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Variances in looking possibilities

Reading and watching through movement development work by Thomas Hauert and Zoo Company, I was taken with the instructions for the “Creative scientist” practice. Sitting before my computer trying to move my arms at different tempos, at first I was thinking I was totally doing it–and “quickly!” and then realized that I was swinging my arms in a unified lilting rhythm but for a few moments of finger wiggling.

I copied down the instructions for future improvisational play, also digging this word “polyrhythm” as a label to help apply this work to the jazz (dance) course I am now teaching. I wonder if this method could apply to improvising musicians–those who use two hands or two legs or three or four limbs, to “isolate” the movement of each limb in order to subvert a unified-limb regularity. (This question: how might this be shared with music, seems to arise frequently for me. I have only recently realized how deeply I care about sound with its space/time/flow elements and their intersection with movement. It’s no wonder that my jazz students are now well-versed in polymeters and polyrhythms as we strategize methods of creating improvisationally. )

There is something emotionally affirming about Bebe Miller’s work with Angie Hauser, Darrell Jones, and herself (found on the same site developed by Norah Zuniga-Shaw). Her naming of an element of each person’s unique improvisational qualities feels like a way of saying: you matter, how you improvise matters, and let’s keep having you do that, and give it names and qualities and purpose.

Watching Darrell’s head swish and bob, too, reminded me that there are some qualities that I admire in other people, but that my formerly-concussed brain really resists. In one video I watched Angie watching Darrell; it felt like a full embrace of the variances in looking possibilities, and suddenly, with that sense of stillness, I realized I was experiencing a stronger sense of composition/choreography.

I think continuous movement at a steady rate implies for me improvisation, while the insertion at some certain amount of time passed indicates a sense of purposeful timing. I’m not saying this is fact, or what I think should be how pieces are staged. It is, however, a reminder of my read on what catches me – pausing, and whether it’s important enough for me to include that always, or to see what happens if I choreography something without change in rate.

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