Every Word, Every Day: Dispatches from Creative Residency in Eugene, OR

Janusphere Artistic Director Darion Smith shares dispatches from his creative residency in Eugene, Oregon, where he is working with an interdisciplinary team of artists on the ongoing collaborative project Every Word Was Once an Animal.

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New Discoveries

Every day has provided opportunities to reflect on the intersection of dance and other mediums, and the ways in which they coalesce. The residency has been fulfilling with new discoveries daily.

Our process includes visiting sites that include lava fields, forests, creek beds and dams. Here, we are experimenting with sound, video, dance, and Carla Bengtson's art work and overarching concept of the collaborative work we are doing.

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Diverse Landscapes

It's been rewarding to work with dance in the various landscapes and through the lens of this project. We'll be taking what we have been discovering in the field and distilling it into the preview showing format at CFAR in Eugene, OR. For me, the next big step for me in this process is working with the dancers in the space at CFAR.

Updates

Our team of collaborators from across artistic disciplines will be developing this work into a 7 week exhibit spanning March - April 2020 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The preview at CFAR will help to gain perspective and generate more questions about the project going forward. We look forward to sharing its developments as the project continues to evolve.

Every Word Was Once An Animal (team)

Visual Artist and Concept: Carla Bengtson

Composer: Juliet Palmer


Visual Artist: Jessie Vala

Dance Artist: Darion Smith





Heading West in August

This August, Janusphere Dance Company Artistic Director Darion Smith begins a creative residency in Eugene, OR, working on the ongoing collaboration Lizard Project/Every Word Was Once an Animal.

An intimate showing of the project will take place August 16th, and the work will be developed further over the next year, including more showings and interactive exhibits.

As we prepare for the creative residency in Eugene, we're sharing with you a roundup of some of our stories highlighting the project and its progress since its inception back in 2017.

It all started with a simple question...

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

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.

Source: by   Biodiversity Heritage Library     is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

Source: by Biodiversity Heritage Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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...

Changes and growth throughout the project…

Lizard Finds a Home

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.

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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.

The next phase brings us to Eugene in August. We invite you to continue on this journey with us.

Spring News from the Sphere

This time of year is packed for dance educators and dance students as they prepare and present their final showcases and collect thoughts and lessons learned over the course of the year.

Photo by Hank Wang

Photo by Hank Wang

For Janusphere Artistic Director Darion Smith this spring has been full of creative energy and achievement. He guided his Howard Community College dance students through another successful semester. His newest choreography for student dancers premiered. And we was featured in a video created by the College’s Dance Department.

Additionally, spring brings new announcements about artistic collaborations and residencies coming up in the next few months.

This includes an upcoming weeklong residency at the CDT and a creative residency that is part of the Lizard Project collaboration between Smith and Carla Bengtson.

Stay tuned for more updates, events and conversations here on the blog and on Facebook and Instagram.

New Year, New Work, New Creations

A New Year's message from our artistic director, Janusphere Dance Company co-founder Darion Smith:

2017 was one of the busiest years of my life. It was filled with classes, teaching, performing, and choreographing. I was constantly learning, creating something, and trying out new ideas and methods. Sometimes this creative process happened out of necessity; always, it happened out of curiosity.

It’s been fun not to get stuck in one place for too long (creatively speaking). At the same time, I believe I have found some rich material that I would like to build upon going forward into the new year. I’m expecting to graduate with an MFA in dance in June 2018. 

Darion Smith on stage in Cavity. Photo by Emma Frank

Darion Smith on stage in Cavity. Photo by Emma Frank

I have tons of work to accomplish between now and graduation, including a terminal project or thesis. I am researching the creative process within choreography. In order to do this I am studying and adapting methods of well known choreographers to my own choreographic project’s process. Hopefully, it will reveal new insights and novel choreographic devices.  At the very least, I aim for it to inspire future creations.

The project will conclude in two ways, with the physical creation and performance of an original choreography, and with a thesis document that explains what went on over the course of the project, critically analyzing the creative process involved in it.

There are many questions that are guiding my investigation into the creative process of choreography that will be revealed in the coming months. I am grateful for the opportunities that continue to present themselves in learning, teaching, performing, and creating. This dance is a labor of love and I cannot wait to incorporate more of what I have gained from graduate school into my work with Janusphere - and with you. 

Hacking Perception and Identity through Dance

Recently my research has been focused on developing new ways to experience identity. I've been conducting experiments for building choreographic structure and content in relation to aspects of experiencing identity.

The results from this research can be seen in the work that follows. But if you want to be thorough you'll have to go back to last year during Spring Dance Loft, when Dan Daly and I performed 1 up 2 down.

In this work, Dan and I wore black spandex body suits that made it hard to tell who was who but it also created a foreign character whose identity was simplified into one surface (spandex).

It would be an understatement to say that these two characters were devoid of facial expressions. Their physical features such as hair, eyes, nose, ears were blended together by the spandex and this made the experience of perceiving them much less about who they were based on their looks.  Rather, perceiving their characters became based on what those characters were doing.

This experience inspired me to ponder how identity influences perception. I believe that one's perception can be hacked, leaving the immediate action of the object more revealed and less complex, this in turn gives way for a broader range of interpretations by the viewer.

My most recent work reflects this realization in a variety of ways.  Stay tuned to the blog for more on that.

Composer Dan Daly on Collaboration, Creativity and Working with Choreographer Darion Smith

We spoke with Daniel Daly about his recent collaboration with choreographer Darion Smith on 1 Up 2 Down.  Daniel Daly is a Master of Music candidate and Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Oregon (UO).  

Dan spoke with us about his process, what it was like working with Darion Smith, and how collaborations between composers and choreographers help to enrich the performing arts from a creative development point of view and from an audience point of view.

Composer and musician Daniel Daly

Composer and musician Daniel Daly

How would you describe your creative process when you are composing a new piece of music?
I try to access an emotional archetype -- fear, exhilaration, longing, etc. -- and then, through a process of inward listening and improvisation at the keyboard, I compose a seed idea that corresponds to that archetype. To develop and complete the piece, I spin out the seed material according to my understanding of its musical properties. The music I spin out may in turn suggest some new and unforeseen dimension of my emotional archetype. Such revelations are exciting, and they keep the energy flowing: music informs archetype, archetype inspires music. Hopefully, at the end of the piece, the music has revealed a drama of emotions.

How does your process change when you are working collaboratively, specifically when you are working with a choreographer like Darion Smith?
The process is the same, but better, faster, and more fun. When collaborating, I still access an emotional archetype, but the immediacy of improvisation and interaction helps me bypass my inward searches -- which can be murky, repetitious, and draining -- and shoot from the hip. I see Darion make a move, and I'm instantly prompted to respond to the emotional and dramatic character it suggests to me. And as I develop the music, his ongoing activity is not merely another factor that I must balance in my attempt to create a coherent piece of art, but it is also a profound source of energy and inspiration. 

What is the relationship between dance and music?
I don't have much insight on this question. I understand that music and dance are both time-based arts, and thus are, in my opinion, a more natural pairing than music and sculpture, for example.

Why are artistic collaborations like your recent collaboration with Darion important for artists like yourselves (do they challenge you creatively in new ways, to they help to bring new work to life more quickly, do you benefit from introducing each other to your audiences, etc.)?
As a composer, I'm desperate for that magic source of inspiration that will help me create meaningfully, quickly, and enjoyably. I often work with text or with theater because I relate to storytelling better than I relate to the demonstration of an abstract musical idea. And I often collaborate with dancers because their art form seems better able to communicate meaning than mine. Whenever I witness a dancer's gesture, I'm struck by a mysterious depth and intimacy. Dance seems to go the heart of the matter, always. Music is sometimes disembodied and inhuman (and therefore, in my perspective, bordering on meaningless). The composition of much of the 20th century's art music revealed astonishing mental expertise and an even more astonishing inability to connect to listeners. Why? I suspect that it was because some of that music wasn't firing on all cylinders. It was brilliant mentally, but deficient, perhaps, in the arenas of body and spirit. I hang around dancers to be a more embodied composer. That way I have a better chance of communicating meaning to my audience.

Do you believe that artistic collaborations are important for audiences, particularly young audiences?  If so, why and how?
I also don't have much insight into this question, alas. 

More about Composer Daniel Daly
He is a composer, but his primary interest is storytelling. To that end, he frequently includes other media – such as theatre and dance – in his compositions. At UO, he created music for Scorched, a play produced at Hope Theatre in winter 2016, and founded sonos domum, a new music ensemble dedicated to multidisciplinary collaboration, in 2014.

His specialty, however, is creating text for music. He recently completed the libretto of a new opera entitled The Banshee, whose music he is currently composing in preparation for a May, 2017 performance. His dramatic vocal compositions have been performed by acclaimed soprano Estelí Gomez in Portland, Oregon, and at the 2016 Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium in Eugene. Prior to his studies at UO, he published his own fantasy novel, When Waters Whisper, and served in a music position at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he transcribed the score of the new musical, The Unfortunates, and created sound for a side-stage production of Caryl Churchill’s apocalyptic drama, Far Away. In 2012, he graduated summa cum laude from Willamette University, where he studied composition, creative writing, digital music production, and piano.