Monday, December 12, 2011

Helicopters: sound and movement binaries

On Wednesday, the dancers and I had the great pleasure of working with musician collaborators Alex Hills and Trevor Williams to begin to explore how the soundscape of Project Agent Orange could exist symbiotically with the movement. I was interested in exploring how sound and movement could each maintain their sense of autonomy while also converging at points and diverging at others. I wanted the sound and movement to communicate: each with their own cadence, yet each with an ear to the ground, listening for the other’s next move.

How could each individual element breathe more life into the other?

In rehearsal, we focused on the “Helicopter” phrase, as the movement phrase was well settled in our bodies, and we had never found a fitting soundscape to accompany it. In revisiting the phrase, the dancers and I considered the difference created in the quality of movement when we transitioned between “piercing” and “rebounding.” Rather than constantly carrying tension in our bodies, how could the feeling of impending terror be achieved by the passage between full force and response? How could we communicate both the calm before the storm and the tempest itself?

When I originally created the Helicopter phrase, I was interested in the paradox that helicopters represented. I articulated these as diametrically opposed ideas though in reality they were probably more interwoven than the binary suggests. How did helicopters represent:

  • Life and Death: the vehicle that flew in and airlifted injured soldiers and Vietnamese refugees alike vs. the metallic skeleton of a machine that sprayed herbicides and defoliants
  • Salvation and Destruction
  • Hope and Despair
How could the sound offer texture to this exploration while not merely illustrating the movement cadences?

In order to communicate these ideas, and establish the atmosphere of this rehearsal, I read a bit of the novel, The Unwanted, by Kien Nguyen, who describes his memory of the last helicopters to ever land in Vietnam. (Thanks Anthony Bui, for suggesting the book).

In response to the excerpt, Morgana articulated how quickly the image of the helicopter could shift from positive to negative; how the time between safety and fear was liminal, brief, startling. As such, we began to put these ideas into movement. The following is a short video of the beginning of that exploration.

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