People/Trees/Here

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Main Movers: Ewa Josefsson, Katie Cora Stirman, Jenna Balfe

Audience Movers: Mauricio Abascal, Ganesha Michael Shapiro and Crystalle Caceres

Musicians: Dennis Brewster Fuller, David Alexander Bennet, Doug Webber

Set Design: Bhakti Baxter

Documentation: Monica Mcgivern

Background:

This Performance piece was about healing through finding connection to people, the environment and our general place in this world. Human nature, organic nature, built environment- all are "natural phenomenon" The piece discusses the commonly observed dichotomy between man, nature and built environment and attempts to bridge the gaps through the practice of healing art. These are the three different points of connection that the piece focuses on.

The foundation of movement I work with is contact improvisation- a form of dance that is without a codified technique, but uses concepts of weight share, serendipity and gravity. The physical structure of this forest is perfect for contact improvisation. The roots are multi level and varying width, the branches intertwine and grow all over each other, so when climbing around it is easy to interact with the tree's in a similar way one would doing contact improv with another body. The way you slide and shift weight all come into play, and also the communication with the trees emulates the communication that occurs between bodies. After a while, the movement becomes something other than what you will, it relies on trust and flows on it's own.

The music for the piece was created by: Dennis Brewster Fuller, David Alexander Bennet and Doug Webber, began to rehearse with us in the last month of the practice. They would do some movement practice with us in the beginning and then begin playing music for us. The musician's role was to respond to the narrative and movements of the dancers. While the piece had a definite structure, there was room for improvisation, allowing for a dialogue to occur between movement and sound. Since the timing of each section was approximate, cues from the dancers or musicians would move us through the piece.

This site specific piece was set in the Mangroves- a very special ecosystem to South Florida. Mangroves act as arms hugging in the land of S.Fla. They are barrier island tree's protecting our land from the storm surges and hurricanes. The strand we had been practicing for the last 3 months is a particularly mature forest; some tree are at least 100 years old. During rehearsals, we would spend the first 30 minutes free climbing around the mangrove forest; Getting the energy of the forest and warming ourselves up. We would begin our practice by connecting to the trees as entity's. Listening to their history of strength and braveness- existing in one area growing upwards toward the sun. This act of growing in one spot without question for potentially hundreds of years, to me, represents a higher form of consciousness (I hope to re-incarnate as a tree in my next life for this reason). This is the first point of connection to the land (trees).

The second point of connection is to each other (people). Myself, Ewa Jossefson and Katie Cora Stirman began working together in March of 2014. We met on a weekly basis in the mangroves at Kennedy Park. I wanted our time together to be healing and educational. Katie is a dancer whom studies various forms of energy and body work. Ewa is a Yoga teacher in Miami. Both are amazing women who had so much to share. I framed our time together as being a collaborative learning experience, where I would frame the rehearsal/practice and then Ewa and Katie would flesh it out with their energy and input. Before each practice we would share about our lives and reactions to the world. I would then use the information shared to affect whatever it was I had pre-planned for rehearsal. Over the next 4 months we developed strong relationships to each other. Helping each other to grow and learn. Through this community healing process, the narrative of the piece was built.

The third point of connection (here) is to our urban environment and our general day to day existence. This concept is to me the most important, because it enables a person to be present in our world with nature at every given moment. Whether in the middle of the mangroves or riding the bus, we are always in nature. Being "here" also includes connection to other humans in deep healing ways. This is actually the point where all things meet. In the now. So this third point of connection is where we really bridge this gap I speak of.

Description of the Performance:

For the first 30 minutes we move throughout the forest. The music begins and we over a period of ten minutes make our way to get our large red, blue and yellow clothes that we have each individually hung. The cloth and things we brought into the forest, came from us needing to bring in fabric to cover ourselves to keep the bugs away. They also represented the concept of making a home in nature. We begin our journey from within to begin to express to the audience. We begin to make vocalizations in our own spaces while still moving around the trees and each other. The sounds we made were beautiful, silly and scary and beyond. I jumped into the water and begin to bathe myself (which I had never done in rehearsal) while singing.  We were reacting and sourcing from our own guts. We make our way towards each other,become aware of one another. We move towards each other and begin to find a common pitch. We notice one another and make contact. The music is subtle and tribal - inspiring us to be as real as possible. Which of course, in such a vulnerable state is a difficult task. We climb into an area of roots close to the water where we are able to be close and touch. We begin to harmonize our voices in meditation. Once we reach the end of this we separate. I make my way to the edge of the forest to tell my story. I tell a story of hiding chocolate in the crack of a tree on the playground in kindergarden with my best friend. Ewa tells a story of how for the past couple of years she had been in a battle with the natural world. Katie told a story without words, throwing sticks and breaking them, and then realizing that her desire to make noise was hurtful to the tree, and she apologizes, in a way that was very real and poignant. During the stories there is no music, once we finish the music starts again and we exit the forest and enter the audience that is situated in front of the opening to the mangroves on a bunch of sheets. We have been bathed in the energy of the mangroves and we enter the audience approaching are other movers that had been planted in the audience. These movers have been a part of Bodymovement classes and Company- Mauricio Abascal, Ganesha Michael Shapiro and Crystale Caceres. Our intention was to share our energy that was built by the audiences attention to our narratives as we climbed around the forest. We danced playfully with them using contact improv as the foundation of movement. We hope to spread the idea of playfulness and integration of natural world experience with the built/mowed environment. We moved towards the set built by Bhakti Baxter, which represents the built environment. We play with the structures that are interactive- advocating acceptance and integrations. The structures are minimal and open displaying the idea of architecture that is open and inclusive of organic nature. One such structure is a buch of wooden triangles that appear to just be stacked on the floor, but it is then brought to life by pulling arose and bringing it to stand as a triangle tunnel. The piece ended with all of us running off, some of us back into the mangroves and others toward the parking lot, or just into the audience.

After the piece was over the audience lingered around the site. People began climbing in the tree's dancing around or just sitting around and talking. People were speaking about feeling and deeper sorts of thoughts. For me working with so many amazing collaborators and working in  a way that was not egocentric- I was able to learn so much about what it was I thought I was saying. At first I felt I was alone in my thinking (more or less) but quickly cam to see that everyone not only understood, but resonated with the idea. They were open to adding their own understandings.

Press: 

https://www.facebook.com/events/263321870540464/

"Artist Jenna Balfe Dances in Magroves, Teaches Healing with Performance and Nature" By: Liz Tracy, Miami New Times Blogs

http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/cultist/2014/07/jenna_balfe_dances_in_mangroves_healing_with_performance_and_nature.php

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10609398_10152636620844106_171625294_nThere soon will be more photos and video of the event!