Two views on collaborating to create a dance and digital media film series with Andrea Olsen and Scotty Hardwig
How do we arrive more consciously in our bodies and the places we live and love? These seven short films move us part-by-part through the process of arriving, refreshing flow, supporting efficient breath and voice, restoring easeful alignment, enhancing sensory awareness, balancing the nervous system, and opening to the mysteries around and inside us for creative expression and communication. The films are experiential—you, as viewer, are an active participant as well as witness to the excursions of twelve international dance artists. Created as a free resource with colleague Caryn McHose to accompany our quartet of books (The Place of Dance, Body and Earth, How Life Moves, and Bodystories), the “to do” explorations are brought to life by dance & digital media collaborating artist Scotty Hardwig. We explore co-location by filming on site at Middlebury, Vermont; Bramble Hill Farm in Massachusetts; Pen Pynfarch Retreat Center in Wales; and London, England, funded by the Digital Liberal Arts Initiative at Middlebury College. Scotty and I share a relationship to dancing in place, as student/faculty at Middlebury College (2006-2008), MFA recipients in Dance at the U. of Utah (1972/2013), and this fall, returning full circle, as dance faculty at Middlebury College, before I depart for three years at Middlebury’s Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. Filmmaker and choreographer Erika Randall has told me that there are three films that you make: “the one you write, the one you shoot, and the one you edit. They aren’t the same.” And now we add: and the one that is experienced by the viewer—in this case, on a sculpted website that invites your participation. Scotty and I have spent the last eight months shaping these excursions as free resources for personal practice or use in educational settings—with your students and colleagues. Check it out at body-earth.org. Thanks to Jill Randall for keeping this blog, connecting us all through shared space of the page!
It’s purely sublime to see a mature dancer in direct contact with nature, where the impulses behind movements and excitations to action become a direct inhabitation of environmental stages. I was extraordinarily grateful to work on this project with somatic practitioners from across the world, because of their ability to drop in to a site-specific location so deeply that the energetic membranes between the place and the body seemed to permeate one another and become one. What has been apparent to me is the indelible depth of this somatic work as a practice in movement awareness: our bodies contain a wealth of geology, topography, cellular and multicellular life, a memory of jellyfish, plants, animals, and everything in between. And in this work, in these videos, I believe we can see it, both as an aesthetic idea and a compositional/visual one. We can see our mineral bones in the jutting rocks, the pouring sea in our skin, the verticality of spines in the trees. As a dance and digital media artist, one of my prime concerns is the permeation between the lived body and the environment, and the inseparability of live and digital performance. How can digital technologies be seen as a part of environmental philosophy rather than its counterpoint? How can the digital eye of the camera, my presence as a videographer, or the relationship between web-based performance and live dancer become merged to reveal our connection with the elemental states of nature, rather than detract or distract from them? When we watch these films, there are two performances happening simultaneously: one of raw, visceral realness (the original moment), and one of transportation and collocation, of illusion (the filmic re-choreography). The merging point between the two is where we see.
It has been central to my work since I began researching “digital dance practices” that I try to find the link between technology and the human spirit – in these films, I hope that the digitization of the dancing body, the physical practice itself, can be seen as that link that connects us to each other and the environment. I can’t claim to fully understand the subtleties of these connections; as Andrea and I discussed in the initial stages of this work, the resultant films are meant as education tools as well as art-objects, placed within the horizontal inroads of the web for those who wish to extend their body practices and understanding of our relationship to the natural world, and ourselves.
“Stay” – 60-second film by Scotty Hardwig with Andrea Olsen at 33 Hawley Street in Northampton, MA.
Shown as part of the MICROWORKS alumni exhibit hosted by A.P.E. in Northampton, MA, December 2105. This 60-second film supports the 33 Hawley Street Project, keeping space for the creation of art in downtown Northampton. (See www.northamptonartstrust.org/)