Saturday, October 27, 2007

Choreographing, Site Unseen

Posted by Tom Pearson[Originally published on]

For a while now, I and my collaborators have wanted to keep an online journal, a place to share our creative process in a casual, communal way and to try to contribute a useful forum for ourselves and others.
Our first series of blog entries will focus on the creation of our new project, "Strangers on Tong Chong Street" and with the particular challenges of creating site-specific work for an unfamiliar space, a site unseen. It will likewise tackle the various issues concerning touring work that is meant to be site-specific.

We are primarily dance artists, but also work in art installation, film, and other media. I am one of three Artistic Directors for Third Rail Projects in New York (along with Zach Morris and Jennine Willett), a collective of affiliated artists who share a similar dedication to integrating art into the broader public sphere, unlimited by a single medium or genre. For the past several years, many of our works have been site-specific, and we have been fascinated with the volume of site work and self-identified site-specific artists that have hit the streets. We have been wanting to engage with these artists more frequently to share challenges, successes, and methodologies.

Currently, Zach and I are in the middle of an unexpected creative process. In early spring, we posted our video clips on
YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Maria Wong from The Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (HKYAF) was searching for works that fit her programming needs for The SWIRE Island East Urban Dance Festival and contacted us. And now, we are in the thick of generating movement and context for a site we have yet to see, in a cultural matrix we have yet to experience. In three weeks, Zach and I leave for Hong Kong to teach workshops based on our methods for creating site-specific dance. In another week, our full group of performers arrive to help us affix our ideas onto the topography of Tong Chong Street, Taikoo Place (in Quarry Bay, HK). Along with Collage Dance Theatre of Los Angeles, we represent the two international groups. The rest of the festival is comprised of local Hong Kong choreographers, all sharing similar urban performance spaces within Taikoo Place.

Naturally, considering how this all came about for us, we began thinking of online forums in a broader sense and about the way people currently seek information. The first thing we did when we were offered this opportunity was to visit the
HKYAF website to get a feel for their mission and programs. The next, was to consult Maura Donohue's online postings on Dance Insider from 2005 which chronicled her participation in DanceWide HK NY (and which subsequently linked us to Julian Barnett, Abby Chan and all the wonderful people they've put us in contact with). It was due, in part, to Maura's writings that we decided to create our own blog (and thanks to Doug Fox and Great Dance for hosting it) to document both the creative and administrative processes behind touring a work of this kind, to open ourselves to the feedback and the experience of others... and hopefully to leave a lasting document that may prove as helpful for the next choreographer heading to Hong Kong or creating work for a site which they have only limited access to. Above photo of (right to left) Zach Morris, Donna Ahmadi, and Tom Pearson rehearsing the new work.