Known Once: Listening to their stories

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Known Once premieres this week! Get your tickets HERE (early bird discount of $10 per ticket until May 15).

From artistic director Liss Fain:

Known Once is about personal stories, memory and perception. The students and seniors we worked with dove into this project with openness and energy, letting us into their hearts and giving us stories that we treasure.

The piece is in part choreographed directly to their stories and movement, and in part I worked with broader concepts of memory—what remains important to us over time and how these deep undercurrents and fragments of images shape the trajectory of our lives. The installation for Known Once, with a wall behind and a moving wall in front, represents a life expanding and contracting. The choreography reaches into the past and enfolds the range of emotions and experiences we carry forwards.

Known Once developed through a deeply collaborative process with the dancers, in which they individualized phrases and created movement from prompts that are designed to be interpreted liberally and personally. Through the movement, the dancers brought their own memories into the piece.

Hear the voice of Walter Kanat, who is 93 years old and one of our senior collaborators, get a peek of Known Once in rehearsal, and hear a little preview of Dan Wool’s score in the video below:

Known Once: The working process – always surprising.

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Pictured: LFD dancer Sarah Dionne Woods-LaDue, Charles Carey, Walter Kanat

We had the final workshop at The Redwoods on Thursday. I asked them to talk about their parents; I thought it would be interesting to hear people in the 90’s reflect on their parents. It was that and much more. Walter described unlacing and taking off his father’s shoes when he came home from work; how he felt it was an honor to do that. There was so much caring and thoughtfulness in all their voices.  Here is one of the many very moving things they talked about—Letty told us that her husband had to help her get out of bed because she had had a stroke. Once he had taken her hands and pulled her up, he put his arms around her and slowly danced and sang the Tennessee Waltz.

Here’s Patsy Cline’s version of this iconic song:

In rehearsal now, we are grappling with how to use the final story in the piece, told by Walter, one of the seniors. His story begins descriptively and energetically, then reaches into my heart. His voice has energy, warmth and cadence. It is a wonderful problem to work on—how to convey his appreciation and joy, frustration and sadness in movement that is only slightly representational but also not overwhelmingly dancey.

There is a lot of gorgeous dancing in Known Once—thanks to the remarkable dancers. And we are nearly finished, with lots of detail-oriented work to do in the final weeks. Now I am thinking about how to make clear, when there is no spoken voice in the score, that the stories and movement we gathered in the fall underlie and inform the choreography. This is partly in the score. Dan Wool has brought in his first version of the first part of the score, and we realized it needed more of a sense of time and more voices to establish the human elements anchoring the piece.

I really like the back and forth of different points of view that happens all the time with a group of opinionated and assertive individuals in a rehearsal. Sometimes what I thought would work does not work at all; and I am not clear about the path I think the piece should take. With this last story, we are at that indeterminate place.

Known Once comes to life

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After the first month of intensive rehearsals for Known Once, artistic director Liss Fain shares some thoughts about how ideas change and how she is exploring the stories of the seniors and young people that the company worked with last fall.

From Liss: How to create a work about memory and perception, about connections with people that were lasting or transient, a piece that embodies the people we worked with in the fall? I’ve listened to the stories the seniors told us again and again. How do we convey the feeling in their stories and voices?

It’s been a month of intense rehearsals. I walked in with a lot of ideas that got changed quickly. As we developed the movement, my ideas about how to use the stories the seniors and students told us shifted, my original plan for the design of the installation turned topsy-turvy, and the tone I had thought the piece would take veered in another direction. This Wednesday was the day my concepts reset. The installation design shifted dramatically, becoming more fluid, less rigid, and the missing connections in the choreography became clear—more partnerings, shifting partnering, more large group movement sections.

The individuality of the dancers brings physical and emotional clarity to this piece. I am fortunate and thankful to be working with five strong, thoughtful and adventurous people.

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Photos: RJ Muna (top), LFD

Traveling forwards with Known Once

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DONATE NOW TO HELP US MAKE KNOWN ONCE

“WOW!! I really was taken by the concept that all, not only professional dancers, can learn to express thoughts and feelings by body movement.”
Walter, age 92

A huge THANK YOU to our wonderful seniors from The Redwoods and students from 826 Valencia for diving into our workshops and our newest project, Known Once, with us. Their stories and movement are the seeds for this new large-scale performance installation.

  • Anna, age 13, about things she cared about and lost: “Sometimes it is alright to lose things… everything in life has a cause. Every mistake and success, every gift and loss, every choice you make effects you or who you want to be.”
  • Letty, age 93, about herself as a young child and her mother: “I loved being cuddled by her and held by her. But, mostly I didn’t see her. I’d see her through the plate glass while she was teaching.”
  • Charles, age 94, about living on a boat as a nine year old: “There were times at night–it was a great sense of power–we took watches… At night, the magical time, when my time at the wheel was up, I would make my way forwards on the boat and lie down on the deck. I would lie there for hours.”
  • Walter, age 92, about his dog Sadie: “The dog was a little, nervous, crazy dog. Sadie would be nervous, undisciplined, untrained. So, I had a conflict really: how do I exist with this kind of dilemma? I learned that I had to accommodate.”

Known Once premieres May 18-21 at Z Space, San Francisco.

We begin rehearsals this winter–drawing on the audio, video, and written text from our fall workshops, and developing our own movement stories. Along the way, we’ll be teaching more workshops and continuing our connections with our vibrant middle-schoolers and seniors.

Help us bring Known Once to life. Support LFD’s work in performance and with seniors and students. Donate via our website HERE

Sponsor:
A dancer for a day – $80
Rehearsal studio rental for a day – $140
A dancer for a week – $400
One costume design – $500
The set design – $5,000
The musical score – $5,000
The theater rental – $6,200

Liss Fain Dance is a 501(c)3 organization. Contributions are fully tax-deductible

Watch the trailer of our 2016 premiere TACIT CONSENT:

Watch a video about our fundraising campaign to bring KNOWN ONCE to life in 2017:

Known Once: Update #4 – 826 Workshop Finale

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Update #4 – 826 Workshop Finale: Inventive, touching, funny, exuberant, thoughtful. The middle-schoolers at LFD’s five-week 826 Valencia workshop transformed memories and ideas they wrote about into fresh new movement. At our showing on November 5 at 826’s Tenderloin Center, the kids taught their friends and family some movements they had made to express the texture of different words (burning, crumple, jagged) and performed solos, duets, and quartets that they made to express things they had written about. What they accomplished was impressive—writing each week, making maps of their stories, setting their movement to their maps, and designing duets, a quartet and solos.

After the students performed, Sarah and Megan showed a duet they made based on a duet that two of the kids, Amina and Viva, had created during the workshop. Megan and Sarah developed a parallel phrase in the studio that incorporated Amina and Viva’s movements and qualities —Amina uses her arms and chest expansively and with strength; Viva is loose and moves like water.

Check out the students’ work and listen to Liss talk about the project in the video below:

The students developed so much insightful writing and individualized movement that we can’t wait to work with when we return to the studio in 2017.

Ana, whose words and movements are emotional and energetic and precise, wrote about three things she cared about and lost: “They filled my heart with light… sometimes it’s alright to lose things… loss can make you more careful, more thoughtful, wiser.” She placed her hands in a very particular position over her head and one arm made a full circle, a movement symbolizing a clock and the passing of time. And she skipped and turned with flying arms, for joy.

Thank you to 826 Valencia and our amazing students–Ada, Amina, Anna, Brianna, Katie, Laurence, Natalie, Rachel, and Viva–for sharing your stories and diving into this project with us. You can see videos of each of their pieces (a duet by Ada & Rachel, solos by Natalie and Laurence, and a quartet by Katie, Anna, Viva, and Amina) for their final performance HERE.

If you would like to follow along as we create a new evening-length performance installation inspired by the students’ work for spring 2017, please sign up for the LFD Email List and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ll be sending news to the folks on our list and posting updates when we return to the studio in 2017!

Known Once: Update #3

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From Workshop to Rehearsal:

Charles made the most intricate, unusual movements with his hands as he was relating a story of visiting China fifty years ago and traveling by boat down a river surrounded by high and jagged mountain peaks. Looking at the video of this phrase, the company tried to replicate his precise, somewhat gnarled hand movements and his expansive arm movements.

[This is the video of Charles that Liss and the dancers studied in rehearsal to duplicate his improvised movement.]

He crossed, uncrossed, recrossed his hands and wrists 10 times as they descended from above his head downward; each crossing of his hands was slightly different and moved from his right side at the top to his left as they lowered. We spent a long time learning exactly what he did  so carefully and insistently. At another point in his phrase, his fingers got momentarily caught as his hands pushed through and away from each other—a delicate moment that was hard to decipher and rhythmically wonderful. Being attentive to every nuance threw us back into his story. A wonderful experience. We added leg movements and level changes to turn this into a full-body phrase that retains Charles’s gestural clarity and his spirit.

[This is the phrase that we built from Charles’s movement.]

On Thursday we show the seniors and their friends what we have done with Charles’s phrase and also a phrase we are making from the 826 Valencia students’ stories. But the best part of Thursday’s workshop will be the seniors combining their personal stories and their unique movements, moving though their stories as they speak them.

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Help make Known Once: we’re fundraising to support this project that brings together storytelling and dance for kids and seniors. Make a tax-deductible donation of any size HERE.

Known Once: Update #2

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After our second session with the seniors at The Redwoods and our third session with the students at 826 Valencia, here are some words from Liss and some videos of our inspiring collaborators:

“This project gets more and more fascinating and surprising. We’ve spent three weeks sharing the worlds of middle schoolers at 826 Valencia and seniors at The Redwoods through stories and movement. The seniors, who in their 90’s we thought might be afraid to move much, are just the opposite. Last week, they all brought in objects and photos to describe and move from. Their memories, decades-old, are filled with detail and feeling. Charles rolled to the floor and described the serenity of lying on the deck of a schooner, moving with the ocean. Toba made the most lovely, fluid motion with her arms and torso when describing her beautiful grandmother, who had a duel fought over her. There is so much to tell and so much movement waiting to unfold that we’re extending the workshops for two more weeks.”

[This is Charles describing the feeling of lying on the deck. He had already rolled on the floor, beautifully, several times, so he chose to sit down this time.]

“At 826 Valencia, the kids moved to ‘texture’ words before writing to individual prompts. They each had a texture, then taught the group their movement. Natalie made an astonishing switch when she used the movement she had created for ‘burning,’ and changed it from a frenetic movement into a joyous one to reflect her story. There was something wonderfully genuine about each story which translated into movement. And there is so much energy.”

[This is Natalie working with the movement she made for the word “burning.”]

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Help make Known Once: we’re fundraising to support this project that brings together storytelling and dance for kids and seniors. Make a tax-deductible donation of any size HERE.

Known Once: Update #1

 

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For the past two weeks, Liss and the LFD company dancers have been visiting 826 Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood and The Redwoods in Mill Valley to work with middle school students and seniors on creating personal stories and movement for Known Once (if you haven’t heard about our Known Once project, check out the details HERE). After one session with the seniors and two with the kids, we’re sharing some thoughts from Liss and each of the dancers.

Sarah Dionne Woods-LaDue (LFD dancer):

I am fortunate to be in research and process with the generous and fascinating seniors at The Redwoods and youth at 826 Valencia. Something happens when a young person gets to interact with another person over 90 years old… I have no living grandparents myself and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share in the exchange of histories and memories, and ideas about art and expression with people of that generation. It’s been a missing piece I didn’t know was missing. And what a beautifully odd situation to be thrown into! I’m discovering so much after just two brief hours spent with this community.

Working with the kids is a totally different speed. They’re just as willing to dive in as the seniors (and have just as much to share!), but we better keep things moving. The young ones seem to enjoy being thrown into idea after idea, while the seniors have a knack for leaning back into a moment and letting it play out without any expectation as to what might be coming next.

Sonja Dale (LFD dancer):

I had a wonderful time working with Maria, who told me about living in Argentina during the time of Los Desaparecidos. Her daughter met an American Marine while on vacation in Italy, and went to the US and stayed with his family, saving her from what could have been a terrible fate, and beginning the slow migration of Maria and her family to The United States.

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Shannon Kurashige (LFD dancer):

On working with the kids at 826: One of my workshoppers had a memory that she couldn’t remember but was a story that her mother had told her about when she was around 2 years old. It is unbelievable  (it involves swinging an iguana like a lasso). It is set in an exotic location. It was full of detail and humor and has been shaped overtime into a story perfect for telling. I imagine that it is very much a part of who she is and who she thinks she is, but she doesn’t remember it. I started thinking about my own “genesis stories” and how they could very well be works of fiction but they are so important to who I believe I am.

On working with the seniors at The Redwoods: Listening to Marge was fascinating. She was describing a time when she was scared. She told me a story she has probably told many times before. In the telling she surprised herself with little details because she was telling it to a stranger who doesn’t know when to laugh or when to pre-empt the anecdote. Somehow upsetting the rhythm of the familiar story opened the door to details she thought she had forgotten. It seems funny that we can tell our stories so many times that you can forget what was actually there. It’s like when someone asks you to draw a $1 bill. You think you can until you sit down and try to. Which way does George face? Are there number ones on each of the four corners? I don’t even know what is on the back… But, maybe these are two separate things.

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Megan Kurashige (LFD dancer):

There were two moments that struck me hard in our sessions with the seniors and the kids. Walter, one of the seniors who I worked with, told me the story of how he met his wife, Doris. “She was working at an organization for progressive politics,” he said, “and I was walking past and saw this beautiful young girl sitting on the floor by a mimeograph machine and she had ink on her face, black mimeograph ink, and I must’ve had this look of awe on my face. How do you make a movement that means ‘awe’?”

Anna, one of our 826 kids, was working on a description of the bedroom she had when she was six. She told me that it was a tricky thing to do because “I have the room in my head and I know what it’s really like, but I can’t control what happens in your head when you read these words, no matter how many things I tell you about it. It might be a different room for you.”

Liss Fain:

On working with the kids at 826: The kids always begin shyly and end with exuberance.Viva’s story about allowing her little sister to smear Vaseline all over her hair, which her mother then cut really short, was a movement comedy; and Rachel had all of us jumping off chairs. I love gathering everyone at the end in a group activity where we share what was created.  We played the name game, with each kid doing one of the movements they had just made and all of us repeating it. I love watching and listening to their take on their worlds.

On working with the seniors at The Redwoods: I did not expect to be so moved and excited. What a trove of memories–the seniors took us back decades to glimpse their lives. Lette, writing and talking about college, said “You remember the intensity of the 30’s”! I think she still has that intensity and energy. One of her movements was an explosion.

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Help make Known Once: we’re fundraising to support this project that brings together storytelling and dance for kids and seniors. Make a tax-deductible donation of any size HERE.

Announcing a new project!

The Imperfect Is Our Paradise by Liss Fain Dance | 3LD Art & Tec

We are thrilled to announce a new project that brings together storytelling and dance. Known Once partners LFD with 826 Valencia, a San Francisco organization that supports writing and literacy in young people, and The Redwoods, a mixed-income residential community for seniors in Mill Valley.

Known Once builds on the personal stories of people from three age groups–students ages 10-14, seniors, and the LFD company dancers–to explore how events and memories shape a person’s moral sense and what it is in an individual story that grabs a listener emotionally.

In September and October, Liss Fain and the company dancers will work closely with students at 826 Valencia and seniors at The Redwoods to develop stories and movement in intensive workshop sessions. The company will then take the stories and movement into the studio and start weaving them into highly physical, emotionally resonant choreography.

Known Once will premiere in San Francisco in spring 2017. We are honored to bring these stories to the stage with us.

This is the first project for LFD that will draw on the words, movement, and experiences of people we work with. We can’t wait to get started and will be documenting the process here on the LFD blog! You can read more about the project on the LFD website.

A Space Divided: Q&A with guest choreographer Christian Burns

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Christian Burns with LFD dancers Katharine Hawthorne and Jeremiah Crank

A Space Divided is an evening-length performance event featuring three new works by Liss Fain, Amy Seiwert, and Christian Burns, each created on the dancers of Liss Fain Dance and in response to an immersive installation designed by Matthew Antaky. A Space Divided premieres at Z Space in San Francisco April 9-12. More info HERE.

Q: Why did you decide to do this project?

Christian Burns: I accepted the invitation to participate in this project because I wanted a new challenge and this presented a new access into creating for non-traditional performance environments. I have worked within installation-based constructs before, and I sensed this project with LFD would stretch my choreographic abilities. Being able to collaborate within such a large scale installation environment has afforded new considerations about how to explore craft, perspective, and the engagement of the 4th wall.

Another reason was my desire to shift gears and mix up the types of projects I am working on. Since 2009, I have primarily focused on my solo improvisational practice while developing a supportive body of work with other dancers and musicians. This project is allowing me to return to craft and sharpen my choreographic blades while still existing within a non-traditional format.  I found this to be a really perfect project for me right now, and I have already gleaned some new insights into my process and craft.

Q: What have you found most interesting, exciting, and/or challenging about this process?

Christian Burns: Uncertainty, as a subject in and of itself, is the most interesting and challenging topic of all within this project. There are so many different factors determining multiple outcomes – moment to moment – most of which can’t be controlled by any one artist. This can become either frustrating or, for me, absolutely exciting and fascinating. I love the risk it represents and the opportunity for pushing our abilities.

Additionally, the proposal of three different choreographers responding to the same sculptural environment and woven into a single evening of dance while performed by the same ensemble of dancers, was in itself a very interesting and exciting prospect.

The primary challenge for me was to create a piece that could deliver a strong choreographic point of view, while flexibly allowing for the alternative perspectives of an autonomous audience who are free to engage with the dance on their own terms. The opportunity to craft with control by completely relinquishing control has been humbling and absolutely exciting. I can’t wait to experience the evening myself and see what connections reveal themselves that couldn’t have been preconceived.

Q: What is something that you hope the audience will experience or notice during your piece?

Christian Burns: I want the audience to feel at home within the installation and comfortable with allowing the piece to come to them, to observe what they want, not feeling worried that they might miss something, or not get something. There will be many elements to take in, physical and ephemeral, that offer brief or sustained moments of choreographic clarity unique to that moment. I want the audience to enjoy this opportunity to observe, notice and let their own critical and associative thoughts to float.

My piece is abstract and non-representational; it’s not ‘about’ anything, but is embodied with precise and intentional physical and emotional dynamics. The dance will energetically rise and fall, shift and turn and be supported by a strong musical composition infused with historic and contemporary references. I want the audience to be equally interested in a dance sequence up close immediately in front of them, or far away through the distance, sometimes looking actively to see an event, and sometimes sitting still and allowing events to pass in front of them.

Christian Burns is the director of burnsWORK and co-founder of Parsons Hall Project Space (Holyoke, MA). He choreographed his first dance at age sixteen and in 1994, one year after his training at the School of American Ballet, became hooked on Contact Improvisation. His choreography, improvised performances, and dance-for-camera works have been presented throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. As a performer, he was a guest artist with The Forsythe Company and a company member with Alonzo King LINES Ballet and James Sewell Ballet among others. He has been awarded the Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME, mentor), Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship for Choreography, National Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography, Paula Citron Award for Choreography for Camera (Moving Pictures Festival, Toronto, CA), and a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers. burnsWORK is a Company in Residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. For more information: burnswork.org