– by guest writer Kelly Weckesser –
It all began with an obsession of the human head.
The collaborative process of creating heady collectables stemmed from Deep Vision Dance Company’s shared curiosity about head gestures. Look around, one simple head tilt expresses many thoughts and feelings. Imagine the inquisitive inclination of a puppy’s head when she hears the word ‘treat’ or the simple drop of the chin when introducing a shy child.
“As I continued to study the human head and play around with gestures, I realized how much creativity one can find with head movements. There’s so much detail! Each shift and posturing of the head conjures up meanings, moods, and feelings. You get an idea of someone very quickly.” said Artistic Director, Nicole A. Martinell.
After fervently journaling and journaling and journaling, Martinell realized she was onto something! She kept writing about meanings associated with the head, connotations of the head, and features of the head. “Head movement makes me feel…” Not only did this research serve as the foundation for character development, but it also created the opening piece of heady collectables, a movement-monologue performed by Sam Hopkins.
The monologue followed the creative process of the dance from the question of ‘heads?’ all the way through to a deluge of head idioms from American slang.
Throughout heady collectables, one sees the evolution of six very different characters, each coming from a different head idiom – air-head, hot-head, head full of worries, talking head, out of my head, and can’t keep my head on straight! These characters were forged in the fires of collaboration between director, dancer, and outside world.
Each dancer selected a head idiom close to their hearts and personalities. Some discovered inspiration from classical sculpture, such as Rodin’s ‘The Thinker;’ others gathered images for ‘crazy faces;’ and several deeply analyzed feeling short tempered, discombobulated, and giddy. A favorite was determining how to fulfill the role of instigator and jokester.
Once each character developed specific movement vocabulary, head idioms were explored. Martinell stated:
When playing around with head movements in the studio, I’d find myself laughing and saying ‘you can’t keep your head on straight!’ or ‘oh my, two heads really are better than one!’ Exploring head movements quickly led us to the physicalization of head idioms. There was so much potential for creative thinking…it became a game to bring to life the figurative and literal representation of many head idioms.
Each idiom was explored as its own mini dance, which easily transitioned into heady collectables. Unfortunately, we did not have the budget to create mini-bobble heads!
As each collectable formed and shaped we discovered an unfolding story – a strange, little world where funny characters interacted and affected one another. Ragtime music seemed to fit perfectly, creating an air of exaggeration and animation. Borrowing from silent films and classic cartoons of the 1920’s, we felt the need for props… and what better than a hollow wooden box?! The boxes served as a creative challenge of sorts, forcing the dancers to find inventive ways to move around, over, inside, and through the boxes. You will even see us wearing boxes as costumes!
Conceived by Nicole A. Martinell
at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20010
Details and tickets
For me (the hothead character), I found a deeper sense of patience for human people. After delving into the headspace of a hothead, I discovered that most short fuses were cut to that length because of a fear or insecurity. Additionally, collaborating on this piece allowed me to develop a keen sense of comedic timing…and just how funny falling can be!
As a company, we discovered an intense love for character development! As we understood each character’s personality, we found unexpected manipulations of the original movement. Not only did this allow for more interesting choreography, but it gave the audience a chance to feel a deeper and more personal connection to the dance. We hope to give our Fringe audiences the chance to sit back and enjoy or to look more deeply into the relationships between characters.
When asked what she would like the audience to walk away with, Martinell responded, “I want them to leave giggling and thinking…stories and images spiraling through their minds. The depth [of analysis] is the audience’s choice. They can sit back, relax, and laugh or try to figure out the idioms…hopefully both!”
This production is presented as a part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.
Written by Kelly Weckesser, dancer and development coordinator for Deep Vision Dance Company.
Fringe Peeks is part of our ‘in their own words’ series.