...or with music
... or with music

Studio trials 13

These studio trials show the range of some early attempts at a vocabulary.  The movement vocabulary for this work is generated by a play of corporal initiation points, points that lead the movement through space in specific shapely three-dimensional trajectories of varying magnitude, around which the body organizes in an off centred and asymmetrical fashion.   The accumulation of selected material is varied in its attention to the body’s kinesphere and performance space, and most importantly, in its phrasing.   I referred to the vocabulary in Studio trial 1 as ‘torso flips’, in 2 as ‘cylindrical inward’, and in 3 as kinesphere grow and shrink.  Perhaps due to the organizing power of the characteristics of the vocabulary it is striking to me that very little of what the dancer is thinking to generate the movement is apparent on first gloss.

I found the organic nature of this vocabulary deeply satisfying to dance.  

Phrase sketches by Allan Gordon Bell.


Owing to the deep organic nature of the movement vocabulary and its phrasing, I envisioned this work being performed in silence – nothing to interfere with the dancer’s sense of time, nothing to distract the viewer from the dance.     Recognizing that this might not be ideal for all dance viewers I determined to do two recordings of the piece for this project, one in silence, and one with Allan Gordon Bell’s Forest that he originally composed for my work The Land Quartet.


Patient, rooted, twisted, slow.  There is no hurry.  There is only being.

The movement the choreographer worked with in the studio developed from improvisations using specific initiations of the extremities and torso. There were particular phrases/ sections captured on rehearsal video that offered an engagement in the performers’ body that I had not yet seen, and that germinated excitement and curiosity in my own body. The movement quality had an unpredictability, playing in the realm between chaos and control, and I understood that this was what I needed to encourage and emphasize in rehearsal. Initiations with a release in the inbetween, that would allow for concise yet exciting variations of rhythms and speeds. In my role as rehearsal director, I was able to affirm for the choreographer/ performer the phrases and sections of improvisations to extract and bring into her process. As rehearsals continued, it became clear how important the relationship of the extremities and torso were in shifting and disrupting the performers flow and point of balance. We observed that this constant state of disruption and recovery allowed for the expression and shaping of the dance to occur quite naturally.

Helen Husak

Costume comment by Davida

When I showed these videos to Costume Designer Angela Dale her response transformed the way I saw the piece by opening me to an imaginative world that brought the vocabulary together.  I paraphrase: ‘It’s very organic movement.  Have you ever noticed poplars in winter?’


Angela Dale

Website: www.fabricadabra.ca
Email: angela@fabricadabra.ca

Instagram: @fabricadabracreations

Hashtag: #fabricadabracreations

I spent time in the rehearsal studio to help with the team effort in understanding how the rope could be manipulated and controlled by Davida.  The key to lighting this piece was to enhance the visibility of the rope and it’s colour while at the same time provide a higher intensity and focus on the dancer. I coloured the rope from the overhead top lights and front cross and used mid and head high sides for intensity on the dancers body above the knee. Colour balance for the costume and front fill for camera visibility was also important to find.

Davida and I talked early on about taking some extra time to provide added visual support to this dance. I looked at some of the concept photos and early costume ideas and watched some rehearsals. I used a gobo pattern that provided a nonliteral visual placing and to support the gradient in the costume. I also tried several cued lighting changes through the filming to create some sense of movement within the visual place. The idea was to try some very sharp changes that reacted to choreographic changes in direction, but I could not get the syncing to look right. I changed this to slower softer changes, I’m not sure if that worked yet until I see it on a larger screen.

Steve Isom

As with all of Monk’s choreography, songs without words 13 is embued with an inherent musicality that emerges from the rhythm, shaping, and phrasing of the contours of the gestural vocabulary. In this piece she explores a contemporary variation upon a classical approach to hypermetric form: two shorter phrases followed by one longer phrase.  In music of the classical European period, this musical sentence would match up to  2 + 2 + 4 measures.  However, Monk explores multiple combinations of hypermetric durations that require a non-metric music as a counterpoint, so that the musicality of the dance can breathe.

She chose a movement from a work that I composed for one of her previous creations, The Land Quartet: Forest.  Resonating with the arboreal elements in the costume design as well as with the gestural vocabulary, this electronic composition contains recordings of the sounds of leaves and the sounds of female dancers whispering the Latin names of various trees.  I also used tremolo strings to imitate this rustling susurration. Because I had read that trees communicate sub-sonically, I incorporated the sound of my own voice singing my lowest pitch and then transposing it an octave lower. The movement has a fluid form that leads from this low drone to the mini-chorale with female voices.

There are two musical versions of this dance: one with a score and one without.  In the second, viewers are thereby invited to experience the dance in its purest musical form, wherein the contour and the rhythm are produced entirely through the movement.  There are of course, enchanting sounds from the movement of the body through space and from the dancer’s breath. It is best to “listen” to this version in a musical manner, remembering each gesture as it emerges and witnessing its musical transformation through development and variation. 


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