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Secret Laughs (Rires Secrets) (2019)

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Created and presented as a part of the CATALYSTS Residency at The Dance Complex, Cambridge, MA, 2019.

This video, with Stan Strickland playing music, was recorded by Bill Parsons at Maximal Image.

This video, with Akili Haynes, is from a stationary camera at the back of the House.

Concept & Direction: Dawn Kramer
Dancers: Olivier Besson & Dawn Kramer
Musicians: Stan Strickland and Akili Jamal Haynes
(Recorded tracks by Stan Strickland)
Video and Lighting: Stephen Buck
Poetry: Haiku by Kobayashi Issa
Excerpt from Les Pluies du Miracle (The Rains of the Miracle) by Malek Alloula
(Translated into English and recorded reading in French by Dawn Kramer)

This piece is dedicated to the memory of recently lost dear friends/artists/collaborators:

Denise Marika, 1955-2018, Video and performance artist
Michael Meyer, 1946-2018, Dancer and philosophy professor
Malek Alloula, 1937-2015, Poet and essayist
Evan Harlan, 1953-2014, Composer and musician
Ruth Wheeler, 1920-2011, Choreographer and dancer
Michael Shannon, 1953-2009 Dancer and pediatrician

Thank you: Stephen, Olivier, Stan, Akili, Peter DiMuro, Caitlin Klinger, Jayne Murphy,
Richard Wood, Troikatronix, Susan Mirsky

When Peter DiMuro, Director of the Dance Complex, asked me to be a 2019 CATALYST choreographer, I remembered how much I enjoyed performing in From the Horse’s Mouth in 2017. That piece is a structured improvisation for about twenty people, celebrating various dance communities across the country. Accepting Peter’s invitation to do six performances in three weeks in January (yikes!), I wanted to give myself the challenge to create a structured improvisation including live music and poetry. I also wanted a video projection environment to be central to the work, as it has been for my work since 2007. So I asked three people I have known and collaborated with intermittently for decades to join me in this adventure: master improviser, Olivier Besson, legendary musician/vocalist/mover, Stan Strickland, and my partner in art and life, Stephen Buck for projections.

Stan was available for four of the six shows and recommended the wonderful trumpeter, Akili Haynes to handle the other two shows. The video documentation with Stan was shot professionally by Bill Parsons, Maximal Image. Although the video with Akili was documented by a stationary camera in the back of the house, I include both here. Anyone interested in the improvisational process can view both documentations to see the consistencies and variations in both shows. The opening ten co-dependent shapes were set, as was the ending where Olivier and I walk upstage during the French poem, ultimately "becoming" the trees projected on our backs. The order of video projections stayed the same, but the length of time a particular video was projected depended on the dancers’ timing. There was a rule set for each section, but the dancers and musicians created the movement and music "on the spot" in each performance.

Olivier Besson

Olivier Besson

Olivier Besson's introduction to improvisation came through his exposure to contact improvisation, which he studied with Robin Field and Andrew Harwood. He furthered his study of improvisation and real-time composition with Julyen Hamilton and subsequently started developing his own methodology. During that time, he also studied and performed Bugaku (court dance from Japan) with Arawana Hayashi. Other training includes Butoh with Maureen Fleming and Action Theater with Ruth Zaporah and Sarah Hickler.

Most notably, Besson's work has been presented internationally at the National Institute of the Arts (Taiwan) in 1997, Die Pratze (Japan) in 2006, the Art of Movement Festival (Russia) in 2006, Canaldanse (France) from 2000 to 2007, Companie Vertige (France) from 2005 to 2010, and LshVa (India) in 2016. He has collaborated with many individuals in the United States and abroad, including Chris Aiken, Cathy Young, Jane Shockley, Lisa Schmidt, Debra Bluth, Ming-Shen Ku, Toshiko Oiwa, Liz Roncka, Emmanuelle Pépin, Chandra Cantor, and musicians/composers Mike Vargas, Peter Jones, and Sharan Leventhal.

Besson joined the Conservatory in 2004 and is an associate professor of dance. He teaches improvisation, contact improvisation, contact skills, improvisation in performance, and the course Dancer's Toolkit.
Stan Strickland

Stan Strickland

Strickland has performed internationally; been featured on recordings of Bob Moses, Marty Erlich, Webster Lewis and Brute Force; performed with notable jazz musicians Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Mann, Danilo Perez, Shirley Scott and Marlena Shaw; and has opened for Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. He has performed and collaborated with choreographers including Alvin Ailey, José Limón and Bill T. Jones.
Strickland has a M.A. degree in Expressive Arts Therapy from Lesley College, where he is an adjunct professor, and also teaches at Berklee College of Music, Tufts University, and Longy School of Music. He is co-executive Director of "Express Yourself", working in partnership with adolescents in public mental health residential facilities to produce multimedia performances.
Akili Haynes

Alili Jamal Haynes

Akili Jamal Haynes is a composer and multi-instrumentalist who began his career at age 15 as a trombonist under the mentorship of Wynton Marsalis. Three years later, he was touring with Illinois Jacquet’s Big Band. He currently performs with several ensembles and has participated on several recordings as a trombonist, composer, trumpeter, keyboardist, vocalist, tenor saxophonist, alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and acoustic bassist. Akili has been a faculty member of the New England Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory & Continuing Education School for more than 14 years, and is also guest percussion faculty and bass accompanist at Berklee College of Music, Boston.

Photos by Bill Parsons / Maximal Image.

Dawn’s solo
Dawn’s solo