Where to begin

by karen Krolak

When Monkeyhouse presents Skorts (short showings of works in progress) or Sporks (discussions designed to stir up questions and fork out ideas), I often get asked about
where my ideas for pieces come from. As I was pacing around our site for Dance in the Fells: Wright’s Pond yesterday, I was observing small changes in the space and realized that generally I start by getting to know my materials. Frequently, I have absolutely no idea how the piece will evolve, I just have an intense interest in one of the ingredients. When I am working with new dancers, I will begin with improvisations designed to draw out their strengths. People always surprise me with skills that I would not have assumed they possess and those talents will trigger a direction for the creation.

In the case of a site specific work, I explore the place at different times of day and look for evidence of how other people and animals interact with the space. Over the course of the summer, I have noticed the changes in the view as trees and brush fill out and how that influences the way sounds travel. 

Some of the first things that struck me about our site for Dance in the Fells were that there were fishing hooks, lures, and floats embedded in the ground and that there is a magnificent, broken tree branch begging to be climbed on.  Arriving yesterday I was amused to discover a folding chair had been left facing the water. What had happened to its owner? Was he planning to return and just unwilling to cart the chair down the path again? Had she jumped in for a swim and was out too far for me to see? Could someone just be so absentminded that he neglected to remember he had brought the chair? 

At the base of my tree branch, someone, perhaps the mysterious chair owner, had also gathered a collection of stones that resembled the fungus blooming on the decaying wood. The stones didn't look as though they had come from the nearby shore and they were too clean to have been freshly dug up. Again, I wondered if they were intentionally left as a marker of some kind.

Laying down on the log, I listened to the sounds of overhead planes, dogs barking in the distance (they aren't allowed on the property), geese descending on the opposite shore, the even rhythm of a swimmer crossing the pond, wind rustling leaves, and water dancing up to the rocks. 

I must scurry off to meet Nicole and try out a few ideas before our showing tonight for the festival producers but this is hopefully the start of a series that will demonstrate a bit more how my choreographic ideas take shape. Keep tuning in to see how these threads get woven into the final product.

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