Impulstanz Workshop Impressions

Here is the link to IDOCDE and a text I’ve written in response to the workshop I was invited to teach at ImPulsTanz as part of the LEAP/TAB exchange:

TAB / LEAP / Impulstanz

Clint Lutes – Your Body, Present and Simple

Gregory Chevalier – Assistant

As a general approach to the week of teaching I wanted to work with elements of Instant Composition, connecting them with other ideas I have been working with over the last several years such as a Meisner Acting Method exercise and Social Gestural Communication tasks.  This was the second time I attempted this kind of approach, the workshop being geared toward Open Level participants.

For the beginning of the week, I tried to strip the dances we do to the most minimal forms possible – walking, running, rolling, standing and other basic forms of locomotion.  While reducing the amount and kind of actions, I encourage the participants to connect outwardly, attempting to free up a sense of playfulness and reduce a responsibility to produce movement.  This I find creates a trust and sense of listening that is freer of self-indulgence.  I push to have moments of unanimous group agreement and more commitment to singular actions that exist/resonate longer than a few seconds.

As the week continued I continued to stress simplicity and outward connection, while trying to maintain a certain presence related to dedication to task.  The occupation with the task and connection with others also aids in this reduction in necessity of movement production.  Part of my fascination with this comes from an exercise called Repeat that I learned as part of my Meisner Acting studies from 1996-98.  The exercise is based upon instantaneous reaction, and up to a certain level based on repetition of a simple observation (“You’re hair is brown”, “My hair is brown”), but accessing honest reactions in emotion as the mundane repetition takes on other colors.  Eventually this exercise is used in partner scenes to (re-)connect with one another.

Two of the basic rules of Repeat is to remove focus from yourself and put it 100% on your partner, and to react immediately to what has been said.  From this place you can have honest reactions to what is happening, rather than a reasoned reaction.  This teaches you to trust reactions and to try to remain present and honest in every situation, to trust yourself to react however necessary because it is honest.  You don’t question what you produce, it is an honest reaction to what exists, and is therefore always acceptable.

For years I’ve been pondering how to adapt a similar sort of exercise to dance, which led me through tasks based on Social Gesturing and certain simple elements of communication.  I tried to find ways to remove self-judgement and fear and create situations that allow for movement, play and listening.  In the last 2 years I have also discovered the world of Instant Composition, which put a lot of terminology to much of the improvisation work I’ve been working with and helped me to form these exercises into group compositional situations.

I feel that the week at Impulstanz was the culmination of a somewhat scattered collection of exercises, material and elements that I’ve been working with.  It provided me with the opportunity to connect the dots and create an experience that not only fed my understanding of each element in the collection, but also how they are related and feed each other.  It helped me to trust even more deeply that simplicity and generosity are general rules that cannot be overlooked in regards to improvisation and perhaps in contemporary dance (and life?) as a whole.

This experience came at the end of a 4 week research period at Theater Freiburg on the project Störung/Hafraah, a collaborative research project mixing dancers, scientists, philosophers, engineers, psychologists and people with Parkinson’s Disease.  During the project, which continues until the end of 2015, we focus on exchanging research practices, teaching choreographic methodologies during movement classes to a group of people with Parkinson’s, as well as to a group of young researchers.

My experience in Freiburg very directly influenced the development of this workshop not only in terms of developing specific exercises, but giving a clear framework from which to question my methodologies in teaching and studying movement and movement disorder.  These experiences will in turn color my experiments of performing improvisation and more precisely in the questioning of what is the “proper” amount of inwardly focused/inspired personal movement research in improvisation versus outwardly/externally connected movement material.

I was very excited with the variation of participants in the workshop, it was generally what I expected, a spectrum ranging from relative beginners with some movement experience to professional, even 2 (rather experienced) participants in wheelchairs!  They were all absolutely wonderful and open to experimentation, offering their trust at every turn.  I am repeatedly amazed by the richness of working with nonprofessionals who bring an openness and simplicity into the studio.  It forces me to connect more with love, life, grounding, generosity and honesty.

I must also say that I felt very supported not only by the participants and the institution of ImPulsTanz, but by my assistant Gregory Chevalier, who offered plenty of questions and comments throughout the week.  His simple presence in the space also allowed me to have someone who was on my “team”, that I could lean on so to speak.  Even if we didn’t know one another before, I felt we were very well matched for this journey!

Below is a smattering of impressions, exercises, notes and thoughts on the week of classes at Impulstanz 2015.  There is no real form to what follows…
Please feel free to question, comment or respond below.
First, the class description:

 We will work with technical and improvisational tools geared toward enhancing awareness of personal rhythm in connection with our surroundings and with our dancing partners. We’ll enjoy a luxurious floor practice and the structure of the class will permit a steady flow of movement throughout the space. An aim of this Workshop is to release stress related to movement practice and accept ourselves within that practice. I will try to give tools that aid in recognizing directionality and intention of action. We will move from places of action, outward connection, attention and communication, and be attentive and generous. We will search for joy and lightness within a serious practice, challenging presence and simplicity. This workshop is open to all levels and is adaptable to individual body needs.

– weight shifts, breath, long spine
– how can the group look to itself to connect rather than to me?
– balancing inner/outer focus
– simple rules/games to create listening and tension
– simple rules, complicate situation

– using pressure/pressing and body connecting points as departure
– reactions to pressing/pushing
– ways of using connection points
– creating group shapes with pauses, anyone can decide when/where, all decide to release
– open awareness to timing
– give options and allow play within structure

– body textures as focus, clarity in softness and flow
– steal moves to create common vocabulary
– movement conversation based on social communication gestures

– revisiting weight, texture, breath, inviting partner to give points of heavy activation
– heavy, rolling leads to wild drunkenness leads to softness
– connect movement directly to spatial architecture
– connect interior thought processes and make them verbal

– clarity in endurance and stillness
– texture, rhythm, isolation, form
– stolen idea from Benno – 25% of each: stillness on floor, personal movement research,
outside watching, following something that is happening in space
– short open improvisations with feedback and time to talk

List of Music – Artists only (as requested by some of the participants):
The Album Leaf
A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Philip Glass
Nadine Shah
Salma Agha
Heartless Bastards
Yona Elian Sassi Keshet

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