NET/TEN Shareback: Dandelion Dancetheater - Unexpected Intersections of Dance and Theater

Spring 2013 Seed Grant Recipient

Dandelion Dancetheater (San Francisco, CA) invited director, John Flax (Sante Fe, NM), to meet with Eric Kuper’s interdisciplinary ensemble, Bandelion, and Paufve Dance (Oakland, CA) to deepen their artistic relationships and to plan future touring. 


Dandelion Dancetheater provided NET with a video of their performance exchange with John Flax, Bandelion, and Paufve Dance and a viewing guide to provide context and instructions about each excersise. These explorations represent just the beginning of their collaborative investigation into unexpected intersections of dance and theater. Their findings are serving as the foundation for a new interdisciplinary piece they intend to create collaboratively, based on the play, Savage/Love, by Sam Shepard and Joe Chaikin.



"Unexpected Intersections of Dance and Theater"
A performance exchange between Dandelion Dancetheater, Paufve Dance and John Flax


Dandelion, Flax and Paufve Dance -- NET Seed Exchange Showing Shareback from Eric Kupers on Vimeo.


An introduction of the performer/collaborators can be found at the 9:25 time code on the video.

1st Exploration: Meeting Lover in a Clearing
• Introduction Time Code:  2:30
• Exploration Time Code:  4:40
• Exploration Leader:   John Flax

Description:  In this first exercise, the intent was to create a situation in which performers without much experience with text can become comfortable with it. One of hardest phrases to deliver is: “I love you.” However, repeating the phrase continuously begins to remove the stigma. Not every utterance is honest but the exploration allows the performer to begin to connect with this iconic phrase. 

The next step of the exploration was to create a journey of falling in love so that the performers could begin to feel the subtlety of an emotional arc. The steps are: 1) the initial attraction 2) realizing that you’d like to spend more time with this person 3) telling them that you love them for the first time. Performers were encouraged to connect to the emotion while using their own words so that they were not blocked by ‘delivering’ a text.

2nd Exploration: Choreography with Text –Group Duets
• Introduction Time Code: 10:00
• Exploration Time Code: 10:45
• Exploration Leader:   Randee Paufve

Description: Group Duets. Each performer developed movement material based on ideas about Seeing, Preserving, Touch, Conflict, Imbalance, Space (distance, proximity, and the specific notion that space is emotion, and the space between people is desire). 

The performers then paired up, we played a listening game, and experimented with physical manipulations.  From here, the performers made set duets, layering in the text they had memorized. 

We then created a structure for performing the duets within a group.  The performers settled on a common memory (I didn’t know what it was, but I suggested working with ‘first kiss’, or ‘childhood birthday party’, something like that).  The performers then started the piece by sitting in a horizontal line in front of the audience, all looking straight ahead, and living the memory inside (of themselves).  Without any external cue, the performers were to try, simultaneously, to jolt out of their story into present time and begin a slow motion crawl, moving backwards in space and forward in time, to begin their present moment duets, performed one couple/one story at a time. 

3rd Exploration: Monologues
• Introduction Time Code: 17:30
• Exploration Time Code: 18:30
• Exploration Leader:   John Flax

Description: In this exercise, the performers were asked to bring a movement phrase they already knew and could repeat without thinking. Each was asked to memorize a short phrase of Sam Shepard and Joe Chaikin’s: Savage/Love. The instruction was to perform the movement phrase until the performer felt very comfortable and then to overlay the text with their intuition as a guide, imagining the text as an internal monologue. They could paraphrase the text, expand upon it, repeat words or phrases and let it grow into whatever it wanted to become.

The first explorations were some of the most powerful as the texts often merged with the movement creating powerful, honest emotion that is rarely reached with either form alone. Capturing those powerful performances for an official showing is another kind of training. Related, it doesn’t take long for the performers to begin to ‘plan’ an improvisation almost guaranteeing a lesser outcome. New exercises are necessary to stay ahead of the performers and maximize spontaneity. We chose to show just a sampling of the findings from these explorations, prioritizing those that didn’t become too “set” in repeated run-throughs.

4th Exploration: Duets Choreography
• Exploration Time Code: 26:25
• Exploration Leader:   Eric Kupers and John Flax

Description: Duets. Generally, we worked with thematic ideas about human relationships and geography, why things happen where they happen (in space), love relationships, the ways we support each other, hurt each other, proximity and distance, gesture, intimacy, common memories. 

Specifically we took choreography from a particular section in a Dandelion Dancetheater piece that seemed easily transferable to a diverse array of bodies and partnerings. The choreography involved mostly a walking pattern, with specific moments of physical contact. Everyone learned these duets, and adapted them to their particular movement abilities and relationships with their partners.

Each pair then inserted the text from Savage/Love that they had memorized into the movement duet. They were asked to treat it as a dialogue, even though they were working with random snippets of text, that didn’t necessarily even come from the same scene in the play. We wanted to see what story the movement could tell, with the text as a tool, rather than the driving force.

Again we chose to show just a few of these partner studies, prioritizing those that seemed most complex and multi-layered.

5th Exploration: 13 Minute Improvisation -- Bordering on Anarchy
• Introduction Time Code: 37:00
• Exploration Time Code: 37:45
• Exploration Leader:   Randee Paufve

Description:  Each of the performers selected and memorized a chunk of text, and each developed his/her own palette of movement, working with moving in channels or lanes.  We went through several rounds of improvising with different structures, involving props – chairs – the placement of chairs, rules about movement, coming in and out of the scene, how many could be onstage at a time, what movement they could do, what they could share, steal, when and how to work with text, etc. 

With each round, we threw out rules, until the only parameters left were 5 chairs, each performers’ text, the performance space (as defined by walls and curtains), the performers themselves, and a time limit.  The performers’ jobs were to enter and exit the space, and while in the space, try and find/develop relationships with other performers.  We found the reducing of structure down to a somewhat random time limit (13 minutes) to be the most fruitful tool for getting performers out of their ideas and into their intuition.



Eric Kupers, Dandelion Dancetheater Co-Director

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

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