• CNgai

Mental Footprint

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

A Contemporary/Krump fusion structured-improvisation solo

Promotional Artwork Cover

Intention: I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the the evolution of this piece from process to product, the improvisational movement research realized, and acknowledge the talented artists that I gotten to work with throughout this adventure!


The Initial Concept

Originally, the concept started out as Do You Feel Empowered? which was created when I went on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, and found myself scrolling, always refreshing for new content. It became a mindless habit that I wanted to break out of. I wanted a change. And so I challenged myself by adding my own voice to the music for this piece because I thought,

"If I'm not using my own voice, then who's voice am I using?"

Music Creation

This sound score initially started as a 2 min track consisting of a minute of suspenseful beats followed by a minute of spoken word (Do You Feel Empowered? - Strong Draft). In November 2018, I presented a work-in-progress solo using this 2 min track in the ASU Fall 2018 Informals Concert. A month later, I was told that I had been nominated by the ASU Dance Faculty to present this solo in one of the ACDA 2019 Informals Concerts in San Jose. Because this solo was still a work-in-progress, I wanted to present a more refined version of this solo that was at least 3 mins in length.

Knowing that I was going to present at ACDA Informals, I extended the track to be 3 mins in length. I actually added to the beginning of this track rather than after because of how the spoken word was structured - the last line was "Drop" which I associated with the movement of a mic drop. I added on the line

"Each name represents a lifetime"

which was derived from the What's In a Name? (11:38-11:42) sermon that I had listened to on December 2018. I also discovered the Slicing technique in Maschine 2.0 so I took the "Each" clip and made a melody. Prior to ACDA, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity by Carley Conder, Artistic Director of CONDER|dance to present the 3 min version solo a few times at the following promotional events: First Friday At Phoenix Arts Museum, Family Sunday at Phoenix, and Performance with a View at Tempe Center for the Arts for the Breaking Ground - Contemporary Dance Festival 2019.

"You have the power" in waveform

Even though track had reached 3 mins, I wanted to add on 30-40 seconds more because of the energy that I receive from a supportive audience while performing. In conjunction with empowerment, I added in the phrase "You have the power". All of these recordings were done on an iPhone 7 which surprisingly produced good quality.


The Costume

Photo by Tim Trumble

I wanted a top that where I could just rearrange the fabric and it would stay. I discovered the Celestial Body Shop from the Ukraine on Etsy that sold a white asymmetrical Avant-garde deconstructed jacket - it was perfect! For the pants, I wanted to deviate from black leggings for lighting purposes. I went with olive green leggings as I liked how it paired with the white top. I also added my iWatch 4 with a white wristband as it went with the top while also highlighting the grip that the "ability to stay connected" has on us.


Adjudications

On adjudications day for the ASU Spring 2019 Dance Undergraduate Project Presentations, this is what I presented as my elevator pitch to the Artistic Directors, Mia and Manon, and ASU DUOS (Dance Undergraduate Organization Support):

“Mental Footprint” focuses on using the power within one’s self to make a change in their life as well as those around them.  Mental footprint is about being able to leave a lasting impression in the viewer’s mind in a way that empowers then to make a positive change in their life. The artist uses real-time improvisation as a contrast against the mindless habits that social media apps create.

This dance explores the question, What makes a lasting impression? with the intention of creating a mental footprint that lasts longer than our digital footprint. In addition, I performed the piece in full costume for the sake of professionalism and presentation.

As a result, the concept was well-received and the piece made it into the Undergraduate Show! This was the feedback given from the adjudication panel:

  • Use of text worked with your intention very well

  • Could tell there was a lot of thought that went into this process

  • Filled the stage in many ways: presence, musicality, spacing, focus

  • Volume level of text within sound could be a little louder to be a little more powerful

Improvisation Process

This was actually the first piece that I've done where I've improvised to this sound score for 5 months, evolution and all. With the opportunities that I have had to present an improvisational solo to each evolved version of the track, I found myself doing the same movement to certain parts of the music. This led me to create a connection between movement improvisation and the PageRank Algorithm.

In parallel to the PageRank Algorithm, we can view each movement improvisation as a document containing different moves (words). Our brain is more likely to draw movement from our movement vocabulary that has been accessed more frequently. Each time we access a movement, the percentage corresponding to that movement increases in relation to all of the other movements. As we continue accessing a particular set of movements more frequently than others, we habitually create a comfort zone and a natural pattern for moving in real time. If the point is to create and discover new movement, it is essential be exposed to movement outside our movement vocabulary for a distribution of percentages.


Lighting Design

Behind-the-scenes of the Lighting Design appointment

For the Fall 2018 and Spring 2018 Undergraduate Project Presentations, I have had one of my best friends, Cheyenne, design the lighting for my first solo, You Don’t Know Me But You Will and my second solo, Content in Archi-texture. With the work that she did for both pieces and her background as a dancer, she's come to understand how I improvise within the space. Therefore, I couldn't have thought of anyone else to light this piece. While I had some ideas, I still gave her full control of the lighting design. Instead of basing the cues off of the movement, she based the cues off of the timing of the music. I truly appreciate her unique perspective and experience so it was a no brainer to have her as the lighting designer!


Show Week!

Artistic Directors - Mia and Manon

With improvisational pieces, I find that it is important to allot at anywhere from a half hour to an hour on warm-up prior to performing. Since I was the second piece, I had my hair and makeup done before call-time which was an hour and a half before show. As a personal movement practice, I start with a ballet center-barre warming up before moving into the styles for this piece which included contemporary, popping, and krump. It's incredibly important to experiment with being on and off my center as each transition that I make happens in real-time. As performance-time gets closer, I play the song on repeat to bring the rhythms back into memory recall.

For Thursday's performance, it was wonderful to feel the support of friends and family there. I always think about how I want this piece to be perceived and with the wonderful comments that I received from people who I didn't even know, it spoke volumes about how accessible this piece can be.

Friday's performance was bitter-sweet. It's difficult to think that this was possibly the last time that I'd be performing in the Margaret Gisolo Dance Theatre, however, I have realized that it is truly people that make each performance special. Throughout my dance career, my family, especially my parents, have been at all of my performances, competitions, etc. I also have such supportive friends that I've made while at ASU.


That's a wrap!

In reflection, I am extremely grateful to have been blessed with the chance to present this piece at ACDA, Phoenix Art Museum, Tempe Center For the Arts, and now the ASU 2019 Spring Dance Undergraduate Project Presentations. This piece has shown me that one person can make a difference and I hope that I have inspired many as much as I have been inspired by the numerous mentors that have come into my life.

"To make a difference, you have to be different."

© 2020 by CNgai.

Website made by Courtney Ngai

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