Thursday, May 19, 2011

Change of Space

I spent the past two nights in the theater preparing my students for their annual Spring Concert. What struck me as interesting is that the transition from one space to another is completely disorienting at first. On Monday we moved the younger students from the small studio into the big studio for a rehearsal. This threw many of them completely off.

The change of space, the new environment made what was regularly well rehearsed and comfortable into something foreign and frightening. The next step was moving them all onto the stage in the theater (change of space #2) and, again, the reaction was the same. It takes time for them to adjust and get their bearings.

They are kids and they are learning so this is to be expected. But, it made me think how in life there lies a parallel. I love the sense of ease and peace I get on vacation--especially if it involves the sand, the ocean, and the sun. I soak in that stress-free feeling and vow to take it home with me. Nevertheless, when I get back home (change of space) and day-to-day life resumes, stresses return and after only days I feel like the carefree feeling I had on the beach must have happened months ago.

Another parallel. (My mind jumps from thought to thought this way). Why when creating dances do we commonly put them in the same generic proscenium stage structure? If space is such an important aspect of our experience, putting our dances in the same space:
  • serves to demarcate the piece as a work of theater by sanitizing/separating it from outside influence and 
  • weakens the work by disconnecting it from its environment?

Missa Pro Dogmata (Photo by Sherryl Hauck)
I understand that traditional, classical, and modern work embraces the first explanation. I am most curious about the latter and how contemporary dance and art embrace the connection to the environment. Recently, I presented a work on ritual and mudras (the beginning study of what became Missa Pro Dogmata) in a buddhist meditation center. For my current project (Singularity Project), the work suggests following the development from the organic to the man-made to the digital.

Taking explanation A above I can just put this all on a proscenium stage and try to create the development through the artifacts of theatre. However, taking explanation B above I might consider having the piece begin outdoors, move indoors, and end on screen. The relationship and the boundary between dance and environment is intriguing to me right now and explanation B seems more interesting.

Back to my students. There is something positive I get out of the fact that the older more experienced students have a much easier time with the transition to the stage. I am hoping that this holds true for day-to-day life as well--that with experience and age I will be able to seamlessly transition those stress-free moments into my daily experience, bringing with me that sense of peace.