Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ecstatic Dancing

So I'm designing sound for an as-yet-unnamed project being assembled (in collaboration with a cast) by Alan Berks, who I had the pleasure of working with on his play Everywhere Signs Fall for Gremlin Theatre in 2008. I say "assembled" because the show is being put together partially through improvisations and discussions with the performers. The subject matter at this point is a question: In a world fractured by media and technology, where a paradox of intimacy vs. isolation takes root because of these factors, where/ what is the self? And, moreover, how can/ does one love?

A few days ago Alan wanted to put together an exercise wherein the actors danced ecstatically (in whatever way they chose, individually and as an interactive ensemble) for 20 minutes. I've worked on enough of these developed-through-improvisation shows to know not to bother asking why, or what ecstatic dancing would have to do with the rest of the show, or what music he thought would be appropriate for ecstatic dancing (though he did give me a couple of examples).

Anyway, I sifted through my hard drives and put together about 18 tracks that I thought would be interesting to try, and played them for about a minute apiece in rehearsal: they ranged from 70s New York art-funk to Bollywood techno to British art-rock to a campy 60s trumpet instrumental to 2000s pieces ranging from languid synth-pop to jagged robot beats. This last I included because I feel like as a designer it's often valuable to think of what the worst, wrongest choice would be. 99 times out of a hundred, it's just plain wrong, but when that 1% incident clicks... wow.

Anyway, this wasn't one of those times, because of course robot beats don't exactly facilitate ecstatic dancing... but a lot of interesting things happened. Assorted contact improv, impromptu human clusters and forts and trains, one dancer riding another like a horse, mimed stabbing, ass slapping... what did all this have to do with ecstasy? I haven't the faintest, but it sure was fun to watch. Alan and I both realized too late, though, that we had no video camera.

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