A rehearsal video from May 31, 2017, showing an excerpt from the second section of the dance as a work in progress. Using videos we were able to see some of what Nikki was setting. Because both of us were dancing or at least “on stage”, it was impossible to know what the overall look and pattern of the dance were. This reminds me that Joe Goode works in a studio without mirrors. Since his choreography is collaborative with his dancers, it means that each dancer has a perspective of the piece, but no one sees the piece as a whole. The dancers are dancing to each other, rather than to an audience.
The rehearsal took place in a studio in south London. In the background the traffic noises blend with the recordings, creating a soundscape combining country and city.
Working on the choreography for “Passing Moments” was particularly difficult while Jaime was in the US. She sent me recordings of herself reading the poems, but I was finding it difficult to settle in to moving in the spaces without looking like I was simply miming the words. I was not interested in doing this as I was looking to interact with, not repeat, the poem in movement.
I suggested opening up the reading by giving a lot more time to the spaces between phrases. Happily, Jaime was very amenable to playing with the presentation. The next recording I received from her was not only expanded in this way but also spoke against a backdrop of recorded birdsong, chimes and even a little piano. This changed everything. Suddenly there was not just space but invitation to dance. Motifs became apparent and I began to work on identifying them to create a matrix as a basic structure.
The second challenge was that we were programmed to perform on grass! All my work so far on creating rhythmic responses to Jaime’s poetry would be unusable where no rhythm would be discerned. Yet I was still determined to avoid mime on one hand and abstraction on the other. I took what I had been doing with rhythm (ie using small motifs) and applying that to upper body work, so that there would be visual mapping of the poetry in my body. By this point, Jaime’s recordings had been finalised and the original work had re-settled into a meditative stillness of delicately crystallised imagery.
Jaime & Nikki in rehearsal
Jaime had previously uncovered some very brief lines about the city that I’d written for the Twitter platform which she set as interstitial pieces to hers. This new element required staging and we agreed on using a park bench for the transition: as dancer I sat down there at the end of a piece and when I rose it was to speak the urban lines. By contrast, Jaime – having recorded her work – was able to free-wheel around the performance space, becoming a visual element in her own poetry. Her words were central to the piece and her body acted as counterpoint to the performance.
Ultimately, the weather was against us and we performed in the beautiful Great Hall at Dartington. The sandstone walls, with the wood floor combined with the muted light of dusk to wrap us in as close to a natural setting as an indoor staging might be. Live and recorded voice; movement and stillness; city and country; indoors and outside, we wove them together but hopefully in a way that each element had space to layer and play not obscure each other.