Building Material

Here are suggestions of how you can focus on simple ideas for content and explore building simple motifs that can be expanded on and developed. 

A Conversation:

[from Rob Kitsos]

This is a great, easy way of getting some quick material ready to play with.  Ask the group to get in pairs and then just have a two-minute conversation about anything that comes up.  After two minutes, have each person work alone for fifteen minutes on a movement or sound score based on the conversation.  Then have the pairs get back together and show their work as pairs.  It’s great to see the natural relationships in the material without any planning between the pairs, but you can also give them more time to set something as duets or develop into fuller works and then show.  This work also reminds us how content for a complex work can come from anywhere, even a simple conversation.

Composition class notes:

[from Rob Kitsos]

This is used to help think about how to abstract ideas from a single source.  When working from an object, image, or body- it's helpful to have strategies for deconstructing and imagining how many directions and vibrations a single source can produce- all of it is useful material.  This is especially useful in a group setting where participants get together to build ideas.  When referencing this list, use large paper or surface to compile images and ideas.  This can become a blueprint of a new work.

Equality Celebrates the Ordinary 1993:

[from Sally Banes]

Themes to work from:

City / House / Rooms / Walking

Create a work inspired by these themes and principles derived from the 1960’s movement in dance and visual art.  Each group will have approximately 40 minutes to collaborate and complete a 3:00 study based on these principals.  We will then come together as a group, perform the studies and talk about the process.  

Movement and environmental elements to consider:

Repetitive:  walking, sitting, stopping, changing direction, running, up and down steps, etc,
Singular: falling, tripping, jumping, rolling
Other Motifs: folding, locomotion, repetition, functional, topography

Architecture and objects:

Consider the function of the studio spaces- situating your actions in a specific part of the studio.  How does the performance interrelate with the space

Objects: find ones that are already in the space- or add objects as another dimension in the environment. 

Other elements: Light, shadow, color, and fabric (light, projector, etc.)


[from Rob Kitsos] 

Divide the group into small groups of three or four.  Give each group one word (a different word for each group).  Have each person in each group write down three sentences inspired by that word.  Use these sentences to build a gesture base.  This is a series of simple movements and gestures based on the rhythms and images in the sentences. Remember to create movements that don't mime the content of the sentences- but play with different initiations from the body, directions and dynamics.  Give the group a finite amount of time so they don't over thinking the process.  The gesture bases should be simple and easy for them to repeat.

Once everyone has there phrases based on the words- you can have them build trajectories through the space (see topography maps below) and extend their gesture bases along these trajectories through the space.  There are many strategies on how to extend these phrases (see motif and development).  

The groups can then work together and assemble the phrases that travel through space.  There may be places when negotiations need to be made in space- offering the development of new movement ideas.  Allow the group to create a study that includes all the phrases performed in the space at the same time.

This process is a good way to experience a simple process that starts with a single image end ends in a complex series of movement phrases in space.  It's also a way of seeing a strong relationship between the movement choices within the groups based on a single source of inspiration.  

You can also have the groups change fronts, play with changing just one person's trajectory or facing to see how these compositional choices change our perception and reading of the work.    

Found Text:

[from Gabriel Saloman]

Text in-and-of itself can be a great starting point for creation. Many contemporary poetry techniques provide ways to begin creating, often by using found text. Procedural techniques, erasure poems, "cut-ups" and found poems all can become the building blocks of a work - as a script, a score, as visual elements or simply as a process for opening up new ideas. Here are a few immediate and accessible techniques for a group to develop material from found text.

Found Poems: In a visual world surrounded by text, we're also surrounded by poetry. Found poems can be created by taking a selection of text out of context and presenting it on its own. This can involve cutting phrases out of newspapers and paper ephemera, or taking photos of text in public spaces.

Erasure Poems: This involves taking an existing text and erasing portions of it to produce a new meaning or even a critique of the existing meaning of the text. This can easily be applied to books, newspapers, magazine or any other dense collection of text.

"Cut-ups": This is a technique made popular by Byron Gysin and William S. Burroughs. Artists can take any existing text and cut it up into pieces of varying size. They then take those pieces and arrange them into a new text at random. It relies on chance and the surreal to create new texts that produce unexpected meanings and associations.

Procedural Poetry: This is a kind of conceptual poetry that can range from highly sophisticated to very simple. The artist takes a set of limitations and produces a collection of text. These limitations can include sources (twitter, a school book, the poetry of Basho, song titles on spotify), formal types (only words starting with the letter E, proper names, adjective/noun combinations), or a particular process (using search engines, opening random pages, picking the first sentence on every page of a book). There's an almost endless variation and these can be as random or intentional as desired.


Box of Letters:

[from Mary Sheldon Scott]

A choreographer from Seattle uses a three-dimensional cube with all the letters of the alphabet attached to different joints and mid lines on the cube.  Participants spell out their full names sending body parts to the letters as if their body is positioned in the center of the cube.  This is a quick way to develop an abstract and clear movement motif that can be further developed and get the body to move in unexpected ways. 

Alpha Box.jpg

Object-Jam & create phrases:

[from Rob Kitsos]

Bring in an object like a birdcage, apple, picture, (simple is sometimes the best), and have the group get out paper and jam on what they see (see Composition Class Notes: list of deconstruction above).  Getting people to see beyond the obvious and allow themselves to expand ways of seeing is a valuable way to inspire new ideas.  You can build a full evening work of material for a single object or image. 

Object Play:

[from Megan Stewart]

This is a simple way of exploring play and divergent thinking with an object.                                                                               

- Have the group put their objects on the floor in a random spacing so the group can see all of them
- Walk around all of the objects- looking at each one closely
- Choose an object to work with and stop close to the objec
- Examine the object.  See it as if it was the first time.  Suspend your recognition of its purpose and see it as a new object (shape, sound, weight, etc.)
- Create 3 different sounds with the object
- Take the object into space and find a way to relate to it.  This can be positioning in space, movement, sound, etc.
- Create 3 different relations to the object.  Repeat these three relationships by cycling through them, playing with the repetitions by shifting tempo or duration, or spatial relationship.
- Encourage them to add in some of the sounds they had created with their object.
- Lastly, work with a partner and find a way of relating with the objects together.  How can the objects interact?  

Exploring and Moving with Objects:

[from Donna Redlick]

Objects can be a great way to invite new kinaesthetic experiences and relationships.  They can invite you to move beyond your habitual movement patterns.

Choose an object that piques your curiosity.

Imagine that you are discovering this object for the first time. Let go of all known aspects and associations with this object. 

Sensing Experience with the Object:

Respond to the object through a sensing experience and allow the object to take you into a movement exploration that invites a sensorial/kinaesthetic experience.  Notice the object’s shape, texture, look or sound. How does that evoke your movement experience? Explore the materiality of the object with your eyes closed. Let your body respond… echo its shape, texture, and properties within your own body.

Moving in Relation to the Object as your Partner:

Move with the object to explore being in relation to it as if it is your partner.  You can move towards it, away from it, with it, over it, under it, around it, move in contrast to it – the possibilities are endless - continue to find ways that you can be relation to the object and how that relation invites you to move.

Invent/Find the ‘new’: 

As you explore moving with the object notice how that can invite you to invent a ‘new’ movement vocabulary? How does the object or prop take you out of your habitual ways of moving? Once you have discovered movement patterns that emerge from being with the object set the object aside and explore the same movement patterns without the object.  What do you notice? 

An extension of you:

Another exploration is to imagine that this object is an extension of your body.  How do you move when that object is an extension of you?  If that object is now a part of you how does it invite you to bridge out into your environment or reach out into space?

Observing Material as Inspiration Source

[From Robert Leveroos, inspired by an exercise of Ann-Marie Kerr]

Good for group communication, brainstorming, developing minute observation skills, and generating ideas and source material.

Prep: Gather a variety of different simple materials that have potential for movement: a sponge, paper towel, computer paper, cellophane, a feather, bubble wrap, styrofilm, a rubber band, tinfoil, etc.

Step 1.

In small groups (3-6) or as an entire group, have one person scrunch up a single material in their hand and then drop it in the centre of the group from one foot above ground. Everyone watches as that material expands until it finds its final resting position. Be patient with it, some materials will take a long time to find their resting point, but there is a lot to observe as it reaches this point.  As a group describe qualities of the movement, this could include tempo, duration, gesture, texture. What does it remind you of? Is there a personality associated with it?  This can be spoken aloud or written down. Try to create an exhaustive list, it can be goofy. 

Move on to another material and repeat the exercise. Continue with all of the materials.

Step 2.

Then drop two materials at the same time. How does it change when they’re in relationship to one another? What do you observe about their relationship? Does it remind you other relationships you’ve seen? Animal? Human? 

Step 3.

Each participant chooses a material and does the scrunch/drop on their own. Through observation they recreate the quality of movement in their own body. Practice it a few times. Share them. Try abstracting the movement quality. It can be on a spectrum 100% is full recreation of that material and 5% is a subtle glimmer of that material in a human body. Show them in pairs so two materials go at once. Look at the relationship between the two.

Step 4.

These movements, observations, qualities, personalities, can be used for the beginning of a scene, a dance, or a character, the applications are as endless as the possibilities of the source materials.

Story Building / Story Telling

[from Linnea Gwiazda]

This exercise is great for building ideas, finding inspiration and starting a dialogue with your collaborators.

Step 1.
  • Sit in a circle and write a page-long story as a group by writing a sentence and passing the page to the next person in the circle. 

  • Continue this process until the page is full. 

  • Read the story out loud.

Step 2.
  • Separate and individually find a way to tell the story.

  • Perform the story to your collaborators.

  • Separate again and find another way to tell the story, that has not already been done by yourself or one of your collaborators.

  • Perform the story to your collaborators. 

At the end of this process you should have a bank of interesting sounds, images, ideas, performance methods etc. to work with.