CHOREOGRAPHING ZOOM IN COVID:
A CURATED EXCHANGE WITH DRAMATURG LOIS BROWN AND ARTIST THEA PATTERSON
LOIS: Welcome everyone!
PIG 3 is a collection of videos and texts – a bit of an experiment with the form/s a discussion might take in these times.
Like you, during COVID, I attended and worked on a lot of projects on Zoom. I was struck by how choreographers Thea Patterson and Jacinte Armstrong in particular grabbed on to intersectional temporality and flat framing and w/rung Zoom into lively, present performance space.
Thea’s premiere of Silvering in Confinement at Mile Zero Dance was not intended to be covided. But early in the pandemic, she absorbed the sadness of cancelled flights - in other words - cancelled togetherness, and waded into the brave new world of digital rehearsals and performances with no real surety of how her complex work would be altered by distance, intersectional temporality, and Zoom.
Below, you can watch an excerpt from Thea’s premiere at Mile Zero Dance of Silvering in Confinement followed by our exchange about “glimmer” and “never finding form”.
never finding form and glimmer
Lois: Thea, I recall you began developing these fascinating concepts when you studied at DAS Arts. At that time you were creating a work called “between this is and the could be”. Can you tell us about "never finding form" and "glimmer"?
Lois: "Glimmer" is an interesting concept and describes one way your work reshaped my notion of Zoom. Can I say Silvering took the platform from a flatform to an art form?
Zoom disrupted so much of the conceptual framework of Silvering, but in the final analysis, I would suggest, that even more so, the purpose of Zoom itself was re-defined by "glimmer" and "never finding form". Zoom glimmers in the performance of Silvering in Confinement. You used the platform to create pulsating portholes through which we could see/arrive at/pass through to temporal/spatial ruptures. These brief moments something more like a cosmic void seemed available than a dance. I think this encourages us to reinterpret our pre COVID/Zoom-understanding of order and form, enter into the poetic re-composition of Zoom by Silvering, and as a result configure Zoom as a poetic platform on which we can create new narratives of time and space and new forms of dance. Or a nudge toward a dance form that disrupts time and space...
Silvering integrated five time zones during its rehearsal, and when MZD presented it in 2020 on Zoom it was viewed by an audience in potentially 24 plus time zones.
Lois: Do you think any of this COVID art knowledge will stick with us in the post-pandemic era? Or is it pandemic-specific?
Thea: Speaking specifically in regard to my own experience, I would say, no knowledge is wasted knowledge - so there is no way that this process won’t continue to reverberate. I was forced to try things I never would have imagined…. And this will widen my scope moving forward. But if I’m honest as well, like so many of us, the desire for gathering together still remains the preferred modality. But perhaps some of the affordances that the digital and the filmed brought in terms of focus, and in terms of time, will be things to consider incorporating and thinking with as I trace my way back to the work, other work and new work. I believe generally, people want to be with people in a room, tasting, sensing that ineffable thing that shared space and attention brings, the particular affect of many individuals making up the varied, yet also gathered, energetic field of this thing we call audience.
What I think we might see is more contexts where it is both live and mediated - an in-house audience and a distanced audience. The pandemic has created this unique situation where work that would never have been accessible to some, or many, now is - in terms of geography, and both financial and physical accessibility (with many shows, it seems, offering varying degrees of sliding scales).
Of course, the issue of which medium are you creating for then comes to the fore, live vs. distanced….as they are certainly different… and up till now, in my experience, simply seeing stage shows simply filmed for online from a fixed camera position with maybe two camera’s trading off a near and a far shot, during a “live “ performance, usually falls short because they are being often approached as if the stage version and a filmed version can fit into one mode of capture. But one size does not fit all. This includes from how the camera needs to become another agent in the piece, and be attended to as such in the process, not just stuck on at the end, to how the lights function, ( i.e. lights for say a blackbox live performance do not always translate well to a filmed version). So, then the question becomes around time, labour, money etc.: will we now expect artists to conceive their work for both the live and mediated in a way that allows for the needs of each approach without allowing the resources to achieve this? Or do we simply concede that if you put the energy into one format the other will be, for lack of a better term, a lesser version?
I think I veered off the question — but these have been some of my thoughts more generally, about the practical reality of integrating these new formats moving forward.
Thea Patterson is a choreographer, performer, and dance dramaturg. Her performance practice revolves around an acute set of questions regarding the body, objects, perception, vitality, and time. Her early choreographic works include Rhyming Couplets (08), and A Soft Place to Fall which was made into a BravoFact film by Mouvement Perpétuel (06) and the dance I cannot do (2013). An interest in collaborative models led to the co- founding of the collective The Choreographers (2007-2011). From 2007 to 2015 she was co-artistic director with Peter Trosztmer, and dramaturge, on seven acclaimed works including Eesti: Myths and Machines (2011) and #Boxtape (2014). During that time, she also co-choreographed Norman (2008) for Lemieux.Pilon.4Dart which toured extensively through Asia and Europe. She has also provided dramaturgy for several independent choreographers including Katie Ward, Isabel Mohn, Sasha Kleinplatz, Andrew Turner, Lois Brown and Nathan Yaffe. From 2014-16 she completed a Research Creation Master’s degree at DAS Choreography in Amsterdam which explored emergent choreographic forms and other methods for altering aspects of spectatorship. Thea has several ongoing collaborations in Montreal, Portugal, Edmonton, and Newfoundland. Her most recent work Silvering (2020) was presented at Mile Zero Dance in Edmonton. She is a SSHRC funded PhD student in Performance Studies at the University of Alberta and was Co-editor-in-chief of Intonations Graduate journal (2019-21).