Bridget Lappin will be performing in Kinetic Studio’s First Ideas show on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend.
I’m feeling incredibly lucky to correspond with a dance scholar and writer on faculty at Arizona State University, Dr. Naomi Jackson. She sent me some questions for the dancers while I tacked a couple on the end as a collaborative effort to dig deep into the artists’ processes.
For this work, I was inspired by ninjas and the act of hiding yourself. I thought it was quite interesting how this, as a concept, can be applied to how we interact between each other, which of course is heightened in a performance via the performer/audience relationship. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to go through the process of hiding myself in plain sight while at the same time, performing as a soloist, which has actually proved to be quite challenging.
The process for this work has taken place mostly in the studio by myself. I give myself a mental state to explore and improvise off of impulses that arise from being in this state. A lot of it has to do with allowing my body to remain open to the feelings and physical responses to the place my head takes my body. It is from these experiments that I develop a specific but still improvised movement language for each state. It takes some time to clearly define the mental state I need to be in to express what I want because I have to look at as both performer and choreographer; as a performer, I need to feel confident that I am embodying the state truthfully, and as a choreographer, I need to objectively observe the effects on the body as a result of this state, to see what it is actually communicating. After a while, I have a few motifs that I can combine together in somewhat of a score that becomes the structure of the piece.
It is a similar process that I used to develop the work I created for my Masters degree, which was a study in creating and performing a solo via the real-time perception of myself during the performance. In a way, the work for “First Ideas” is becoming slightly more structured, as I have a specific idea, or message if you like, that I’m trying convey, whereas my previous solo was more focused on an aesthetic and conceptual principle.
I don’t have a specific “movement style” per say. As I’ve said, I mostly choreograph via improvisation which gives slightly different results every time, even when I have certain aesthetic qualities in mind (i.e. – moving just the spine, quick versus slow, etc.) a lot of movement is actually characterized by my performance of it, asking myself “what physical element of the specific mental state do I want to share with the audience?” Shifting the performative focus, can really change what the movement looks like and as such, it is a very important element of the work.
One issue I have is how to appropriately reference the image of the ninja throughout the work. I could have taken a more representational approach, embodying the cult image of a ninja, a shadowy figure skulking around doing martial arts, but I didn’t want to be so literal. A such, I’ve tried to incorporate “ninja-esque” movement throughout the work that could be viewed as the cult image, but aren’t direct homages. I’m still playing with this though.
Mostly, I would like the audience to simply witness what I have to offer them and interpret it as they wish. I’m not aiming to be direct with my work and “what it is about”; I’d rather have the audience work a bit to think about what they are seeing, and come up with their own conclusions.
The best kind of feedback I can receive would be a sense of what the audience experiences while they watch my work. That can come in the form of images or impressions they had or emotional responses to the work/my performance in the work. For me, it is important to know what the audience sees/experiences when watching my work as it will give me an idea of what the work is actually conveying. From this initial impression, I can judge if the choreographic and performative choices I am making are working the way I want them to or not, or have resulted in something completely unexpected and exciting.
I also really appreciate questions as they get me thinking about my work in a different way. Since I primarily work on my own, anything that can bring me out of my subjective train of thought is useful. It forces me to look at my choices and judge whether or not they are doing my initial idea justice. Plus, questions really help me nail down exactly what I am trying to convey through my work.
It’s a piece that takes something I find really interesting and cool (ninjas!) and uses it as a way to question certain things in my life. I feel there is potential in this work to explore ideas of feminism, the performance model, psychology… There are so many interesting parallels that keep popping up. That’s what I enjoy most about choreography; the opportunity to take something important from your life and use it as a lens to really explore and dig into other aspects of your life. I just like to question and comment on things and to have the opportunity do so in such a personal way is really a gift.
Luckily, I have a lot of history books about ninjas (its a topic that I have been interested in for a while) that provided really interesting research into the ninja image. Also, just watching other choreography really inspires me, trying to decipher how they work, what is important to them, and how they have crafted their overall picture helps me re-evaluate my own choreographic choices.