Debut of work developed during Summer Scholarship

14 June 2017
Kisha September
Kisha September. Photo: John McDermott

All students know the pressure of an impending deadline, be it an upcoming test or essay submission. For Kisha September and her fellow Dance Studies students, time limitations have a very real impact on choreography and creativity. “It’s always sparked my curiosity, and I’ve become used to producing dance with time constraints,” she says. “I even saw my teacher creating a work for Footnote in a week, at the same time she was finishing the China Tour show with us as third years. I started to wonder what was happening in her brain, creatively, when she was doing two distinctively different creative things at the same time.”

Already considering postgraduate study, Kisha took the opportunity to apply for a Summer Research Scholarship. “I had been working with calligraphy, and how the human body carves an invisible imprint on a space. I wanted to explore that much more, but there was too much going on in the final semester of my undergraduate degree,” she tells. “The scholarship gave me three months to dedicate solely to exploring this choreographic idea, as well as my research interest, through my personal experience as a choreographer.” With the goal of creating a 15 minute work in 25 hours, Kisha investigated the effects of limited time upon a collaborative choreographic process, recruiting some of her classmates alongside other dancers new to her ways of working. 

Scheduling was an easily-identifiable challenge, but unforeseen was the importance of communication and adaptability. “The luxury of knowing your dancers became clear to me,” she says. “I knew how my classmates moved and how they worked, but I needed to take time with the others to explain what I was thinking. Communication is always critical, especially with limited time. It meant that what I was imagining at the beginning couldn’t happen. But what evolved was actually better, thanks to the collaboration and creative process, and, of course, knowing I was running out of time.”

A reflective journal became her main form of recording her experiences, through the use of prompts. “Together with Sarah Knox, my supervisor, we developed questions which got me thinking about my communication during rehearsals,” Kisha says. “We looked at what my verbal and non-verbal cues were, and the relationships I built with the dancers along the way. This allowed me to think about what was happening to me under time pressure, rather than what I was seeing happen to the dancers.”

What evolved from this was Shift, Shift, Kisha’s work debuting at the upcoming Postgraduate Dance Studies Showcase, Arrive and Be. In the piece, paper folds together to find the mobility in origami bodies, which is an extension from Kisha’s choreographic thinking of third year. While there are some differences from what was created during the Summer Scholarship, the creative and choreographic foundations were laid during those three months, under the constantly-evolving nature of her time-scarce process. “I was struggling to put everything together with my dancers. Things weren’t working, so I decided to play a game,” she recalls. “I put pieces of paper on the floor, and the dancers had to move them with different body parts. It ended up being a skeleton for the work in our postgrad show.”

Kisha’s biggest takeaway from the research? “You can’t rush the creative process. You can adapt it, and sometimes it becomes better than what you had imagined. Being prepared, and adaptable, are the biggest things I learned.” Now halfway through her Bachelor of Dance Studies (Honours) year, Kisha is continuing to explore the collaborative choreography process and how communication between dancer and choreographer is experienced. Arrive and Be gives the postgraduate cohort a chance to present their works to the dance community, and work with each other again in their respective pieces. “Getting to know these dancers, things have become easier as the months have gone on,” Kisha says, touching on how her research findings are working in practice. “I know now how to shift and mould rehearsals, and to allow for things to happen through the way they work alongside me to create movement.”

Arrive and Be is showing 16-17 June at the Kenneth Myers Centre. Admission is free, but registration is essential. Find out more about the event here.

Applications for Summer Research Scholarships open 16 June.