I recently found an old program from my 2008 piece, "the blank." It's interesting to look back and realize how many of the concepts that I had at the earliest stages of my creative and academic development still resonate with my work today. I will upload a short video of highlights from "the blank." later today. For now, I thought I'd share the program text.
Choreographed by Ashley Ferro-Murray
April 4-5, 2008
Dance process systemically engages the mind and body in kinesthetic performance. Whether this activity occurs in a traditional proscenium performance arena or at a site-specific movement venue, Western concert dance has for centuries existed as and in conjunction with a socially specific space. Today we live in an environment where technological devices affect our every thought and move, so it is not surprising that dance innovators have tended to experiment with the interface of new technologies, space, and movement. These technologies range from photography, television, and film to iPhones and Wii video gaming devices. As a choreographer and dancer, I work to fuse technological culture and human interaction with my choreography from a critical and explorative background. I weave the content of my movement and choreography with live interactive performance technologies.
Interactive technologies are relatively contemporary choreographic devices that artists including Merce Cunningham, Troika Ranch, and Jonah Bokaer, among many others, explore through dance. It is important to recognize that aside from these technologies the dancing body is a technology in itself. Dance process is grounded in the mechanics of a body, so it is only in relation to corporeal techniques that a dancer can adequately exist with or in relation to digital technologies. From these considerations come one of the most interesting aspects of contemporary technologies in dance; how choreographers, dancers and audiences alike facilitate relationships between contemporary technologies and those of the moving body in space and time. This technique attends to the mechanics of the moving body and situates dance as a corporal process revealing its mechanical equivalence to a system like digital technology. It is therefore important to discuss contemporary technology in dance not as an innovative addition of technology to dance, but as a complicated synthesis of two technological systems. My choreographic commentary on new age technologies is realized only after my consideration of age-old techniques grounded in the movement of the body itself.
It is important to situate a discussion of Western contemporary dance in terms of the rich histories that galvanized the technological process that is dance in-itself, the conception of which I will reference as 17th century court ballet. As the initial codification and performance of Western classical dance continues to inform, and sometimes dominate, contemporary dance practice, we could chart a procreation of these historical develops in spatial and interpersonal politics. Though it is not my intention to do so, the presence of balletic technological and ideological roots in contemporary choreographic practice would in many cases remain evident. At a very basic level, the moving body as a technology still works in conjunction with representational and interpersonal power politics in a voyeuristic atmosphere.
As a choreographer, I find these politics relevant from a creative conception to a performance practice. Within each composition I work to mold the specificity and implications of corporeal placement, the technical perspectival relationsips between different aesthetic elements (for example the visual competition between a simultaneously moving digital projected body and physical dancing bodies) and a multitude of compositional facets. Even my often experimental choreographic mechanics still relate to perspectival allegories, movement and scenic situation. I actualize these principles in the relationships between my dancers and me, the dancers themselves, and finally between the dancers and their audience. As I work from an informed historical position and acknowledge political implications that are pedagogically insinuated through and installed in movement vocabularies, I use a balletic system like partnering or ballet movement to consider the political and gendered situation within which it was conceived and to deconstruct their technical elements.
To heighten my sensitivity to politics and social signification I also work to explore today's social politics in conjunction with contemporary movement vocabularies by coalescing both physical and digital technologies in the movement of the dancing body. Like in my historical consideration, one contemporary implication to which I pay particular attention is gender signification within human interaction and staged relationships. I'm working with an all female cast of dancers to consider their relationships to each other within and/or outside of the historically male dominated proscenium dance arena. I work to acknowledge and deconstruct the objectification of the female dancer by disrupting classical tradition and re-presenting them with pedestrian influence or in movement combinations perpetuated by physical force and explorations of physical limitations. My exploration of the somewhat antiquated concept of the audience gaze is one specific example of this approach. My use of multiple movement surfaces in space to restate the gaze of the audience in relation to my dancers' movement and presence on stage explores through my choreography historically charged systems such as the gaze.
Despite the somewhat deconstructive nature of my methods, my contemporary reformulation of historical, social and theoretical implications is not a complete abstraction of movement and performance systems. Dancers are living bodies that exist in society, so political and personal implications inevitabley exist behind the execution of each movement. Like in the course of Louis XIV, my presentation of movement technique references power, communication and looking in relation to living bodies. What does it mean to use a classically influenced movement vocabulary in our modern day society? In reference to every day society, today's technologically stimulated culture, similar technological devices encourage physical movement synthesis by enabling live physical-digital interaction in every day performance (or life). These devices complicate basic performance structures and introduce contemporary considerations to historical references.