Mischa Baka

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

City baths squash court dance

September 18, 2018 1
City baths squash court dance
Ben Woodman, Ben Hurley, Leah Landau City Baths Melbourne 2018

I was Invited to observe a work in progress by Leah Landau with dancers Thomas Woodman and Ben Hurley. With camera.

I walked into a squash court with a very brief introduction and no conversation about what’s about to happen, or even, why I am there. Three dancers including Leah shared some brief ideas about how to proceed with their work and then began to move about the space taking their choreographic cues from laptops placed on the floor.

I enjoyed the ease of which I was granted to walk into this project and observe. A small smile shared with Ben Hurly was permission granted to start filming.

I sometimes lament how artists can speak too much before doing anything, perhaps from fear that any action will be misunderstood or cause offense and provoke judgment. People generally spend a lot of time deflecting judgment before anything worth judging has even happened. So, it was a pleasure just to watch a work unfold before my eyes, feeling the history of Leah’s process in the work but not necessarily understanding what brought the dancers to this point.

I know that in my own work there can be a tendency to over explain, facilitate and inform cast and crew, for fear that they will feel lost or judge what’s going on.

This moment with Leah reminded me of films where the audience is thrown into a ritual without understanding the rules. A type of logic is discernible, but it appears completely abstract to the un initiated. Part of the pleasure is figuring it out.

Of course, once the intentions and parameters of the ritual to become known, that judgment so feared, soon follows, is this ritual of value? Does it serve and nourish all the participants? Or is it just indulging the leader. Are the participants just serving the leaders wishes?

When after the run through Leah spoke of feeling “ excited,” It felt like it was a personal experience she was sharing with a cast unsure of their own feelings. But often this is the case with a leader, and sometimes it’s enough for an actor or dancer to excite their director without knowing exactly how they did it. Or perhaps, they are spurred on by the director’s excitement because it does present as a mystery to be uncovered. Surely a splendid moment will arise when you have the same insight as the director, the same excited feeling. Maybe that’s when they become a real leader, they have shown you a path, and you have arrived.

So what is Leah’s work about. In a brief conversation while she got on her bike and had to rush away, still maintaining a sense of mystery, she said, it’s about, “ Trying to recreate moments from the past,” Hence the dancers watching the screens trying to recreate the choreography in the moment.

People responding to screens is such a relatable image on the stage, it’s immediately speaking to how we are all trapped by the screens that dominate our lives and inform our movements, language and thoughts. I wonder if this understanding will add to the work or steer peoples understanding, does it matter.

I love Leah’s dance work, her movements and actions always strike me as vital, as if performed in order to survive.
In this enclosed space of a squash court and further trapping the dancers in my gaze looking down on them, the choreography felt like a survival instinct, reaching for something beyond the space, the vision on the laptops perhaps, outside of time, they were grasping for a bit of freedom recreated within this captivity.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Other Shore

September 13, 2018 0
The Other Shore

A dance was performed as part of Rebekhas show opening.  This opened up a dialogue of movement and emotion with the works. I felt it gave the audience permission to think and feel more in response to the works. The dancers were inviting the audience to imagine how a work may speak to the heart, body and mind. 
Rebekhas choreographic direction: 

Wind: Ask the wind what it has to say to you.
Heat: Ask the heat what it has to say to you.
Cold: What does the cold say to you?
Water: What does the water say to you?
Air: What does the air say to you?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

September 05, 2018 2
ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

Echo is a new dance theatre work by Lola Howard, performed at Trades Hall in Carlton as part of LaMama Theatre.

Lola is a captivating presence on stage, striking a comfortable tone between earnest insight and unflinching frankness.
She tells stories and shares experiences with a serene and calm demeanour, expressing herself with clear words that never fumble or repeat. Its the type of stage presence that any public speaker would aspire to.
Her manner is comfortable and easy, and, as the stories begin, she shares a phrase that caught her attention in the book Big Magic, ' The safe path isn't safe.' This is one of the first instances in which Lola alludes to something darker or troubled lurking behind a sense of ease. Perhaps this ease comes at a cost?   
Peeking behind a serene, easy stillness becomes a recurring theme for each story. Growing up, Lola was expected to be quiet around her mother. She was led to believe that this quietness would help her mother recover from an illness. She was never to play music too loud and was to keep conversation to a minimum. This quietness is described as becoming part of her identity, causing an inward gaze that seeks answers to life’s challenges inside the self. With her mother’s tragic death Lola as a child struggles to sleep, and again, the only thing that helps her sleep is a bedtime story that asks her to find the edges of her mind and master aspects of self-discipline.
Each new story and choreographic phrase further characterises Lola’s sense for mediating her body and mind with the world around her.  But something is lurking underneath and it is literally described as a beast that lives inside of her body. Thus, Lola’s serene disposition, direct address to the audience and blue innocent eyes increasingly seem to be hiding a powerful mystery underneath.
This mystery is crafted well. It deepens with every clue, metaphor and anecdote lapped up by an eager audience wanting to understand more. Lola’s direct address to the audience starts to feel protective by forever holding our gaze with her clear, steady blue eyes. We can’t look away, she has us, we can only look deeper. In a moment when she turns her back I was struck by how unusual it was to look at her from this vantage point. Her direct command is rarely relinquished.  Lola herself speaks about being captivated by her own eyes in the mirror as a child, questioning her sense of self; was she simply a ghost controlling the vision of a girl? Using the classical stories of Narcissus and Echo, Lola continues to tease out the implications of a self-regarding gaze and finding stillness.

Lola shows us the power and intrigue that stillness can offer to a sense of self and way of being in the world. She is commanding with her pure and gentle expression. She also hints at the darkness that this serene power can perhaps repress, manifest or simply mask. She shows us that an ability to gaze at one’s self openly can at once bring us out into the world with clarity and power, while paradoxically hold us in a dark echo chamber of our own making.    
Echo, is a commanding work, I was eager for another chapter or two in order to go deeper and discover what lurks behind Lolo’s clear and present gaze. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Creative process collaboration

September 02, 2018 1
Creative process collaboration

Today I met with Ella Dumaresq, she is studying dance therapy at the VCA within the art therapies school. We met at a VCA workshop and felt that various areas of our research intersect.

I shared a creative process of mine that involves recording one sided conversations and filing in the other side with an overlapping track. Gaps in the conversation are left in the first recording and instances of a simple ‘ yes’ and ‘ no’ can help provoke a response on the overlapping track. I developed this process to enhance my own screen writing practice. 

It helps me find real life dialogue characteristics in conversations I'm developing. Moments such as people misunderstanding each other, not listening properly or talking over one another arise as the recordings fail to be met with perfect responses.

Ella and I explored how this process might inform therapeutic practice or the making of an experimental dance film. Ella drew on some of her reflective writing and responded to it in conversation with recorded tracks. Ella provided a counterpoint to the earnest feelings in the writing with an opposing character who is critical. This made the earnest feeling more palatable as it was less directed to an audience and more towards another character within a work. As such the audience is perhaps less confronted by the earnest feelings and finds a way in to the feelings and ideas via the relationship dynamic.

Sharing this recording process with Ella made it feel like a legitimate creative process, rather than a mad personal thing that I do sometimes.

Working with Ella I really felt how our two practices strive to create rules, systems, processes and scaffolding that facilitate and provoke expressions from the hidden parts of the self. Whether it be hidden energy in our body, unrealized thoughts in our mind or deep feelings waiting for an excuse to come out. No matter if what comes out helps with the writing of a screen play or personal development, we are both interested in how to get personal expression out into the open where it can be accessed.

When Ella returns form a trip to Berlin we intend to develop these ideas and shoot some dance films on the beaches along the great ocean road.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Being open to one’s self, being open to others.

August 26, 2018 0
Being open to one’s self, being open to others.

Today in Alchemy Rebekah shared with the group her appreciation of Anne turning up to every class with a consistent ability to facilitate such a warm, nurturing and open environment. (Over 15 years for Rebekah) This sparked some emotional sharing from the group.

Anne shared how her many years of facilitating Alchemy began from being in a dark place, and that Alchemy and her students had helped her find happiness in life. We were thanking her, but she also thanked us.

Many people expressed being open and expressive and its profound impact on how they feel about life and humanity. They expressed how Alchemy allowed them to find an openness with other people, and often, helped them understand how they were deserving of opening themselves up to the world because they were beautiful and worthy.

Mishka shared that Anne helped her understand when she could hold back from being open and not overshare.

Anne described how being open to one’s self is sometimes the first stage of being open to others. I liked this understanding. It resonated with my creative process, that begins with a sensitivity to personal experience and then extends outwards sharing that emotion and understanding with others.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
from her book: 'A Return To Love'
Marianne Williamson

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fill a large space in a soft malleable way.

June 22, 2018 0
Fill a large space in a soft malleable way.

The Song Keepers in Concert:
The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir

The Sydney Opera House, In the Concert Hall

Today Rebekah and I arrived at the opera house to accompany the womans choir, provide support and document some of the experience. We travel with the choir to America in two days.

Barbie saw the Concert hall and felt the urge to sing. Andrew Kay seized on the moment and championed the tiny performance. This moment was indicative of Andrews work with Morris, Barbie and the full choir.

Andrew, Barbie, Rebekah and Morris
I love that three members of a family can simply walk into a cavernous space and fill the whole space with their voice. The voice reaches out, the walls are touched, the ceiling touched, every corner, and the space speaks back acoustically. The family, and the space now know each other. It is a beautiful reminder of the human capacity to fill a large space in a soft and malleable way.  

Members of The Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir

Monday, June 18, 2018

Effective communication and presentation skills workshop.

June 18, 2018 0
Effective communication and presentation skills workshop.

Using actor training strategies, Rinske Ginsberg and Anna McCrossin-Owen offer the opportunity to experience powerful and fundamental vocal and physical techniques. Learning is delivered in an experimental / active participation format allowing you to discover your own communication strengths and identify unconscious or habitual practices.

The first day of this workshop was everything it promised to be and more. I had listened to Rinski the night before on a podcast. I liked her wisdom, clarity and humour.
The exercises that resonated with me:
Game: Moving around the room and following directions; Walk, stand, clap, jump, name and dance. Each direction is introduced over time in sets of two. With each set the meaning is eventually reversed, so that Walk means Stand and stand means walk and so on.
Trying to follow the inverted directions was challenging. Rinksi warmly laughed out our strange mannerisms that arose as we made mistakes, fumbled and quickly corrected ourselves. It was a good way to uncover awkward moments as the body tries to catch up with the right action, but also a  way to become comfortable with making mistakes, becoming aware, but not critical. 

This image is not from the workshop, but represents its style. Taken from dance workshop with Rebekah Stuart. 

Game: The class makes an audience before the door. Each participant takes it in turns to enter through the door into the space and introduce themselves, Hello, Im Mischa Baka and Im pleased to be here.
Before entering the participant must choose to present themselves as portraying a certain level of status relative to the space and the audience. 1, was described by Rinske as not even entering the room. 2. Performed by Rinske as an example, was, shy, anxious and afraid. 5. Is natural, or equal to the space. 9. Is high status and dominating the space.
The beauty of this game was guessing each person’s status after their entrance and describing what signalled that status. We discussed what physical and vocal language informed the stutus of each participant. The task provided insight into personal mannerisms and habits of relating. Mannerisms that weren’t necessarily bad or good, but we were learning how to be aware of them, so that we could have more control over the power they posess.  

A simple tilt of a woman’s head made her endearing with a look of love.  Walking quickly and talking as soon as entering gave a sense of anxiety and lowered the status. Interestingly, playing bold, strong and high status sometimes gave the impression of being insecure.
Anna McCrossin-Owen shared a series of paragraphs that target different sounds in our speech and help understand what parts of our body struggle when making speech. With Annas observations and feedback I found that relaxing my lips helped me deliver the final paragraph.
Anna McCrossin-Owen had us present our research and vary qualities in our delivery; speed, loudness, pauses and liveliness. We listened and Provided feedback to each others presentation and suggested just one quality to be improved. This was a successful way to help each other without providing overwhelming feedback. We found ( As Anna intended) that often just one quality offered as feedback would help improve various aspects of delivery. The simple feedback allowed complex development to branch out.

Anna McCrossin-Owen used the concept of Cirlcles of presence to define a feeling of being present when performing. A concept taken form Patsy Rodenburg. In brief we presented our research to ourselves ( first circle)  to the universe ( third circle) and then  we found the second circle between the two that has us connect to the people around us with presence.

I found that I lean more towards the first circle, often presenting to myself, talking to myself. This helped understand where I needed to take my delivery.  

Anna McCrossin-Owen had me hold a heavy bag straight over my head and present my research. This had me standing very straight. A magic thing happened, my voice was clear, resonant and I felt connected to the people listening to me. Feedback from the group made it clear that they also felt connected. On reflection with Anna and the group I descried how the heavy bag prevented my body from collapsing into any mannerisms that help me shy away from the group or hide in my posture. I was straight, open and clear. This was a revelation. It brought me out of the first circle.  

The class ended with a relaxation on the floor and I felt very grateful for what these amazing and generous teachers had shared with me and the group.

Day 2

The idea we kept coming back to was to develop an awareness of our habitual and natural ways of behaving and performing so that rather than perform unconsciously, we may be conscious of our behaviour and make it work for us.

Today we presented some of our research to the group. Working with Anna and Rinske you feel the depth of their knowledge when receiving feedback. They know small suggestions and observations that speak to much larger and complex systems of behaviour. For instance, simply asking me to perform with one hand in my pocket was key in shifting my energy away from the ceiling and grounding my presentation. Bringing my performance back down to ‘second circle’ with the group. These type of small but powerful observations and suggestions were offered to everyone in the group. Anna and Rinske have such a soft and strong energy, you feel safe and assured in their company. I thought of the cliché drama school teacher who might ‘ break’ their students for the sake of their development, and thought how unlike Anna and Rinske.
They have a beautiful understanding of habits, mannerisms and behaviour as not being good or bad, but simply a quality that can be mediated and balanced with other qualities. This meant that it was hard to feel judged or attacked. There feedback just felt insightful.

Much of the work offered insight by exploring the other side of a quality, be it slow, fast, loud, soft, forward backward, high low. The expertise of Anna and Rinske connected these qualities with emotional, communicative language, so we knew what we were shifting in our behaviour. These qualities felt so simple and yet spoke to complex modes of behaviour in the body and voice.  

GAME: I loved one game at the beginning of class that had the group send energy around the circle int the form of, lust and excitement. A chain reaction formed that was thrilling and intoxicating.