Over the past week or so we have heard from three choreographers that will be participating in COLEctive Notions – a choreography showcase in Chicago November 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Today we hear from Margi Cole, Artistic Director and Founder of The Dance COLEctive (TDC) as she gives her perspective on how things are coming together…
Being transparent about the creative process…
Best laid plans. You start out with what you think is a good idea. Sometimes those ideas fail altogether and sometimes the experience shouts, “Whoa! Stop the car!”
As a result of our need to stop the car, TDC will invite the audience to participate in the creative process, sharing material with them and inviting them to inform it with a few choices of their own. In an effort to be transparent about the creative process please read about our experience around developing a 10-minute dance. Who knew it could be so complicated?!
Can you tell us a little bit about your new piece?
The new duet began as an exercise in what happens when two personalities collide around a task and how they negotiate accomplishing it. The task is to perform a 10-minute dance. The task is to accomplish performing choreographic material that is presented to them to assemble in sequence right before they perform it. The task is to tell their partner what they need while they perform the material. Then, once they have all the information, they must negotiate in the moment while performing the material. Sounds simple, right?
How did you come up with the idea for it?
Many multi-artist festivals ask for a “10-minute work.” For the last couple of years, I have been making work that is much longer. So I decided to tackle the challenge of making a 10-minute dance and to be transparent about it. The intention is for the work to be small and modular so it can be performed in a variety of places and in different ways.
What was your process like for this?
The process has been fast and furious. We all took personality tests and have started to integrate our findings about each other, what we need to succeed and what we can offer to each other, into the process. We have also created and shared movement material so everyone can and will be able to step into the dance at a moment’s notice. Our intention was to use the final weeks to give us the opportunity to add props, music, costumes, text etc. and experiment with ways to assemble the work.
Sometimes during the creative process, you run into roadblocks or make discoveries that need to be more fully investigated before you can move forward. This is where we are, stuck in the road. Seems there is a lot of space in the framework I constructed for the unknown—so much so the process itself feels physically risky. The uncertainty of dancing with a different partner every time is not in keeping with the norm of how we usually work. This creates extra tension between the performers and the material itself. I am committed to the idea of moving forward with this process but feel we need more time to learn what the variables are in the structure and practice the improvisational nature of it. As a result of our discoveries, we are going to put this dance aside for the moment and come back it. This will allow us the opportunity to respond authentically to the needs of the dancers and the process.
How do you think the “interchangeable cast” adds to the work?
I think the bonus of the interchangeable cast is the work has the power to be different every time. When we took personality tests, they were in some cases surprising but mostly spot on. The random assembly of the cast/personalities will mean the dance is always different. Each person will have a different set of needs and desires as the work unfolds. We are excited about that but cautious.
In the upcoming COLEctive Notions performances, you have three dancers choreographing their own pieces. How did you help support them in bringing their visions to life through dance?
Primarily I have provided rehearsal space, time, dancing bodies and the venue with all the administrative support, as well as tech support, press release and marketing materials. TDC dancer Kaitlin Bishop and I are helping everyone keep track of deadlines and provide the additional external support to make the show happen. Along the way I have been in rehearsal to give them feedback, ask them questions and make recommendations about the work. Ultimately, it is up to them how they use the feedback and apply it if they choose to during the development of the work.
Even though I am “the leader,” I learn so much from watching the ladies work. It is so satisfying to support their desire to choreograph, to watch them direct each other, to respond to the surprises along the way and to fully realize the completion of their work.
BIO: Margi Cole graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts, received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a teacher and guest lecturer, she has taught for numerous educational and professional organizations such as the Alabama Ballet, the American College Dance Festival, Ballet Tennessee, Northwestern University, Columbia College Chicago, Lou Conte Dance Studio, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, the American Dance Festival, and various other institutions throughout Illinois, the Midwest, and the Southeast. As a choreographer, Margi has been commissioned by The Alabama Ballet, Springfield Ballet Company, Sanspointe Dance Company, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Girl’s Preparatory School of Tennessee, Beloit College and Columbia College Chicago.
As a performer, Margi has danced with well-known choreographers and companies, including Ralph Lemon, Joe Goode Performance Group, Liz Burritt, Stephen Koplowitz, Ann Boyd, David Rousseve, Bill Young, Douglas Nielsen, Peter Carpenter, Timothy O’Slynne, Paula Frasz, Colleen Halloran, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, Mordine & Company Dance Theatre, Renee Wadleigh, and Ellie Klopp. In August 2011, Cole traveled to Findhorn Scotland to join 19 international performers to participate in the Deborah Hay Solo Commissioning Project.
Awards and acknowledgements of Margi’s accomplishments include making the list of “Teachers Rated Excellent by their Students” four consecutive semesters while on faculty at the University of Illinois, receiving two Dance Center of Columbia College Choreographic Mentoring Scholarships, two Illinois Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships, a 2005 Chicago Dancemakers Forum grant, a American Marshall Memorial Fellowship, and winning a Panoply Festival Choreography Award for Contemporary Dance in Huntsville, AL.
Margi is active in the Chicago dance community, serving on grant panels and in public forums as an arts administrator, dancer and choreographer. In 2011, she was integral in organizing both the Dance/USA and Marshall Forum annual conferences in Chicago. Cole is currently a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Consortium Member and is part of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Selection Committee. She is currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, where she has served as a Lecturer and Associate Chair. In 2012 she was named one of The Players in New City”s “Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago” List.