We have our first work-in-progress showing for my CounterPULSE residency this coming Saturday, Jan. 15th. Even though we’re still at the beginnings of our creation process, I’m very glad we have this showing to work towards.
There are many reasons that I find public showings of performance works in progress useful. These include:
–forcing us as artists to make some decisions about what we want to show
–giving a deadline to a particular segment of our creation process
–encouraging everyone in the cast to show up at a certain time (Many performers might miss rehearsals due to scheduling conflicts or illness, but few will miss a “performance” of any kind.)
–clarifying what is working or not working in the piece by trying it all full out –receiving feedback from audience members’ experiences while witnessing the work and then getting to integrate that feedback into our process
–deepening connection between ensemble members by going through something scary together
–getting to know the space we’re working in through a different perspective
–opportunities for bringing friends and loved ones along for our artistic journey
–a chance for all of us to get a better sense of the material we may or may not have already witnessed in rehearsal (Different people come to different rehearsals, so this is one of the few times we’re all together.)
–and many more…
There is a particular benefit of showings that I want to explore this time. This is a more personal, intimate benefit. Our showing this Saturday is giving me the opportunity to practice staying mindful while in the middle of the stress and chaos of performances.
One of my personal goals is to merge my spiritual practices with my art making. Some of this is inherent in art making, and some needs to be consciously brought in. In particular I’d like to feel more calm, groundedness, confidence and equanimity on performance days.
I’m good at “making it work.” I can handle a large amount of chaos, distress and unexpected obstacles with some amount of grace. My adrenaline rushes and I enter a hyper-focused and highly energetic state. That’s all fine and good, but it leaves me feeling very drained afterwards. Also, I find that I become reactive and sometimes even defensive in this super-charged state. While I do get a lot done, sometimes it’s a productivity that is disconnected from the deeper parts of my heart.
–I’d like to draw in some of the principles I practice in Tai Chi and mindfulness meditation.
–I’d like to trust the natural unfolding of each performance day.
–I’d like to see everything that arises as momentary expressions of the process, rather than treasures or obstacles that I need to cling to or push through.
–I’d like to stay more in touch with the flow of energy leading up to and during performances.
–I’d like to experiment with trusting a larger sense of identity, and see if things happen when I relax that might even be more interesting than what I could come up with in my striving.
These are not easy tasks for me. A gift of mine is great determination and a strong will. When I want to make something happen, I usually can. However, this limits my experience to include only the things I can think of myself, or that I know I want. That remains a somewhat bland and overly familiar category of experience.
Relaxing into the process further requires a deeper faith in uncertainty. It requires a recognition that I can’t control everything. Again, not my natural inclination. Many people report that they think of me as a particularly calm, open and relaxed person. I think that I do have some skills in this area, but most of those come from continual practice. I’m always working towards being calm, open and relaxed–but rarely feeling so. A lot of the time I am able to embody the forms this would take, but my mind rages against the walls inside of that form. I think that performance days are excellent arenas to try to sync up my intentions and my experience.
And an actual “performance” comes with so much baggage that I am usually swept along helplessly with the anxiety and ecstasy. A showing on the other hand is something I can experiment with more freely. The stakes aren’t as high and so there is room to make more mistakes.
–What would it be like to stay in touch with my breathing and bodily sensations throughout the whole day, even when a myriad of details are flashing before my eyes?
–What would it be like to trust the process of the preparation, showing and feedback sessions so much so that I don’t have to improve them at all?
–What would it be like to allow myself and my ensemble to truly experience whatever arises, familiar and unfamiliar?
–What would it be like to think of the work that we show as not mine, or ours even, but as a creation of the universe manifesting specifically in this moment?
–What would it be like to not take feedback (positive or negative) personally?
I’m not sure, but I’m interested to find out.
…And here is our third interview webisode with Cristina Carrasquillo, right after her first rehearsal with the group and 5 days away from our first showing…