Stevens, Hutchinson, Koch share about their process working with the Sam Boshnack Quintet
My work in general is layered in spatial design, engaged with the music complexity, imaginative in concepts expressed abstractly, and densely packed with movement phrasing.
I chose to work with the three final tracks from the album that were written in honor of Mt. St. Helen’s. The three tracks are titled, Dormant, Exploding Syndrome, and Ashcloud. I was drawn to the metaphors inherent in the titles and working with these metaphors to create an abstract piece that considers both the macro idea of dormancy and eruption in the shadow of a volcano and the micro reality of dormant cancer cells and the looming shadow possibility of the proliferation of disease in our bodies. Both ideas of macro and micro suffering have powerful potential for release of chaos and transFORMation. The first two movements surge and ebb toward a dynamic final eruptive punch; the third movement is reflective, contemplative and beautiful. It is important to me that a sense of hope is conveyed, transcendent beauty in the wake of difficulty.
The question of improvisation is a really important one to consider working with live jazz. Knowing the scores well, I am aware of the places musically that are improvised. In some places I choose very intently to contrast an improvised music section with a highly choreographed section to achieve a desired feel from that moment in the work. All of my movement phrasing was generated by my own video tapped improvisations with the music, but I have only just begin rehearsals with the cast and am considering ways to explore improvisation with the dancers and how or where it will best serve the intent of the work. In some sections the movement material will be known by the dancer, but timing will be open for exploration in the moment with the improvising musical voice.
The second work I am creating will be the first time I create a piece entirely in silence and commission a score for the work. I have generated a number of lengthy phrases that continue to remind me of urban transportation/progress as I drive up and down the Alaskan Way Viaduct against the contrast of water and nature that has a mind and plan of its own. Perhaps it will be an ode to my beloved native city of Seattle… perhaps as rehearsals start in May and the work takes shape a new meaning will emerge… for now I am exploring movement phrasing and spatial design that is tugging at me and speaking to me.
In my conversation with Sam, I realized that Juba and Xi were named after a scrabble game! Two independent pieces – on the album they frame a longer piece. I love the idea that they are independent, and they are so unique. Juba is ebullient and rollicking and Xi is much more slow and Sam said Xi is like its all underwater…I felt I really wanted pairs, or couples for Xi to explore this wild and unusual sound/feeling. It is mysterious and outside of my comfort zone, and so I look forward to going “out there”. When first talking to Karin – I mentioned I hoped she would be dancing in my piece and she suggested Naph and said they were good together. It sounded like a pair of otters. I loved the idea of the two of them. I had been wanting to explore a duet that was dense and challenging, working less with steps than interdependence. but since the music is “dancey” to my ear, creating a response in a different way.
Its rather freeing to be a part of a whole picture, and has made me feel curious and more open to changing formulas. Sam mentioned that she uses improvisation a lot in her composing and that she liked to put on events.. but not perform all the time. I really like events myself, and so it will be fun to be a part of this event which will involve cooperation and working together, yet separately. And in a way being skillful and letting go of the results to move toward a new form. I think Sam’s music really makes my mind go into new spaces and I am looking forward to this challenge. I will be using improvisation in some way as well, within the time constraints, potentially giving the performers choices, or building some of the movement material through improvisatory explorations. We will cooperate on some of the aspects of live performance that are improvisational and also the fact that it is live, will bring an alertness and heightening of some of these ideas. It is interesting as well to think of Karin and Jurg working on their parts, and knowing that this will influence my work as well. A big puzzle!
In this project I will work collaboratively with an all female cast from Karin Stevens Dance and the Sam Boshnack Quintet. I am intrigued by working with the album’s Suite for Seattle’s Royal Court in terms of the instrumentation and the contrasting pace in the different movements.
In conversation with Sam Boshnack I was also interested in the “setness” of different aspects of the music – working with sections that are open scores to others that are strictly composed is a further focus point of the choreographic process. Since the music will be performed live the improvised sections are to be negotiated by both the dancers and the musicians. I want to respond to this aspect in the compositional process, structure and vocabulary. My focus in the first instance will be on an ostinato like movement patterns and loops that are able to develop with the musical composition.
This is also a long distance choreographic process where I will be working with the company while I am in Switzerland. We will therefore be working with tasks as well as videoed material that I prepare and the filmed rehearsals to which I respond to. This is a new process for all involved and I am interested in the possibilities this provides and the piece it will generate.