79 hours until the 2013 24-Hr ChoreoFest Festivities (tongue-twister, anyone?) commence. Meaning in 96 or 98 hours (aka 2pm/4pm on Saturday) we will be graced with YOUR presence at one of the festival's culminating concerts. Right? Today we present to you an interview with Jessica Muise, of Intimations Dance Company.
Jessica Muise is a choreographer, dancer, educator, and permaculturalist born and raised in Waltham, MA. She is the founder and artistic director of Intimations Dance Company and co-founder of Our Permaculture Trip. Her goal is to combine the arts and permaculture in teaching, writing and education projects for healing and transformation. Her choreography has been presented for the JOMBA! International Dance Festival, The Gallatin Arts Festival and National Choreography Month Boston. She has performed with various dance companies in South Africa, NYC and Boston, including the Flatfoot Training Company, Dancers/Choreographers Alliance, Cambridge Dance Company and Selmadanse. She has taught modern and creative dance to children and adults since 2006 for various schools and community organizations including Brooklyn International High School, OnStage Dance Company, Newton Community Education and the Magwa Environment Through the Arts Project. When not dancing, she works at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, tries to grow food, and takes lots of pack walks with her boyfriend Mike and dog Banjo.
LDC: How do you feel in advance of ChoreoFest? What do you hope to accomplish, personally and choreographically?
JM: I am partly relieved that I don’t have to prepare anything beforehand. Although much of my dance-work happens through collaboration with dancers in the studio, before any new project I spend hours taking videos of myself improvising, watching videos, researching, writing, and create a core phrase to start with. I also don’t have to do all the logistical work of booking rehearsal spaces and trying to make divergent dancer schedules mesh, which I am grateful for.
However, having so many unknowns in a process that will be extremely time-compressed is making me anxious, both in a nervous and excited way. I can almost picture myself in the studio at, trying to make decisions that I believe in, but, being tired and feeling the pressure of wanting to create meaningful work, I fear I will question those decisions. I think this process will challenge me to trust my gut and believe in myself. When making dance, I always try to find ‘the flow’, where I am completely in the now, when everything is happening. I am looking forward to getting to that place and rolling with it.
LDC: Describe your typical creative process.
JM: Although I do a lot on my own, choreographing for me is best a process that happens with other people. My dancers and I start with a concept, informed by shared concerns or ideas at the time or the theme/parameters of the performance we are creating for. I usually begin with a writing exercise and discussion to draw out the story we’d like to tell. I also bring a short phrase to share which sets the general movement quality and gives the dancers some core vocabulary to draw from in the next phase - improvisation. We warm up across the floor with different impetuses for movement, like ‘each next move must change direction’ or ‘your head can’t leave the floor’. From there we create additional phrases within a structured use of space, time and energy, mostly informed by Laban Movement Analysis, and layered with words culled from writing exercises and discussion. I then give a set of “gifts” dancers must add to their phrase to to develop it like ‘add a pause’ or ‘repeat something at least 3 times’ and have them work in pairs, or groups to see how the phrase interacts with itself. This process creates the scaffolding of shared material we use to compose the work. Working this way I often feel more like a composer. We have the instruments and the notes, which I string together to try and convey meaning. Sometimes that meaning is clearly connected to the concept we began with, sometimes it is divergent from the starting point.
LDC: What is your current greatest fear about the festival?
JM: That the piece will be unresolved. I always have that fear making new work, that we didn’t have enough time, or the phrasing is just not right, or I used the wrong exercises to draw stuff out. Also, crashing from too much coffee.
LDC: What's the longest amount of time you've been awake for? How do you plan to cope with a lack of sleep and an excess of things to do?
JM: Last time I can remember being awake for an extended period with too much to do was in college in South Africa. I had two 15 page papers due by the end of the next day, and I was not even close to being finished. One paper was about global food systems, and the other about dance education. I stayed up for 36 hours in the computer lab and ate a lot of cheese curls and chocolate from the vending machine. I got both papers in on-time, and think I got good marks.
I am lucky enough to work with dancers who are familiar with my process, and bring a lot to the table. I trust that their creativity and willingness to be fearless in the studio will make it work. I will also probably drink a lot of coffee.
LDC: Anything else you'd like to share?
JM: Can’t wait to start!
Photo Credit: Kristophe Diaz