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High Concepts

Momentum, Disorientation, and Moving Forward

By Sponsored Artist Andrea Cerniglia of Dropshift Dance


“Imposter/Contained” Photo credit Roberto Martinez.

It was an extraordinarily busy May. Not only had I been working in the HCL studios with fellow dropshift dancer, Julie Brannen, developing a new duet to be premiered with Luke Gullickson‘s musical work Open, but I had been in the final stages of production for dropshift’s recent evening length production, Imposter/Contained. Both of these processes had been moving alongside one another since February, and I am amazed that I was able to keep my brain in each one in a very compartmentalized way.

In the fall of 2014, Luke and I began discussing the possibility of working collaboratively. Luke proposed that his new work Open for piano and viola needed something more for a performance than just the musicians playing the score. He felt that it needed movement to bring the score to life. The subtleties of the composition and the specificity of the sound was exciting and daunting as I began to conceptualize how to make this happen with my movement composition. 

Inevitably, timelines stretch long and I found myself working on these two hearty projects simultaneously. This was wonderful and challenging. Each work is very different; the process of each defines it to be so. In Imposter/Contained, a work that I have been developing since March 2014, there were many other elements involved besides dance and musical score. There was a physical set and installation elements including durational movement sequence and a plethora of vibrant video projections. With Open, I did not have the luxury of hours and hours of investigation: our process was very streamlined. I began work on the duet in March, and set a deadline of early May to have it finished. In previous posts, I described my goals to truncate process and focus on clear decision making while in creation. 

The plan was as follows:

1. Make work with each visit to the studio
2.  Employ minimal edits once material was created.

This is easier said than done; however, I was determined to hold myself accountable for the task that I had set.


“Imposter/Contained” Photo credit Roberto Martinez.

Although it was challenging and the scheduling of creative work this spring was daunting, I am pleased that I held myself to this task. My process drew on a variety of inspirational elements. I never composed directly from the music; but rather early in the process I spent a great deal of time outside of the studio listening to the score. I listened, I wrote, I took breaks, and then returned. This allowed me to create images and characterizations that correlated to parts of the musical score before my own creative process began. The embodied piece was about physically living within the world that the score created. I used images of dark and light, cool and warm, strength and delicacy, and so on; I find that this is how I create best. There needs to be a clear environment in order to direct the movement and the character within that movement. I am never interested in telling the audience exactly who we are or what they should see, but there is always a clear image for us as performers. This creates a frame, a lens, a clear intention. Because of the abstract nature of the work, I then challenge audience members to use their lens and experience to pull images from what they see before them.

After the recent premiere of Imposter/Contained, I had a long discussion with an audience member who was fairly new to the experience of abstract movement/installation.  He challenged me by saying things like, “Isn’t it dangerous for you as an artist to not tell the audience exactly where you stand?  Shouldn’t you provide the audience with information about what you are trying to say?”  I talked with him for quite a long time and responded to basically say: As soon as I define exactly what I am saying, the work is dead. It can no longer be interpreted through your lens. The possibilities for it to be free are over. Of course, I provide some kind of frame for audience; however, I do not provide a narrative. 

The work that I create is not about telling one specific story. It is about clearly defining an environment in which the performers exist and creating a palette of movement that belongs within that world. Audience members are invited to step into this world; but it may be disorienting.  And that is okay.  Sometimes we have to go along for the ride first, be in the moment, and figure it out later!

Open receives its world premiere next week at High Concept Labs.

Open by Dropship Dance and Luke Gullickson
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
8 PM /  $10
High Concept Labs
2233 S Thoop St, Chicago, IL



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This is the HCL blog.

This blog is a source for our associated artists and audiences to share the experience of the creative process. Here you will find news, pictures, and video's of the new work created at HCL.

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