Every time we embark on a new community project, we like to start by researching anything AND everything we can find out about that community. Our research for Wisconsin led us to John Muir, the author and naturalist. Muir spent much of his young life in Wisconsin studying and writing about the land. Because of his writings, we were led to start thinking about the land surrounding Sheboygan and the participants’ relationships with the land.
One idea we are working toward, inspired by Muir, is the use of books throughout the piece. We are hoping that stories, both from participants and from our research, can emerge from these books and help organize the structure of the performance.
To generate material using the books, we set up participants in a structure we like to call “round robin.” Participants line up in two straight lines facing each other. One line is the choreographer line, and one line is the dancer line. Each person in the choreographer line makes a movement, using a book, and teaches it to the person in the dancer line across from them. Now that dancer has one movement. We shift the dancer line down and the choreographer line makes a new movement, using the books, for their new dancer. After a couple rounds, the dancer pieces together all the movements they have learned into a phrase. Once the participants in the dancer line have their movement phrases secured, the dancer and choreographer roles are swapped and the entire sequence begins again.