Dreaming through dance

By James Keller

What people get out of their dreams differs for everyone. Some pass them off as random brain
activity. Some look to their dreams for glimpses into the future. Others, like One Yellow Rabbit dancer and choreographer Denise Clark, look to their reoccurring dreams for symbolism and understanding.

"I pay a lot of attention to my dreams," says Clark, the creator of the one-woman dance production Sign Language. "Quite often, you wake up and have a very strong sense of symbols. It reveals itself to you slowly and not in a very vividly explicit manner."

Sign Language takes a similar approach to the mind, exploring it through improvisational dance.

"I decided to play around with working intuitively, see what was on my mind and let my body do the exploring," says Clark, describing her creation process through a technique she calls 50 repetitions.

"All this means is that everyday, when I run the piece, I just start and let my body tell me what’s going to happen," describes Clark. "You count them, record them and what emerges is something very much like a reoccurring dream."

In performance, Clark parallels her reoccurring dreams through this improvised dance, and in doing so, she interprets her dreams in much the same way.

"You keep finding the same symbols and you keep seeing the same little pathways and you still find yourself in a very similar situation," Clark explains. "You’re not sure how you got there, but this is what emerged."

This process still lends itself to continuity between performances. Since the idea is similar to reoccurring dreams, Clark says that the the same ideas and themes will be present from night to night, even though how Clark gets to any given situation may change.

Although, unlike some dreams, Clark doesn’t anticipate her day-to-day life will affect the final product, but rather her current place in life.

"It’s a little bit more esoteric than that–it’s not quite as immediate," she says. "It’s more about my psyche at this point in my life. I’m 44 years old and I’m kind of fascinated with my own place in society, in my family, in my friendships and in my world."

Another part of the exploratory process is the production’s salon-style approach to the audience-performer relationship. After the show, the floor will open for questions and discussions. Clark isn’t sure what to expect, but she isn’t afraid of criticism.

"I would like to give the audience an opportunity to tell me what they saw," Clark says. "Because of the intuitive nature of the work, I’m not worried about my feelings or about people really liking it. I’m fascinated about what they see and about hearing questions that would give me an indication of how it went for them."

Again, Clark can’t be too sure what audiences will take from the performance, but it will no doubt present them with another way of looking at themselves and their lives.

"I think it’s just one more level of consciousness we can tap into," Clark says about dreams and experiences such as the creation of Sign Language. "Perhaps it can make life a little more interesting and give us a tiny glimpse into our own psyche."

Leave a comment