Lab recap (4/4): NYC CI Lab, Wed., 2014/07/30, at 100 Grand Dance, New York, NY [rough]

Deep from the backlog, this is a recap and summary of conclusions from the fourth of four sessions of the July 2014 dance lab at 100 Grand Dance (titled “Velocity”), which I facilitated. There’s a lot that’s forgotten and possibly inaccurate, but I wanted to put down what I could.

Participants besides me are identified by first initial (A., E., M., and S.).

What we did

Under the 100 Grand lab structure at the time, we were asked to do a final week “showing,” where findings from lab were presented to the community. We chose to do this as an open lab, where interested people could participate in further investigation with us.

We did a fairly long warm-up that also served as a review of some of the previous three weeks. We then did two rounds of observed duetting. In the first round, we danced with the intention of dancing quickly, with some real-time input from observers. In the second round, we played with an idea that S. suggested.


  • Relaxing into floor, releasing
    • telescoping awareness of sounds (e.g., sound of breath, sound in the room, sound outside room, sounds down the street, and all the way back again)
    • scanning through body to release tension
  • Rolling side to side, to up
  • Falling near each other
  • Falling and brushing up against each other
  • Pushes into each other’s pelvises
  • Contact handstands, with pushes into handstanders’ pelvises
  • Side jumps at each other (see week 1)
  • continuous score — mixing all of the above (from Falling)

Witnessed duetting, part 1

One couple dancing at a time, others observing and taking notes on post-its. The dancing couple had the instruction to try to dance fast(er). As both a safety and observational tool, observers could ask the couple how fast they felt they were going, on a scale of 1 to 10. Each dancer answered according to their personal sense of fast.

Then we discussed. As we did so, we grouped together post-its of observations that seemed to naturally go together.

Witnessed duetting, part 2

We did a second round of Observed Dancing, this time taking a specific exercise as an entry point to faster dancing. Dancers could tap, slap, or push on each other throughout the dance, somewhat playfully or rambunctiously, with the idea that this might lead into faster dancing. (This was suggested by S., which she derived from exercises of various teachers such as Helene Cathala, Andrew Harwood, and Kate West. I noticed a similarity to Nina Martin’s “fussy dance.”)

We tested the hypothesis that the small movements testing the other person could lead into a permission for larger and faster movements.

Then we discussed.


Witnessed duetting, part 1

We grouped our conclusions for the first round of duets under various topics. I’ve mostly preserved those topics them below.

Fast does not equal Fast

What feels fast does not necessarily appear fast, and vice versa.

  • A moment of stopping can be the top of a parabolic arc – part of a continuous fast motion, that still *feels* fast.
  • A moment of physical rest doesn’t necessarily feel like slowness or checking out – it can feel fast for the participants.
  • Similarly, there’s a difference between what is fast in an objective sense (absolute fast) vs. fast for the dance.
  • There’s a difference between absolute fast and fast decision-making or adaptation. Things feel faster when there are more decisions/adaptations to make.
  • There’s a difference between high-energy and fast, a difference between intensity and speed.
  • It’s difficult to remain fast without being frenetic, and while remaining connected.
  • Often duets fell into a distinct rhythm or pattern of speed changes.
  • In this, duets were never entirely fast, but were changing speed.
  • Sometimes pure speed was less important than compositional values.
Decision Points
  • Periodically duets reached “decision points,” where they might choose to speed up, maintain speed, or slow down.
  • Decision points aren’t necessarily stopping points, but stopping is one option that facilitates a check-in with your partner.
  • Duets balance speed vs. risk and rapport.
    • Building rapport quickly with a new partner is a challenge!
    • who/when decides what the duet is ready for?
  • Speed and connectedness are hard to both maintain.
  • Moments of eye contact were sometimes moments when duet would start to rev things up — a check-in and agreement to go faster.
  • We observed dancers laughing off accidental hitting!
  • We observed dancers searching through speed, figuring each other out.
  • Daisy-chain = easy speed
  • fluidity keeps speed
  • Moving in the same direction maintains speed
  • speed as rotational speed?

(i.e., physical space between partners, breaking the point of contact)

  • Allows eye contact
  • More separate dancing?
  • Extraneous movements filling speed?
  • towards & away — support in/by the space
  • role of space between in coping with speed
  • space as a medium — supporting you
  • speed not the highest goal — moments of check in, recalibration
    • vs. safety, comfort, communication, compositional ideas, connection
    • vs. losing focus
    • vs. leaving partner behind
  • speed generated FOR your partner — making your partner move fast is different from your moving fast
  • motion in one direction vs. redirection
  • moment of contact = change in speed
  • fast launch or follow through
    • where is speed? in the launch or the follow-through?
  • Some duets tended to stay mostly vertical (not much changing levels).

Witnessed duetting, part 2

I’ve reproduced our general conclusions, followed by specific observations on specific duets. I’ve often left the original phrasing from our notes, cryptic though it may be. This is because it was too difficult to capture the meaning other words, or because I wasn’t clear on the original meaning but still felt there was possible value in it.

General conclusions/observations

Tapping on different parts of the body accomplished different things:

  • testing for support
  • invitation
  • finding center
  • finding down [I think this related to testing for support, like finding the floor]
  • bouncing [I think the means, creating a bouncy feel in the dance, sometimes literally bouncing on top of someone]
  • testing *muscular* support (not just structural)
A. & S.
  • testing – similar to sloughing — finding weight centers
  • permission to make mistakes, be awkward?
  • fills gaps?
  • permission to be rambunctious
  • lower stakes — not such a big deal for when to start
  • trying to get partner to find perch & speed
  • fighting & comfort. & speed?
E. & M.
  • escaping is a question not always a goal?
  • internal rhythms, meter does not equal external speed
  • smaller movement starting from pelvis connections — harder to find centers?
  • more wrestling, fighting
  • limbs more than centers?
  • consistent fast rhythm vs. pure speed
  • constant extension
  • direction shifts within constant speed
  • (limits on collective speed, personal speed)
Richard & S.
  • Much better way to test perch
  • Very bouncy
  • Excellent connection & fluidity in not necessarily speed but continuous motion
  • Using repeated smaller movements to test for next possibility
  • Gap-filling — but seemed like an extension
  • Subjective speed vs. actual speed — related to dancers’ familiarity with the motion?

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