Monthly Archive for April, 2009

Hell Yeah! What The Fuck!

I can’t believe it’s taken this long. Not to design this blog—that didn’t take too long, it’s pretty straightforward—but to get around to creating it. It’s been a busy, um, few years. Just to make its first few minutes especially exciting, let’s give it the challenge I think all newborns should face upon their traumatic exit from the womb: Justify Your Existence. Aaaaand…go:

In any life-threatening situation, you become more essentially who you are. Your values become clear. Your principles are tested; those that don’t collapse become load-bearing elements. You develop, in a word, character. I might be young, but I’m old enough to know that living is a life-threatening situation, and in the course of doing it, I’ve been seeing one of the cores of my character (and my practice as an artist) more and more clearly.

Risk. Ask any dancer I’ve worked with. On every level of an endeavour and of my life, I embrace risk.

This blog is at heart an amplifier, a multiplier of risk. I learn from failure as much as from success. I learn more working in public than in private. Creating the risk of public failure on the biggest stage possible creates what for me is an optimal learning environment. So from now on, it all has to live online. Stage works, films, code, Processing apps, critical and personal writing, it’s all growing up in public now. The first ever (and currently only) YouTube comment on one of my works autotranslates ambiguously from Japanese as either “What the fuck” or “Hell Yeah”—maybe I’m crazy, but I’m happy with either.

I’ll be writing regularly, posting new works and works-in-progress, and putting as much of my work and myself on here as possible. Keep in touch: the mailing link’s in the sidebar.

 

Jake

Colophon

This site was designed by yours truly using WordPress and the K2 Theme. Some of the resources that were particularly helpful:

Helioscape (2008)

Helioscape on iTunes!

Helioscape is set for release on iTunes as part of TenduTV’s first ‘Essential Dance Films’ compilation. Below is a trailer for the film.

Watch in HD.

Epitaph for Paul Harvey (2009)

Epitaph for Paul Harvey is a solo for dancer set to a heavily edited speech by Paul Harvey (the American syndicated radio host) and a video projection. The speech was tagged and edited using a custom text engine programmed in Processing. The solo is a component of a planned larger work, Variations on a Theme by Adam Smith.

The piece was shown as a work-in-progress at the Drake Hotel Underground in January 2009 with Luke Garwood performing.

Fragments of the Apocryphon of Ezekiel (2008)

Fragments of the Apocryphon of Ezekiel has a long and recondite title but comes by it honestly. The piece was inspired by a chance connection between two works: Shostakovich’s Five Fragments for Orchestra, a short suite of sparse, enigmatic works written as preparation for his Fourth Symphony; and five fragments of writing dating to around the life of Christ that may have been part of a book apocryphally attributed to the biblical prophet Ezekiel. It’s hard to go into more detail about the provenance of the fragments without descending into even more Pynchon-esque levels of uncertainty; essentially, there is no evidence of the primary source (the Apocryphon itself) and the fragments survive only as quotations in other works.

The ballet consists of five movements, each pairing a musical and literary fragment. Two excerpts of the ballet were presented at the National Ballet of Canada’s Choreographic Showcase in September 2008.

The first and longest fragment is a parable, in which a king invites everyone in his kingdom to his daughter’s wedding feast, save two men: one blind, and one lame. They decide to avenge the slight by vandalizing the king’s garden, acting as each other’s eyes and legs. When the damage is discovered, they protest their innocence: their disabilities make it impossible for them to be the perpetrators. The king realizes they worked together and has them both flogged. The parable is that the soul is accountable for the actions of the body and vice versa.

The second performed fragment is in the voice of God, and translates as “As I find thee, so will I judge thee”; meaning, on judgment day, it is your present state of sin or grace that matters and not any of your life prior to the day.

Archival video of the work exists, but is not available online due to the terms of the collective agreement between Actor’s Equity and the National Ballet.

The excerpts were performed by Catherine Maitland, Joe Welbes, and Aarik Wells.

Superposition (2007)

Superposition (IMDB) is an adventurous exploration of the territory that lies between live and recorded performance. The film records three complete performances of a dance solo, each through a coloured filter—red, green, and blue—and then superimposes them to reveal the subtle variations and surprising correspondences inherent to live performance. Visually striking and conceptually daring, Superposition exposes the paradox of precision in live performance.

The film features the National Ballet of Canada’s Marissa Parzei and an original score by Dustin Peters. It was shot in front of a live audience in May 2006 and premiered in competition at the 2007 Worldwide Short Film Festival. It is currently distributed non-exclusively by Movieola through Ouat Media.

Commentary

Okay, that’s the copy. Here’s the skinny: the film was a complete miracle. From concept to wrap was maybe five weeks. Dustin Peters composed an incredible six-hand piano score; I set the piece on Marissa in about a week; we organized a live shoot and all the pieces fell into place.

Then editing. We used six completely different cameras and three recording media (SVHS, miniDV, miniDVD). I learned how to colour-grade and conform footage by the same method monkeys use to teach their children to swim: throw them in the deepest part of the river and cross your fingers. I was dancing with the National Ballet at the time, and I started editing just as we went into a long rehearsal process for Sleeping Beauty. I‘d come home from the show around midnight, work until 3am, then be at class the next day at 11. I was actually grateful; facing Beauty without something else to work on might have done me in.

Auden Songs (2006)

Auden Songs is a 20-minute contemporary ballet. The ballet’s score is assembled from Benjamin Britten’s settings, for baritone and piano, of poems by W.H. Auden. Some of the songs were published as part of the cycle On This Island, and others were published individually. A recording of Auden himself reading “The Wanderer” acts as a score for the work’s prologue.

The work explores friendships and romantic entanglements between a group of young people. Excerpts of the ballet—totalling six movements and fifteen minutes—were performed in the National Ballet of Canada’s Choreographic Lab, an in-studio showing of new work, in August 2006 to positive reaction.

Please contact me if you are interested in viewing archival video of the work; it cannot be made publicly available due to the terms of the collective agreement between Actor’s Equity and the National Ballet.

Continue reading ‘Auden Songs (2006)’

Chiba City Variations (2004)

Chiba City Variations is a suite of four solos set to various poems written and read by Christian Bök. Each solo was inspired by a character from the works of William Gibson. The work was performed in June 2004 in the show No Refunds, a showing of new work by young choreographers at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. The performers were Courtney Gibbs (not in video), Jenna Savella, Luke Garwood, and Robert Stephen.

Collected Short Works

This entry collects several short works, many choreographed for workshops or as etudes.

Two Heterosexual Etudes

Set to three pieces from György Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages. Two three-minute relationship studies, one of a father and daughter, one of a husband and wife; the title is meant to be a bit of a footnote as James Kudelka’s Fifteen Heterosexual Duets, while not the inspiration for the piece, served as a model with which to wrestle, argue, and occasionally agree. Created for Ballet Jörgen as part of their Solos, Duets, and Trios program. Performed in-studio at George Brown College in April 2009 by Tara Butler, Cristina Graziano, and Preston McBain. Archival video.

Capriol Suite

Set to two dances from Peter Warlock’s suite of the same name. One duet for a young couple, and one solo for a character dancer. Performed by Mark Dennis & Nikki Holck and Victoria Betram in June 2008 as part of the National Ballet of Canada’s Choreographic Explorations in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre of the Four Seasons Centre. Archival video.

Sanglôts

Set to the song of the same title from Poulenc’s song cycle Banalités, based on poems by Guillaume Apollinaire. Duet, part of a planned setting of the entire cycle. Performed by Isabella Gasparini and Rodrigo Gonzales in July 2004 as part of of the National Ballet School’s Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop. Archival video.

Private Words

Set to the intermezzo from Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias. Relationship sketch. Performed by Jordana Daumec and François Robichaud in July 2003 as part of the National Ballet School’s Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop. No video.

La dame de Monte Carlo

Set to Poulenc’s solo operetta of the same name. A sort of danced monologue. Performed by Mariline Goodhue and Scott Maybank in June 2003 as part of Gorgeous Little Things, a showing of new work by young choreographers at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto. Archival video.