doable.
I reached out to Kevin Corcoran (a percussionist) and Hannah Ayasse (dance artist). I have worked with these people in a few ways before this project. Both of them have had collaborated with me on psychobotany at different iterations.
In separate phone calls, I described the idea about meeting on zoom for five sessions to see what we’d create in a devised work process.
Here’s the brief that I sent out prior to our first meeting.
UnNamed Project 1
Choreographer: Hannah Ayasse
Musician: Kevin Corcoran
Performer/Producer: Katarina Countiss
Stipend for each person $100, deliverable by venmo after the fourth meeting.
Meetings: Each meeting will be about 60-80 minutes through Zoom, Kat will provide the link to the meetings.
Each meeting will have an agenda 1) check in 2) go over the agenda 3) review old business 4) attend to the new topics 5) closing statements
Meeting 1- checking in
Goals: scheduling out the meetings, defining what we want the end product to look like, getting to know each other, understanding where we are at and what we envision for our collaboration, what we want to explore, questions we want to ask, etc.
Meeting 2- workshop 1
Goals: collaboration experiments, discussions, etc.
Meeting 3- workshop 2
Goals: collaboration experiments, discussions, etc.
Meeting 4- finalizing deliverables
Goals: deciding if we want any kind of live show or premier or internet event to commemorate the birth of a piece
(between meeting 4 and 5, the deliverables will manifest itself into a dance video or some other kind of product if we decide on some other format or execution)
Meeting 5- reflection
Goals: reviewing the process and the product, getting each other’s feedback, what went well, what we would do differently, special acknowledgements and conclusion
It pretty much went like that. We ended up having three workshops, and the fifth meeting was essentially another workshop, but the zoom meeting was recorded. And we decided against having “deliverables.” We both agreed that the improvisational and feedback process in our experimentation worked best as a live collaboration and felt more stifled with preloaded ideas for how the “cycles” were going to go.
The “press-go cycles” were timed containers for entering into a experimental space. Hannah administered narrative prompts for choreography, Kevin provided a soundscape, and I did movement and also lighting.
The layering, I think was crucial to a smooth initiation into our collaboration. Our first press-go cycle was just me and Hannah, (no music and no lighting). Then the next cycle had music. Then the next cycle had lighting, but it was one look. Then the next cycle, lighting could happen at any time. The next cycle had prerecorded sound. The cycle after that had prerecorded sound with improvised precussion on top of it. The next cycle had the idea of a resolution for the narrative prompts instead of a hard-stop.
More about the lighting. I bought an overhead projector (5-088 Manufactured by 3M) for use in the first psychobotany. I had technical difficulties with using prerecorded projections with a computer and a video projector in performances and when I saw someone using an “old-school” projector in a play, I was very much hooked on the accessibility of its tactile approach. I knew I wanted to have this element in our devised work. I chose some light looks. In past works, I’m not the mover, and so I can choose and change lighting more flexibly because that’s all I’m doing. In our cycles, being the mover as well, it was interesting to be dropping into the narrative and then feeling some moments where the environment felt ready for a change and then stopping movement for some lighting readjustments and then continuing to move. I think this is fairly innovative. I have not seen a dancer in control of the light before. It is a lot of fun working with the stage environment in this way.
More about the “stage environment,” this was my living room at 8am. I cleared some furniture and added blackout curtains to prepare for our sessions.
I really enjoyed all of our discussions and reflections. We met for five sundays, every other sunday. Starting from Dec 27 and Ending Feb 7. It was quite a time and having the meetings spaced out like that was good. There was a lot of energy about the holidays, the new year, the inaguration, the pandemic. It felt nice to take something slow.
At the end of our collaboration, we reflected on what we worked on and how we felt about it in some way like a primer, an exercise about devised work, still fresh and exploratory on the last day, and it was a nice place to leave it. We talked about what happens next. I’m planning on cutting the recordings into two pieces, one is a short video using the documentation from our last two cycles “The Corridor and the Treasure,” and then making some kind of documentary/documentation, capturing the nature of our zoom meeting. That’s going to happen at some point. I feel like I have to point out that the reason why I’m not doing that anytime soon is pandemic related in that I prefer to edit video on a friend’s computer due to processing power. So, it’s an interesting feeling about having that in the hopper of projects not quite completed.
I’m really grateful to Hannah, Kevin, Evan, Miranda, and my housemates, and zoom.
I recommend structured meetings as well. Having an agenda for collaboration meetings felt really organized and able to feel grounded even though we were miles apart.
Stay tuned for the art documentation. I imagine that it is pretty funny to read about a process without seeing the “art” or the performance, the goal of the gathering: The music, the choreography, the lighting, and the movement feeding each other in dance-theatre.