At the time of this writing it has been more than a year since we premiered ‘loopdiver’. As we look back at the documentary, it strikes us how appropriate it is that the word “journey” is in the included title. We started with nothing but a word – “loops” – and ended up, two years later, with a piece that was rich, complex, and challenging to create, perform and to watch.
We’ve been very lucky to meet a few great artists in our day. In our estimation, one of the things that make them special is that they fearlessly follow their instincts, even if those instincts are a little bit crazy. It is our belief that if you ask one of these wonderful practitioners how they got from A to B, he or she would have quite a difficult time giving you a definitive answer. That’s because, while they may have an eye on an end point or a goal in the back of their mind, their primary focus is to be utterly “right here, right now.” They act on their creative impulse from moment to moment without consideration of past or future, and, somehow, that commitment to the present makes the journey untraceable.
In ‘loopdiver’, we came as close as we ever have to the freewheeling, improvisatory openness we’ve admired in those artists. We have tried, in our own minds, to recount the individual steps that got us to the premiere. But it really is impossible to do. It’s sort of like trying to map the Internet: it’s not a line that goes from A to B, but instead a gigantic web of interrelated nodes, each of which influences the other. That’s what ‘loopdiver’ feels like when we think back on its creation. The documentary allows you to experience a small part of that web and gives some linear insight into the steps we took along the way.
In the early moments of the program, you see us experimenting with our dancers and the technology, playfully trying things out. What was in the back of our minds as we did this? That word: loop. Everything we tried was considered with that guiding principle in mind. But mostly, we were just playing. Some of the things we tried resonated, and some didn’t. But, as an artist, you learn at a certain point that the “failed” ideas are just as important as the ones that seem immediately successful. In fact, more often than not, it is one’s struggle with the ideas that don’t work that leads to the truly surprising idea – the one that twists your own sense of what it is that you are making. For instance, in the first work-in-progress version we performed in New York, there was something about our realization of the concept that wasn’t totally working. That “failure” was one of the critical steps to creating the final version of which we are so proud.
Then too, and perhaps most important of all, are the unexpected events. The things that come into the mix that inform your process in ways that you could have never predicted. Our experience meeting some of the patients at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital was certainly one of those. Who knew that we would witness a very different kind of loop as they repeated movements over and over and over again? The bravery and commitment of these patients, as they worked to restore their physical condition, put the whole concept of the piece into a different light, powerfully influencing the underlying message. But art, at its best, is like that. The most important insights come when you least expect them.
It's always easier to say what the piece is about after it is made. Simply put, loopdiver is about a physical resonance caused by violence, and it exposes the process of moving past while also integrating that resonance. It was revealed rather quickly to us that the physical process of learning nearly impossible looped movement from a tiny computer screen for weeks and weeks on end was in and of itself a kind of violent act on the dancers’ bodies. This realization set us on a course to highlight the notion that after real-life violence, all of us can get stuck in negative loops that may seem comforting but are, if left unchecked, destructive. The 'state of being' in each of the dancers vacillates between comfort and discomfort continuously throughout the work, ultimately requiring each audience member to feel both states and examine if they themselves are caught in loops.
So as you watch loopdiver: The Journey of a Dance, we hope you will keep in mind that this is not so much a journey about getting from a to B, but instead how a complex network of personal histories, intellectual ideas, and – most of all – human desire evolved into a performance that reflects a small part of what it means to be alive in the early 21st century.
-Mark Coniglio & Dawn Stoppiello, co-artistic directors of Troika Ranch