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Samuel Morse Historic Site (Poughkeepsie, NY)
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Institute-Ecosystem Studies
Millbrook, NY

Text Box: Written by Dianne Eno, Photos on this page Dianne Eno & Wayne Brink (performance)
    I consider the creation of each new dance piece an extreme adventure—fraught with the usual artists’ gamut of physical and emotional angst, joy, disappointments, profound insights, personal discoveries, accelerated learning curves and sometimes, magical, serendipitous occurrences that defy logical explanation.  While each dance presents its own set of idiosyncratic considerations and creative issues, each is born of a unique source of inspiration, some of which include, dreams, memories of personal experience in a particular natural space, a historical anecdote, a personal vision, a particular piece of music, a legend, a “feeling”, a design idea or archetypal study, imagery, a study of relationships such as humans to natural landscape, exploration of natural phenomena and intuitively-guided dances (I call these “trust” pieces).  More and more, intuition seemingly comes into play in my creative process—as I have, over time, learned to trust my instincts and highly refined sense of place and nature herself.
    My process almost always begins with personal, solitary, “quiet’ time spent at the chosen dance site.  This is a time of reflection, meditation and deeply focused observation of the specific characteristic of the space and has become a recurring ritual in which I officially invest in and commit myself to the process of creating the new work.  I have learned, over time, that I must allow myself the time necessary to “feel” the inherent energy of the place, to note the interplay of the elements and landscape, to study the relationship of place to humans, if this is applicable, and all other idiosyncrasies, including possible physical dangers and limitations.  Sometime soon thereafter, an  (internal) idea in response to the site or a source of (external) inspiration will reveal itself and become a driving force that compels me to focus on some specific aspect that leads me to the pathway of discovering a new dance. 
    Thus, this process begins with a single-focused desire on my part to draw inspiration from the macrocosmic universe, gradually peeling away layers of detail, until one refined microcosmic theme is gleaned from the continuum of possibilities.  This is always an exciting moment for me, because it is usually at this point when a “moment of illumination” allows the nebulous idea to become a vague ghost-like form until finally, I am able to “see” the entire dance piece unfold in my mind’s eye.  Although this is a dance in it’s roughest draft, it becomes an invaluable step in the creation of the new dance piece.
    The creating of site-specific outdoor dance, ritually follows a formula I have honed over the years. It helps me to pace the process and to determine roughly how to maximize the time and effort that will be required in any given project.  It begins with the first formal visit (and other subsequent visits as needed) to the site where I intend the dance to ultimately be performed:  At this time, initial visual exploration and inventory are taken of the general geographic site.  Observation and distance measurements are made and recorded in photographs and sometime video, with preliminary choices for performance site(s) chosen.  Consideration of audience seating and in some cases, the “pathway” connecting audiences to each individual vignette is made at this time.  Informal interviews of those who have close contact with the area are arranged, and local resources are noted for further research, This begins the actual gathering of material of the dance piece to be created—observations of the potential dance spaces (including points of entrances and exits from the “stage” area), keeping in mind the selection of a particular point of view and perspective to be offered by the unfolding of the dance in the space.  Continuous honing of material accompanies the ensuing process and research continues off site as does initial studio work where I will work to translate a number of rough thematic ideas into preliminary movement motifs and phrases.  At this point, all final site choices are made and a single focus is decided on and becomes a “theme” structure for the dance to be.  Also, other distinctive sources of inspiration are sought out.  For instance, examples where humans have uniquely interacted with or impacted the space become a part of the ‘story line” and fabric of the dance.  A good example from my repertory of Mt. Monadnock dances is an ensemble piece called “Transcendental Suite”, inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry that recounted the day he observed men and women hiking to the summit with a number of planks in hand, and upon reaching the summit, they laid down these wooden planks and proceeded to dance on them to a fiddler’s music!  My dance piece presented in the genre of contemporary dance nevertheless featured period Victorian costumes, wooden planks and a fiddler.  Typically, the choosing of a site can be accomplished in a single day spent on location.  However, the more difficult or complicated the environment to be danced in, the more time may be required to become “familiar” with is characteristics, and with moving and performing effectively and aesthetically in the space. 
    The next phase of the process entails the “blocking” out of actual preliminary movement phrases, testing for feasibility and appropriateness.  “Appropriateness” refers to the very subjective nature of creating movement that best supports theme and the symbolic content of the dance and “feasibility” addresses whether or not the desired movement can actually be done in the chosen environment, for often times what is possible in the studio and looks great on dancers is an impossible physical feat on the mountain summit.  This phase would also address the logistical concerns such as safety, aesthetics (such as site lines for the audience), ease of access to the performance site, areas for quick costume changes, and points of entrance and exit for performers.  If dancers must travel from site to site in a “traveling dance” fashion, then all transitions and pathways are worked out and set.  Some actual choreography may also be set on dancers at this point.  By the end of this phase a completed dance with accompaniment will now move to intense work periods on site.  Video records are made of the site and the day’s accomplishments for later consideration and refinement.
    Now rehearsals are focused more heavily on site work and performance quality, as all movement sequences have been learned in the preceding studio sessions. Uncooperative weather and the occasional need for run-through rehearsals allow director and company some quality time in the shelter of the studio, complete with wooden floor and mirrored walls.  For the most part, however, the dance is completed and is rehearsed repeatedly on site and will undergo a continuing process of further improvements and refinements.  A video recording of the complete run-through on site, is made as a rehearsal tool, to be shown to and discussed with the dancers. Costumes are designed, fabricated and dancers dance in them, as needed.  As performance day approaches, final rehearsals are undertaken, including a technical rehearsal, whenever possible.

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