I felt drawn to include both my sisters in the creative process surrounding a new version of Clementine. I was interested in their creative response to information I’d gathered about female narrative in our family.
We worked intensively over the course of two weekends to create a new movement section, text, and a variation on my original solo. The first weekend I worked with both of my sisters Molly (age 19) and K.C (age 14) to generate new material in the form of movement and text. During the second intensive I worked with Molly, and integrated her into an existing movement section.
Both my sisters have some experience with dance from when they were little and both have experience with creative writing in school settings. We began by creating text. The three of us produced “I come from” texts, in an exercise that replicated text making I had engaged in earlier in the process. We also created a text about the significance of road trips in getting to know long distance family members, by splicing together an original writing by K.C. with other writings from me and Molly.
From these texts we worked on abstracting words into movements. I was surprised by the movements my sisters created. They were decidedly non-literal representations and spoke to big picture themes, emotions and memories the individual words brought up for them. After a new set of movements was created by each individual, we would take turns teaching one another to embody the material we had made. This process felt very organic. There was no argument or judgment between the three of us (like there often is).
I watched as my youngest sister lit up over being included in this process with her older sisters. At the end of our rehearsal time, K.C. asked if we could make art more often. (Later I found a thank you note scribbled out on a sheet of my notebook paper-thanking me for the day) My response was an emphatic yes!
The movement generated by all three of us, was the source material for an opening duet danced by Molly and I. The text we created was also integrated directly into the performance. I originally wanted both of my sister involved in the performance but schedules did not permit this to happen.
Check out this (very tiny) sampling of our dance making:
In the second weekend I worked one on one with Molly to integrate her into existing material. This session was less about collaborative generating of material and more about working to become performance ready. Together we worked through a variety of warm-ups to attune ourselves to space, body and timing. This work had a different feel than the work of the previous weekend, but felt beneficial none the less.
Working with my sister I noticed I talked less and moved more to impart choreographic knowledge, than when I work with other dancers. It was as if our movement creation and text work had set a framework for understanding the rest of the dance.
Following the two intensive rehearsals, Molly and I had a couple of shorter rehearsals before performing Clementine at a small informal concert at UMD. Once again my family had the chance to watch this work about us.
Perhaps most interesting to me was the marked difference between K.C.’s response and interest in the work compared to the rest of my family’s. Even though she did not perform, her direct involvement in the work was evident in the way she made comments about certain sections with authority. She was not afraid to say which parts she liked or didn’t like and she could contribute experiences she had had making the work to discussions about how it had turned out.
This experience solidified in my mind the power of engaging family in art about themselves. As I continue with this project, expanding and honing it, I hope to involve more of my family members in it creation in more ways.