Where the Gate Swings Open, and Bottles Hang from Trees

During the Spring 2016 semester at Lake Superior State University, I collaborated with my colleagues Mary McMyne (creative writing) and Lloyd Eddy (visual arts) on an interdisciplinary project that involved students from my choreography course, Mary’s creative writing course, and one of Lloyd’s advanced art courses. The resulting projects were then featured on our main stage dance concert called, movement/text/image in early April.

At the beginning of the semester, all three classes came to together to discuss the project parameters, choose their groups, and to select a topic that each group would address. (There were a total of seven groups that included at least one artist from the three disciplines, with the faculty participating as the seventh group.) As a collective, we all chose the elements as our major theme. As each group met on their own, we all developed our own response to that major theme, with sub themes emerging over time—and each individual artist then designing their own response to that smaller group’s idea. As individuals worked on their own, the groups would get together at regular intervals to work out how the various pieces would fit together to form a cohesive project.

All three classes then met several times over the semester for critical response (using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process), and to discuss how the various projects would be presented. Ultimately, all of the projects were presented as multimedia works in some way or another. Most of the groups chose to present the dance live, with the paintings or sculpture projected during performance. The text was incorporated as spoken word, projected along with the images, or in one case, written on the costume. The faculty, however, took a different approach:

Our group’s sub theme was alchemy—an idea that we then each interpreted in our own ways. For me as the choreographer, alchemy at first was about transformation. Eventually though, I began to focus in on transition or liminality. As we tried to sort out how we would present our project, we settled on the idea of creating a short film, which made it much easier in my mind to deal with my own ideas about transition as an alchemic offshoot.

I hadn’t really done any film work since I was in graduate school, and was excited to try my hand at it again. Once Lloyd and I had shot our respective clips, and Mary’s text was recorded, we got down to editing and putting the piece together.

One of the things that I wanted to highlight in the film was a sense of some kind of ritual, so I looped Mary’s text at the beginning (like an incantation), as well as the music underneath. Then, I worked with the video clips in order to highlight the liminality that was central to my original idea. The result is this short film…and this process has definitely inspired me to start working in this medium again.

[Note: all credits are included at the end of this film.]