Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2001 Motif Symposium Proceedings - "Movement Session: Motif Notation as a Catalyst for Choreography"

Submitted by Charlotte Wile – March 14, 2003

[This posting contains a selection from Proceedings of the Inaugural Motif Symposium, Symbols of Our Community…Moving Forward with Motif, August 2-4, 2002, Held at The Department of Dance, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, Sponsored by Language of Dance Center, USA, Motus Humanus, The Ohio State University Department of Dance, compiled by Tina Curran, Jimmyle Listenbee, and Charlotte Wile, Scribe, Jane Dulieu.]

Movement Session #4 –Motif Notation As A Catalyst For Choreography
John Giffin

NOTE: Jimmyle Listenbee based this summary on her transcription from the videotape. Direct quotes from John Giffin are enclosed within quotation marks. Vocally stressed words are in CAPS. Brackets enclose substitutions, paraphrased transitions or descriptions of significant nonverbal action. One dash - indicates a slight pause. Three dashes --- indicate short elisions. Six spaced dashes - - - - - - indicate group work phases with little or no generally significant verbal content. An exchange between Carl Wolz and several other participants near the end of the session is enclosed within a box.


"I'm sorry I'm not Ann Kipling Brown, I wish she were here. But I thank you for allowing me to do this session. And this is going to be a very 'low-E' session, purposefully. It's late in the day, and I think there are many things that can be done when one isn't just like this!"
[performs quick, repetitive large-kinesphere steps and arm gestures in the vertical plane]

"This is one kind of dance."

[performs quick, repetitive large-kinesphere jumps and arm gestures in the vertical plane!]

"But there are many, many, many, many kinds of dance. And what we're going to do is THE DANCE THAT YOU CAN DO HERE AND NOW. I don't care if it's moving your right foot - that's fine; I don't care if it's sitting in a chair - that's fine; I don't care if it's lying on your back - that's fine too."

"Let's come around,"
[drawing the group into a circle].

"This is about YOU. Not you as a man, you as a woman, but WHO YOU ARE. As much about letting go as doing; more about BEING than doing.

"We are going to play. Play, 'playing' in its broadest, BROADEST sense: by playing - 'to make CHOICES NOT CONFINED by teacher- or observer- EXPECTATIONS, nor by 'right' and 'wrong.' You are here for yourself by choice. One choice is to feel free to leave at any time - by not placing priority on the expectations of others, to reveal something of myself that is unique even if I don't realize it. - We may all have to go out on a limb here to be as simple as possible. Feel free to stop at any time if it is overwhelming; if you start to hurt, just GIVE IT UP."


"OK. I'm gonna start with this feeling - feeling as we are today. I'm gonna start in a different way. Get a piece of paper and write a little bit: 'how you feel RIGHT NOW.' "

" 'Now, today, in this room I feel like ___________________________________'

Get the adjectives, get the imaging that you feel. How your mind feels. How your emotions feel. Just take a couple of minutes and jot down some things that seem pertinent now."
- - - - - -

"You can be perfectly honest because it's not going to be shared with anybody in this form."

"Sentences - Metaphors - 'I feel like a _________________________________'
- Contradicting - that's fine; sometime we do have feelings that contradict."
- - - - - -

"I'm sure we all have several ideas - we could go on with this, but let's stop for now. Try to remember a few of the ideas that are there and put the paper to the side -
You can refer back to it later if you want to."


"OK. I know Jacqueline and some others have said they would prefer to perhaps sit and dance today. That's perfectly fine. You can dance sitting there, you can lie down, whatever you need."

"We're going to start by IMAGINING movement. Get into a position - sitting, standing, lying - eyes open or closed. I want you to start imagining movement - AND LET THE BODY INFORM YOU HERE - start imagining movement that may express some of the things you just wrote…"

"SEE it happen - don't censor - don't make any choices there; just see yourself moving in a way that expresses some of those ideas."
- - - - - -

"Now slowly, very slowly, we're going to let those imaginings come out. But they're coming from the inside. So just let them start, let them come when - how they manifest themselves."
- - - - -

"Let your movement bring you to kneeling, sitting, standing. But only if the material comes from within and really expresses - perhaps in the simplest, most direct manner - what it is that you were feeling."
- - - - - -

"If you feel that you can get …real specific with some of the metaphors that you may have put in your paper - "
- - - - - -


"Everybody except Jacqueline relax and let's watch Jacqueline for a second. Continue, Jacqueline -
Everyone continue."
- - - - - -

"Let's watch Carl. Continue, Carl -
Everyone continue."
- - - - - -

"Everyone watch Tom -
Everyone continue."
- - - - - -

"Everyone watch Sarah -
- - - - - -

"Everyone watch Lucy -
- - - - - -

"Start getting to your feet if you're going to get to your feet. If you're NOT, continue on however you ARE.
- - - - - -


"Some incredibly beautiful things. Thank you for sharing that."


"Begin to form it a little bit as if you were choreographers and you were going to use this material in your own piece. It's not me that's doing the forming; it's you that are doing the forming.

"And some ideas that you think of, perhaps you want to take into the BROAD CATEGORIES OF LABAN that we've been talking about in the last couple of days. [goes to Motif Cards stacked along the front wall in categorical piles.]

"I don't think we'll see much of THIS
[holds up 'jump' card]

"But that's perfectly OK. We're going to limit. We have many ideas here, but I now want to keep the INTEGRITY; I want you to LIMIT; I want you to LIMIT WHAT YOU SAY. I'd like you to think in 2 (at most) of these categories.

" 'Go shopping' to see if there's something here that can help to form - to - ah -
What you showed me was this RAW DIAMOND, yeah? Now I want you to begin cutting it so that the idea is smaller and perhaps more - I don't know, could be many things, and I don't want to lead you in any way. 'Find' is not the word. JUST PARED DOWN. So now, 'Go shopping.' Play."

"Could be certain body parts that were coming out - or whatever it is that seemed to be there - Or maybe there's something else there - so that from the material we had - and we improvised for about 10 minutes."
- - - - -

[group milling about, choosing motif cards]

"I'm going to want perhaps 30 seconds of material. And it can be as simple as you want.

[Participant asks: 'Shall we take these?']

"Yes. Take any [cards] that will help you."

"So today we're not using [these symbols] as we did the other day to GENERATE movement. Now we're going to see if these symbols can help us to STRUCTURE movement."

"So start playing with these. - If you find what doesn't work, DROP IT. You may find that you want to 'go shopping' again."
- - - - --

"It can be under 30 seconds. That's fine too."
- - - - - -

"If you can't find a symbol you need, just turn a card over and imagine it on the blank side."
- - - - - -

"A question was asked, 'Are we going to need to notate what we do?'"

"Not necessarily. Just ideas to play around with. Whatever's going to help you turn this raw material into something that is MORE PRECISE (I guess is the word - ) It may encapsulate the entire experience or you may find out that for some of the ideas… you'll just have fewer of them. It could either be one idea or 2 ideas, further explored. Or it could be an encapsulation of the whole experience. Whatever way you want to go is fine."
- - - - -

"Remember, Stillness is always possible."
- - - - - -

"So now you're dialoging with the symbols, yeah? You're DIALOGING with the symbols. Let the symbols inform the work, and if they don't inform the work, then CHANGE THEM!"

"The symbols are not GOD. They're not FETISHES. They're tools. Use them."
- - - - - -

"You don't have to think too much - you're going to make choices, but, you know, let the body make choices."
- - - - - -

"Spend about 3 more minutes with this."
- - - - - -

"When I say 'Go,' let's do it and I'll say '15 seconds,' and '30 seconds,' just so you have an idea of the relative time. Ready? Begin."

"Did that seem fair to everybody? Can you get in some ideas with these parameters?"
[General nodding responses]

"Let's take the symbols to the side. Come into a circle and let's share. Those of you who are doing chair dances: stay on your chairs."
[Group moves to circle.]


[Start sitting. Anyone who wishes to show their dance just move into the center of the circle. People sitting on chairs, give some sort of signal…verbal. And just do this and not applaud until everyone who wants to has finished showing.]

[One by one each dance was performed. And the content, the simplicity and the silence were equally profound.]

"Thank you. I believe that's everyone." [looks around for confirmation].

"So. I wish I had you all in a piece of choreography that I were making. It would be an extraordinary work."


"We're just about out of time. Were there any comments about 'how you got there'? Because you really did get to an extraordinary place. And, did the symbols help you? Did they hinder you? Were you far enough along that - I guess I would just like to hear - You know, I've never done anything remotely like this before. I'd just like a little feedback as to what - how - you got from where we started to that extraordinary moment.

Comments, paraphrased:

'A difficult adjustment from feeling to symbols.'

'Because it was about feeling ….wished for effort symbols.'

'Enjoyed suggestion to imagine missing symbols on back of card. Used it to imagine effort symbols.'

'Enjoyed watching my process of experiencing feeling, then 'going shopping' and thinking about how that was being expressed in my body.

'My feeling was physical, not emotional, which I found easy to relate to the symbols.

'Could not find exact symbol, so choose the next most similar, which resulted in a change in my movement.

'I found myself being very empathetic and wanting to do this. As people were doing them I wanted to participate in the particular person's way of being.'
"Thank you very much."

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