Notes on a Monday lab session

At a recent art lab session, I decided to utilize a time score process I discovered a while back called the Pomodoro.

The Pomodoro is very simple: You focus on a single task for 25 timed minutes. At the end of this period, you stop. You may do a subsequent Pomodoro cycle, but before this you must take 5 minutes away from the task before beginning that next Pomodoro. Also, you do not spend more than four Pomodoro cycles (2 hours total with breaks) on a single task. If after four cycles it is not done to your satisfaction, you leave it behind and move on to something else. Usually, however, the dedicated focus will lead to surprising productivity.

For Labtime it was very easy to adhere to this limit, because we only had two hours of exploratory time total… just enough time for four Pomodoro cycles. Since I did not have a specific project that I wanted to focus on otherwise, I decided to experiment with using each Pomodoro cycle differently.

For the first cycle I decided to improvise a dance from scratch, akin to the methodologies I used to create preceding solo pieces. I wove back and forth between stream of consciousness monologue exercises from improviser Mick Napier and movement inspired by the combination of impulse and the improvised phrases. I started with babbling that settled on the word frog, so I jumped like a frog and turned that into a 16 count phrase that ended with a turn towards the wall. That produced some babbling that compelled me to clutch the wall and build 16 more counts around that exercise, then another 16 against the wall. I felt compelled to leave the wall and looking up towards the lights produced babbling that settled on the Northern Lights, which produced more movement around that, and so on.

Though I often eschew paper and pen until after a session, I decided to score the piece in my notebook as I composed it, immediately commiting each series of moves to writing as I created it to satisfaction. I broke down lines by beat counts, similar to verse poetry: In this case each line represented 16 counts.

By the end of the first Pomodoro I had scored about 96 counts of choreography. I took a break and decided to make something new during the 2nd cycle. I muttered around on the floor to a beat for a few moments before feeling like I was emulating a tortoise. In my mind I asked this hypothetical tortoise, “Where you going, tortoise?” I figured the tortoise would reply, “I ain’t going nowhere.” I wouldn’t buy such an answer from such a tortoise so I mentally asked again, “Where you going, tortoise?” And I figured the tortoise would again reply, “I ain’t going nowhere.” And this question and answer repeated until quickly finding a beat, and I quickly saw the musicality of this refrain.

Though I didn’t do as much movement during this 2nd cycle and I didn’t score what I had created, I brainstormed potential group movement and rhythm ideas around the motif this refrain created. I saw potential for a piece in this, but with only 25 minutes I left it at that and resorted merely to taking a few general notes on movement as well as potential tweaks for the textual refrain.

I wanted to do something more cerebral and concrete after that, so with the intention of reading and taking notes on key passages I dug up artistic texts I’m currently browsing, Napier’s next, Jonathan Burrows’ The Choreographer’s Handbook, Ben Hauck’s book on Long Form Improv and a book on Short Form Improv by Joe Reda. However, I settled on Burrows’ text and stuck with that for the entire 3rd cycle. The book, itself a stream of consciousness flitter through a variety of key topics, is so rich with ideas and concepts that even skimming I barely made it a quarter way through the text, taking copious notes and never wavering from it until the time period expired.

With my mind on my upcoming move to a new apartment I decided to put the texts away and focus the last cycle on assembling a list of housecleaning and other tasks I need to complete for the move. I made a point to not just be detailed and thorough but to be as chronological as possible regarding what order I’d go about completing the needed tasks. I found I noted a lot of cleaning tasks, more than any others combined, and I assembled a complete list of furniture and other new items I wanted to acquire for the new place.

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