Do you proceed the protocol?

Choreography Workshop, Performance

At the beginning of the semester, one of my 1st year MFA cohort, Mollie Wolf ask me and Jackie Courchene (same as 1st year MFA) to create a piece about no physical contact trio and reflecting our time under the coronavirus pandemic. She also had costumes, the yellow and white zipper jackets, pants, and matching yellow socks that we could use.

I loved her concept so I said YES! immediately. I have never collectively choreographed before, so it was a great learning experience. We all approached this piece with a different perspectives and backgrounds. For example, Mollie has already set a piece by using the same costume, but different idea. Therefore, we communicate openly until we all get to the point of agreement. We compromise and fix the direction when we needed to.

Our matching day! From right me, Professor Petry, Jackie Courchene, and Mollie Wolf

The speed of this creation was very quick. We started to meet on Fridays after the Choreography Workshop course. We brainstormed ideas of how we negotiate the space without body contact. Started with an improvisation game, one or two people trying to touch the third person and she avoid the touches. It created the narrative of seeking consent. Then move on to the basic phrase-making. We got inspiration from our new “normal”, sanitization, washing hands, put masks on, screening… During this process, we faced the question, what we want to portrait. Since we were reflecting the pandemic, we also made the scene called “transmission,” which at first was the virus were transmitting from body to body, but later on shifting to the transmission of fear of getting coronavirus. After the first showing, we also noticed that all phrases we created were mechanical and systematic therefore there was another question came up which how we want to add humanity to this piece.

The process was, indeed, a deep rabbit hall. Especially on how we want to conclude this piece was a hard task to tackle. We initially wanted to finish with three endings, Mollie as extremely against the protocol, Jackie as the follower of the protocol, and I as in-between of the extremes which was the most relatable character. Although in order to find the thread in between of all the materials we created, we rewrote the ending as a unison walk into the unknown future together. In order to finalize our narrative of this piece, we manually wrote all the materials into paper and visualize the order.

Mix and match the order

Also, this piece had huge support by the sound. Mollie designed it by mixing the song from Alva Noto and many sounds and voices from The Conet Project. Both are electric and industrial which created the mood of the piece. Especially, we pulled many counting voices in different languages from The Conet Project to show what we deal with in this piece was universal. Then we added Jackie’s partner, Jordan’s voice to be “the protocol,” which was an external source to order us what to do. The sound is the trigger for us to move on to the next scenes and controlled the emotion and movement.

Lastly, we struggled with the title. Professor Petry gave us an exercise to find the words chine to trace down or up to micro and macro ideas. We tried couple of times though finding the word to start the exercise was tricky since we had total of 8 scenes which all were different from each other and the thread to connect them all was Jordan’s voice, “the protocol.” Therefore, we ended up landing on using the protocol’s phrases to tell our story chronologically.

We concluded the project at the end of November. Looking back to the almost 3 months journey was a great ride. We had such a clear idea yet it took a long time to get to the actual product that we were satisfied with. We had to sit down and discuss a lot, wrote down all the ups and downs. It was worth fighting to reach the end. I hope you enjoy our piece, “Clear. Again. Proceed.” Please leave the comment below to let me hear your thoughts:)

What does it sound to you? -Japanese project-

Choreography Workshop

Over the quarantine, I have started teaching Japanese online. And it was so interesting that while I am teaching the language, I relearned how to speak my mother tongue and realized the significance of the language. This experience inspired me to corporate my mother tongue and dance.

So I have a concept in my mind that “what if the dancers heard their own story in a foreign language, what movement comes out?.” It was on Friday, after the Choreography Workshop, walking the aisle with John Cartwright, Ishmael Konney, and Quianna Simpson. I asked them if they were interested in working with my concept. Fortunately, they said YES! So we started meeting on Thursday afternoon to rehearse.

At first, I asked all of them to write a paragraph of their self-introduction. I translated the texts into Japanese and recorded them. Dancers danced with their own biography, which they could guess what I was talking about, yet it was hard for them to fully understand. Quianna shared that she recognized some words such as”African dance” but she was influenced mostly by the rhythm of speaking. Also, John mentioned that it was dancing in between familiar from and unfamiliar. Next step, I asked them to dance with other’s bio which they have no clue what I was talking about. Ishmael shared that he was inspired by the speed of my speaking and almost echoing with his body. Dancers were definitely hard to react to speaking voice with unknown topics since no connection nor inspiration to their movement. What they react was the sound, rhythm, tone, speed I made. It was a great discovery to me since I was seeking an authentic reaction from dancers to the foreign language.

So we ended up using their biography with my speaking to generate the basic phrase. In the first version of this project, I was a narrator and started speaking Quianna’s story, then John’s and Ishmael’s at the end. The person who was spoken one’s bio leads the movement and others echoing. It was a clear structure of displaying how dancers embody the sound of Japanese.

Although, we received feedback about I and dancers’ relationship as well as an objective of this project. We discussed one more time to clarified the intention of this project and landed on offering a foreign experience to the audience but also showing the visceral level of communication. Also, we decided to not separating me from their narrative. I added on my story to move together as well as bringing back idea, authentic reaction; dancers react to what I spoke without knowing the content. We revised the movements, and space usage as well.

Over this process, we re-defined the fundamental of communication by using verbal and non-verbal tools able to understand, interact, respond to each other. Once Quianna shared that we seemed like creating harmony by bodies, which was a beautiful way to describe our creative journey and indeed it was a deep and interesting process. I would like to continue experimenting to combine my mother tongue in my work.

Where is your “home”?

Choreography Workshop, Dance film

In the beginning of the semester, I had many questions related to “home” such as what defined “home”? Is it the location like where I grew up? Or the people such as the dance community at Ohio State University? Or the memories in my brain? etc..

Wherever I go, I can make some place for myself to be comfortable. But this comfortableness is not necessarily defined as belongingness. In my definition of belongingness is inherent desire to be accepted by the community by behaving what they expect to. I always have hard time finding a place to land myself. In the Japanese community, I am an outsider. People my age graduated from college, have jobs, live nearby their parents, mostly staying inside their country for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, I live in the U.S. which far away from all of my family, and still a student. I clearly not on the same pathway as others. In the U.S., I am a minority due to my race and skin color. I have a neutral opinion about politic, or economy which seems like unusual in this country.

So I started looking for uncomfortableness from lacking belongingness in the physical body. I had the privilege to work with a talented dancer, Aya Venet. She is a sophomore at Ohio State University, also from Japan. She was born between the father who is African American and the mother who is Japanese.

Rehearsal at the studio

We started to brainstorm what makes us hard to find the belongingness. We met once a week at the studio and built the narrative of the piece. She shared the story that in between of two location, Japan and the U.S., she is uncomfortable to be “her” due to the different expectations. Started with improvisation with the question, “if you are very uncomfortable, how do you move?”The movement was developed to embody her internal struggle.

I had her move inside the circle, which stands for a borderline from the place she is at. What I wanted to emphasize on the circle was that it was not her choice to be inside of it. The line was drawn by an unseen force, to categorize her as an outsider. The white line was inspired by field chalk at the elementary school playground. It is drawn clearly to stands out the separation, but the more you step on it, the more the line gets blurry. This applied to her circle, the more she steps on the line, the more she has access to the outside and merge to the inside. The line will dissolve and disappear. That is my goal in this piece. Showing her strength and able to erase the lines and step out the circle.

I planned to stage this piece as a film because I want to show the external factor, which affect her to struggle internally. I initially wanted to ask volunteers to walk around Aya, although due to the COVID-19, it was not a good time to ask this favor around. So I decided to overlay the video clips my friend took for me a year ago. They were taken at Shibuya crossing and Shibuya station which is well-known place for thousands of people passing every day. The clips was a symbol of the place where always required to catch up with the speed, and match with the expectation.

We searched the location and decided to shoot at The Oval. The red brick contrasted well with the white lines and I loved the background. To me, the two roads behind her were the two countries Aya grew up and came from to be who she is now. I did one take for drawing the circle as well as the ending part. Which made me worry that if I could take a good shot, but I trusted Aya and she performed beautifully. I hope everyone enjoys this short film. I would like to hear what you see and what you feel, and please share your thoughts on comment below!:)

Sitting at the riverside -12 hours into 2 minutes-

Choreography Workshop

Time is an interesting element of life. Everyone has 24 hours a day, but depends on your situation, you feel and experience it at a totally different time speed.

I thought a lot about time during the quarantine. Society seemed to stop or slow down when the pandemic hit. Each day felt dragged out and tried to fill the emptiness at first. However each day my schedule was fluid. I could do whatever I wanted to with no time limitations. With this freedom, I was able to try new things and explore many possibilities.

Now I am in a graduate program, and my daily schedule looks completely different. From morning until night, my schedule revolves around my classes, appointments, meetings, get resources at the library, and teaching Japanese in the breaks between everything. Now more than ever, I realize the importance of time management and the effect it has on one’s future.

Speaking of time, I recently committed to stay and film myself for 12 hours at the riverside. It was for one of the assigned prompt “durational work” for the Choreography Workshop course. I would like everyone to check my video before reading my story at the riverside. –>
The process was almost like therapy to me. My initial idea for this piece was that I commit to being somewhere for 12 hours from sunrise to sunset and I move the exact same way and shoot myself every 30 minutes. The piece is not about me, about the time passing around me. I am part of the narrative.

I woke up at 6:30 am and biked to the riverside. I found the perfect place on my way to Laura’s rehearsal at the Chadwick Arboretum (I will write about her project later. It has been an amazing journey!) Set up the tripod, check the time constantly, and the angle of the camera. Started film when the clock hits 7:30 am. Every 30 minutes, I get up, move, and film. It was very simple. The same simpleness that I had during the quarantine.

In the morning, the sun had not yet and it was cold. The only I could hear was the wave of the water. Everything around me felt as if it were still asleep. I felt all my senses were awakened. I could hear the birds swimming, feel the brisk morning air coming off the river, see the sky brighten up from blue to purple to orange. All the changes I witnessed were beautiful. The higher the sun was up, the more people and birds visited the river, cars, and airplanes passed by, and the bugs flew around. I could tell the town woke up from sleep.

Sitting at the riverside for this long period, I was expected to be exhausting. However, surprisingly, I was not. This 30 minutes check-in was helping me to keep my time tracking and it was a consistent indicator of my time at the river. Some of the 30 minutes slots, I was very productive and able to finished some of my assignments from dance film class, research class, and composition class even though I did not have access to the internet, and some of them I just observed birds. There were ducks, geese, great egrets living at the river. As time passed, they swam super close to me and looked at me like “what is this human doing for so long at our territory?” Especially ducks were friendly and their curiosity and my curiosity seemed matched. Super fun imitating their neck movement and made eye contact.

I finished at 7:30 pm. Overall, I shot 25 clips of me moving for 12 hours. The sun is completely out and just the sound of the crickets echoing at the river. The night wind blew to my face and I was satisfied with the accomplishment of being at the riverside for 12 hours.

I went back home and started editing and I noticed that my labor at the riverside and the final product does not have equal quality. It looked choppy when I put together all the clips. I was disappointed. It was my fault not to study enough of filming to capture the progress of time, but I did not want to shoot in timelapse which I thought ruined my movement. I learned that it is great to do all the options first then choose what is the most appropriate to use in the piece. I could not quite express how much I put my effort to be at the riverside for 12 hours in the film, yet sum up my 12 hours into 2 minutes was meaningful and worthwhile to record as my creative process.

Goodbye September, Hello October

Choreography Workshop, Research Project

The tree leaves are changing to vivid red, orange, yellow, and getting colder in Columbus. It’s been already 6 weeks since I have started my graduate program! I cannot believe how fast the time past. Compared to the quarantine time, I appreciated that I could spend time at a new place and be exposed to new perspectives every day. I learn so much these past weeks.

Looking back these 6 weeks, this feeling of Homesickness keeps washing over me every so often. Compared to the experiences between leaving parents to come to the U.S. and leaving Oklahoma to start school in Ohio, I felt more difficult adjusting in the latter. It might be affected by this current weirdness under the pandemic, though homesickness is not determined by the physical distance. It surprised me. I have been more sensitive to the detail surrounding me such as weather, the sound of the wind, beer cans on the street, people’s laugh outside of my apartment. And re-examining what I miss, like, dislike, and where I feel the most comfortable.

This adjusting to a new place made me think “where is my home?” In my definition of home is a safe, comfortable, vulnerable place. However, is its physical location like the house where I grew up? the intimacy that I have with my husband? the passion or something I love to do in my life?…. There are so many questions I have and this is what I will investigate in my research.

2weeks ago, I completed my first project of the Choreography Workshop Course (Woo-hooooo!!) Next, we will take a look behind the scene of this project, so if you have not seen it, please checked it out at the link below.

I titled this piece, “Living inside the grid” which was inspired by the zoom screen. Since I am taking many classes on zoom, I noticed that in this grid system, it is hard to concentrate and connect with my classmates. I wanted to shape this unnatural rectangle-shaped world. Me trying to be creative, I started looking around rectangle shapes other than my laptop screen. I had many photo frames in different sizes (initially, I bought a bunch of them for my living room decoration) and a wired coffee table that has a square hole in the middle.

At first, I started to play around with photo frames. I set up all my frames standing up on the floor with different distances from the camera to create the depth and space to move around. Ended up knocking down the frames while I was dancing so, I changed the plan to hang them from the ceiling which I have more freedom in between the frames. In a zoom class, there is a weird private territory due to the lack of physical constraint. The only place you have to be presentable is inside of the frame. This idea is connected to my movement and the costume choice. As for the movement, I generate the materials from improvisation. Portraying the flatness, linear, stifling space with and within the frames. And I married some recurring motifs, trying to go away from the frame to breathe in the air, making a frame with my hand. Then, I added on the coffee table to make another layer of this piece. I taped the black blank paper on the hole and tried to rip it and break through it. (which it required so much power haha) It took me to do some practices before I shoot since the paper was super strong! Indeed, I had to stab a pencil to make a hole to put my finger through.

The process of making this piece was crafty and fun exploring the possibility of the daily object in my apartment into the creation. One time, I heard that the limitation stimulates creativity and it was true. I experienced through my first project. The new month is coming. I will keep investigating, exploring, challenging, and creating. The next goal is to make durational work.

Trust fall -Beginning of my MFA journey-

Choreography Workshop, Uncategorized

Even though I have been dancing my entire life, I did not have dailiness in creating a process. The facts of being the youngest and the fewer life experiences as a dance artist in the cohort are definitely standing a huge wall in front of me. I do not regret my choice and I am excited to see how much I can absorb and grow through the program. Though, I have to admit that coming to the MFA program straight from the undergraduate program would be a challenge. I have to remind myself that this challenge is getting inspirations from amazing, talented cohorts, not take into recognizing my immatureness and fall into self-criticism.

When I look back on my choreography progress, I tend to use choreography as embodying internal struggles so that I always wait to proceed with the process until the ideas come into my mind. It takes a long time to ferment them. However, when I have ideas to work on, I am very spontaneous and open-mind trying them all to find the ‘fit’ in the context. Also, I am lean into concrete presentation than abstract.

In the Choreography Workshop lead by Susan Petry, we are assigned to create 8 pieces (at least!) in about 14 weeks. This is a huge challenge for me. I believe this course will force me to generate ideas within my daily life by keeping my eyes open to every possibility and allow myself to explore, investigate, analyze, and fail them. Because there is no time to ferment the ideas!

It would be great to have a “plan” to tackle this huge assignment, although holding on to the authority to make the task right and using space and time efficiently along with a plan might limit myself. I have to keep going and let the decision to make, not me deciding what to do. Letting go of the control and allow the freedom to play which I will get messy and repeat trials and errors. To learn how to make the balance to manage myself in this short period of time would be one my goal.

Also, this is related to my habit of controlling, I am always scared to show the work in progress which is raw and vulnerable. For me, I’m very affected by others’ eyes, opinions, thoughts. What if the audience did not get the intention of my work? What if they take it as offensive? What if they think my art is worthless? So many what-ifs. I get scared to show my works because most of them are sharing the private experiences. However, I would like to practice to trust the community and let the fear go.

I hope this journey through the program will help me develop and obtain a deep understanding of my identity of art-making. Let’s do a trust fall to the MFA program!!