ARC Residents SPEAK: Patterns of Methodology

By Charles Slender-White

September 1, 2011, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Part I: What Pretonically Oriented v.3 is about
To write something honest and compelling and original about my work, to communicate clearly my ‘artistic voice’ and describe to you, in words, what I think I am doing in dance: this seems impossible. I make dances. I work with trained dancers and devise movement and organize that movement. I have ideas, and I share them with my collaborators, and we do things on stage that people see and respond to. I gather ideas by responding to everything I can–the sounds of the city and the smell of pepper and the depleted supply of toothpaste and the beets that refuse to sprout and our fog and our deficit ceiling and my agency and my limitations and the agency and limitations of everyone else. This is my job. It is what I want to do, and what I feel compelled to do, and what I am fortunate enough to be able to do. So, I make dances. I make dances because I like bodies and I like them in space and time. I like them filled with ideas. I like them remembering and projecting and sweating and falling and communicating. I like that dancers are alive and that they move and that they make mistakes and find solutions. Pretonically Oriented v.3 is the most recent manifestation of all of these things that I like and see and feel and want.

Part II: What Pretonically Oriented v.3 is about
Pretonically Oriented v.3 is a small and specific 35-minute piece for three dancers that requires the audience’s active engagement. It is interesting and, I think, compelling–but not spectacular or pyrotechnic. It pays attention to tiny things and addresses larger ideas, and asks the audience to be willing to pay attention to and consider both the big and the small. There is nothing to get, there is only a subjective experience to have.

Part III: What Pretonically Oriented v.3 is about
Pretonically Oriented v.3 utilizes a codified methodology to generate, manipulate, and organize movement material. The system requires each dancer to generate all of their own material and provides a structure for the juxtaposition of that material. All rehearsals are documented, and the footage from rehearsals, both video and sound, are featured alongside the performance itself, such that both occur simultaneously. The Pretonically Oriented project grew out of an interest in comparing things as they are and things as they were, in looking at the process of becoming. I am interested in the ways identities are formed and expressed, and also in the ways dances are created and presented, and so this project proposes the choreographic process as a metaphor for the creation and articulation of identity.

One very exciting feature of this larger project is that its system can be applied by any director to any group of dancers. The system will always elicit unique material and, since the guiding structure is constant, each iteration of Pretonically Oriented can be juxtaposed with the other iterations. Pretonically Oriented is basically a system and project for legibly and consistently comparing both individuals and choreographic works. It frames nuance and difference and honors the uniqueness of each performing artist.

In this way Pretonically Oriented, though it interacts directly with the dancers, their narratives, and a formal structure, is about so much more than that. It has some meta-concerns about performance and perception and preservation and ephemerality. It is about the dancers and the structure, specifically, but it is more broadly about how choreographers and dancers make dance and how audiences see dance.

This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of In Dance.

Charles Slender is the Artistic Director of FACT/SF. He began his career with Provincial Dances Theatre in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and has worked as a dance artist throughout North America, Europe, Russia, Hong Kong and Australia. Slender-White is one of 28 Countertechnique Teachers worldwide. In addition to extensive studies with Anouk van Dijk, he spent a year in mentorship with Elizabeth Streb via CHIME Across Borders at the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab. Slender-White completed his undergraduate degrees in Dance & Performance Studies and English Literature at UC Berkeley.