Sunday, August 30, 2015

Creating & Performing By Chance

Pictured: Janet Aisawa rehearsing By Chance

In 1998 I was driving  long commute home listening to a show on WNYC called "New Sounds". The showed featured Terry Reilly's classic composition, In C, a work based on incorporating chance; each musician can play any section of the piece as many times as he wants to and can move on to the next section whenever he chooses. The result is that the work is never played the same twice.

My studies with Joan Skinner made me appreciate John Cage's incorporation of chance in music and Cunningham's application of chance in dance and I thought to myself, "We could do what Reilly did with musicians and use five trapeze-dancers, we just need the right music composition and the right musicians to play it."

The right music composition came from my partner, Ken Pierson, and he brought together the right musicians. During that time Ken was spending multiple hours accompanying dance classes and he kept complaining about the fact that the dancers rarely seemed to pay attention to the music. I decided our new work would remedy that by putting the musicians in charge.

So, we assigned each dancer a musician and she had to follow her musician throughout the dance. Sometimes a musician would play a section three times before moving on to the next section and this meant that the dancer had to dance that section three times too. The dancers also had to listen very carefully to their musician or they would miss their cue for going on to the next section of the dance.

The result was magical - the dancers were tuning into their musicians with great intensity and it created an aliveness that was vibrant. It also meant that I never got tired of watching the dance because the overall composition would change from rehearsal to rehearsal. The work requires the dancers to tune into one another too;  there are 5 trapeze onstage at the same time and each of those trapeze have an orbit that cross other trapeze orbits when flying through space.

All of these things combined make for a very Zen experience when doing the dance - one can't step into the same dance twice and one senses how everything is interconnected.

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