Even though I majored in contemporary performance and choreography for my undergraduate degree, I never thought I would make my own work upon graduating. I figured I would dance for other artists' but not necessarily produce my own creations. But as many like-minded contemporary dancers might attest, finding your place in the underground dance world (ie. departure from classical modern dance - Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, etc) -- is not easy. While this scene always differs depending on location (and mine was Atlanta back in 2005), there are always the same issues of time and money, and most importantly - fulfillment. There is virtually no money in this art form, therefore unless you have or are a part of an official dance company with a 501c3 doing outreach work and applying for grants, you must have a primary form of income to live comfortably... which leads to the problem of time. With sporadic time availability, working in large groups is uncommon and overly complicated so pick-up projects tend to be transient and intimate. While it is very possible to find artist(s) for whom you can find the time and desire to make dance, most of these people are seeking collaborative experiences - they want to work with you to create. Inevitably, if you're going to be a part of this underground scene, you realize your own choreographic voice must be heard in conjunction with the others'. It is not fulfilling to only perform in other people's works -- at least it wasn't for me....
Molly and I met at the University of Michigan's dance department, although we are both native Pittsburghers. I performed in her MFA thesis concert and thoroughly enjoyed her process --- drastically different, Molly has natural, spontaneous movement sequences flow out of her body to which she then directs intention and ideas; I begin with abstract, conceptual thoughts that over time develop into specific movement phrases. When we both found ourselves transplanted to Atlanta for our respective personal relationships, we realized our creative minds needed an identity as we got acquainted with the new arts community. Thus, indieMOVE... an independent movement project, was formed. Other than the mission and ideas for what the next project should be, there was little structure to this duo, and that served us well. We branded ourselves. We were indieMOVE...
We made a number of original duets and solos (see below for links to excerpts!); we self-produced full evening concerts, sometimes split the bill with other artists; we were a great pair. We even made t-shirts ;) Our work was not just about dance; we went for the theatrical, interactive, multi-media experience. I bought a nifty little camcorder and taught myself how to edit video and sound. We were low-budget, but that was part of the thrill. Atlanta turned out to be a wonderful place to begin showing work because there were a number of affordable, unique art spaces and venues in which we performed:
Neither of us stayed in Atlanta. As inclusive and supportive as the arts community was, neither of us felt like it was or would ever be home. After a few years, she went to Chicago to continue dancing; I came home for a trip to Europe and to start thinking about graduate school...indieMOVE was put on hold.
indieMOVE is not dead. If you haven't already, you should visit our website; outdated, yep, but an archive no doubt. We have both since relocated back to Pittsburgh, and although our creative minds are focused on other things (Molly onto motherhood, Me onto design thinking), dance doesn't ever go away when it is a part of the fabric of who you've become. Mark my words.... indieMOVE will be revived someday ;).
One of the reasons I've latched so tightly onto the concepts behind design thinking is because I think I have essentially been following elements of the methodology since my early composition work at the University of Michigan and then later with my choreographic process with indieMOVE.
Creations typically began with a brainstorm. Molly and I would discuss observations in our daily life: sometimes they would come from a personal place, sometimes not. We would speak at length about a topic, identifying key terms/words of value... ideas that seemed to spawn sub-ideas and lead to other explorations. We exhausted our own personal connections to those ideas and then broadened our understanding by expanding our discussion with a larger audience - this could be immediate family and friends or a random shopper/pedestrian on the street. Iteration is inevitably a part of developing movement -- we might spend a rehearsal exploring movement phrases that expressed one word, one idea -- other times, we'd make movement unrelated to the idea and explore how intercepting the concept with the movement created another thread line of meaning. Ultimately, we aimed to connect with our audience in a way that made one think how the concept related to him/her; there was no defined message to receive; and both Molly and I strove to break the traditional notion of 'the dancer' - either identified as some ethereal, fanatical creature in a pink tutu like the spinning figurine in a girl's jewelry box OR the knock-your-socks-off jazzerina who breathes sex appeal and flashy tricks on stage. We weren't dancers, we were Molly and Sarah moving. Creating and performing a work enabled us to express elements of ourselves we could not realize with as much physical and mental engagement in our day to day lives. We knew then we were privileged with the ability and desire to communicate via our bodies and not just our voices. We also felt strongly that no matter dense or dark or heavy a concept, there always should be some presence of humor or pure entertainment to the work. After all, who were we, to demand that our audience take their pets as seriously as we did ? Or come to a dance show with the intent of reliving a nasty nightmare? These were our concepts and thoughts, and our goal was to engage each audience member on his and her own journey of thought throughout the evening....