Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's All About the Process by Morgiana Celeste Varricchio

How do you walk a word? On April 11 and May 30, 2013, Mosaic Dance Theater Company’s outreach trio, Samara Adell, Adriana Rosa and I (Morgiana Celeste Varricchio) introduced members of JSDD’s WAE Center to a new way “to get below the outer layers of everyday consciousness” (Paul Baker) in order to create works of art, an “inner process” of tapping the creative core that lies in each of us.

Back in my “salad days” as an apprentice at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) in Dallas, Texas, all first-year candidates in the MFA program were required to take the course titled “Integration of Abilities.”  Paul Baker, the brilliant director/theater artist, visionary, and Managing Director of DTC, developed this methodology as a means of discovering one’s creative center.  Through a succession of exercises designed to explore a variety of “elements” (line, rhythm, color, texture, shape, sound, silhouette, space, direction), theater artists of all disciplines would learn a common vocabulary with which to communicate ideas to one another.  Mr. Baker’s vision was revealed to us, eager young artists that we were, in weekly sessions over a nine-month period.  This creative adventure became ingrained in me, and has become my way of approaching new creative projects, or trying to solve creative problems.
Angel walks his line with Morgiana 

So, in discussing plans for a 2013-collaboration between Mosaic and JSDD’s WAE Center, I proposed workshops based upon Mr. Baker’s “Integration of Abilities,” but designed for the special needs of the WAE Center members.

For those of you unfamiliar with this past collaborator, JSDD’s (Jewish Services for Developmental Disabilities) WAE (Wellness, Arts, Enrichment) Center is an alternative learning center, helping individuals with disabilities find the “spark within” through a variety of programs in the arts. 

My proposal fell in line with the WAE Center’s goals, so the Mosaic team went to work.  We decided to use Mosaic’s dance work “Red Desert,” as the source material.  Our two 2-hour-long sessions were attended by two separate groups of WAE Center members as well as WAE Center staff members and artist facilitators.  After a brief warm-up, followed by a round of introductions and explanations of what our workshop goals were, Samara told the participants the story behind her interpretive choreography for “Red Desert” (read that description on our repertory page: http://www.mosaicdancetheaterco.org/Rep_Red%20Desert.html). Participants then had the opportunity to watch a video of “Red Desert,” taken at a theater performance.  Now it was their turn to work. 

Samara  and Vicky demonstrate Vicky's movement
 for "beauty" as Jessica looks on 
Their first task was to describe their impressions of what they saw, then share with the group how the words made them feel.  Next, everyone was asked to show one movement to express their personal interpretation of “Red Desert” from some of the words they had written down.  And then came the hard part – drawing the movement, using the whole muscular effort of that movement to produce the drawing on paper.  And, of course, since the source material was dance, participants were instructed to “walk the line” of the drawing they completed. 

This is not an easy exercise, nor does it promise a quick result.  And, our two-hour workshops were similar to sticking a toe into the ocean to learn all of its secrets, but it was a start.  The “Integration of Abilities” is a process, and it is the losing of oneself in the process that, in the early stages, is more important than the final product.  There’s a breathless wonder in discovering that it’s OK and exciting to move out of your comfort zone when in the creative mode.  Don’t rely on your personal bag of tricks -- go beyond what your mind is telling you, and go with the feeling of the movement. 

Jessica shows her drawing to Samara,
Adriana and Morgiana
As Mosaic goes back to the rehearsal studio to prepare for our concert on October 20, presented by the WAE Center, the WAE Center artists will go back to the art studio, to build on the words, the drawings, and the movements they created in these workshops, and develop them into their own work of art, be it visual art, written word, spoken word, movement, music, or something else entirely, but each one springs from an initial response to their viewing of “Red Desert.” The artworks will be on exhibit as part of the collaboration between Mosaic and the WAE Center – “The Art of Sense and Soul.”

(Photos by Dean Nevolis and Renee Folzenlogen) 

(“The Art of Sense and Soul,” free to the general public, will be held on October 20, 2013 at the JCC Maurice Levin Theater, 760 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ.
The day’s events will include:
  • ·      a gallery exhibit by WAE Center artists from 12-6 PM
  • ·      a workshop with Mosaic using personal experiences for artistic inspiration at 2 PM
  • ·      a concert of dance and music from the Near East by Mosaic Dance Theater Company at 3 PM, including a performance of “Red Desert”
  • ·      a Q&A with the artists following the concert.