Trusting a Process

Tech Rehearsal 2010

Photo by Katie Graves

“Process-Based” is a qualifying term we often use in the dance community. This idea encapsulates the notion that, in creating a work, the final product is informed by a series of processes, experiments, explorations… and it implies a value that is placed upon that process as opposed to a specific product being the central goal. There is an implicit learning process; a sense of play; the idea that not everything created is performed in the finalized “work.”

In grant proposals, press releases and promotional materials, we use this term to assure that a work will be thoroughly researched, explored and questioned through a series of experiments, workshops and re-imaginings, not just something we’ve whipped together in a few rehearsals.

As a dancer, I see the words “process-based” as a promise that my contribution to the work will be greater than just my body and physical capabilities. My voice will be heard, my questions will be considered, and I will be an integral piece of the finished product.

I have been ruminating over this idea because I am about to begin the process of creating entirely new work, after over a year of creative hibernation. I am considering my inquiries, my creative toolbox, my community, and my potential modes of representation.

I ask myself a number of questions as I consider what steps to take first:

  • Am I disenchanted with the proscenium model of performance?
  • Do I want to have an end-goal before I even begin?
  • What kind(s) of dancers/collaborators do I want to work with?
  • Is Chicago the right city for me to be making work in anymore?
  • Is there any unexplored territory in my fields of interest?
  • Am I too disconnected from the Chicago-community at this point to get an active audience to engage with my work?

To be entirely frank, I’m scared.

The kind of work that I am interested in making requires a committed group of collaborators. It requires inquisitive minds, physical and emotional risk, and a certain level of assertiveness that will challenge me and push me to delve further into my subject matter. Those kinds of collaborators can be hard to find and requires a great deal of trust on both sides.

There is so much trust needed in creative partnerships. Each time you commit to a new project you are trusting your collaborators on so many levels. You are trusting them to be respectful of your time, ideas and, in the case of live performance, your body. You are trusting them to be present during the process, both physically and mentally. You are trusting them to speak up for their own best interests and the best interests of the work. You choose artists that you respect and trust to make your work better, more refined, and who challenge you to be a better artist.

In my collaborative creative process, I ask for a lot from the other artists involved. My dancers are responsible for 75% of the movement material. In my workshop-style rehearsals, they can be asked to share personal information, that is often emotionally charged. I want my dances to be unique to the people involved in creating and performing them. I’m not interested in having the sole ownership of a work, nor am I interested in having dancers regurgitate something that I have spoon-fed them. Just as I want to be an active part of others’ processes, I want dancers who take ownership of the work, and who pour themselves into the work we’re making as a community.

This is where the concept for my next work begins. With the scientific process:

Using the same sequence of workshops, explorations and choreographic tools, I will work with different groups of performers to create several works that are unique to each group, but that originated in the same way. I have to trust my process and my collaborators to make these works critical, inquisitive, and salient to today’s world. I have to trust that, without an idea of any finalized product, I will come away from this process with many products, contexts, commentaries, and creative relationships. I will come away with a substantial body of work that has made an impact on the communities within which it was created, and to which it was exposed.

– Sammy Spriggs

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