The wordless intensity of carefully designed movement offers a uniquely rich canvas for vision, and for innervision.
We often think of dance as a form of personal expression, and with good reason. The innate and inevitable inspiration to move, to design movement, and to enjoy movement both as dancer and as audience are older than ancient. Yet there is another dimension to dance that is often just as much one of its defining characteristics, especially in choreographed concert dance.
Dance is often an exploration of personal understanding. The wordless intensity of carefully designed movement offers a uniquely rich canvas for vision, and for innervision. This focused consciousness, this awareness of the complex interactions of personal understanding, infuses the entire process of dance. This vision, this exploration, is a continuous component of imagining movement, practicing movement, co-ordinating and performing the movement design we call choreography.
On Friday, January 11 and on Saturday, January 12, cocodaco Dance Project will present a performance of three works, all choreographed by Artistic Director David Maurice, that display many of the different dimensions of this exploration of personal understanding. The program is entitled Statement Enclosed and the audiences at The North Shore Center For the Performing Arts will see three new works, Dope Diamond, Okinawa Beast, and a giddy whisper. We asked David about what he discovered and what he’s created in making these three works, and here’s what he told us:
We shaped it into something we thought represented an essence of YoCo. We defined our aesthetics together. The ten of us.
Johnny Nevin: In cocodaco Dance Project’s Statement Enclosed you’ll be presenting three works, including Dope Diamond, a work that you’ve created for cocodaco’s Youth Company, and a trio called Okinawa Beast. Cocodaco’s youth company is an impressive group of dancers — dedicated and gifted — so maybe you can tell us a little more about this remarkable group of young dancers, and how working with them influenced you in creating Dope Diamond. We’d also love to hear what your thoughts were in creating the trio, Okinawa Beast.
David Maurice: Yeah, Cocodaco’s youth ensemble is incredible! Watching them through this creation has been mind blowing! There is no other way to say it besides, ‘they get it.’ They are fearless, open, virtuosic and silly beyond compare. Sharp, oh I can’t forget sharp. They can handle just about anything, and they naturally move and think as an ensemble. It’s a powerful thing to watch take place. Even more impressive is each individual’s strongly established sense of self. They carry themselves with assurance and comfortability that is already nearly on par with professionals. It’s far beyond their years.
So, what then do you create with this palette? Together we landed on ‘something cool.’ We found music that made us want to dance, that filled the room and us with an energy and a desire to move. We linked these movements, we taught each other phrases, manipulated phrases, cut away, edited, revisited, spliced, slashed, and exaggerated our generated vocabulary. We shaped it into something we thought represented an essence of YoCo. We defined our aesthetics together. The ten of us.
Okinawa Beast originates from a void, from emptiness, it’s from a blank canvas where seemingly nothing could emerge …
It’s interesting too because back in school, it’s like dealing with aesthetics is suspect. You have to have this conceptual underpinning for every decision you make, and if you try and justify something by saying you like the way it looks, you get in trouble for that. On one hand it is still wired in me; I enjoy viewing art and feeling my mind reeling with ideas. Figuring and puzzling trying to see from another’s point of view. I like creating in that realm as well. On the other hand I can’t deny that purity, visual forms and beauty doesn’t capture my eye. So I had to pick my poison, and in this dichotomy I chose the road less traveled by me. With Dope Diamond it is a purely aesthetic practice here. It’s devoid of any conceptual meaning.
The title Okinawa Beast popped in my head about a year ago and never left. Then, it was nothing more than a potential title. It felt like a song stuck on repeat. That’s rare. The majority of my thoughts appear in my mind’s eye typographically. It’s not common for a word, phrase, sentence, etc. to fix itself so relentlessly. May arrived and these two words, still infixed, turned a bold color red. And, I knew I had to give life to this idea.
Okinawa Beast originates from a void, from emptiness, it’s from a blank canvas where seemingly nothing could emerge; the potential for this void is limitless and manifests in the form of madness, madness that is often masked and subdued. The characters are not so much fully realized individuals as they are preternatural searchers single-mindedly in pursuit of a one thing that can momentarily sate their madness.
The piece is rife with conflict! It bursts and resolves at a dizzying pace and shifts focus constantly. If in the creation of Okinawa Beast I solely used a lens of conceptualization I think it would have gotten esoteric. It wouldn’t be engaging, it would lack enough substantive material to make it engaging. I turned again to the aesthetic makeup. In it, I found that the way to show the degeneration of this array of character’s stories was through a mystical vision of a world.
So we sought to remove context and history and the potential weight of alliances; we wanted to create a point of view that was neutral yet delivered the content in a way that would be relatable.
Johnny: The second half of the evening will be a work you created called a giddy whisper. You’ve described it as a major departure from what cocodaco Dance Project has done before — can you tell us more about the what inspired the work, and how that inspiration informed the conception of the piece and its movement design?
David: In act ii Statement Enclosed is flipped on its’ head. We move into a realm of conceptualism. It was incredibly hard to be objective while creating the text. A good portion was sourced from journals I have kept over the years. It’s real, it’s my own, and some of the wounds still hurt deeply.
It’s about the heart. Specifically my heart. And that is not something until now I’ve shared without condition. Even the stories of love in my life are guarded behind walls. I have to say it’s a personal challenge to be honest when at fault, and to say blatantly ‘I am wrong.’ That is a giddy whisper’s attempt; to be honest with myself and anyone who views the work. Though all the scenarios we encounter in the work are sourced from my own life and journaled record keeping, I think anyone can recognize themselves within the work.
In a giddy whisper our journey is guided by the narration of Artur Brisita, a NYC based actor. He and I have known each other for many years now, and through the years been privy to every significant event of each of our adult lives. Excuse the cliche but he truly does know me better than I sometimes know myself. Naturally, he’s the only person to possibly turn to when I decided it was time to share the gossip of my heart’s history.
Artur and I pulled from a history of past lovers and relationships to source these true dialogues that form the storyline of the piece. As I mentioned, objectivism was difficult through this process; making a statement or a work that stands at odds against the outside world is different than making a work where, from many angles, the creator can be seen as the antagonist. So we sought to remove context and history and the potential weight of alliances; we wanted to create a point of view that was neutral yet delivered the content in a way that would be relatable. Finally we landed on third person narration which is ideal because this voice gets to be bodiless and omnipresent. This voice get’s to tell us all we need to know without the biases of a 1st person narrator.
Even the structuring in the dance is built to have the viewer call upon their own emotional intelligence. In neither word nor execution is there a moment to remove yourself from the equation.
Once we had the content it was clear Artur would provide the voice over. He knows these moments, he saw many of them take place, he helped guide me through the pain of them. When it was true, he let me know if I was the cause or unjustified. He is perfectly neutral and honest. So you listen and watch a giddy whisper unfold with his neutrality and you find yourself choosing whom to sympathize with. You can’t help but choose a side. It’s nearly impossible not to. But herein lies the fun. You have two sides to a story of love & love lost and none of the pre-story alliances. It takes your own views and calls upon you to judge.
Even the structuring in the dance is built to have the viewer call upon their own emotional intelligence. In neither word nor execution is there a moment to remove yourself from the equation. It’s a bit of a game here, I’m blatantly calling on you to let go of cerebral decision making and react purely on your emotions. a giddy whisper will be fun ride, if you let it.
cocodaco Dance Project will present Statement Enclosed at The North Shore Center For the Performing Arts on Friday, January 11th at 7:30 pm and again on Saturday, January 12th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online from The North Shore Center For the Performing Arts.