Writing about the process
a. intr. To move as driven or borne along by a current; to float or move along with the stream or wind.
To move or pass passively or aimlessly; to be carried involuntarily or without effort in some course or into some condition. Also (colloq.), to go away, get out; to come or go casually; to wander; freq. with adverbs, as to drift around , to drift by , to drift in , to drift out ; to drift apart
d. An object which is allowed to float freely in the sea to determine ocean-currents; a drift-bottle.
A man following an aimless, irresolute, or vagrant way of life.
f. A wind causing snow to drift.
1922 R. J. Flaherty My Eskimo Friends 8
I start with the word drifting, as a movement practice, and a mode to enter into a collaborative relationship with the river that ran through our piece, restorying, drifting with the river. The drifting within our collective art making process occurred in multiple ways. These included the drifting practices within specific attunement scores as part of the art making practice, the drifting in specific somatic practices that we engaged with in the creative process, the drifting of the piece into the performance and into everyday life, and the drifting between multiple modes of paying attention throughout the whole process. These multiple driftings all contained some aspect of the etymological strand in the OED, that relates drifting to movement, floating, being carried along aimlessly into some condition. This “some condition” can be thought of as the differences made in myself, and my collaborators, including the audience, as we drifted through the rehearsal into the performance as part of the art making process.
Within the OED I was also drawn to a small footnote that related “to drift” to a wind causing snow drift. The footnote was related to the film by Robert Flaherty called “My Eskimo Friends, Nanook of the North”. The footnote reads, “Then came snow, the winter’s first big ‘drifter’, and for three days there was no land or sea or sky.”
When I think of this kind of drifter I am reminded of being in snow blizzards growing up in Canada, where a whole city or streetscape can disappear. It is a making strange of what might have been so familiar. When one tries to navigate or wander outside in a familiar setting, these conditions demand a slowing down. One notices things differently, attuning to one’s breath, to each step and to the sounds of snow swirling around you. The drifting snow creates another kind of drifting. This drifting moves me towards unknowing, not a total abyss, although in severe conditions this can happen, and the undifferentiated realm. Perhaps this realm is a useful place to situate oneself so that one can make present something that was not there before, something radically new. For three days there was no land or sea or sky. As a child, I remember that after each blizzard the streetscape always looked different. It was a new world and offered endless possibilities for exploration and collaborating differently with what I thought of as familiar place.
Drifting Practices in the rehearsal process:
We would practice the following score as a way to warm up during each rehearsal. It also was the opening score during the performance.
The drifting kite score:
(the small indoor kites we used we hand made by a man in Taiwan and are called iflights):
Drifting together, apart:
The drifting kite score allowed us to foreground the background in the space; the air currents always already moving in the building. During phase one of the score, without the kite, we noticed how hard it was to feel, or see or touch, or attune one’s body to these air currents. Within the 3rd through 5th components of the score it become difficult to sense who was moving who. The kite would shift with the air current and the dancer would adjust, or the moving dancer would move the air currents and the kite would shift, or the kite would shift and the dancer would move, shifting the air currents and moving the kite. The kite, the air currents, the dancer, drifting together, making a common dance. Yet the kite, the air currents and the dancer each remained their own unique force.
We would end the score with a movement improvisation without the kite. My collaborator and I would often feel a different kind of attunement with the space during this practice. In being moved by and with the wind currents and the kite we became attuned to the multiple rhythms and directional impulses of the air moving through the room. The drifting with the air extended our attention into the dynamic movement of what appeared to be a still and empty space. We both noticed a certain kind of aliveness in the room. The space was actively moving, moving us differently. Through practicing with the kite my collaborator often would sense her ancestors in the room. I am connected to The drifting kite and the air currents, moving with and around and by her moving body, attuned her to a visceral felt active presencing energy in the room. This collaboration makes something that was either not there before or was not accessible before, present. Making present the more than human in its multiple forms. The kite drifting score allowed us to activate each indoor space we worked in during the creative process. Each space had a different feeling, created a different dance and moved us differently.
Drifting in Open Attention
As part of our rehearsal process our collective took part in a Continuum Movement workshop led by Linda Rabin, at dancemakers space in Toronto. Continuum Movement was developed by Emilie Conrad, who spent five years living in Haiti in the 1950’s. In returning to the States she was struck by the differences in the effects of industrialized and non-industrialized cultures, on how one perceives the human body. She distinguished between what is called the body, a form that needs to function in a given cultural context; and an organism, an process that is growing and expanding in its capacity for interaction and communication. With this insight she questioned how we as living organisms are participating in activities that lie below the threshold of our awareness.
The practitioner is led through exercises that lead to a fluid kind of motion. The motion is accessed through breath, sounding and and wave motion on different scales. Within these exercises there is always a active resting moment that is called open attention. It is within open attention that I find the kind of drifting that I am attending to in this writing. Open attention occurs between each exercise, when the practitioner stops initiating both the breath and wave motion. Within open attention there is no practical purpose or goal guiding the practitioner. The practitioner notices the differences made in their organism. In noticing the difference the practitioner maximizes the positive affect of interest in whatever unfolds in their own felt sense experience. The drifting attention, gathers the wide range of effects that exploring our breath and movement had on us.
We were inspired by this continuous return to open attention within the Continuum movement practice. It was an active, yet open, in the sense that one was not trying to get anywhere or find something particular, attending to process. A drifting process that informed and shaped our performance.