Published on October 4th, 2012 | by Alicia Coombes0
Morgan Thorson’s Spaceholder Festival
What do an auctioneer, an archaeological dig, your trash from last year and repetitive movement have in common? Choreographer and 2010 Guggenheim Fellow Morgan Thorson might have an answer in her latest dance performance piece, Spaceholder Festival, playing at the ODC Theater in San Francisco on October 5, 6 and 7.
After reading some of the work of archaeologist Sarah Croucher, Thorson began seeing connections between the movements of the body and artifacts. She and five performers began developing what they called “movement artifacts,” the idea being that repeated gestures throughout the life of a person create muscle memories that display their behaviors and patterns. The particular movements seen in Spaceholder Festival are extraordinary in the fact that they resemble every day gestures more than choreographed dance.
“One example is the use of finger-pointing,” Thorson said. “Pointing your finger is universal, and one of the first behavioral gestures a baby learns.”
Through the life of a person, the gesture of pointing your finger morphs and layers its uses based on experience.
“The idea is that there’s a space here that we’ll fill with something,” Thorson said. “We’re just not sure what that is yet. Kind of the opposite of digging something out, it’s making room.”
Part of their research involved spending a day analyzing bags of materials found at an archaeological site. Thorson and her performers discovered that digs are often conducted at sites that were essentially trash dumps. A single object could inform the archaeologists of the patterns of the humans who used them. In the process of excavating a site, the archaeologist unearths newer layers to the object, gradually revising their original idea of what it is they are looking at: a clod of dirt becomes a stone, which then becomes a bead. Seeing the connection to modern human movement, Thorson began to incorporate the excavation process as well as the idea of trash becoming historically significant into dance.
While developing these ideas, Thorson came upon several related themes. One was the experience of hearing an auctioneer, realizing that the process of auctioning was strangely related to the patterns of behavior and repetition, as well as the value placed on items. Seeing this connection, she decided to become a certified auctioneer in order to integrate the same techniques, pattern and repetition into her Spaceholder piece.
“The hope is that with the next piece,” said Thorson about her future work, “we’ll be able to make the movement part of the notation of the piece itself, create an embodied record of it, and recreate it again later.”
Spaceholder Festival is playing for three nights only in San Francisco: October 5, 6, and 7. Spaceholder Festival is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by ODC Theater in partnership with Alverno Presents, Legion Arts, Red Eye Theater, CFA Wesleyan and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit www.npnweb.org. To find out more about Morgan Thorson and the Spaceholder Festival, visit www.odctheater.org/spaceholderfestival.