I love that travel permits brief interactions with lasting impact, similar to the way that experiences within a dance studio create immediate and enduring connections. While in Minneapolis for the Fringe this August, I participated in Emily Gastineau’s Profitraining and spoke with her about dance class in Minneapolis, the performing arts scene, and practice broadly defined. Emily’s work with Profitraining shares similar aims with PEER Practices, but diverges notably in several areas.
Emily began developing Profitraining with an extended research and interview phase designed to uncover the various practices of dance practitioners in the Twin Cities. These practices vary from public dance class to meditation, improvisational scores, and personal routines. Minneapolis/St. Paul hosts a rich and layered dance scene, especially for a metropolis of its size (I encourage you to check out this recent Dance Magazine article which contextualizes past and current work). Opportunities to train and take class are available but limited, one of the realities of a smaller community. Often dancers interested in contemporary performance feel there isn’t a class or mode of training that serves them, and thus they develop personal practices to meet their wants and needs. I have noticed similar trends in the Bay Area, where a contingent of folks make a choice to not take class. The small community in Minneapolis heightens this impulse.
In phase one of her development of Profitraining, Emily interviewed many people in the dance community to research their practices and create a record of the activities people do on their own outside of dance class. As part of this research phase, Emily began developing a “directory” of practices in the form of short prompts (movement, text based, conceptual, etc.) written on notecards. Although Profitraining was developed in conversation with the structure of a traditional dance class, it explicitly eschews an anatomical or somatic focus, instead exploring a range of practices beyond “what is good for you.”
Phase two of Emily’s process involved prototyping Profitraining with a small group of collaborators, at first through private invitational sessions with some of the interview participants and then through an open call to the broader dance community. I attended an open session in August held at Studio 206 in the Ivy Arts Building in Minneapolis. The session began with participants contributing a few practices to Emily’s master collection of index cards, and then collectively selecting a number of cards and determining an order through a consensus-like process. This order formed the basis for an improvisational score, which participants navigated individually. Because each person contributed some of the practices, there may be some prompts in which he/she is well experienced and others with which he/she may never have experimented.
The final phase of Emily’s work concluded this past weekend at Impetus, a contemporary dance festival at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. Emily held open physical practice sessions of Profitraining as well as public dialogues. Even though Impetus is a performing arts festival, it focuses on unpacking the creative process. Since Profitraining is practice-based, I was curious about the transition to performance. We explored performativity in the session I attended, and I concluded that while Profitraining is not inherently performative, certain aspects of it (such as delivering text) can be.
I offer this amount of detail on the development of Profitraining because I admire the rigor of Emily’s process and find the evolution of the project fascinating. Profitraining evolved in response to a similar impulse as PEER Practices (what we want is at our fingertips, let’s make it happen), but has taken a different form and trajectory. Profitraining intentionally works outside the structure of a conventional dance class and avoids anatomical or technical approaches to movement, while PEER Practices upsets hierarchies and creates space for change within existing modes of dance training. And while Profitraining collaboratively determines a structure for practices drawn from a collective pot, it is fundamentally about an individual’s experience of this structure, whereas PEER Practices more explicitly seeks to create and support a community of collaborators in all aspects of the experience. While taking different forms, both practices emphasize colliding expert and amateur modes, or states of knowing and unknowing. Working in this space has the potential to affect change both in one’s individual practice and in the context of one’s community.
Katharine Hawthorne is a San Francisco based dancer and choreographer who likes to watch thinking bodies in motion. www.khawthorne.net