Music and Movement Mondays
A weekly collaboration of always changing dancers, musicians and locations, Ben Brown's experiment in cross-discipline dialogue is the stepping stone for Shapes In Sound
Written by Shalon W-H and Ash Tanasiychuk
Photos by Ash Tanasiychuk and Yvonne Chew
A unique series of evening events featuring a variety of multidisciplinary arts – Extravagant Signals – is about to launch into its inaugural year (June 15-22 2013).
To prepare, Vandocument’s Shalon and Ash got a sneak preview of the improv music and dance programming that will take place at Gallery 1965 on June 17th.
It’s called Shapes In Sound. It’s an interdisciplinary dance and music improvisation event organized by Susan Nase (international tap artist) and Ben Brown (Pugs and Crows) that is touting “a night of live dance and music improvisation featuring tap, contemporary and hip hop.”
Shapes In Sound is based on an ongoing series of workshops called Music and Movement Mondays, which began when Ben’s experience as a musician, combined with his love of dance, pushed him to explore the relationship between the two worlds. The sessions are a weekly sounding board for musician/dancer dialogue and collaboration. Truly experimental in nature, it all started with the immense, self imposed challenges of having new musicians and new dancers and a new space every single week.
With the Vancouver cityscape as the backdrop, five dancers (Hailey McCloskey, Bal Areli Moran, Kaili Blacklock-Hind, Jen Dunford, Myola Pautler) and four musicians (Elisa Thorn, Ben Brown, Shanto Acharia, Meredith Bates) gathered in the Scotiabank Dance Centre’s Jandali studio with a harp, a drum kit, a cello, and a violin. 2 photographers. 1 writer. In essence, bodies in space.
After a brief discussion between the dancers and musicians about how to shape the session, architecture and space emerged as the key themes to begin with and see where they may lead. Each member of the group reflected on his/her favourite building or space, and from these places the dance and music began.
The first score began slowly, contemplatively. With violin and cello in the corner, harp and drums across from them, the dancers began to move into the centre.
Watching improvised dance and listening to improvised music is akin to actually participating in improv because you never know what you’re going to get — it’s always best to be free of expectations. Miraculously though, something amazing often reveals itself when skilled improvisers come together.
With Myoloa holding space in her seated centre position, the other dancers began to emerge from the peripheries of the room, drawn together almost magnetically. Fingers and arms twirled to sunlight, accentuating the plucking of Elisa’s harp. Space began to move and shift with the dancers’ bodies.
The dancers found and relied upon the nooks and crannies of each others bodies like the back allies, parks, bridges and the secret places that every city holds. It was unclear whether the space informed the dance, or the dance informed the space. Were the musicians informing the dancers? Or was it reversed? Perhaps all were playing equal roles, which kept the movements and sounds free, yet precise.
Gravity seemed to draw the dancers back down to the ground, hanging, suspending, holding, containing. From a brewing cauldron of bodies in motion, a transformation was emerging like smoke, and the relationship between independence and dependence congealed. The music scratched and screeched, chimed, plucked, rang, echoed and clucked. The interdependence between music, bodies and space revealed itself.
In near-unison, the music of the first act came to an end, the dancers found their completion as well. A discussion followed. Body-trained artists shared how they were moved by the sounds, sound-skilled artists shared, too, how what they witnessed moving before them shaped and skewed their rhythms. Ben’s goal to not only collaborate, but to dialogue and learn, was in full effect!
A new arrangement was agreed upon, and again the bodies began to move, the sounds began to take shape. With each succeeding act, the music would change, and the dance seemed like a dream.
Questions began to emerge: What depths lie within these spaces, physical or imagined? These bodies? What undoings take place here? What spaces are inside us? Between us? Behind us? Ahead? We wind ourselves up only to unwind. Pressure points dissolve and stories are released. Pulsing, scavenging, hunting, devouring, searching. Begging the unknown to reveal itself. It doesn’t happen all at once.
There is a certain spacial narrowness that we can come to inhabit, both real and imagined. We can consider the history of the body as place and ask ourselves, what remains once all material is gone? What stories are told through our arms, legs, faces, hearts, skin? Do we remain tied and bound to that which we cannot see?
Susan says Shapes in Sound is about conversation; between people, audiences, dancers, musicians, and space. It is about pushing dialogue and creating spontaneous discourse, bringing different disciplines together to see what new forms emerge. No plans, no agendas. Transformations and translations.
Even through the chaos, miscommunication and confusion things seem to work themselves out–the dance happens. The music makes it make sense.
Come and join the conversation on Monday June 17th! Extravagant Signals’ Shapes in Sound: an evening of live dance and music improvisation featuring tap, contemporary, hip hop and a line up of talented musicians awaits. https://www.facebook.com/events/451765764913259/
For more information about Music and Movement Mondays, check their official site mamm.ca.
Please note that Music and Movement Mondays will be on hiatus while Ben is touring Jazz festivals with Juno award winning band, Pugs and Crows. Sessions will resume in August.
If you or anyone you know can help, Ben is looking for a space to support the Music and Movement Mondays series on an ongoing basis in the form of a residency. Please help spread the word! Contact Ben 604.715.5058 benbrown8(at)gmail(dot)com
Vandocument would like to thank all the musicians and dancers who performed at this session of Music and Movement Mondays.
A huge thank you to Ben Brown for his enthusiasm in making cross-disciplinary connections (very much up aligned with our principles!) and for being so “on it” with all communication in planning this review and photoshoot.
Thank you, as well, to Yvonne Chew for sharing a few of her photographs for this article. Your work is beautiful and immensely inspiring.
We’d also like to thank Barbara Adler for creating Extravagant Signals, such a wild and brave series of artistic events, and for putting us in touch with Ben!
We can’t wait for the Extravagant Signals to kick off! Long live #yvrart
by Shalon WH
Bravo! The next step: Let the dancers sing!
I’ve been developing a similar idea but the reverse: musciians in the middle and singers all around. Impromtu yet conducted or rather ‘conduced’ by a chosen sensitive person through hand signals. My idea is beautiful yet i havn’t published it because the placments of artists is flawed. But the numerology is right. Opening it up for dance is the key I’ve missed! You are the reverse. Musicians in the corners! I like it. Grow. Let me in.
Babies walk awkwardly when they start. This is a magor cultural shift I’ve been waiting for.
The “conducer”s job is to tame egos that cause disharmony. If all is in a state of happiness art can happen without any intervention of the conducer,
The conducer may also appoint and change leaders of the movments to encourage breakthroughs to the bridge, I’ve been trying to ballence control against freedom. Should the conducer work by authority or by suggestion? Couldn’t the dancers conduce the progression of movments. Since radio, and recording music has been too left brained, planned out. On the other hand, I’m tired of being stuck on the 12-bar blues jams. A conductor can be a great coach to feel the music, but leaves no room for play. There must be a ballence somewhere between the L&R hemispheres. What it seems you are doing is leting the right creative side free with a little structure agreed upon by the left. Wonderfull!
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