From the Show + Tell to DJ Spooky to the M.O.S.T. to Alain Buffard and Anna Halprin: play as a recurring theme throughout the week of TBA
–posted by Lisa Radon


After the Show + Tell work-chat or chat-shop, I was talking with Emily Stone. Emily is working with Linda Austin in The Edge of the Fell, performed last year at TBA with James Moore, has a history of dance-meets-theater, and is currently enrolled in an interdisciplinary MFA program. Emily mentioned that when Angelina Baldoz, the musician/composer from Seattle who is collaborating with Linda Austin on her new piece, comes to town to work with the company, having the music there encourages an extra layer of improvisation and play, brings out things in the dancers, ways of being and moving, that weren’t there before. During the chat-shop, each of the composer/choreographer pairs indicated that they rarely knew where a piece was going from day one. A piece often has a starting point and a long working-out process. Improvisation as a part of the working out is a mindful form of play.
This conversation about play/improv reminded me of days earlier when Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) had repeatedly emphasized play as an important element in his process of composition whether on-the-fly or in the studio. He’s playing around, remixing, feeding back the found in a new way. If you missed it, check out his book, Rhythm Science.
Can Lisa come out and play?
Then too, on Sunday we saw the magnificent chat-movie Alain Buffard made with the 85-year-old Bay Area choreographer Anna Halprin. (We are lobbying Erin to have the film reshown by PICA, important as it is for all dance and performance makers to see.) In their five conversations, Anna talked a bit about ways of improvising with the body, about clear attention paid to each movement, about selecting a movement, finding the emotion associated with that movement, and then moving according to that emotion. What came of that particular exercise (or bit of play) left both choreographer and dancer/filmmaker laughing. Her’s is the very most serious play, engaged as it is with a highly emotional/social as well as scientific level of body-awareness (she spent a year doing human dissection to know all she could about how and why the body moves as it does).
The M.O.S.T. engaged us all week (yes, I was there every afternoon this week…it’s a long story) in a mock serious form of play that had us filling out form after form at the Mostlandian Embassy, to register, notify, gain citizenship and ice cream, etc. Standing in line and filling out forms evoked playing “bank” as a kid, but the line-items on the forms had us considering some interesting questions and topics like declaring “all ideas on our person” on the application for citizenship, the impact various friendly and romantic incidents (crush, breakup, etc.) have on our personal Love and Friendship index, the notion of a “personal constitution,” and more. Here in the performance co-created by audience and artist, play or messing around is a way of getting at something else.
The importance of play (and improvisation) in making is why so many adults, young and not-so-, who are coming to the serious making of art and performance talk about unlearning, about removing filters and blocks and remembering play.
The most interesting dancers in Portland, whether they make scored, completely improvised, or tightly choreographed work, all employ improvisation (play) as an important part of process.
Do we work music? No, we play it.
It will be interesting to continue the process conversation as it concerns play, to continue to explore play as the terribly serious tool that it is in the arsenal of making, a valuable Way Out of making in the shadow of the received.