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Michelle's Musings

Collaboration A Success!

Last month, I blogged about a project for BIPOC creatives that entailed collaboration between four pairs of writers and choreographers in which I participated. Left to our own devices to come up with a product, we previewed our work before a live audience in an art gallery setting this past weekend. Because this showcase was billed as a "performance," I thought my participation would be minimal. However, a week before the event I learned that not only would I, your average reclusive writer, be an integral player, but my presence was requested for the question-and-answer session that followed.


After introductions by the project leader to a nearly sold-out audience, I ended up opening the show! I began with a synopsis of how I and my choreographer partner developed our project goals. I then read an excerpt from a personal essay that formed the nidus of my partner's movement concept. Interestingly, none of the collaboration teams knew how the other three teams had designed their projects, and we all ended up presenting a unique performance. The other teams consisted of a dancer and lyricist who sang a beautifully haunting a cappella solo as her dancer performed; a writer who recited a moving poem inspired by watching his two dance partners perform over two practice sessions; and a playwright and choreographer who switched roles and encouraged audience participation to devise words and movement based on artwork displayed on the venue's walls.


After our performances, the project director interviewed the collaborators, and then opened the question-and-answer session to the audience. When invited to expand upon the stimulus for our project ideas, I told of how I pulled out an incomplete manuscript for which I had no tangible venue of publication—a piece that spoke to my first encounters with racism during my preteen years. In contemplating this audience member's question, it dawned on me that my explanation was the exact motivation behind the project's theme—to give voice to creatives who are often marginalized because their work may not fit the status quo.


My partner reiterated his intent to develop a solo dance performance based on my writing to incorporate into his studio's 15th anniversary celebration next spring. So I'm currently brainstorming on something we can workshop together over the next several months.


Perhaps because of the unexpected ovation I received for my reading, but also because the audience seemed fairly impressed with our collective efforts, the evening showcase of our joint works exceeded my expectations. The freedom to express my sentiments was liberating, and I look forward to wherever this collaboration takes me.

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A Unique Opportunity to Collaborate

A few months ago, a professional dancer and choreographer reached out to me at the behest of a member of one of my writing communities to inquire if I would be willing to participate in a project funded by the writers organization. The project entails collaboration between BIPOC choreographers and writers and need not be completed by the designated performance date, as the emphasis is more on the collaborative process.


Puzzled about what would be expected of me, I asked whether I was to watch a dance routine and then write something based on that performance, or write a piece that would provide inspiration for the show. To my surprise, the specifics of the collaboration were left entirely to the participants.


Given my unfamiliarity with this concept, I did a little research; I found nothing to inform me about what might be involved. Given that my writers organization funded this program, I considered that my writing might be the nidus for the collaboration. Intrigued by the idea of two distinct creative types working together, I agreed to a preliminary meeting with the artistic director of a dance theatre company. Initially, I feared that my lack of a complete understanding of what the proposal entailed might lead the director to shy away from working with me—a fear I attribute to the imposter syndrome. Within the first half-hour, however, it became clear that he and I share a lot of commonalities in our backgrounds.


The director wants my writing to form "the inspiration for the movement." He's fond of "the spoken word," and he says he has no intention of critiquing my writing (imagine that!). The subject matter and format would be my choice, and he'd even welcome my suggestions for accompanying music. Additionally, he wishes to see our project through to its final performance under the auspices of his production company.


It became clear during the meeting that the stipend does not cover a completed project, but I saw this opportunity as one to rework an incomplete piece I'd filed away for a future time. After what turned into a two hour meeting, the artistic director and I agreed to proceed with the collaboration and parted quite energized at the prospect of what we could develop together. Currently, he has reviewed my submission draft and is motivated to finalize the project. We will meet again to incorporate his contribution in anticipation of the performance date set for next month. So stay tuned for what I hope to be an exciting update!

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