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  • Nicole (Johnson) Williams

35. reflection

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

As I reflect upon this artistic experience from beginning to end, I am beyond satisfied with the outcomes. I began with a clear concept that was focused on, “determining what movement [was] aligned with the project and what movement [could] be intentionally crafted to communicate the idea most effectively,” (Williams, 2023). Although I did not go back to my original “Concept” assignment during the project, the original questions (Which movement choices serve as aesthetic placeholders? What movement choices can be made to support the full identity of the work. To what extent will external inspirations shape the physical movement of the piece? What role does music play?) continued to drive the experience.

Beginning with an exploration of my own movement and pleasure set an excellent foundation for the work. It followed, to some extent, the same trajectory as my lifetime movement story; starting with cultural styles, transitioning to more Euro-centric styles, then finding my way back to the seeds that had originally been sown. Setting a foundation of fluid movement and felt improvisation paralleled with a deep embodiment of the text made both the feeling and the text familiar and easy to access in my body, even when the creation process became informed by qualities and characteristics that were unaligned with the underlying intent. This artistic experience took into consideration the physical, mental, and emotional implications that the hidden curriculum of a ballet practice would have on my creative process.

By introducing the language of ballet to the narrative, I began to see how it directly influenced the work and my understanding of my body and myself inside of the work. It was only when I returned to the roots of the movement (the improvisations I had explored in the beginning) that I was able to connect the missing pieces in the choreography. But, when the language of ballet was fresh on my tongue, it is amazing how readily that vocabulary and mindset moved to the front of my consciousness. As I tried to fill the spaces in which I had identified the movement to be disconnected from the text/narrative, instead of going back to improvising until I found the most appropriate movement, I instead looked to fill the movement with poses and steps that can be named and identified in one codified way or another. As I focused on identifying the movement and polishing the product, I pushed for accuracy in line and form, and criticized myself when I was not “on.” It was not until I took a break from the project that I was able to clearly see how to connect those disconnected pieces, and how the use of ballet as a warmup for my creative process was affecting the work. Understanding how ballet functions subconsciously in my mind and body was the biggest highlight and success of the project and will continue to contribute to further studies of my praxis and pedagogy.

As a next step in this project, I would like to continue revising the ending of the piece. Currently, the woman has one final confrontation with the right side, turns to the left, pulls the memory of the “thing” from her face once more, and walks off left, never looking back. I played with the decision to look back or not, but finally made a choice just to make a choice and feel it out. But now, I believe that maybe she doesn’t walk off left at all. I believe the power shifts and she now relies on the right side for stability, strength, and affirmation. But the right side must first evolve into something that she can internalize. I do not believe the timing of the text and music allows for this transition to take place within this piece (before the music ends), but I wonder about elongating the space between the end of this section and the beginning of the next, to allow that transition to happen in silence.

I also acknowledge that this is unfamiliar territory for the narrative. I have been exploring this side of the story for the past few years, but as I continue to listen to the physiological story that rests in my body, I recognize that a transfer must take place. While engaging in this artistic experience, I have also been working with a physical therapist to understand the story of my back. Through many explorations and conversations, I recognize that I have consistently used my left side as my stabilizing and grounding side. And although many dancers have a “good’ side and a “bad” side, this understanding is exacerbated in ballet, as much of this training happens on one leg or the other. As a ballet dancer, I have been relying solely on my left side to stabilize my strength, flexibility, and style on the right. As a triple Cancer (astrologically), I have also been relying solely on my feminine side to navigate all of life. I honestly don’t even know how masculinity shows up for me. That is the first step to revising the piece. I cannot move forward in altering the concept until I understand what that means for the narrative. New exploratory questions include: What are masculine traits? What masculine traits do I see in myself? How/when do those traits show up? How can I find grounding and security in these traits? And what do these traits look like in my movement? The difficult part in turning in your self-explorations for a grade is that there is no real deadline for these discoveries. I will continue to be mindful of how these concepts and questions show up for me and continue to build them into the foundation of this work.

Excerpt from BodyStories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy (Andrea Olsen/Caren McHose)

This is the piece of movement that comes directly after this artistic experience solo

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