Emerging from the creative facilitation practices of gamers, critical embodiment of activists, peripatetic creativity of writers, and improvisatory interventions of performers, many aspects of Movement Storming will be recognisable. I am drawing in particular on practices in dance improvisation and rehearsal, including my own collaborative exchanges with Vida Midgelow and the Creative Articulations Process,1 Kinga Szemessy’s Body Archive,2 Nancy Stark Smith’s Underscore,3 Alana Shaw’s Body Now4 scores, and a long-term fascination with the working practices of Agosto Boal, bell hooks, Guillermo Gomez Pena, and Allan Kaprow. In this way, the Movement Storms score is incredibly malleable and can be inflected and enhanced with your own instincts and experiences.
2 I experienced Szemessy’s Body Dance Archive when she was a guest artist at The Ohio State University. More info is available on her site: kingaszemessy.weebly.com/body-archive.html. Accessed October 30, 2018.
3 I learned the Underscore directly from Nancy Stark Smith but there is also a nice summary of it in her book: Caught Falling: The Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas, by Nancy Stark Smith and David Koteen, published in 2008 by Contact Quarterly.
4 Shaw, Alana. 2017. The Body Now. Bloomington: Balboa Press.
I created Movement Storming as an alternative to the overused and often ineffective practice of brainstorming. It works well as a kick-off process for researchers and a nice opening event for residencies. And it is even better as an interruption or refresh along the way when things have become too narrowly defined, the process feels stuck, or you want to work collaboratively. I’ve done it alone, with friends and collaborators, and used it to facilitate larger groups seeking to find connections and go deeper into shared themes. It helps one gather, glean, and absorb relevant concepts and catalysing ideas, add new information, connect, sort, sift, perform and produce new relationalities, and finally, synthesise. I adapt it every time I do it based on what I sense in the room and who is there with me on the journey. The score for creating a Movement Storm is detailed below. Throughout, I offer reflections from three scholars who participated in an early version of this score as a writing jam early in the process of an artistic research collaboration on humane technologies.
Movement Storming Score
This is a score for generating ideas, re-energising the research process, developing language, drawing connections, and getting into a shared space of discovery. It is ideal if you have a three-hour or longer time slot, but it’s also possible in shorter time frames.
To prepare, create a space that is full of materials and stimuli relevant to your project. I like to print out quotes and images, photocopy pages of relevant texts, and bring in books and objects.
Black box spaces are great for this kind of work, or any dance studio or even a large living room. Classrooms can work if you can create open space.
Stack, place, and post your papers and artefacts on several levels and in three dimensions: on the floor, walls, boxes, and any tables that are handy. Include a few chairs or cushions in the room, but not too many; the idea is to encourage movement.
Sound or music is great; choose something with rhythm but that is spacious and changes over time to shift the mood slightly.
If you have access to lighting in the room, create a few lighting cues that change. Or you can open or close the window shades at some point.
Images and/or text projected large in the space can help create atmosphere and expand the stimuli. Sometimes I put up a blank word document for writing text responses to what’s happening in the room. Often, I display images, especially if those images change or can be changed over time. I like to do online image searches or create a quick slideshow.
Windows, light, and air are always a plus. If you are doing the three-hour version of the score, snacks are a must. Water, too. I sometimes serve tea and cake.
Supplies: Bring in paper of different sizes and a few different colours, large and small post-its, lots of pens, tape, glue sticks, and yarn. It is nice but not absolutely necessary to include a laptop that is projected onto a screen in the space.
Invite yourself or a group in, and allow time for arrivals.5 When working with other dancers and performers, you can open up the space for vocalisation and movement, and they will generally take it from there. When facilitating a Movement Storm for folks in other professions (I’ve done several versions of this as a ‘writing jam’ for colleagues in the humanities), it helps to have a few dance improvisers or adventurous theatre folks involved to contribute to the sound and gestures in the room.
5 I model my approach to “arrivals” on Nancy Stark Smith’s workshop practices and Underscore, gleaned from my personal experiences with her and the summary of the Underscore in her book, Caught Falling, and from Vida Midgelow and Jane Bacon’s “openings” in the CAP method cited previously.
Introductions of some kind and a three-minute articulation of the process is helpful. I find it valuable to post a summary of the process on a large piece of paper or a whiteboard in the room, so that there is a shared idea of how things will unfold and little need for further instigations or instructions.
Take a walk in the room. Notice what you notice. Start by wandering through the space, reading, touching, and noting the materials at hand. Sense what you want and what feels good.
Consider this a grazing, raising, gathering process.6 Read aloud once in a while. I like to pick up a paper and read bits of it continuously as I move. Tearing and crumpling papers feels good.
6 Again I am borrowing and integrating language from Stark Smith’s Underscore, Bacon and Midgelow’s CAP, and other common practices in dance improvisation. Feel free to adapt according to your preferences.
‘At the beginning before I was warmed up to it, I wanted to attach to something and pursue an argument and have that consistent thread. I was in a really linear head space, from my training. But it didn’t last long. Once I started moving around and engaging with the stimuli there was no sequential argument. Things began branching off, and I realized that was OK and started feeling good…Among the piles of yellow paper scattered on the floor, the incidental flip charts at the edge of the room, and in the layers of journal articles that Norah placed on tables, I found compelling relevance. There were key words, incisive phrases, and insistent commentaries-expressions resonating with and informing my own humanizing epistemology and practice. Research toward connection, disruption, and resolve.’ – Candace Stout, PhD, Professor of Art Education, The Ohio State University
Others in the room might provide slight disruptions in the space or inspirations for you as they walk, write, read aloud, gesture, dance, sing, or sound. You are invited to ignore or absorb them, or respond, repeat, copy, and join in as you feel moved.
This is a peripatetic kind of thinking and doing and learning process.
‘It worked to have all this stimulus in the space, and it was exciting how the environment and people engage us, the tactility (different ways to touch in the space), the moving created reverberations and moving at angles to one another and picking up threads. As we moved randomly (or from our own impulses) in the space, we were making contact in various ways (words, voices, gestures, occasional smiles or exchanges), habiting the space, and I love this feeling. The 3D-ness of it was so important: things on the floor, on the wall, on the screens, in chairs, hugely different, possibilities multiplying, words moving in 3D space, there is such a release in that.’ – Ben McCorkle, PhD, Associate Professor of English, Rhetoric, The Ohio State University
As you graze and gather, you will start to get ideas. Words, images, references, and thoughts of all manner will begin to take shape, and now you start to…
Make a mark, leave a trace, sort, sift, rearrange, and draw connections with the elements in the space.
Write on papers and start to group or cluster the elements.
Fill the space, allow yourself to create three dimensional, unexpected relationships as well, crumple paper, scrawl graffiti, drag lines of yarn between disparate notions.
Say yes and
After a while, it will feel like time for reflection and possibly synthesis alone or with a collaborator whom you have been bumping into during the wandering. Take time to sense what wants to be known, what wants to be captured, to list or draw or dance. Fifteen minutes feels nice for this or longer if you have the time.
‘There was a poetics of process that inspires us to think in ways we don’t usually get to; we don’t usually have this kind of environment or groups to engage with in this kind of process. We were swimming in a sea of possibilities, and then, now, we are ready to make something, we have something to hold onto, and we want to be held, be heard? Care shapes environments, shapes the world; it is about producing form.’ – Rick Livingston, PhD Senior Lecturer and Associated Faculty, Comparative Studies, The Ohio State University
Take time to reflect and harvest. Share whatever wants to be heard, seen, spoken. Leave time for this – everyone can share, but not everyone has to. Keep it light and agree to a time limit.
Sometimes I omit this step and just leave time for sharing at the end.
Now sense what wants to be made. Is there someone in the room you need to make it with you? Reach out. Dig in.
Create something to give to each other and to take with you. A score, a dance, a poem, a drawing, a nice fat paragraph of text, a list, a diagram.
Come together again. Tea and cake are nice. So is water. Share a bit of what you made, celebrate and appreciate each other or find some other way to close the experience (a name and gesture circle is nice or any somatic exercise you know and love), or leave the circle open but do so deliberately and with intention.
That’s it. That’s the Movement Storm. Adapt it as you like and enjoy the ride.
- Jane Bacon, and Vida Midgelow, “Creative Articulations Process (CAP)”, Choreographic Practices 5, no. 1 (2014): 7–31.
- I experienced Szemessy’s Body Dance Archive when she was a guest artist at The Ohio State University. More info is available on her site: kingaszemessy.weebly.com/body-archive.html. Accessed October 30, 2018.
- I learned the Underscore directly from Nancy Stark Smith but there is also a nice summary of it in her book: Caught Falling: The Confluence of Contact Improvisation, Nancy Stark Smith, and Other Moving Ideas, by Nancy Stark Smith and David Koteen, published in 2008 by Contact Quarterly.
- Shaw, Alana. 2017. The Body Now. Bloomington: Balboa Press.
- I model my approach to “arrivals” on Nancy Stark Smith’s workshop practices and Underscore, gleaned from my personal experiences with her and the summary of the Underscore in her book, Caught Falling, and from Vida Midgelow and Jane Bacon’s “openings” in the CAP method cited previously.
- Again I am borrowing and integrating language from Stark Smith’s Underscore, Bacon and Midgelow’s CAP, and other common practices in dance improvisation. Feel free to adapt according to your preferences.
Norah Zuniga Shaw
Norah Zuniga Shaw is an artist, writer and creative director best known for her award-winning digital projects and interdisciplinary collaborations. She is currently touring performances and community dialogs focusing on changing climates and is co-directing the Collaboration for Humane Technologies and the Livable Futures collective. She is a Professor and Director for Dance and Technology with a joint appointment at the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) at The Ohio State University where she teaches courses in improvisation, artistic research and intermedia.