Thursday, January 01, 2015

Hello 2015

2014 is already a thing of the past. But humor me while I wax briefly about its gratifying final months.

My experience at the Sao Carlos Videodance Festival in Brazil was like visiting a parallel universe where I met folks I felt I'd already known. They'd invited me to come speak about my work because they'd shown everything I'd sent them since 2008! Because they already "knew" me, because we shared the same values and taste, language was no real barrier.  It's a place I hope to return to very soon, with a project to keep me there longer, and a chance to travel more in Brazil - this round I hurried back for the Williamstown Film Festival screening of Her Children Mourn.

About a week after that I had the distinct pleasure of sharing work with the Rhode Island College community in Providence. The lively audience enjoyed a screening of 4 videodances - including
A Thousand Miles from the Sea, shot with RIC students in January 2014. With Q & A after each film, the evening culminated in The Book of Breath danced live by a lovely cast of RIC students. I'll be back there in March for the ACDA conference, to pontificate further on the subject of screen dance.

Now, as 2015 begins, I'm putting finishing touches on the THREE projects developed in 2014:

1. on the way to work
shot in Rockland County & in Grand Central on Mother's Day weekend last year
now weighing in at about 8 minutes

It took me a while to figure out how to make this one work. I almost threw it away, but I hated to lose some of the lovely performances. It's a pretty honest view of how my work gets made: sources of inspiration, how we stumble together toward something that already exists.  Bill Ruyle created an understated score which fits perfectly. Photo below, trailer soon.

Aislinn MacMaster

2. Las Madres

Those who don't already know about my "double life" might like to read this excerpt of my proposal to Rivertown Artists Workshop for the CSA grant I received to work on Madres.

I lead a double life. For decades I have worked as an accomplished choreographer, and now as a filmmaker. Over the course of my career I have often made dances with multi-generational (and multi-racial) casts, such as The Welcome Table (see link).  I recently completed Wildwood (see link) which was created with a group of children with no audition, no rehearsal, just their commitment to play, primarily outdoors, in a “camp” we invented.

For the past 10 years I've also worked in family literacy, first as an Americorps volunteer and now as a paid staff member at the Family Resource Center in Nanuet, New York. Through the Parent Child Home Program, I visit mostly low-income, Spanish-speaking mothers and their pre-school children in their homes, playing and reading, twice a week over the course of 2 years. Many of the the mothers I see rarely had time or permission in their own childhoods to discover their own creativity, and now as hard-working parents relish the time spent building block towers or making play dough animals with their children.

In recent years I've wanted to integrate these two halves of my double life by making a dance with the population I “play” with. I hope to develop movement material - games, stories, our own dances, maybe even block-building! - that would arise organically out of our being together. I propose to work with low-income mothers and children from the local Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow community over the course of several months using movement as a shared language, creating a short film by the end of the process.

Easier said than done!  I learned that it's one thing to shoot a documentary, and quite another to be simultaneously developing the material that's being documented. Luckily, I was handed a delicious group of mother/daughters, who had a grand time playing with each other and were mostly unfazed by the camera. From week to week I'd tear my hair out trying to concoct something meaningful - but what's most wonderful about these folks shines in their every gesture.

I'm not sharing a link to Las Madres yet. Instead, I encourage you to attend the premiere in Tarrytown  Rivertown Artists Workshop will screen it in a shared program with contemporary Flamenco artist Rebecca Thomas on March 6th and 7th.  Popcorn's on me!  Details here.

3. Plow Plant Reap

The above was shot in September by Jennifer Keller and danced by 11 of her students at Slippery Rock University in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Several months earlier Jennifer had invited me to mentor her somehow. I proposed that the best way to learn would be by doing - certainly that's been my modus operandi. So I went armed with potential music and gorgeous Liz Prince costumes; Jennifer picked up the gauntlet and rented a camera. The dancers learned material over a week of rehearsals and we shot for two days at the Miller Farm and on the banks of a conservancy-protected stream.  It'll premiere as part of the SRU concert in February. I like this new way of presenting video dance where it shares the program with live concert work.

Have you noticed that lately in these posts, I've linked to a video whose music plays even while you're reading about something else? In this case, you've been listening to the soundtrack for my 1991 Bessie-winning Vital Signs.  What do I think watching it now after all these years? I'm an expert at faulting my own work, whether freshly minted or from the distant past. But just now - call it a new year's resolution - I won't!

Instead, I'll close with more bragging about recent acceptances for various short films all over the place. Screendance Miami, Trail Dance Film Festival (again!), Black Maria Film Festival (again!), Prosa in Sao Paolo Brazil; MADFest in Kalamazoo; Athens Video Dance Project (two films!)  More details here.

OK, that pretty much covers it for now. I won't wish you a happy new year, because you'll be hearing from me again before long - as soon as I figure out what my next project is!

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