I remember rolling out of your class - because there's music as a shared language among the students, as well as a lot of personal material, whether or not we talk about it overtly, there's a lot of human substance and vibration in the room - coming out of your class. I remember feeling like a live wire, you don't feel the same way walking out as you did walking in.
That's a really good goal to have for a class, I think.
Recently, I've found a new start to class I don't think we had when you were in class with me. It's called News of the World. At the beginning of class, we talk. People can talk about breakdowns, breakthroughs, but I also encourage sharing recent projects or performance passions. Interestingly, that section of the class is morphing into a seminar on how to plug your work - you've got 30 seconds to make us fascinated to come to your show, so what would you tell us? It's like a class on auditioning in part. I love hearing about all the different projects students are involved in. Students can also show a snippet of anything they are working on, not for crit but to share. These snippet showings are happening a lot lately. They get to know each other on that another level, so that when they work together it's not just a physical machine next to you in class, but a person with an artistic vision and a history.
What happens to a student over the two to four years of study with you? What do you observe in them, what's the arc like?
I think there's a tremendous growth in physical range, coordination, and spontaneity. An ability to be in command of your nervous system and your musculature, in a way that after two to four years of working with me, you can go to really surprising physical extremes with complete safety and assurance about how to do it. --And, an ability to be subtle, quiet, and minimal as effective performance modes.
Sounds like maybe the distance from the nervous system or from an impulse to the body is shortened a lot?
Yes. That's impulse training, and very important. I also focus not only on response to stimulus but physical choice-making. Gradually, a student learns the difference between using the motor nervous system to choose an action and reacting quickly to and surviving an unexpected physical moment, like a sudden flying catch.
The Allan Wayne work has a way of strengthening and stretching the deep layers of muscles, so my students become, you could call it, "lean and mean" - strong, not bulked up, but fluidly strong and lush in their movement, and efficient too. --With an increased amount of easeful breath connection and energy flow.
You mentioned using the AW work as part of choreographic work as well. How does that work - it's a rigorous technical practice, but how do you transform it into a creative one?
I let students travel from a technical exercise to an improvisation, and then from there, to notice their own original stamp of their improvisation. Then I have them recreate a section of the improvisation, for instance, a great back wave with a lunge with a turn that is just theirs, because it was found from a deep connection to their interior improvisational experience. Then they recreate that section and set it. And build material from these sections. The work becomes original and authentic choreography because it was discovered in a personal, experiential way. Usually, when those improvisation-based moves come from a whole body experience, they register very beautifully with an audience, because you're seeing a body experiencing itself in the love with the moment of movement. That communicates, and is original.
I remember watching that with the 2nd years at ETW last year. You had them highlight parts of the explorations that they got really excited about, movement that they loved to do, and each of those nuggets was tremendous to watch, you could see their love of doing it.
And then they teach them to each other, and you can build solos, duets, or whole ensemble sections from that. But it's all from somatic and experiential beginnings, which are also informed by alignment. The technique this work springs from, Allan Wayne Work, is alignment based.
Do you see the methodologies absorbed differently by your students over the years, now as opposed to the 80s for example?
There's remarkably quite a bit of consistency. I think that 20 years ago you could say that there was a different kind of interface between dance and theatre, especially at ETW with Mary Overlie's relatively new Viewpoints and Anne Bogart directing and teaching there, and the Allan Wayne Work and Contact and theatre being all mixed up. There were several adventurous projects where dance was important but was still the servant of theatre vision. Now I'm seeing that those lines are more blurred than ever and that projects can have a primary focus of dance, singing, or theatre. Now, there's a large group of graduates that my colleagues and I taught that are dancing, that don't need to see the work as serving theatre necessarily. Any of the modes of dance, music, and theater can stand on their own.
Do you think there's more of an embrace of non-verbal forms now? Being in such a visual culture etc?
I think you might have a point, and that that may be happening. I think that now there is an understanding that you can have a powerful performance, and even think of it as theatre, but it's actually dance or mimed. There are a lot of examples of that - Sleep No More is like that. You work, is in that direction - there are images, situations that could be considered theatrical, but basically it's happening in dance. I'm seeing this a lot - larger audiences are drawn to non-verbal work right now. It's an exciting time for dance.
I think that's true, and I think people want to dance - the last couple years, there's (been a lot around) movement, dance, music. You read that times article that music in Vegas used to rule in large venues but now it's dance - everyone wants dance music now!
I have a theory that in this cyber-space world, people increasingly crave the body connection of dance.
Even in the commercial world way that's being really embraced, and thrown a lot of money?
That's also going right to the top of the fine arts world, too. The non-verbal.