Well, everyone is back and we are in the final stages of getting ready for the performance next week. The pieces are fitting together very nicely. This evening was our best practice so far. We came out of it energised and happy with what happened within the group.
To give you a glimpse into our working method, we began with a warmup based on walking, designed to increase our awareness of the others in the group. We walk around in the space, aware of the others. There is no leader, but we try to stop walking and start again in unison. We always have a reflection afterward to share what we notice about the process.
Then we went into a half-hour open-structured improvisational jam. We weren’t worried about fitting into any of the three specific sections of the performance itself. The purpose was to work the group together and play, experiment as much as possible within this particular grouping of people. Although we have been working since August, this was only the second time the group has been together since the long holiday break. The jam was very good and there were some ideas that we played with and developed further in the next part of the practice.
We started the next section by thinking about the times in our lives when we have been energised by recieving and then giving a ‘spark’ to other people, and then we played the piece as if it were part of the real performance. ‘Pass the spark’ is the central activity for part 2 of the piece, which will last half an hour. In this activity, one person has ‘the spark’. The spark is the focus of everyone’s attention. That person can play in any way he/she likes, then pass the spark (focus) on to another person. Sometimes we get rapid dialogues between two people, sometimes a more extended development. It is like ‘trading riffs’ in jazz improvisation, except that the riffs can be music, or words, or movement or any combination. There was an intense awareness of the focus and some very inventive playing. I sat out and played the ‘audience’ in this part.
So what do we do, exactly, when we have the spark? Make music, make sound effects, play with objects, dance, walk, tell stories silently or with words, express our solitude or respond to other performers. It is improvisational within the central structure and concept, so it is different each time. Inventive movement — even the cello making dancelike gestures as the boundary between musicians and dancers becomes fluid. Entrancing.
After another reflection on that exercise, we briefly explored ‘oceanic feeling’, the central concept of part three. We reflected back on the times we have had this kind of meditational experience and brainstormed some ideas to explore more fully in the next session.
If you are in the Aberystwyth area on 21 January (Thursday next week), I hope you can come to the Arts Centre to see us.