Awaiting Acknowledgement (2016)
Awaiting Acknowledgement remembers my personal experience of situational depression and stress caused by periods of unemployment and broken relationships. Since its work-in-progress at Turn Dance Platform dating April 2016, I wanted to develop this solo choreography by making it an 'intermedial' dance work - combining its live performance with video projection. I wanted to film from all angles of the rocking horse and teddy bear representing the characters who witness my personally-lived experiences and project these on the cyclorama.
Why this stimulus? When I was 14, I began to feel deeply moved as a result of puberty. I experienced fazes of being isolated or feeling inferior unlike others even if I was not. When I was 17, I began to feel startled in my responses to being approached that my teacher thought it was paranoia following my expressions. When I was 18, I learnt that my mother had been suffering post-natal depression. When I was 24, I was registered as ‘unemployed’ for 3 years and, throughout that timeframe, I dreaded any worst case scenarios such as collisions with other voluntary commitments, penalties or bad customer service when attending meetings as part of my unemployment record. I decided that I was a depressant and it felt important to interpret these emotions in my choreographic practice.
The musical accompaniment consisted of sound effects of the heart pumping, breathing and gasping together to represent how we feel when we get anxious in extension with The Burnt Home composed by Clem Leek due to its musically depressing nature. There was some movement vocabulary from the work-in-progress I wanted to keep and the rest I decided to disregard due to their irrelevance. The mystery was what comes next? How do I mix up the original structure? How do I integrate that with new material?
I planned to create movement influenced from historic popular music due to their relevance to my autobiographical theme, even if it suggested rectification and reflecting on nostalgic moments whilst also regretting mistakes that were once made. A piece of historic popular music in particular was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? by Al Green and it was at this stage when I realised that this work is made by an exploration using metaphor which interested me. The line which stood out to me was “How can you mend this broken man?” I gathered four common broken body parts – an arm, a leg, a hand and the neck – which I could use to devise new movement material with the teddy bear.
I wanted to devise gestural movement influenced by sign language, due to my interest in using sign language as a choreographic tool. I relied on the ‘British Sign Language’ website – www.britishsignlanguage.com – as a source. Unfortunately, I was unable find some of the words needed. Instead, I gathered twelve gestures demonstrating emotions and feelings and selected three of which represented nerves, sadness and worry, and considered these as motifs.
Another sequence I wanted to make was physically telling a story of how my situational depression emerged, although I experienced many periods of stress whilst claiming benefits as a result of unemployment.
Towards the end of the re-worked structure, I kept a section from the work-in-progress based on the word ‘rekindle’ and its definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary – “To rouse from a state of inactivity or quiescence: reactivate, resuscitate, revitalize, revive, revivify.” Using this definition, I devised movement inspired by the idea of a dead elephant being manipulated by a living elephant with its head as morbid as it sounds.
Some rehearsals were treated as filming sessions. For this solo choreography, the filmography recorded and edited was basic.
I filmed using a Flip camcorder device which stood on a mini-tripod and attached to the back of the teddy bear with bobbles, then once again on a regular tripod (in replacement of the rocking horse) mainly, if not always, from wide shots that captured me within the frame from worm’s eye view or low angles.
During the editing process, I wanted to merge together the film footage recorded from all angles of the rocking horse and teddy bear. I was disadvantaged to do this on Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premier Pro. Windows Movie Maker allowed me to achieve the alternative way of editing the filmic product.
I drafted a storyboard regarding the video projection (McPherson, 2006).
I wanted to apply dynamic to the film by panning across and zooming in/out, capturing all close-ups and extreme wide shots in particular. I do not think I explained myself clearly to the cameraperson who panned across (as and when necessary) except she zoomed in slightly that the frame could still catch a medium wide shot of myself instead of a big close-up.
We recorded myself performing the structure without the filmed footage projected on the cyclorama. Afterwards, I could watch back to see the natural speed of movement then modify the speed of the video clips in the editing process.
Subject for modular assessment at Masters Level, the awarded grade was 95%. According to my tutors’ feedback, it was “…a dynamically and engaging performance event.” An exceptional exploration of choreographic movement ideas made it a distinctive, original and creative autobiographical work with a marked individual and identifiable style. The screen work gave sophisticated attention to detail. That and the live performance worked together to enhance media and a distinctive work.
McPherson, K. (2006) Making Video Dance: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen. Oxon: Routledge