[RE:CON]VERSATIONS :: THERE MIGHT BE OTHERS :: Choreographer Rebecca Lazier and Composer Dan Trueman
[box][articlequote]Seminal works of the avant-garde become so when the inherent risk at the heart of the experiment catalyzing the vision to its fruition pushes the work’s sphere of influence beyond its original form and often its intended meaning. Intrepid choreographer Rebecca Lazier’s penchant for musical interpretation and the infinite aesthetic and physical languages in its breadth makes her among the very best of her generation — and as this book attests, she possesses a vision that will bear influence on generations to come. What a gift to this and future generations that the unique scope of this remarkable project will have its record in the pages of this tract, and a gift to us to be a part of bringing ‘There Might Be Others’ to life.”
– Tommy Kriegsmann, Director of Programs, New York Live Arts [/articlequote] [/box]
THERE MIGHT BE OTHERS, World Premiere Commission
March 16-19, 2016; 7:30 pm
New York Live Arts
In collaboration with Mobius Percussion and Sō Percussion
[box]When Rebecca Lazier approached me with the possibility of publishing a score/performance document for her New York Live Arts commission, she was right to imagine I’d jump at the project. We’ve spoken to Lazier before for this series, in tandem with her previous collaboration with David T. Little, ‘Coming Together/Attica,’ and she’s very aware of The OS’s mission vis-a-vis process documentation and the archiving of more ephemeral work. I’m thrilled to have this beautiful volume in our catalog, available here – and equally thrilled to be able to share with you here a conversation I had with Lazier and her close collaborator on TMBO, composer and musician Dan Trueman.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson [/box]
Lynne DeSilva-Johnson: Who are you, and what’s your creative title of choice?
Rebecca Lazier: Rebecca Lazier — Choreographer.
Dan Trueman: Dan Trueman — Composer, fiddler, electronic musician.
LDJ: How did you end up in your medium?
RL: I have no idea. It simply is what I am. There are some high 8 films of me making up some choreography on my 10 year old friends and performing in a field in Nova Scotia. And stories of me enlisting my younger brother in early productions, so you can say I have always done it. But in many ways it is a continual surprise that I am still doing this and only recently have I come to trust I won’t have to go to medical school.
DT: I can’t help it. Really, I’ve played violin/fiddle for as long as I can remember, and have spent the last 25 years or so trying to “make it my own” and, by extension, discover music for me and others to play. Sometimes this means putting notes to a page, improvising, learning a tune by ear, writing code, it all depends, but I basically can’t help doing these things every day that I have the privilege to do so.
LDJ: When did you decide you “owned” this label? Have you always felt comfortable calling yourself this? What other titles or affiliations do you prefer/feel are more accurate)?
RL: In my mid-twenties. I first trained to be a professional dancer but have never really used that label. While I am a dancer, I still train a great deal and use my body as a site of experimentation, I was primed to think ‘making it’ meant getting a job in a full-time dance company, which I never did. At the same time I was told I would likely never be dancer because I was too fat, too smart, and my feet were too big. I wasn’t sure I would stay in the field and then I herinated two discs and broke two vertebrae. Rather than pushing me to leave dance I was galvanized to retrain and keep going. I turned to making and directing and once I was on the other side I felt I belonged. But I do have a tricky relationship to my title as a ‘choreographer’ because it implies I make my money doing that, yet, I choose to support myself by teaching. I love teaching and the two acts feed each other tremendously. So I am actually an educator/choreographer. I am also many others things: a mom, a sibling, a daughter, a friend, a mentor, and a person dedicated to being in or near the water as much as possible.
DT: This is complicated. I’ve played violin as long as I can remember, but I’ve had difficulty identifying as a “violinist” for a LONG time, and i don’t identify as one anymore. I identify SORT OF as a “fiddler” but only with caveats, in part because I didn’t grow up playing in any particular tradition. I’ve identified as a composer for about 20 years, but also not without some difficulty; I confess to not being entirely comfortable with the conventional notion and image of a Western composer, but I LOVE composing, making new music, inventing ways to be together musically. And somewhere along the way I discovered that I’m pretty good at programming, and that I like it, so that crept into the whole creative mess, so i sometimes identify as an “electronic musician” or “musical hacker.”
LDJ: What do these labels mean, anyway?
RL: Haha. Someone tried to pick me up in a bar once. He asked what I did. I said “I’m a choreographer.” He said “Oh yeah, someone who works with rocks!” I responded “you could say that.”
Some describe choreography as being undefinable as its purpose is to redefine itself with each iteration. I relate to this, with each piece I challenge my process and question how I am thinking the form. But I often wonder, when does movement become choreography? When it is watched? Could a definition be “movement or stillness made to be watched” but then there is the tree/forest problem. I’ve heard composers call music “organized sound” would the corollary be dance (first we would have to agree that the term dance is synonymous with choreography) is “organized movement”? So then is a choreographer someone who organizes movement? There are holes in these propositions. I could move rocks.
DT: History and convention aside (if that were ever possible): composers invent/construct/dream up/discover ways for people to make music together. One thing that I’ve found differentiates “composers” from “fiddlers” is the level of preparation that is typically expected; composers love to prepare, that’s what we do! Fiddlers love to be in the moment, and while there is lots of preparation with fiddlers as well, I have found that *I’m* usually the one doing the most preparing of material when I work with fiddlers.
LDJ: What do you see as the role of someone in your field today?
RL: Choreography is everywhere and has different roles in its various contexts. Choreography serves different purposes on concert stages than it does in music videos, musicals, site-specific locations, experimental work, pieces that work in a vernacular, rituals, rehearsals, pageants, flash mobs, or in state sponsored spectacles.
DT: Basically the same answer as Rebecca here. I will add that I aspire to make up stuff that people just do, for themselves, without a thought of “performance.” For me, most of what i get from music is in the making of it, often by myself or with a small group of others. Of course I love performing and sharing that work, but honestly I wish today’s music/art culture were a bit less about that and a bit more about simply doing. One of the things I love about this project is that we really are making something that is about the doing, and while there will be performances and the nature of performance will bring that “doing” into intense focus, this is fundamentally different than what sometimes feels like “executing” a set of instructions (a conventional score).
RL: Indeed. I feel the same in dance.
LDJ: What do you see as your cultural and social role in your disciplinary community and beyond? Talk about the process or instinct to move the work in this volume into a published document. How and why did this happen? Have you had this intention for a while? What encouraged and/or confounded this (or a book, in general) coming together? Was it a struggle?
RL: I have had this intention for a while. Allowing ‘There Might Be Others’ to become Open Source is freeing. In many ways I don’t feel I can claim ownership over any of my work. I am making work in a time, of a time. Influences circulate unconsciously and if I were to breakdown each moment of a work and analyze it in the history of dance I’m sure it has all happened somewhere before. What I do trust is that the sum is greater than the parts and I acknowledge there are influences in this work I am only tangentially aware of. By making it an open source I am recognizing the importance of the transmission of ideas. I believe it is important that information be disseminated. The creation of new knowledge depends on access to information. Much dance is limited in its reach because of the limits of number of performances and audience capacity, and geographic limitations. If this book can offer a way of working, circulate some strategies for making and contribute to someone else’s making, then it has been a success.
DT: I’ve made some participatory/emergent pieces before, and love it, though it’s really hard (there is only one “In C”, after all!), So when Rebecca told me about TMBO I was intrigued and drawn to the possibility of making one in collaboration with Rebecca, and more generally with dance.
LDJ: Speaking of monikers, what does this title represent? How was it generated? Talk about the way you titled the book, and how your process of naming influences you and/or colors your work specifically.
RL: The second time we showed the work in public I titled it “This might be:” and then listed 18 modules. The performance was timed to turn off the lights at 15 minutes no matter what, so the title was truly indicative of what might, or might not, happen. After that show I was walking (and most titles come to me when I am walking or swimming) and heard “There Might Be Others” and realized in fact, isn’t this always true? Especially for this work as it folds into the open element of the piece. Indeed, there might be others. Other versions, other ideas, other modules, other everything. Since it was titled and we travelled abroad, we found ourselves saying the title as part of sentences all the time. There might be others!
LDJ: What does this particular volume represent to you
…as indicative of your method/creative practice?
…as indicative of your history?
…as indicative of your mission/intentions/hopes/plans?
What formal structures or other constrictive practices (if any) do you use in the creation of your work? Have certain teachers or instructive environments, or readings/writings/participation of/with other creative people or their work informed the way you work/make?
RL: I often look to other forms for structures to adapt choreographically. I’ve mined visual arts, literature, architecture, theater, but mostly music. One of my favorite inspirations is when I learned that Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a challenge from his published to write a book in 50 words or less. I love the way this illustrates the use of limitations to spark creation. I am always looking for ways of thinking that define a narrowed path, a way of setting up a rehearsal, and then seeing where the body goes. My performers are important contributors to this process, they bring new perspectives and questions. So many ideas are left of the proverbial ‘cutting room floor.’ Yet, it is often those discards that become the beginning of my next piece. There Might Be Others started with something I found when rehearsing Coming Together/Attica but realized wasn’t part of that piece.
DT: My experiences with fiddlers and fiddle music has had an enormous influence on me in countless ways. The flexibility, energy, and participatory qualities are remarkable, and I love the sense of practice that seems common there; they/we are always learning tunes, intentionally or by osmosis, and always changing them, intentionally or not. Norwegian tunes in particular are full of mystery and wonder, and the experience of playing for dance in Norway (one fiddler, surrounded by dancers) is one I both treasure and fear! On the other hand, I grew up playing Bach on my “fiddle” and I’ve taught counterpoint at Princeton for over a decade; the discipline involved, and the need to problem solve and negotiate multiple often incompatible priorities simultaneously, is a constant presence in how i work and think. And finally the practice of programming, of hacking up ideas in lines of code, seeing what happens with them, trying again, working intuitively but incredibly specifically (as computers require) is also part of how I work and think in general. There is an inherent messiness to it all, but one full of specific activities, things to do while exploring and making music. This is not so unlike TMBO, actually.
LDJ: Let’s talk a little bit about the role of creative practitioners/community in social activism, in particular in what I call “Civil Rights 2.0,” which is present all around us in the time of this publication. I’d be curious to hear some thoughts on the challenges we face in making work, performing, speaking and publishing across lines of race, age, privilege, social/cultural background, and sexuality within the community, vs. the dangers of remaining and producing in isolated “silos.”
RL: This work has been so much about getting out of my silo. Challenging my habits on all levels is a theme. And it isn’t just me doing this, the performers have to be willing to challenge themselves as well. It is critical that this work be inclusive of race and background. I want our stages to reflect the world around us, as should our classrooms, board rooms, backstages, administrations, foundations, organizations, etc…. I recognize that I benefit from a level of privilege. I have the support of institutions. This hasn’t always been the case. I take seriously the responsibility that this moment of visibility offers to include not only my voice, but also activate the voices of many.
DT: In all honesty, I love my silo! And I feel incredibly fortunate to have it. In some ways the power of that silo is how it provides a private place to reflect and explore, a kind of retreat, but it is when you step out of the silo that you really feel what it gives you, so stepping out is essential, often and in unpredictable directions. One of the attractions of TMBO is how it is on the one hand clearly outside of my silo, but in some ways an extension of it, as we are all making, exploring, trying, experimenting, reflecting together, recognizing that we aren’t quite sure what we are doing, but we are going to support and challenge one another while we do it.
LDJ: WHAT DOES THIS BOOK DO? as much as what does this book say or contain.This is the first question to ask yourself. What is your intention?
RL: This document is a collection of propositions. It contains the dance and music score, performer instructions, guiding principles, and notes on the collaborations that led to the creation of There Might Be Others. In publishing this document the work becomes an open source for any reiterations, reimaginings, and repurposings.
It is a field guide to a process of collective composition, an archive of a project, and presents the score as a set of possibilities to be taken in parts or absorbed as a whole. While a held paper is a fixed item, the score is a moment on a continuum.
DT: For a composer, part of what making a score does is bring your ideas into intense focus, requiring you to be articulate and simply make some decisions about what you are after. This is even more so when imagining a beautiful book, one that can be read, perused, studied in the way, say, a book about visual art might be. Now, a conventional score is usually meant to be final, more or less, but mostly more; sure, Stravinsky revised Rite of Spring some 30 years after the premiere, but these revisions mostly serve to reinforce the notion that the score IS the final word. Not so in this case. I like Rebecca’s notion that this is set of propositions, propositions for how we might make a piece together, in various ways. The propositions include highly specific musical and dance ideas, but also loose and metaphorical notions for how we might all BE together when making this piece, notions that just don’t usually find their way into a musical score. So, for me the intention here is in part simply to make this book and learn from the process, to actually bring our ideas into focus and make the piece stronger, more compelling, and then to have something for me and others to live with and learn from in the future.
RL: It is interesting because simultaneously presenting a dance and publishing the score is not a common practice, yet it is in music. Forms of dance scoring are evolving and no one method dominates the field. There are methods of dance notation that have been used in history, examples include Labanotation and Benesh Notation, but you must be highly trained to notate or understand what is being notated, so they do not necessarily make a piece more legible or articulate a choreographer’s process. More recently, dance scores such as Deborah Hay’s No Time To Fly, which is a poetic script, or Thomas Lehman’s Schreibstück, a set of performance instructions, have become available and both record a process and provide a scheme for performance. I am curious about other choreographer’s methods and tracking the history of dance through choreographic process. I agree with Dan that creating the book has clarifed our ideas and I hope the document will help the work have a wider reach.
LDJ: If in a hundred years, a book could be found that not only presented the end result of this work, but also included contextual cues, images, and correspondence giving personal, social, and cultural backstory within which to locate it, what would that book look like?
RL: I think it would embody many of the values we discuss in the creation of the piece itself: complexity/simplicity, unity/difference, individuality/community, openness/structure, freedom/containment, limited/infinite, playful/serious, visual/tactile.
LDJ: The question about future audience begs another, more complex question about audience in general: what audience is the book for? what audience do you WANT it to be for? Are the contents (text images AND design) legible for multiple audiences? How or how not? Does something need to be added / shifted / framed / annotated or relanguaged to include or expand into a wider potential readership? How or why?
RL: I want this to be for the curious, makers of any kind who want a glimpse into another way of working.
It could be a sourcebook for someone who wants to replicate the work, either as a guide to create their own modules and version or to produce a version with the modules and instructions described here.
It is also an archive.
It is also a collaborative piece of art itself.
It exists as an artifact but is not the piece itself.
The piece only exists in practice. It can be done on a small scale or large, in a tiny space or vast, by professionals or nonprofessionals, in pajamas or dress clothes.
The practice is a vehicle for community engagement. It is a structure that allows people to learn about themselves, understand about how they interact with others, unearth habits, and provides the potential for change.
LDJ: As one looks through this document in its book form, one might find familiar a feeling that one is becoming familiarized to a language – in so far as even in layout, the modules / sets might unconsciously recollect a type of encyclopedia or glossary.
I think a lot about cultural and creative literacy and accessibility – in so far as we can understand music, art, literature, performance (any creative outlet really) of existing at the cross-section of myriad languages informing and serving as the components of its creation, some of which are accessible and legible immediately to most every audience… while some are considerably more selective in their relationship to public consumption / familiarity. Is this a consideration as you produce not only this piece but this piece in document form, which makes it far more readily available – and replicable – on a wide scale, for little to no cost, far beyond the stage?
What are the languages informing THERE MIGHT BE OTHERS, what traditions does it draw from? How does the multiplicity of voices, both in terms of concept and design collaboration between you both, and then too perhaps especially including the international team of dancers brought together for the performance, affect and evolve questions of “language” in a piece such as this, and to what extent was that part of its intent?
RL: Language. We talk a lot in rehearsal. Languaging is a vexing and immensely important part of our process. It pushes at assumptions. We compare viewpoints: I might describe what I saw in a given moment which may prompt laughter as it is opposite to the internal experience. This was true in Eastern Turkey where we worked through a translator and in Poland where we worked in English.
What I loved about the way this project came about was having the opportunity to teach the piece to so many different populations. It gave me the chance to refine my language, to offer directives in new ways each time, and continually discover new perspectives to what I was doing. I had to say different things to different populations. Teaching folk dancers was very different than teaching ballerinas, as was leading non-dancers versus experienced improvisors.
I have worked to keep the language as simple as possible. Yes, there are some modules that are intricate and complicated but others are single directives. Some explain how we made the material and prompt the reader to make their own phrase using the same criteria we established, others define each gestural action in detail. In this way some are readily accessible, such as “Kiss”, others will be a glimpse into a way of thinking that is potentially unfamiliar. I strived to create a balance between these possibilities.
In terms of the traditions we are drawing from, the work is built upon a rich foundation of artists who integrate performer agency into their compositions. This ranges from jazz improvisors to avant garde experimentalists in both fields. There is rich history of dance improvisors, too many to name here but include, Anna Halprin, Simon Forti, Nina Martin, Steve Paxton, and Nancy Stark-Smith. But also present are the various technical languages of ballet, modern, contemporary dance, among other forms. In addition to Riley’s prompt, the questions that drove many composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Frederic Rzewski, and John Zorn informed the process and provided me with new modes of thinking. And yes, John Cage and Merce Cunningham are clearly present. The intent is to put all of these traditions, and many more, next to each other. Adding the international cast has only contributed to extending the network of influences.
DT: Musically, TMBO draws from a number of traditions. Of course there is “experimentalism” and “minimalism” as represented by In C, but also Cardew, Andriessen, Cage, and others; the musicians have to be sympathetic to ideas and practices from that music to really get into TMBO, I think. There is also focus on making and doing together, which draws from fiddle music for sure. I found Rebecca’s omnivorous taste in designing her modules to be inspiring, and I also felt sympatico with it, so musically there wasn’t anything that was excluded just because it was from this or that tradition.
In terms of “language,” there are so many ways to think about that word, but one thing I think we’ve all found is that musicians and dancers do tend to speak in parallel languages, sometimes trying to express similar things in different ways, and sometimes simply trying to express different things that the other might just not have experience with. This plays out in how the piece evolves over time, how the musicians and dancers make different choices, how they respond to one another and think about what is happening.
LDJ: Do we have a responsibility as creators to make “legible” work? If so, to whom, and why (or why not)?
Most of us know creators who fall strongly into both camps: 1) work for works sake, if it’s appreciated all the better but that’s not the goal, and 2) work specifically with a didactic and social aim, which is consistently reframing its own vocabulary and framework in order to respond to a multiplicity of publics and social constraints. And of course there’s many many grey areas in between. Do you have a strong feeling one way or the other about this?
I often feel like my answer on this cannot be divorced from the current — dare I say, epidemic? — facing students being churned out from school systems with less and less interest in this sort of intersectional critical cultural understanding.
I’ve had many students who kept an arms length away from “elitist” or “snobby” cultural production, performance, and texts, not because they had a critical stance on these based on an understanding and subsequent decision to not particularly enjoy these things, but quite the opposite — because their “education” had not given them any sort of foothold of familiarity or context within which to receive the signals (to translate or comprehend, again, the languages) of these works, and exposure brought up feelings of impotence and frustration.
What do we do at times like these? How are you working, through this and other pieces, to facilitate interpersonal, interdisciplinary, community, and cross cultural understanding?
What, if any, is your responsibility? to the community, to your company, to the integrity of your work?
RL: I fall in with the mixed camp. This piece is both. I want audiences to walk into the theater, know nothing, and be able to appreciate the work, with its multiplicity of layers, simply for itself. But this piece has social and educational potentials as well. I have worked to define and then stage my vision of beauty which I believe cannot be separated from chaos, messiness, and tension. To experience beauty is to experience the world as it is, including its contradictions, dangers, and flaws. I also believe it is possible in the presence of beauty to imagine social change. We are enacting a way of being that is a potential model. When I watch performers look at each other, eye to eye, and let themselves been seen it is a profoundly beautiful act. It is also deeply ethical. The mixed camp, or merged camp of ethics and aesthetics.
DT: This reminds me of the old “from the heart or the head” question, and I remember sitting on a panel once with Steve Reich and after I gave a long and labored answer, Steve grabbed the mic and simply said “cut off your head, you die, cut out your heart, you die.” There is also a beautiful old Irish proverb—“ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”—that Paul Muldoon worked into a text that I am currently setting, and it means roughly “we live in each other’s shadows” and has the broader meaning that we all depend on one another, we “shield each other from the sun” as it is sometimes put. Both of these are relevant concepts, ones that I try to remember, and ones that I hope people who participate in this piece and experience it can feel and learn from.
LDJ: Do you feel like music and dance, as more directly sensory / proprioceptic mediums, are more easy to communicate in than other mediums? Do you feel that a transliteration / print document version of the work can be legible to as wide an audience as the performance itself? a wider one? a narrower one? or simply a different one? Why?
RL: Simply different. I think it will be hard to derive kinesthetic empathy from the book which is fundamental to the performance. But the book has other modes of reception.
DT: Well they are certainly highly sensory and proprioceptic, but, right, I think that means that there is not necessarily more or easier communication, just different kinds of communication. And I also always remember the musicologist and composer Edward Cone’s notion of “vicarious performance” when referring to a powerful listening experience, and I think that can be true in the abstract as well, when reading a book, or remembering an experience; I would hope that this book would be able to conjure up some kinds of vicarious experiences, different though they may be and always will be.
LDJ: Talk about the collaborative process. What did you hope to achieve in working together as creative collaborators on the project at its different stages? What was the role / intention of the participants? All dancer / performer / musicians on this piece participate in ways that overlap, even to the extent that at certain points their roles are indistinguishable. How important is interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation to this work and to your work in general? How did it originate? How did it change even more (or less) than expected?
RL: I’ve worked in many types of music collaboration: from working with musicians to perform works from the canon to collaborating with composers to create a piece that is performed alongside the dance. What I got so fired up about this collaboration was the ability for the performers to have agency, since they are choosing so many elements in performance they are truly co-authors. For a long time in the process I couldn’t imagine adding music. It was never my intention to perform to the Riley score, I love it, but it was the structure that intrigued me most. There wasn’t a piece in the cannon that would work, I could commission a score, yes, but it couldn’t be a piece that remained the same for each performance. Connecting with Dan and discovering he had an interest in working in the exact same way with the music/musicians was, to borrow a word from my students, awesome.
DT: Oh i just love collaborating. Even when I’m not, when I’m in my silo alone coming up with ideas, I’m thinking of particular people and how they would sound, look, feel, while doing what I ask, or what they would make of it and do differently. In this case I had so much wonderful material to work with from Rebecca; it reminds me of when I’ve worked with writers creating text, they give so much and I can respond, rather than coming up with everything from scratch. With Rebecca’s dance modules I sometimes felt like I was setting text more than I was composing music for dance, and it almost had to be that way given the concept of the piece, where nothing could be exactly planned or specified. So we have to imagine our collaboration continuing to the very end, til the curtain falls, and rather than prescribing what to do and asking for it be executed, we have to incite, inspire, give, give, give, and see what happens in the moment.
LDJ: How does this change the experience as a performer of the piece, given the shifted roles of ego as a result of the dancer and musician becoming, by dint of a score that involves constant interpretation / improvisation / choice, more composers and choreographers themselves? What is the intention here within the piece itself, but also what is it saying, if anything, about collaboration in general / interpersonal relationships / life?
RL: I loved reading the performer responses. They speak of what a social experiment this is and how they have to be willing to learn and change with each rehearsal. This value system came about in the process as the piece found out who and what it was.
LDJ: Could this piece be described as a metaphor? How and for what?
RL: I love watching time pass in this piece. Nothing lasts. Even though there is stillness and it slows down there is a driving relentlessness. This reminds me of life.
DT: I do think the flocking and schooling parallels are useful; we have a large group of actors all following the same set of “rules.” But this is one wild and woolly collection of fish! The “rules” and ways they move and sing are idiosyncratic and sometimes a bit nutty.
LDJ: Do you have an interdisciplinary background? did you come from a tradition that valued and encouraged exploration, improvisation, and collaborative work? do most of the performers on this piece come from that kind of background?
RL: No. My early training was in ballet and ballet alone; improvisation was essentially disobedience. I think much of my commitment to working interdisciplinarily and collaboratively comes from experiencing such strict hierarchical and disciplinary lines.
DT: Well, yes and no. It depends on what is meant by interdisciplinary. I grew up playing classical violin, with very little improvisation or engagement with vernacular music, while my undergraduate degree is in physics, and I worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a while, on a project related to el nino. But these all felt like independent things to me and while I can’t say that I ever willfully try to be interdisciplinary or to try to bring my divergent interests together, neither do I try to keep them apart. And so I love it when opportunities to work with people like Rebecca and Naomi come up; these are definitely conversations that draw me out of my little silo.
LDJ: Do you feel like now that the piece is, essentially, “Open Source,” it will be better appreciated or used by people specifically trained for this kind of behavior / experience? or not? Do you hope that people entirely new to the mediums within it find play and experimentation within its pages? What makes you feel this will or will not be possible? How can we make this more possible in books like this one or other mediums?
RL: I would love for the book to be relevant across disciplinary lines. I’m curious about what other fields would be interested in the propositions of the work. Our collaboration with Naomi has certainly carved the way for applications in engineering The paper she co-wrote with Kayhan Öscimder and Biswadip Dey “Investigating Group Behaviour in Dance: An Evolutionary Dynamics Approach” that analyzed our rehearsals will be presented at The IEEE Control Systems Society Conference July and subsequently published in the conference proceedings. I also have so many books on different subjects in my bookcase that I open, read a page, get inspired, and return to the shelf. I’d love if this book could serve that purpose.
LDJ: Do you feel in general that the composers / choreographers / performers / creative people coming out of programs now are adequately equipped for the contemporary creative landscape, for creating their own work like this, and for living sustainable creative lives? How and how not? How do you feel well equipped or not? What tools do you feel you needed that you have now, lessons that you’ve learned, etc? What do you feel you can teach your peers, younger creative practitioners, and strangers?
RL: I enjoy teaching in a liberal arts environment in part because the students are balancing so many different interests and having to constantly make decisions about their priorities. I think this is terrific preparation for life outside school. I think ‘success’ is largely longevity and resilience; the ability to develop a sustained practice. This includes managing expectations and finding employment that may or may not be in your field. I am certainly an example of a tortoise. I graduated 26 years ago and am having my work produced by a major venue in NYC for the first time.
DT: I honestly don’t know if it is possible to prepare people for this. Rebecca is right: longevity, resilience, persistence, desire, realism with idealism, luck, all these contribute to building a sustaining and constantly transforming practice, and while we can do as much as we can to teach, both specifics and more general qualitative things, in the end people have to find their own way; as my colleague and former mentor Paul Lansky likes to say: “you’ll figure it out.” And of course we should endeavor to do no harm; it is possible to try too hard as a teacher, i think. For myself, I just can’t believe how fortunate i’ve been; i’ve mostly just followed my nose and my ears, and have had the fortune to meet some amazing people and to make work with them. I used to count each year: “it looks like i can do this one more year. oh, and now another…” somehow that’s been going on for 25 years now. but i’ll keep counting!
LDJ: What have you learned about yourself / dance / music / interpersonal relationships / the body / the senses / etc through this project / process? what will you take with you into future work / projects / collaborations?
RL:To trust myself. To trust myself. To trust myself. To empower others to trust themselves if they don’t already.
[box]TMBO marks choreographer Rebecca Lazier’s New York Live Arts debut with this commissioned movement-based realization of Terry Riley’s seminal masterpiece IN C, performed with a live score by Dan Trueman in collaboration with members of two of today’s most vital ensembles, SŌ Percussion and Mobius Percussion. Created along with a diverse group of artists, designers and scientists, and featuring an international cadre of performers, the work questions the role of presence, performer agency and collective decision-making to create emergent forms. Known for her “intelligent, fine control of complex material” (The Village Voice) showcasing an “exciting immediacy” (The New York Times), this extraordinary collaboration features dramaturgy and design by Naomi Leonard, Davison Scandrett and Mary Jo Mecca, as well as acclaimed dancers Asli Bulbul, Simon Courchel, Natalie Green, Cori Kresge, Christopher Ralph and Saúl Ulerio. (photos by Maria Baranova).[/box]