Choreographed and Performed by Nico Brown
New York Live Arts Fresh Tracks Program (New York, NY)
January 29-31, 2015
Before making Nation, I spent some time looking at the work I had made over the previous years throughout my time in graduate school. Primarily, I was interested in how structure was conveieved in these works. (What is structure in a dance? What are the ways in which we can conceive structure, and how is this related to the method that phrase material is created?) I found that the dances were composed of very linear sections, each about two minutes long, arranged in a sequence. Each section could be referenced on their own, and these piece could be reconfigured by reordering the sections if desired. In a way, these large works were composed a many small, I depended dance sections.
I started to question: is it possible to make a solo without sections, or without an episodic structure?
In making Nation, I still continued to make these brief sections. Upon collecting some material (and using a term coined by choreographer and teacher Susan Rethhorst) I proceeded to "wreck" the material. Here I mean, I took the phrase material and shredded it into small pieces, colliding moments from each phrase into disparate moments from other phrases. More than rearranging sections, I meticulously recomposed the material into entirely new phrases. The result was all new material that resembled the original, but did not obey they structures that they originally upheld.
These words--shredding, colliding--found themselves within the dancing too. The material ricochets the body into multiple directions. Moments that reference shapes found in ballet are tossed away with a physicality that resembles release technique. The tempo shifts abruptly. Quick and fleeting material lands into durations of stillness. Relentless repetition brings some gestures into a thematic realm as images surface and resurface. It is a tightly woven work.
Towards the end of this formal study into complicated structures, I placed a brief improvisation. I rarely use improvisation in my work and the decision to move into this terrain still confuses me. Occurring at the center of the stage, a crescendo of snapping and flailing limbs escalates into a riveting, swirl of mess. For the first time in the work, the gaze is internal. The cadence of the snaps and jumps further drive my dancing body into a physicality that is separate from the previous dancing in the piece. I feel a sudden emotionality that is lacking from the rest of the dance--it is wrought and raw, and it feels sentimental. This variation in tone further distinguishes it within the dance.
As a result, I believe Nation is a dance that denies the episodic sectoinality that had pervaded my previous works. Previously, my dances and their sections could be rearranged in any order, like building blocks that accumulated into a dance no matter how they were placed. In Nation, I imagine the whole work as one, large section.
I look at Nation as exemplary of my inquiry into choreographic structure and its relationship to phrase making. This piece continues to reside in my making, most evidently in Miami Spice, my next solo.