Trailer: Big Red Button

In his master's thesis work for the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, Janusphere Dance Company artistic director Darion Smith choreographed a piece called Big Red Button.

Big Red Button is  a sociopolitical dance theater work. The new work for dance grows out of Smith's exploration of choreography and an opening to new ideas about expression and the relationship between audience and performer, and, by extension, the relationship between audience and choreographer.

Big Red Button comes at a time when the current sociopolitical climate creates a range of questions and emotions that art like Smith's is poised to encounter in meaningful ways.

Stay with us as we continue to discuss this new work and others that choreographer Darion Smith premiered this year.

Lizard Finds a Home: Collaborative Project Update

Carla Bengtson and Darion Smith will present their collaboration, an interactive installation featuring dance and inspired by Carla's work with lizards, in Spring 2018. 

Bengtson and Smith's project has received the green light from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon, to begin a residence there soon.

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A collaborative project between art, dance, science, and the humanities, Lizard is a multi-media installation and interactive dance performance that will be welcomed by museum goers of all ages and interests.

The project, which is the product of the ongoing creative explorations of Smith and Bengtson, promises to deliver an immersive experience on how lizards and humans communicate, the process of learning a physical language, and how we learn to see and understand movement in a new environment.

Stay tuned for more details!

Choreography Lessons: Working with Old Materials in New Ways

Notes on the creative process for Darion Smith's Screendance Project...

The screendance project includes valuable steps that reveal aspects of my aesthetic choices and lead to future creations, making it important to look at from a creative process point of view.

For this screendance project I have repurposed material elements from two of my choreography works for the stage: 1 up 2 down (2016) and Cavity (2017).  I gain more perspective out of an idea by using it more than once and in different ways. Also, because these were originally solo and duet works, it is possible to play with them in a variety of ways.

The process involved filming short improvised dance sequences in costume with theatrical lighting.  To begin, I wanted to test some simple lighting ideas and to work more within the context of a previously created character idea.  I created approximately 250 video clips in two days, over two weekends, sorting through each clip in the editing phase of the project.

Throughout the screendance project, I learned that by repurposing material elements of previous work into short video clips and rearranging them into a sequence, I was able to find stories, movements, and lessons for future creative works.

This process was not an entirely new way of creating something for me but this one is the most nuanced version of this type.  Usually, my creative process starts out with an image, a piece of music, or a sociological/philosophical question.  From there, I start to build a story with those elements. 

This time, I didn't form a story in mind, before or when filming the scenes.  Instead, I filmed myself doing things that felt inspiring to do in the moment within the context of the repurposed material and the immediate environment.  I formed my story and its meaning by fitting the different clips into a coherent video sequence. As a narrative started to form, I became more decisive in arranging the clips into that sequence. 

Despite the fact that I repurposed material to generate the short videos, a departure from my default creative process, I was able to develop a new perspective on how I might alter my creative process for future choreographic projects.  

Motivations from within and without - emerging dance video project

This September found Janusphere artistic director and choreographer Darion Smith working on a video project that morphed into an extension of his work on identity and perception, which continues to grow as a metaphor.

For this dance video project, Smith says he "didn't labor so much in the studio ;choreographing' each movement." Instead, Smith spent his time thinking and planning how to execute ideas with just a few hours in the studio space and only some lighting instruments at his disposal.

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With purposeful limits on resource, time and space, Smith created two short video clips that contribute additional perspective to the characters in each. Looking at the still images of the work, both have similarities.  In the video sequences, on the other hand, two subtly nuanced ideas emerge. 

Smith's two new videos are not final works, but parts of something larger.  Through the ongoing project launched this September, Smith is "trying to understand that and to know why I am at this stage of my process. Where is it going from here is a good question to ask myself." 

The two videos are  flight and parasite.    

flight is about a character whose will is to fly.  parasite is about an imaginary creature who lives inside of us and is somehow always present despite never having been invited.  At this stage of the project's development, Smith is attempting to decide what he wants to say with these ideas and to find a way to advance them.

Both videos are the result of improvising with known material, capturing it with specific lighting designs, and then molding the footage into a logical sequence.  Stay tuned for more as the project continues to develop.

Dance in Dialogue: Janusphere Choreographer Explore Movement and Intention in New Work

This summer, artistic director and choreographer Darion Smith worked on some solo material that ended up in video format and an entirely different project with two local Oregon-area dancers, Kendra Lady and Sarah Macrorie.

Creative work and experimentation with movement in the studio gave birth to new ideas that are expanding into larger individual and collaborative works like the duet with Kendra and Sarah.

behind the scenes rehearsal

 

An opportunity to show the duet came up at a venue called Dance In Dialogue (D.I.D.).  So, in the words of Smith, "even though I was not initially working in the studio with a set deadline, I ended up doing exactly that to some degree with the arrival of the performance opportunity."

To prepare the work in progress which Smith gave the working title proximity, Smith went through an extensive process of reviewing and mediating on rehearsal videos.  Of this part of the process, Smith says, "it's not that I don't plan things to do in studio and reach conclusions in studio, but often the most profound insights come when I'm not in the studio, at least conceptually."

janusohere dance company rehearsal photos

Smith encorporated the ideas of movement and intention, with the practical application of new concepts that developed out of his review of the studio work, and presented the piece on September 28, to the Dance in Dialogue audience.

Can I Make Art that is Felt as Much as it is Seen?

I was thinking about the two opportunities that are taking my work out of the University of Oregon and Eugene in 2018, a guest artist and choreographic residency at PLU (Tacoma, WA) and the selection of my choreography for presentation at ACDA (Boulder, CO). In both cases my work will be seen by new audiences and will be performed at new venues.  This will provide opportunities for me to work with young dancers, to gain experience, and to foster creative output and growth.

In addition to these performance and creative opportunities, I am working on a new collaboration with University of Oregon professor and artist Carla Bengston and Neal Moignard, artist and graduate teaching fellow. Collaborating on this project gives me a view into a new way to consider and use dance as a communication as we explore the many dimensions of dance and find meaningful ways to create new work.

In dance making and in art, I am noticing that conventional approaches are good in small doses but too much keeps you stuck in one place.  To be honest, I am sort of scared of changing perspectives... that's actually what makes it fun. It is meaningful (despite how scary it can feel) to use these skills and knowledge to go where I haven't been by following my intuition and then to use those same devices again to make intentional choices. 

This creative approach keeps me (and my collaborators, and my artistic inspirations) from being crushed by externally driven expectations that are somehow less and less appealing to me.

I don't want to make bizarrely different art unless it's effective and meaningful in making me experience the world in new light.

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I can't know that until I try. That being said, I am also trying to hone in on my own aesthetic.  I don't want to become completely transient in my own world of ideas. I truly am looking for a dance rush that's unique to me, something I can build upon.  The challenge is making art that is felt as much as it's seen. When I saw Bebe Miller for the first time, I was engaged in several ways at once like a sensory overload... in a good way.  This is the kind of reaction I want to create for my audiences. 

Seeing Bebe Miller, I realized that I was profoundly lucky to have been sitting in the audience and that the right person was performing in front of me at the right time in my life. I  experienced that performance, and the impact of art, in a powerful way.

Simply put, it's like eating that smelly piece of piece of stinky cheese that you thought was truly nasty before, but now you're mature enough to appreciate it and now, suddenly, you can't get enough. There are loads of things we will appreciate over time if we're willing to take a chance, to apply some effort, and to be open.

At the same time, there are things that I guess I will never like or that I will always prefer. This is what is so hard for me as an artist: the act of being decisive and making dance a stimulating, powerful experience. 

It feels awkward to look at a lot of my old work, especially the crappy stuff, and think it's probably the same for many artists.  But after spending the time to play and explore, and to be open, my work has become much more nuanced and I feel like I can get to new places by creating a dialogue with myself through my work.

Looking back, I realize I was thinking very much about how I should impress my surroundings instead of myself. I didn't really control my own will because I was ensnared in the opinions of others, even if I and they didn't know it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that for me, right now, I am at peace with a more self-focused perspective in my dance making.

This doesn't mean that I am ignoring the fact that an audience will look at my choreography and have an experience.  It means that I don't mind taking myself and the audience somewhere we might not have expected to go.

Hopefully it's worth it.

What We're Working On Wednesday: Combining Dance with the Human Voice

Janusphere Dance Company Artistic Director Darion Smith is hard at work in the studio developing a new work, tentatively titled AMP.  In AMP, Darion explores the nature of voice and the relationship between voice and dance to communicate with and experience the world around us.

We sat down with Darion to talk about the new work, its purpose and the process of bringing it to life.

What inspired you to work with the human voice in a dance piece?

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