Ambient jam 2 is a weekly programme bringing together a team of young professional artists, with young emerging artists with complex disabilities and learning disabilities. Managed by dance artist Rainer Knupp with artists Jai Channa, Yolanda Bramble-Carter, Olive Molyneux, Assia Ghendir and Lee Phillips, the work contributes to our on going inquiry into sensory-led culture and communication anchored by the work of our members with complex disabilities.
I was interested in the openness of debate, self scrutiny and the language the team struggle to apply to embodied experience; and so, with their permission, here is a raw transcript taken from an evaluation meeting: (Due to confidentiality names of participants have been changed.) Rebecca Swift Creative Director, Entelechy.
‘What other skills, qualities do you yourself think you are developing?’
Rainer: What do you think is really important in terms of inner qualities in the ambient jam sessions? In other words what are we developing there? What other skills, qualities do you yourself think you are developing? I think it can be a useful question to evaluate yourself a little bit. Somehow it is connected to the question are we just repeating ourselves? Where are you going in your development as musician and performer, then where are we going as a group?
There were a few sessions this term where we structured more within the session and so there is a question: what did we do there and how can we develop a choreographic structure even more, like on purpose?
So the other day I brought in some really nice quality paper and put it on the wall with the idea of somehow implementing the structure with a drawing; and then Sheila really likes drawing, and the problem was that no-one went to the wall to paint and draw, so I just lifted some of the paper off and gave it to Sheila so the idea became drawing and sitting. Then people started drawing with her on the same piece of paper and so the paper had that ripped off bit which was beautiful, stayed white, and at the end I taped it back onto the paper so that it became a kind of beautiful painting. It was really amazing and it reminded me of the work I used to do years ago as a choreographer where I was using drawing and movement. I was interested in how to draw and move and how they related, which was very specific. I thought how could I put that into ambient jam and that was it ,and then something came out that was really surprising (with Sheila) and I hadn’t really planned that to come out.
So really it’s a very loose choreographic structure but then there are other parts where we developed a choreographic structure with Ben. We developed choreography with him that was repeatable; and then suddenly other people came in to relate in a different way to other people in the space because of the choreographic structure, and then did other movements. It was just so refreshing and it was such a different way of being in the space, because of the mixture of choreography and process and also for Ben a new challenge to repeat something and be part of a ‘dance class’.
Where are going as an individual internally and as an artist?
Where are we going as a group together with our members?
Rebecca: Drawing and movement is so rich you could deepen that enquiry over time and include how sound superimposes, so you are looking at all the sensory threads. How sound becomes a palpable aesthetic within drawing and choreography? It already does as Jai – musician, moves into the space and …..
Patterns in music and space
Rainer: ……..It does, there were musical sculptures emerging. I remember what changed for me last term, I started staying with musical themes much longer, just staying with the drum and not shying away.
Jai: This time I have been doing a lot with melodic instruments and making them rhythmic. It would be playing a phrase and repeating that phrase over and over and over…you know when you say a word lots of times until you have lost all meaning of the word. So just going around and around and just exploring the quality and making real micro changes to it: playing 5 notes on the ukulele round and round, just changing an accent every now and then, really subtle, then every now and then I will actually change a note, really gradual migration, don’t know if people notice it.
Rainer: There was something much more tangible about it I felt.
Jai: They are really simple themes, nothing is out of the ordinary rhythm. It’s just a lot of repetition. I think I used to be scared of things like that, that they would get boring and you don’t feel worth in it and you don’t have value in yourself for doing it. I got that idea from Sophia a lot, she goes round and round the room, so I follow her a little bit
Rebecca:….then she changes a feature of the room through moving a bit of furniture
Jai: I have been quite bored of the drums this term, but then I have had a chance to really explore the things I have, so I have found lots of different sounds on my one drum. I have got like 20 different ways to hit it now – just exploring different areas of that one thing; I think I am better with letting things drop and then just waiting for the time to come in again.
Rebecca: How long would you say one phrase in a melody lasts from beginning to end, so that you then repeat it again?
Jai: I would say about two bars. It’s like a question. How long is a question? How long is one statement? It could be quite a complex statement or phrase or it could be a few words. And every now and then the question changes. Normally music is like question and answer, question and answer, but this is question – tweak, same question – tweak, until you have a different question at the end. I have managed to get inside things a lot, inside notes, inside sounds. It’s been very thin texture compared to last term; rarely are there two things happening at once. I have got rid of the drone.
Rebecca: You have really pared down, risking getting to the bone of it.
Jai: Interesting I have a loop pedal now so that might be full of texture.
Rebecca: I think to get to an interesting place of technique you almost have to let go of the outcome; which is about paring down and paring down until you have barely got anything – the residue, and then you build up differently.
Jai: Am still trying to shape these over- sounds, usually when you haven’t got anything else to do, it’s like ‘filler’, like 10 % of the session is that filler, which feels like an excuse for sound, it’s just sound so that you guys can get moving, it doesn’t have any value or….
Yolanda: You have been doing more silences as well
Rebecca: Different types of silences?
Yolanda: Specially when you move into the space
Rebecca: I wonder if the ‘filler’ is about, ‘I better put a brick out there just to create a bit of architecture’, like a reference point, at least for people to push against it; or for it to contain the anxiety of coming together, at that arrival time, like a threshold moment is when you might put a brick in. Any threshold moment we always feel a bit more anxious and fillers might be important in speaking to those thresholds when something shifts, and then you take it away when you don’t need it anymore.
Jai: Yeah and for a long time that is what the drone was.
Rebecca: It was ‘containing’ everybody in the space. But now something has happened over time where containment of the session has shifted to other places in the group as trust forms and so we are not so reliant on you (and the music) do that quite as much?
Rainer: I am really interested in how the music feels de valued…..
Assia: The minimalistic……
Rainer: Yes that the music isn’t so valuable then…
Jai: Yes, when I don’t need to think about it, I just need to play now, just making noise for no reason and the only reason is to give you a bit of comfort…..
Rainer: In a way that is what we are also doing, all of us
Assia: Is it about exploring more into the micro?
Jai: When I see you move I think everything you are doing is completely full of purpose and nothing is out of place and nothing is, ’you don’t know what you are doing’…or filler or…and maybe it’s the same when you are looking on me?
Rebecca: I think ‘filler’ is always there and it’s interesting in itself.
Yolanda: Yeah, it’s a bit like chucking something out there.
Rebecca: yeah, and let’s see what happens.
Rebecca: When you talked about Sophia going round in a circle, as a metaphor, and each time something slightly different happens and you are capturing that. Similarly with Jadie maybe, you are going round in a circle, but a different type of one more gestural from where she is seated, tighter, more micro. There is a potential frustration that you want to make things a bit more challenging for her. It’s a bit like engineering at what time do things buckle or need to buckle in a good way: tension/frustration points; seems you are working with that tension all the time. I love the repetition, it’s meaningful. As you say it doesn’t seem to get much value, as it doesn’t seem to be outcome driven in a way that we recognise.
Jai: Or come away thinking, ‘that music was great’; I pushed myself technically great, it was a complicated scale….
Rebecca: Our drummer, Charles Hayward , because he has been away from Ambient jam for a bit performing and touring, expressed how good it was to come back…because you get back in touch with the fundamentals…..the way I understood it was that as a musician he felt he would lose touch with it otherwise…
Yolanda: Yeah that’s what Assia was saying when she came back from Indonesia.
Spatial patterns and agency as choreography.
Assia: Am just wondering, when I left, Sophia was starting to come into the middle…….of the space? Am wondering how that has been for this term.
Rainer: I think, just more spontaneously she crosses the middle, much more naturally. And she comes closer to us, very close….and it feels more relaxed, not a big deal.
Also she looks more….towards us.
Rebecca: She does seem to look more towards you all. She is moving the chair and then seeing ….like a theatre maker within it. What point do her gestures turn into being a theatre maker?
Yolanda: Still moving chairs about.
Group: I love that!
Assia: She is very curious about our reaction when she moves something. She kind of…I can see she is waiting for something to react there.
Rebecca: Meeting, how do her actions meet others?
Yolanda: I think she is trying more things out as well…she dives into the musical box and rummages….she confidently knows what she wants and doesn’t like….what she wants to play with and what she doesn’t want to play with…its interesting watching her go through different things…
Rebecca: In time you might find that Sophia is like a leader, director, someone who might want to direct all of you in a way that brings out the best in all of you. In a way she is throwing another brick out by moving that table, moving that chair, then anti moving that table and chair in contrast to how you moved it, to keep you on your toes. You are never allowed to get complacent with her.
Rainer: Yeah, I think she has been a leader from the very beginning. She is leading us quite a bit….
Speed drawing by Jai Channa after an ambient jam session
On freedom and boundaries, and being rescued.
Rebecca: I think your question of where you are going as an individual, is it good for each of you to have a chance to talk about that? I know its exposing, but it’s a small group which is good, to talk a little in the same way that Jai did…but not even to know where you are going. Just to begin.
I like Rainer what you have done with introducing those questions: Where you are going as an individual in terms of your own internal world, where are we going as a group, and also our members?
Rainer: And they are really difficult ones
Assia: I can tell you what has been my discovery, which is really big. I have discovered it is very important to respect boundaries and I usually tend to constantly break boundaries, break limits, open- open- open, naturally. Since I have been doing Ambient jam I have learnt that it is very important to respect my own limits. It brings trust also, so that they trust me ….that’s what I felt: If I am solid in a way, obviously allowing myself to be vulnerable, but keep my ground. I think deep -this is what I am going to do and I am going to do it, and it pushes them to go out of their limits-‘oh!?’ ;because they are really curious…so –‘oh’?! That has been amazing for me, really deeply, in my daily growing.
Rainer: It is quite a skill…
Rebecca: It’s hard. As you say its grounded, but how to be within the center of yourself, but not too centered that you can’t be open to the unexpected…interesting quote about therapists which implies that you need this balance between centered and not too centered, even a bit all over the place so you are open to whatever comes in, but enough grounded. Feels like you are mapping an anatomy of dialogue or of a conversation, and what that does to each other- how we all come out of our comfort zones?
“[Bion] depicts an analyst patiently waiting in a semi-fragmented, bits-and-pieces state until a take on the emotional reality of the session clicks into place. He describes this as a movement from patience to security that never ends.”
Michael Eigen – The Insensitive Self p. 5
Rainer: I find it also interesting in terms of when I describe Ambient jam, I always describe it in a way that it has a lot of freedom in it
Assia: Yes it’s very free…
Rainer: But it’s very interesting that what you actually discovered completely the opposite; or you discovered something that you need….
Assia: ….Yes because I am like this (free) originally.
Rainer:…..and also that is something unique within freedom, you also need to know when to pull back and how to solidify, and then how not to solidify too much.
Assia: And that’s why the idea of developing a choreography of some sorts really attracts me a lot.
Rainer: Which also can be, this is something as we said happens before, it can also be to bring some instructions into the session – let’s all do this now; we are free to do that.
Also,different if that is coming from the feeling that the space needs it? Or it comes from, ‘ I want to try something choreographic’? That for me is also an interesting distinction. I can’t always feel what is needed in the space and how can I change the space towards that? Maybe that is also more practical. Maybe it’s all about questions: How many elements can I see in the space, maybe at the end everything is all amalgamated anyway? When it’s in flow it doesn’t matter I suppose. Quite a nice lightness to be able to give instructions.
Rebecca: Yeah, its shows that there is not just one right approach, and that it’s not wrong to come in with a prescribed thing; you can come in with a prescribed thing from a different context. There are key words you are all coming up with….keep saying: Structure, freedom, repetition, cycles, instructions…
Yolanda: It is complicated….
Rebecca: I think its balance, and when you are reassessing the balance of things – when it’s ready for the counter balance; so we have been in a place that’s been ‘anti certain structures, because structure seems to be so tight….even over ego- led by just a few, although maybe there is nothing wrong with ego-led even, it’s just got over balanced, so it’s got polarised in the opposite direction. But what you are finding in ambient jam 2 is that the polarisations are not happening between these things.
Olive: What do you mean by that?
Rebecca: It feels like things are integrating in Ambient jam 2, what seems like opposite qualities are getting closer together? Maybe in Ambient jam 1 it is slightly different because many of our members there are of the generation that were brought up in big hospitals and institutions; am assuming theoretically that you will have that narrative there in the room, that people might have experienced being over institutionalised, and given too much of the wrong kind of freedom (lack of engagement) and wrong kind of structure? So we do have to go the other way it feels, so that we recover lost ground, which can take years…..?
Assia: Yeah it’s just re balancing. And it’s constantly moving.
Rebecca: constantly shifting dynamic. Maybe when trust has built up as a group, you are not having to hold the back story.
Rainer: I think we are still doing that more with our two new participants, for e.g.: with Richard I really don’t know him that well, and I am finding it difficult to relate with him. There are many of his communication I can’t really read and I don’t really know, where I can feel he brings a history, and I kind of- there is not that freedom where I can just know. Still feels like a polarisation for me. I can feel what he brings, I can also feel I am trying to balance it somehow. Trying to deal with it. With Sheila is different because I feel she integrated from my perspective much quicker.
Rebecca: She is more on her own terms?
‘Shaky tenderness’ and liminal spaces
Yolanda: It feels like it’s more about something else before I started, then it was like a safe haven, and a relief, like a rescue joining this group, from the world. Now, it’s building on something that’s in the room. And I’m beginning to feel- not just about me the relief its giving me being in the room, but about building on me and the members together. I am feeling how important it is to bring the ‘you-ness’ into the space. I wrote you-ness, oneness and awareness, but it’s too vague.
Rainer: ‘rescue from the world’ – can you explain that a little bit more?
Assia: Did you say rescue from the world?
Yolanda: Is it not like that for you guys?
Assia: No it was rescue from myself really!
Yolanda: Yeah I suppose that definitely…rescue from yourself in that world.
Rebecca: It is interesting in that we are all coming into a liminal space, which is what you are saying; a chance to de-role, come away from our mutual worlds, everybody’s worlds, and you are stepping away and into whatever a liminal space is, which is a threshold space where other possibilities can emerge, mmm like going on holiday is supposed to be a liminal space, step away from the roles you normally hold and then you have to re-enter back in the world, but with something slightly altered? Maybe that’s what theatre should be, once was, is still, is a liminal space?
‘Rescuing something’ – interesting phrase. Got urgency to it and it’s about trying to catch something.
Rainer: Did you have a feeling you were able to be more yourself? The rescue can relate to that?
Yolanda: Yes and no, it took away that pressure to be something….I don’t know…..
Rebecca: You are probably mapping a process that is actually happening to all of us, but we haven’t been able to find the right words, and maybe it’s simply about encountering each other and not knowing who anybody is and how you are in that; you can’t know who you are until you know who Richard is? it’s that ‘shaky tenderness’* at the start.
Assia: True, each of them awakens something in you that you don’t even know.
Rebecca: Who am I in relation to you and you in relation to me. It epitomizes that phrase *’shaky tenderness’ by a Buddhist monk:
*I was introduced to the concept of ‘shakey tenderness’ by the dance theatre maker Cai Tomos. He described his work in hospital wards often as moments of connecting with someone you didn’t know in a transient space , where this was both vulnerable and full of possibility: “Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche Speaks of ‘Shaky Tenderness’ this is the best description I have found of what it feels like to enter the relational field and suspend the need to know and to deeply respect the ‘non-linear’ which creativity asks of us.” Cai Tomos
After session drawing by Jadie – a participant.
What is ‘best”: how do you know what is good.
Yolanda: Just on a practical level, it does remind me, how much time it takes to build each time we have a break, so we are slightly starting anew again.
Rebecca: Ideally it would be nice for you to work more in depth; like a more intensive project to really look at what does it mean to have a musical cycle that repeats itself; how does form and choreographic structure emerge in this hanging out space?
….you have got constraints. They are constraints with a certain period of time and a certain amount of weekly repetition you are working with. Only so much you can do within that time/space/time. And there is so much each of us can let go within that?
Yolanda: Only in the last few sessions….every session I feel, oh that’s the best session, it was better than the last, but the last one was really something. I don’t know why that was ‘some- thing’.
Rebecca: What is some-thing, what is best?
Yolanda: Best-How do I measure that? Is it the feeling that I have in me?
Assia: Is it because of the interaction?
Yolanda: I don’t know how I judge it.
Rebecca: Just reading a book on subjectivity and phenomenology where he says that even with science you cannot avoid subjectivity….that it’s not possible to be truly purely objective.
Listen to the subjective as well.
Yolanda: When it gets into that objective space, that’s when I lose it and I get these ‘not really going anywhere’ perpetual negative thoughts; the work dissipates.
Rainer: What’s ‘that’? Is it the analytical part?
Rebecca: Dissipates. What do you mean by that?
..when things seem to not ground themselves when……..?
Assia: Like, that is good, and that is not good, and
Rainer: Yeah, you just sense it.
Assia: It’s true, what makes it good or this or that?
Yolanda: Do you worry about it not being good or looking for it?
Rebecca: I know what you mean, there are moments where you can feel worried because there is no shape and form to hold the work or interaction. It feels insecure, awkward and actually I am feeling disorientated…..a failure. But maybe that is just a landscape which we just travel through every now and then and we get better at tolerating that; and that’s what we do – we get skilled at tolerating that, part of the process.
Yolanda: Ah, actually that’s what I feel, I have got better at tolerating that, not being so surprised by it.
Rebecca: I had it in ambient jam 1 the other day partly because someone was watching me as well…’am going now!’
Yolanda: One minute you can be really fine and next minute you can be…
Rainer: Yes it changes within seconds.
Rebecca: This might be more revealing of me, but do you have moments when the work and connection is going so well that you think ,‘Oh God, it’s got to go bad now!’ It gone so well for so long it’s going to go bad now.
Group: Laughter. Yeah!
Yolanda: Trying to keep where you are at…
Olive: Yeah, it’s that oscillation between those moments of being free when you are in your body and then it switches to- you’re so hyper aware of what you are doing, and it’s that transition, and it can happen so fast- and trying to get back into your body sometimes – it’s really hard; and that tension that arises when you feel that. I think for me when I do have those moments of tension, I think sometimes I am quite hard on myself and I feel like, …yeah, what you said about respecting yourself, that’s a really important thing for me and realising when you are ok in yourself and being easy on yourself.
Yolanda: Yeah, at first I was really rigorous. At first I came in more with the mind set ‘ok intense interaction skills’- I came from quite a theatrical background from Uni and I was really …am very different now…Now it’s about the types of modes of movement, I feel like I am using different modes now.
Rebecca: What is a mode?
Yolanda: I can be myself dancing, or I could be more intensive interaction – kind of mirroring. But actually it doesn’t have to be that. That is what is I came in thinking that that is more how I should communicate non-verbally. But it is about something different now, it’s more spontaneity…. I am appreciate different qualities.
Rebecca: Not just with the body being overtly moving
Yolanda: That’s what I came in thinking, that is what is more what I should communicate non-verbally.
Rebecca: Not just with the body not overtly moving
Yolanda: Yeah, being stronger in your own movement. It’s completely the opposite when you are on your own now with Sophia. She comes up to you and wants to get involved
It’s good for them to see different dynamics of you that they can feel.
Rebecca: They want that because otherwise you are on their case
Yolanda: Yeah exactly
Olive: Yeah, when do you initiate contact, when do you not, when do you wait for contact or do initiate it… that’s another struggle that is really interesting?
Rebecca: When do you walk away, because you have reached your limits, or when stay and you tolerate uncertainty? Jeff (participant) in Ambient jam 1, he chooses when he’s had enough chatting to you and he does it so beautifully. He just wonders off, and I think that that was such a perfect time to stop and go
Rainer: He is not hasty at all and he just stays completely in his rhythm. It’s like amazing
I think we are looking at group processes here: you can be alone in the presence of others, or in a duet in the presence of others, in a group in each other’s presence are all a part of things; we are not talking about a one to one although you can be that in the group.
How spatial patterns tell a story?
Yolanda: The space as well has come to my attention more. More about the body in space
Rainer: There are spatial awareness’s within the body I think
Rebecca: Do you think that Sophia walking through the space, she is introducing a new part of the story; or is the peripheral of the space meaningful in another part of the story in contrast to lying down on the floor- In terms of choreography, how choreography comes into one of its strands.
Rainer: Rebecca could you repeat what you just said?
Rebecca: You were talking about space, and the way you were moving your hands just now made me think that you were thinking with your hands. So I was remembering what you saying before about shape, form and choreographic structures that are repeatable. I was also remembering how somebody was talking about how Sophia walked through the middle of the space: when I chanced upon the last half hour of your session a week ago, it seemed spatially significant and formed- you had a group of 4 people in moving shapes, slightly off centre, whilst one person was consistently going around perimeter of the space; there was duet, separate but connected to the small group choreography; it all had a sense of orbiting round or being orbited round. I was wondering about ‘space’ being a story or there is a story within how space is embodied related to…..?
I know space is not a human being with a consciousness but it can be a tangible object and there is a philosophy there- how one strand of choreography is the meaning within space?
If Sophia is walking across it, what is it about her story that she brings into the space and what is the space bringing to her story. She is going around it -what is in her story that is ‘going around space’? I also like going round the peripheral of spaces too and so there is something in my story that responds to that. I like looking out of the windows, being in the space but looking away from it .Unlocking this; is there meaning in being near the ground or floating on a chair.
Rainer: Or just sitting there, like Ben just sits for ages on the floor, looks like he doing nothing. I think he became sometimes really comfortable with that. He is really comfortable now I feel, he doesn’t feel he should do something…
Rebecca: He sits more into his spine more, not all forwards.
Rebecca: How does that render the space how is the space rendered?
Assia: Rendered? I don’t know this word.
Jai: To colour….or how it is formed.
Assia: To kind of like fill in?
Jai: When something was rendered it already exists, it goes through a process to make it something else?
Assia: How do you spell that?
Yolanda: Is it like you have edited film and you render it?
Jai: Yes as far as I know, it’s like you created it and you want to turn it into something tangible
Rebecca: You bring it into being. I think they use it in science – like rendering the mass of something?
Olive: It has a transformational quality to it.
Yolanda: Sophia kept shutting the doors last time and kept opening the doors. She was rendering it. I was closing them and she was like, no I want them open.
Rebecca: So is Ben, he is rendering the space differently – a bit like a person who is sitting in the middle of the field
Jai (looking at google): It has got about 20 different definitions:
‘The action of applying plaster to a wall, the processing of an outline image using colour and shading to make it appear solid and 3 dimensional, the action of giving or surrendering, to provide or give, to deliver, to cause to be or become, represent or depict, to translate……’
Rebecca: Without any of us there that space would just be all of those walls. But with all of us there…..it’s alive, it’s becoming transformed into the properties it can have, like Sophia is animating one part and Ben another.
I know my usual instinct is ‘Ben is not doing anything, He is sitting there, Help’, but actually he is alright, he is happy there.
Lee: He is quite happy there and enjoying it.
Rebecca: How do we build that into the score, how do you take that into art? Celebrating that actuality maybe- a person who sits in a particular space and time…can have a poetry to it?
Yolanda: That is what we are juggling with. It’s that, the actualities of it and then also us as artists trying to conjure -be art, do art…We are artists, but we are also ourselves, there is a bit of a tension between the two?
Rebecca: Yeah, we are funded by the Arts council and the arts council is going to assess ambient jam 1 in a few weeks’ time? But then what is art? It comes from ourselves, it comes from social spaces, or meandery processes, tinkering….or repeating something until it materialises.
Yolanda: How do you celebrate the actuality?
Rebecca: Yeah at what point? And I think you are at that point when you are beginning to.
Rainer: What does it mean?
Yolanda: When you talk about Ben is sitting in the space for a period of time.
Rebecca: Yeah, he is there for about 20 mins just doing that and Rainer has picked up on the value of that rather than me dancing around thinking ‘Oh my god, nothing is happening, he must be bored’. Feeding back to Ben the value of that is the answer to that question?
So the value of that moment is the artistic expression. Isn’t that partly what art could be?
Yolanda: So it’s the value.
Rebecca: Yeah, the framing of it. Feels like you are beginning to oscillate- the word you used Olive – backwards and forwards between these fundaments. Between, where there is seemingly ‘no art’ to where ‘the art’ is beginning to be actualised.
Rainer: But then the question is always, it’s all subjective. The moment when I feel, when I see the beauty of the way he sits there, like it’s a moment that passes. When we talk about choreographic structure I am also finding myself in this conflict of looking at it from the external and looking at it from the internal, because I am in it and it was an interesting moment, because you (Rebecca) just came in from the outside and you see the choreographic structure, but we are kind of in it where we are also kind of taking it for granted. It doesn’t feel like the choreographic structure when we are in it, but then when you bring the element of choreographic structure – that looks like this or that…then I start thinking about it, then I can bring some awareness to it and there are some moments where I bring some intentionality. That it’s a choreographic structure.
Rebecca: What you are telling me is the tension or relationship between process and product, where you are in the process and you are coming up into product and then you return into the process. I remember Adrian Jackson (theatre director) telling me once that all our work is a constant process, it’s just performance is when we pop our head up into the public sphere and then we return back into our process after that…
Rainer: Yes, and also what I really like is similar to this: Anna Halprin has this kind of image about exactly this –process and product. She said being an artist is like kind of being – she had this image of kind of two circles interlocked like this. The internal process work is here (one thumb curled) here and the more external product work is here (interlocked with the other thumb curled) but they are always interconnected.
I feel when we are meeting for Ambient jam, I feel it is always really important to connect, to really feel and also to really ask each other, ‘how are you’?, because everybody comes with that, with that here, everybody comes with life to ambient jam. It’s really important we celebrate or acknowledge that somehow and then when we talk about choreographic structure…it’s more like it’s here; you know we sometimes bring it a bit into the external, maybe when I think about choreographic structure I am also thinking about performance. Are we talking about performance or not?
Yolanda: About contained performance.
Rainer: Yeah exactly
Rebecca: Are you talking about performance on the terms of the integrity of the actuality of the relationships developed within those weekly sessions, so it wouldn’t have to fit into conventional frameworks? I am just trying to remember when we did try, 12 years ago, when we brought Ambient jam improvisation into the Albany Theatre as performance to an invited audience of 180 people, we were jostling with ideas about what performance is in our culture, so we invited the audience to lie on the floor or rove and not feel they always have to look with their eyes to experience something: we had a moment which was a bit like the Ben moment but with Iris as she liked to simply lie down in the midst of us and it was called ‘In Bed with Iris’, but maybe what is performance?, if it protect the integrity to what that is.
The pedestrian, the practical and being comfortable
After session drawing – Rainer Knupp
Importance of waiting
Lee Philips: I say from my point of view of Ambient jam is like, wait for a moment before I jump in, keep it calm at first, before being with the participants; being sure that I give myself a chance to see what would Sheila like to do. She really enjoys standing up, walking around a little bit and dancing; waiting to see how well she can enjoy it; sometimes thinking about this even with Richard. The way Sophia does it like she is really active like, curious on how we react, like when she moves a chair moves, or other objects- does the chair move, let her be, let her enjoy herself, she just enjoying what she do, not needing much of a reaction .
Rebecca: You are really noticing, a bit like you are hosts at a dinner partly, how comfortable people are as they arrive. It reminds me about when you do adult teacher training one of the first things you study is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a pyramid- the first part of the pyramid is that you can’t teach anything if people are physically uncomfortable- physical comfort….as you go up the pyramid I think there’s one on emotional safety, self-esteem and spiritual well-being.
Need to ensure people are comfortable and that they feel they have agency is what I heard in what you were saying? Is noticing that Richard might not want to move around a bit at the start, so Richard has a sense of his own agency, so he can bring all himself into the room
Lee: Giving some time if they decide to stand up and move around, but not too much.
Rebecca: Working with your limits, not over extending so everyone is out of breath.
I think that is really important, you have isolated a practical area, and this practical part also informs the story, part of story. Also the mingling, you use the word mingle and that is what you all do, you mingle, something happens, you dissipate, you mingle. There is a pulse, a biology to it.
I love the utilitarian thing of when Richard comes to standing: does he do that because after 15 mins he wants to or does he want to stand straight away, you don’t know, and the practical thing of giving space for pedestrian or practical choreography. Does Sheila want to sit there or there, does Jadie want to lie on the floor.
Rainer: Does she want to run around
Rebecca: Do you want to notice your breathing so you are not holding on to your breath. So Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in being comfortable is there for all of you. You are giving evident space to arriving and settling and that is part of the story. If there was an audience they would be feeling that too or sensing that too.
It’s story telling really
Reminds me of what you were saying, everyone brings life into the room.
Lee: It’s true, really enjoyable, good feeling when you give it a little bit of time and enjoying it.
Ambeint jam teams training at Cullinanrichards studio
“What came up for me was something about not always feeling the need to interact, but taking the time to know the space I’m in and where people, objects/props are situated. Sensing the energy/vibe of the space as we’ve all been on very different journeys to get into the creative moving space. I personally felt once I’d got all that I was ready for moving, interacting. “ Dancer Mikel Smithen, commenting on Ambeint jam team training.
Transcribed by Rebecca Swift