At Intrepidus, we are passionate about people being passionate about art. As you have probably heard us say over and over again, our goal is to make dance more accessible and more approachable. One tool we wanted to offer in the quest for accessibility was the option for dance viewers to read a written "Choreographer's Intent."
As artists and viewers of art, we get accustomed to watching the craft of dance and have as a result developed the ability to formulate opinions and ideas off of what we are viewing. This is not always true to new observers of dance, and I wanted to encourage people to jump--to open theselves up to how they migh be affected by what they are seeing, how the dancers are moving, interacting with each other or the audience, etc. I often have found that much akin to a small child learning to cartwheel for the first time, if you give people a soft place to fall they will take the leap.
We live in a society where there is a stipulation that people's ideas and opinions have to be right, and that vulnerability is a weakness. Art, on the other hand, is a platform that calls for open minds, vulnerable soulds, and no right or wrong answers. It can be scary--both for the novice and the expert!
My hope through offering the "Choreographer's Intent" was the foster an environment where a conversation about dance could start, allowing people who were curious the freedom to compare what they thought to what my original intent was.
That being said, let me say that I by no means believe that everyone should and needs to read them. The intents are not meant to be a spoon to feed people, but instead a diving board in which to spring off of. Below we have included the filmed performance of "ODD Behaviors." I encourage you to watch, re-watch, explore nuances and movements that repeat, discover relationships between dancers. Formulate your own thoughts and ideas, and then, if you feel inclined please don't hesitate to read on.
I do not create art with the sole purpose of forcing others to feel what I feel; but instead I am motivated to make art in the hopes that my audience may delve into something new and come away from the piece with a newly gained perspective--whatever that may be!
Artistic Director & Founder, Intrepidus Dance
I wanted to create ODD Behaviors to make a piece that examines the way modern American society views mental illness. ODD Behaviors was inspired by an experience I had on a bus ride home where a woman was continually shouting the same phrase. I could feel the tension in the bus, and could tell it was because nobody felt comfortable. We all felt we were in some sort of danger. As the woman left the bus, she thanked the driver and did not acknowledge the way we were all treating her. That is when it hit me, that the stigma about mental illness comes from those who are not affected. I was moved-she was completely okay with who she was, and I was the problem.
The creative process for the piece was a new one for me and I really wanted to challenge myself this time around. All of the choreography for this piece was created to various pieces of music separate from our original score by John Coons.
I used music by Andrew Bird, M.83, Fiona Apple, & Ke$ha to inspire movement that would represent certain illnesses. The dancers learned the choreography to these pieces of music but never heard the score until six rehearsals before the show. Meanwhile, I sent John videos of the choreography without music, so he in turn never heard the music the movement was originally choreographed to In this process, I did not want the qualities of the choreography and the music to meet up at all times, creating an underlying sense of discord.
I chose to focus on four mental illnesses: Depression, Anxiety, OCD, and Tourette’s. My hopes in using this process was to highlight each of these disorders using specific choreography and qualities of movement. Depression was defined by heavy and slow movements, Anxiety used movement filled with tension and a general feeling of discomfort, OCD was characterized by quick sharp movements repeated in patterns of three or six, and Tourrette's broke continuous movements with short uncontrollable outbursts of movement.
The piece begins with an introduction to each illness by having the dancers execute the different phrases all together. Within this section, we introduce Depression in the first solo you see danced by Madeline. After this, one sees the OCD duet with Ciara and CarliAnn, then the Anxiety duet with Samantha and Ciara, and finally the Tourette's duet with CarliAnn and Caitlin. I wanted to add these individual sections to familiarize the viewer with the movements that define each illness. From here the piece moves into what I call "The Overload Section." All of the phrases are mixed together to create a dynamic of overload and exhaustion.
The bells tolling bring us into the "Acceptance Section." Here each dancer looks at themselves and finally approaches the audience, saying, "I am fine with who I am, why won't you accept me?" The piece ends with a duet performed by CarliAnn and Madeline. This duet is my comment on how our society’s current relationship with mental illness functions. It is this matter of trying to change or fix things that we have no expertise in, rather than accepting people as they are. I believe this is where a conversation can start.