Improvisation Summer Course Amsterdam Music Dance Workshop


Music Dance Course- Summer 2017 Mary Oliver (music) and Manuela Tessi (dance). July 24 to August 3 18:00 to 21:00 Monday to Thursday main space Studio 1.

No previous experience of language for music for dancers or dance for musicians is required. Maximum number of participants: 15 per week. It is suggested to join for one whole week or the entire course, however participation to single days is possible. €35 per day / €130 per week / €260 two weeks

Music Dance Course- Summer 2017 

This workshop is aimed for dancers and musicians who have an interest in the study and practice of sound and movement in real-time composition with a curiosity to discover an intuitive organization of the body in space with sound. We have been actively investigating how dancers and musicians can collectively create spontaneous choreography and composition through improvisation: existing as one study rather than separate entities. The practice of dance and music is not new. It has existed within folk traditional dances and many non-western cultures for centuries. However, we feel there is an urgency to re examine how classical and contemporary western music/dance practices have evolved.

I (Manuela) am a dancer based in Amsterdam and partially in Berlin. I became interested in working with live music during my final two years of study at the Theater school in Amsterdam. Since then, live music, whether composed or improvised, has played a central role in my performance work. I was impressed by the work artists like Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (Rosas), because of how they chose and organized their music with their choreography. This led me to conduct several projects as a choreographer with composers from the conservatory in Amsterdam. I discovered strategies used by music composers and applied this to choreography. I came into this work critical in the way most dancer/choreographers used music on stage which promoted my curiosity to continue my research aiming for a deep connection of movement with sound with a vision for performance that, as time arts, are inseparable. Since 2004 I studied and worked with Katie Duck as an apprentice with Magpie and then as a performer and collaborator.  I have participated with several ongoing collaborations with dancers who also apprenticed with Magpie, Makiko Ito and Miri Lee. I have an interest in functional movement as a precursor to dance. In my vision of dance, content and functionality provide form. Movement principles and qualities are the raw materials to create compositions. I strive to guide the students to connect to that raw material and provide strategies for how you can choose to arrange the body in space. When relating to live sound, we need to take into consideration how it is altering the state of the body and the mind.  We need to allow for raw materials to change moment to moment. As dancers, we need to be extremely alert, to listen to each change, shift of our state of mind and quickly create the material in a playful arena with the sound in space. Presently, I curate two platforms for dance and live music performance: Music Dance 301, at the cultural center OT301, Amsterdam, and Musiktanznulldreissig, in various Berlin venues.  I find it essential, in the times we are living in, to contribute to the production of art by creating platforms and gathering crowds to experience the work. These platforms provide an opportunity for my own performances as well as my peers, offering continuity in the research. I believe that creativity needs to be promoted bottom-up, getting your hands dirty, digging into the material without waiting for permission from public funding or any established venues. 

I (Mary) am a violinist/violist based in Amsterdam for the past 22 years. I hold a Phd. In music theory as a doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego in the early ‘90’s. I was intrigued by the process of improvisation, and how it differed from what I had been taught as a classical musician. At that time, the conventional canons of musical analysis in western music could describe traditional musical structure. But they did not address improvisation and how it works. In my doctoral dissertation, Constellations in Play: a Model of Improvisation, I devised a model in which a constellation of elements, and their play and interplay, offer a multi-dimensional way in which to analyze what is in real-time composition, essentially extemporaneous. This model also offered a way of organizing the many and varied materials which emerge during an improvisation. At this time, I was part of a collective called Kiva made up of musicians and dancers taken from the faculty and students of the University. We would meet every Saturday morning and improvise with no rules or parameters and we would video tape our sessions. It was a valuable think tank for the practice of improvisation. In 1996 drummer Michael Vatcher (Amsterdam based drummer) invited me to play with Magpie in a series organized by Katie  Duck (Amsterdam based performer). From 2000 until 2005 I curated the music constellations together with Katie Duck for a monthly concert series at the OT301 Cultural center in Amsterdam and on tours to the US, Korea, and various countries in Europe. For these performances I gathered musicians to create ensembles drawing from various genres;  punk, classical, contemporary, experimental, and electronic . I learned through teaching workshops and performing with  Magpie, that music can become informed not only from musical gestures and ideas but by those presented to me by the dancers’ movement and use of space and that one needs to adopt ‘choice’ as the means by which the choreography and the composition are realized. Choice not only relates to musical material and dance movements and genres of styles learned throughout a lifetime of study, but also the decision to enter and exit the performance space. Each dancer and musician comes with their own palette of techniques and styles which contribute to the work. I find that it is helpful to make a personal list, identifying them so that after a session or performance there can be a discourse as to why certain decisions were made in the course of an improvisation. We are indeed fortunate in Amsterdam to have venues, like OT301, Plantagedoklaan, de Ruimte, Zaal 100 and Splendor where there is this an on-going platform for presenting real time dance and music performances.

As music and dance teachers, our motivation for this workshop draws from our desire to deepen the study on how dance and music interact during the process of live composition. As the dancers are becoming more aware of what they are hearing musically, the musicians need to use their eye to track how the dancers are moving in the space. How is the music effected by what we see? How are the dancers’ use of rhythm, phrasing and dynamics reflected and incorporated into the music? These are areas of study and discussions that evolve from session to session, performance to performance, piece to piece. Our challenge as dancers and musicians is to keep tension in the room, while at the same time maintaining a relaxed state that allows creativity to flow. Dancers and musicians are addressed in the same way, considering everyone as part of the same “band” in which they all “play”. We consider everyone to be first of all a performer, thus the study of presence is very important. We will work with exercises that explore relationships between thought, movement and presence in the immediate environment. By promoting a greater awareness of sensory input, the performer becomes better equipped to interact with their internal and external impulses. For example, one exercise is a musician playing while a dancer is touching her/him somewhere on the body. The question will be asked “How does this change the development of the music”? We look for the expressive power of the visceral , the guts, the non intellectual, the material, the body, in combination with clarity and a sense for structure. We see analysis and intuition not as antithetical but supporting each other and essential for creativity. Our warm up exercises are aimed to increase awareness of the space between dancers and musicians. Space is the common ground in which the movement and music is taking place, therefore it is important to clarify the fundamentals for how to build a common understanding for how to play in space. The study of space relates to the physicality of the sound, acoustics. In our work, musicians rarely play standing in one spot unless it is a choice. They are encouraged to shift spaces, allowing sound to resonate differently. We will experiment with proximity and distance, how the actual physical space in which we play modifies the perception of sound and how the arrangement of bodies in space are affecting the composition. An important objective of the workshop is to study the language that dance and musicians use as a common ground and to question how do specific terminologies apply to one or the others artistic medium and what are the merging points. Every session starts with dancers and musicians playing together, however at times Mary will work separately with dancers and Manuela with musicians, giving specific practical assignments with feedback about the reading of each others language. We will point out the composition elements, such as phrasing, timing, pulse, overall structure of the piece, character, movement/sound quality, with references to styles and genres, and encourage the participants to articulate observations through the short feedback sessions. We believe in the importance of observation as a tool for change. At the end of each day participants will create instant compositions with sound and movement practicing looking and giving each other feedback. Parameters for the feedback will be body, space and movement-sound vocabulary. The participants will be encouraged to create pieces to present within the Freakatoni Witchy Weekends, performances. Our study will challenge the question : Are dancers supposed to follow the music, or are musicians supposed to play to the dancers movements? This question implies a relationship of interdependence and hierarchy. In this workshop we will encourage a constant dialogue between sound and movement with a complex, multi layered and fluid approach to the relationship between the two forms.                                                                                                Photo Brian Crawford


I am a dancer, teacher and maker based in Amsterdam and Berlin. I hold a degree in Modern Dance from the Theater school in Amsterdam and have spent the last several years performing and touring my work. Live music, whether composed or improvised, has played an important role in my performance work in the last 13 years. Since 2004 I have studied and worked with Katie Duck, who has been one of my greatest creative influences alongside the many dancers who have inspired her direction in work. I did an apprenticeship with Magpie Music Dance Company in 2007, that lead to several ongoing collaborations, in particular with Makiko Ito, artistic director of Wonderland collective, and Miri Lee. I recently performed two solo works created specifically for me by Vincent Cacialano and Paul Estabrook. I have an interest in movement prior to dance as a formal language, in my movement research I include a scientific study of movement (somatic and kinesiology). I believe that content and functionality provide form: I work with movement principles and qualities and those are the raw materials to compose with. I look for sensuousness and embodiment in dance, often referring to kinesthetic empathy, how is the movement being read by the spectator not solely with the eyes and intellect, but perceived on a visceral level. I collaborated over five years with a dancer and researcher specialized in Southern Italian traditional dance and music. I studied and performed with her, learning some traditional forms of dance ( the Pizzica from Puglia and Tammurriata from Campania) and I did a study on the Tarantism, a complex phenomenon that has its roots in the pre christian pagan traditions, involving a form of mental illness-state of possession and its cure through music (always played live) and frantic dance. This experience changed the way I approach contemporary forms of dance and music, making me understand the cathartic function of the art form, and the importance of the live interaction of the two. I curate two platforms for dance and live music performance: the series Music Dance 301, at the cultural center OT301 in Amsterdam, and Musiktanznulldreissig, its sister project, taking place in various Berlin venues, in collaboration with flutist Friederike Wendorf. I find essential at the time we live in right now to contribute to the production of art creating platforms and gathering crowds to experience the work. Those platforms provide opportunity for my own performances and the work of peers, allowing continuity in the research. I believe that creativity needs to be promoted bottom-up, without waiting for permission from funding bodies and established venues, rather by getting hands dirty, digging into the material.

CV – Mary Oliver

I am a violin, viola, and hardanger fiddle player,  a performer whose virtuosity spans the worlds of scored and improvised music. Oliver (b. La Jolla, California) I completed my studies at the University of California, San Diego where I received a Ph.D for my research in the theory and practice of improvised music. My doctoral thesis, “Constellations in Play,” identified a new kind of creative discipline, which I have pursued with colleagues locally and around the world. As a soloist, I premiered works by, (among others), Richard Barrett, John Cage, Chaya Czernowin, Brian Ferneyhough, Joëlle Léandre,  Liza Lim, George E. Lewis, Richard Teitelbaum and Iannis Xenakis. I have performed in numerous international festivals including the Darmstädter Feriendurse für neue Musik, Donaueschinger Muziektage, The Holland Festival, Vancouver and Toronto Jazz Festivals, Ars Electronica , Ars Musica, Münchener Biennale, Mount Fuji Jazz Festival, Salzburger Festspiele and Maertz Musik Festspiele. I have worked with a.o AACM Black Earth Ensemble, Elision Ensemble, Het National Ballet and MAE. Based in Amsterdam, and am a key member of the improvising community, locally and internationally. I have performed with musicians a.o. Han Bennink, Erik Bosgraaf, Mark Dresser, Tristan Honsinger, Joëlle Léandre, George E. Lewis, Alexander von Schlippenbach Anthony Pateras and dancers a.o Katie Duck, Michael Schumacher and Sabine Kupferberg . I teach workshops and give lectures about improvisation internationally (Tokyo, Chicago, Den Haag, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Harvard University, etc.). I am on the faculty at the Hogeschool voor het Kunst Utrecht teaching at the school for Kunst, Media and Technologie, on the faculty at the Dutch Improv Academy and am a member of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra.

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