Friday, April 13, 2012

Paxton's Connections

 Personally, I have been totally gripped by contact improvisation from the moment I was introduced to it. I adore the sensation of shifting weight and the danger of the dynamic and trust the art form creates between two people. The dance form appeals to my love of science, specifically physics. Contact Improvisation creates honest authentic dance, it brings a dancer back into their body, back into the moment, and really doesn’t allow any room for “over-doing.” My love and curiosity about contact improvisation is what lead me to suggest that Carrie and I research Steve Paxton. I quickly found out his interests are even more closely related to my own. 

Paxton’s body work with the material for the spine is very much up my alley. I am very interested in the anatomy of the body and how its restrictions and configuration limits and expands movement, which is a concept that is very much of Paxton’s mind set. The exploration of the muscles surrounding the spine, the core of all movement, is an exploration I not only respect a lot, but I would like to experiment with myself. I really enjoy that his work focuses so much on bringing the dancer back into their body, back to the basics of movement. This aspect of his work makes it accessible and applicable for many different types of people: Trained dancers, elderly, children, disabled, ect.

I really respect the accessibility of his work. His work with the disabled shows the range of his work. He has worked with the cognitively disabled, the blind, the physically handicapped, the old, the young, and even trained dancers. His work allows any person to go through an exploration of their own body, and to reignite movement in a world consumed by material. For me, it is not his specific choreography that has been his great contribution to the dance world, but rather his unique process and the explorations he has worked with such as, Material for the Spine, his work with pedestrian movement in Satisfying Lover, his creation of Contact Improvisation and the exploration of the physics between two people, and over all the benefit of movement for people from every walk of life.

Without Paxton’s work, many types of movement may be taboo or considered non-dance. He broke the boundaries of “what is dance” and allowed pedestrian movement stand on a stage alone. Without him, one probably wouldn’t see walking in dance, and even gestural movement would be less accepted. There clearly has been a shift in the dance scene toward the awareness of the body and its limitations, and even more importantly respecting those limitations. This respect is very much initiated by Paxton’s work. This respect is the reason why at 73, Paxton continues to dance. He respects the limits of his body and lets this influence and feed his work. Without his influences on the dance community, the face of dance would look dramatically different.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Steve in an Improvisation at John Weber Gallery, NY

Some great footage from the 70's of Steve with other movers doing contact improv. I'd like to try some of these :)


Carrie's Connection to Steve Paxton

I began this semester not knowing anything about Steve Paxton. Although I had experimented with Contract Improvisation for years prior, I never knew its origin or if it had a "creator." My partner, Rachel was actually the one who suggested we do Steve and now looking back, I am really glad that she encouraged me to take on the project of researching and getting to know him. I am always interested in trying new things in my work and have used Contact Improv to create choreography. In my project for Composition 2 this past year, I had a section with three dancers where they all were on the floor and I wanted them to stay connected. I had them experiment different ways to roll over each other and pass under one another to create a somewhat chaotic yet passionate feel. I have also experimented with Contact Improv in other dance making classes and after years of practice, I think I feel pretty comfortable with it. I've taught children's classes where we've explored the fundamentals of Contact Improv, and I now feel knowledgeable enough to explain its history and give proper credit. 

 His work has helped me bring my awareness back to every day essential movement. Being a dancer, I'm always moving throughout my day and I forget that some people don't have that luxury. I want to continue to encourage my son to explore through movement, instead of just sitting in front of Dora the Explorer for entertainment. I also enjoyed learning about his work with the blind and disabled. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "perfect image" of a dancer, we forget that anyone can dance. Steve's work really breaks dance down to it's most basic form. By being active and using myself wisely to move, I hope that I can be an example for my son and dance students. 

Steve is an admirable figure in the dance world because of his contributions to working with various types of people. He has reached out and created pieces with disabled, blind and teaches all around the world. His choreography has posed questions as to what dance really is and what it’s parameters are. Success has followed this exploration and Two of his works, Flat and Satisfying Lover were featured in the White Oak Dance Project's PASTforward tour in 2000. Improvisation has been a huge part of his career and he appeared in the improvisation initiative Crash Landing. His contributions to the dance world have been unique, yet powerful. 

Since coming to UWM, I’ve realized that dancing is about much more than how many pirouettes one can do or how perfectly they can leap across the floor. Dancing is about connection; within the body, with each other, with our minds. I believe that Steve is an example of an artist who has this philosophy and has had a prosperous career. His work reminds me that the basics of movement are perfectly valid to use in choreography and can be just as intriguing as big jumps or turns. I feel that much of the dance scene in today’s world is all about pushing the envelope. Steve is all about “thinking outside the box” and does not want to conform to society in the way that they are diminishing movement from everyday life. I often hear on the news that obesity rates are increasing, and I know that Steve is aware of this and wants to promote movement, even in its most basic forms, as a daily habit in people’s lives. He is connecting to the current dance world with his lectures and classes that are based on fundamental movement patterns and crafting the body into something that can be supportive yet able to adapt through Contact Improv. I am proud of his bold choice to work with DanceAbility (Contact Improv workshop for people who are disabled) and other organizations that bring movement to those who may be otherwise overlooked for instruction. In my research, I have not found many dance artists in today's world who are willing to reach out to minority groups like he has. Some of today’s dancers are so consumed in themselves; they forget that there is a great big world of dance around them. Steve is someone who cares much about the world and I have never once read anything that makes him sound like a snobby artist. So much of dance these days experiments with contact work that I don't think the dance world, or my personal dance bubble would be the same without Paxton's influence.

-Carrie Martin

About Rachel

I am currently a senior at UWM in the dance program. I'm working toward a BA in dance and a Minor in somatics. After graduation, I hope to be work toward a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. I am extremely interested in the cross over of dance, somatics, and physical therapy. When it comes to dance, I have a need to create. For this reason I love improvisation, and even simply choreographing. I think creation is the greatest gift a person has to give the world, especially art. I have a great love and appreciation for all art forms. I believe that no art from is independent from any other art from. Rather, music, dance, and visual art, are all constantly feeding off of one another and inspiring new work.