Sensory Deprivation as a Means of Choreographic Research
During my second semester here at OSU, I’ve been focusing a lot on the sensation of movement as a new way of receiving information about it. In Bebe Miller’s class, we were lying on the floor, focusing on the sensation of our feet on the ground. I went to do some sort of roll and recovery, and during the latter I felt (as she asked) what it was like to extend my foot out and use that as an initiating point. I did—and then I realized that I only knew what it felt like in relation to what it looked like. I felt my foot but the only way I could register the sensation was “not sickled.” It was shockingly hard for me to categorize the feeling without it being in relation to the aesthetic of it. I’ve created a keen awareness of my body and the things it can do, but from the outside in. If I continue to employ this outward-based approach, it’s only going to harbor mistrust between myself and my own body; all of this lead me to my research project. Can I brighten the mental image of my body and what’s going on inside of it by throwing all my external senses into blackness?
I was interested in eliminating all visual or auditory distractions therefore amplifying my mind-body connection, and using the information gathered to create a compositional study. Since entering the realm of contemporary dance I have been intrigued by the opportunity to shed the emphasis on aesthetic and replace it with a focus on sensation. In this case, that meant taking away two of my most vital senses that connect me to the outside world and allow external perception of myself and body. By doing so, the volume on the speakers that projected the narration of what’s happening in my own body and mind were amplified. The internal observations I made during the research served as the inspiration I used to create a compositional study.
I climbed down the vertical shaft to the bottom of a bomb shelter and had the hatch doors closed overhead. I sat as still as possible for the duration of the time, never once rearranging my body. I sat like this on the ground for 45 minutes. When the time was up, I free-wrote about the things I observed in my body as well as the images that came to my head. These were my observations:
- faint white noise in my ears
- lateral T’s
- various breakdancing?
- contemporary ballet choreography
- excruciating pain in midback at braline
- left leg stayed parallel, right leg fell turned out
- right thumb and arm kept twitching forward
- left heel was burning
- neck open was splayed and vulnerable
- forearms felt so heavy pressing into thighs
- swallowing as significant and full bodied
- felt stomach grumbling
- played with minute versions of yes and no nodding
The quietness I was forced to experience in my body juxtaposed against the loudness in my own mind was an interesting dichotomy. Using the journal entry as well as the recall of the visceral reactions I had during the experience as impetus for movement generation, I created a sight-specific solo on myself. This was recorded by Jordan Penrose, and that footage was edited by Mason Chapello. The final version of the video can be found below…