CCBdance Project: work samples
CCBdance Project: website
On technical and choreographic levels my work engages the "base" of Haitian and African dance in combination with somatic practices of Klein/Mahler technique and yoga as well as modern/contemporary dance to create new movements. The movement technique that I practice is experimental as is my choreographic process in that they both grow as I discover new movements and methods for producing dance. Through developing methods guided by improvisation, memory research, rhythmic patterning and more recently an interest in the resonance of words, place, space and image, I seek to keep growing as an artist through process based explorations which are often question oriented.
Improvisation is central to my practice and process as a choreographer. I will often begin a new project, project section or new phrase material by deciding to follow an intention such as a memory or set of words or experiences or drawings that I have recorded in a notebook. I let the improvisations develop and accumulate. Often as I am researching new movement through memory for example, I note newness when my body is articulating through a new difficult physical space or set of movements. Through improvisation I feel out what new phrase material, structures or textures might be employed in a work and selectively employ found materials. As part of the selection process for movements and phrases created through improvisation, I begin structuring improvisations some of which often remain structured in more finished projects while others become more set choreography. Improvisation is a process that I follow--an internal, energetic and spiritual space or way of being to make dance.
Memories of past experiences are a really rich space for me in which to work as they often call forth specific rhythms and textures. These memories too are often linked to the historical memory or rhythms embedded in the movement with which I am working, or how I have been taught. The resonance of words that describe specific experiences, literature or stories also serve as point of departure for improvisation for me and I will often times create phrase work that draws from words and their qualities. More recently, I have begun asking questions about the relationship between events such as how are experiences translated from one location to another? To answer this question, I began taking photographs of locations in the United States and Africa and am working on creating phrase work and structured improvisation in tandem for a new project series.
Community organization and curation are also a specific set of community based interests through which I seek to cultivate a broader notion of artistic belonging and dialogue between artists' working with "inter-cultural" dance forms and more commonly accepted modes or techniques for making dance. On another level, I also seek out methods for broadening dialogue about the immense diversity of both traditional and postmodern dance forms in the Caribbean and Africa. Other specific issues that are of interest to me are how do we construct new ways of giving and receiving constructive feedback in community settings as well as experimental curation surrounding issues of race, gender and culture. I believe that through dance communities and individuals may adapt new understandings and acceptance of difference(s) in the world as well as their resonances in inter-cultural contexts.
Site Specific Works
In 2010, I began exploring site-specific work as a method of engaging the cultural histories, textures and spatial dynamics of specific locations.
Sites have included, Alice Yard (Trinidad), The Silver Room (Chicago), Doukan (Chicago).
-"Cycles of Violence" was performed and created by Celia during a residency at Alice in Yard in 2010 and is part of the cycles of violence series of solos.
-"simple things" (2011)was performed in the Silver Room as part of their block party and employed the spaces between the gallery, dj booth, as well as interactions with passers' by.
-"Site-Specific Dance for Doukan" (2012)
Improvisational work has been shown as part of CCBdance Project programming, lecture presentations and as the spirits move it along as a way of making and knowing. Improvisations have occurred in diverse locals ranging from Occidental College, Clarement Mckenna, Champs-Mars in Port-au-Prince, Hotel Ollofson in Haiti, Anatomy Riot in LA, praxis place, Links Hall, UC Riverside, in a hospital in Iowa and in the streets of Abidjan or just out of necessity in dance making, cooking or activities.
I am an active improviser and sometimes improvisations are shown as part of series such as bloom and sometimes they are just part of everyday activities. Improvising is a central part of how I make dance and live in the world. I enjoy teaching improvisation as a method of composition and experiential dance making and have incorporated teaching these methods into traditional and contemporary classes as well as workshops and intensives.
Improvising in the Interstices: Location, Experimentation and Process
Celia Weiss Bambara
(Published August 2012, Area Magazine 12, Intersections)
As an American Jewish woman I have chosen to create choreography in a way that maintains a base of a "traditional" African rooted form that I have learned through apprenticeship. My practice and process grow as I grow as a dancer and seek out new ways of knowing and doing with my body and person/spirit. Currently, I am working through a series of methods and devices that have been influenced by my studies with West African artists, my work with professional dance artist in Haiti, my work in France, Cameroun, the U.S., and my own experiences and experiments.This is all part of a path I was drawn to by the spirituality breathing I learned in Haitian dance, which has lead me to different spaces, places and contexts and which have in turn shaped my work.
In between the late 1990's and 2003, I lived in Haiti with Florencia Pierre and her family. I worked with her, her dance company JAKA and her daughter Djenane Sainte-Juste. Florencia Pierre is a Mambo (vodou priestess), a veteran dancer of the Haitian National Ballet, and an accomplished actress in Haitian theater and physical theater. In the late 1990's, I began traveling to Haiti and working with Florencia Pierre and her company JAKA. While consistently finding studio space was difficult, Florencia somehow managed to find public or private space for her company to rehearse-- in driveways of friends, neighbors' yards or a living room space. By 2001, Florencia came into possession of a small concrete studio on a major street in Port-au-Prince. The studio was on the second floor of a narrow building off of Rue Pan-Americain above a tailor's shop. We rehearsed in that space, on concrete that was slippery in some spaces, rough in others.
Florencia lost this small studio space, out of which she based her teaching and company, in late 2002. She then moved her company rehearsals to a concrete block, 1st-floor room in a grade school in Petionville, Port-au-Prince. No more than three bodies at at time could be fully moving across the rough concrete, low-ceilinged space. The drums used for class and rehearsals were kept in the space over night and a wrought iron gate enclosed the classroom, which was doubly padlocked when not in-use. In these many spaces, I spent time making dance, learning dance and teaching dance.
In 2003, I worked on an evening-length show with Florencia, her daughter Djenane and artists Emmanuel Louis, Joseph Velcime and Pierre Richard Leurbourg in this tiny concrete space. I also taught daily contemporary dance classes. In 2004, Haiti had a violent coup ousting Jean Bertrand Artistide, and Florencia was no longer able to use this same space. Also, Haiti was too dangerous and difficult to travel to for a few years, and I was forced to find a new locations/homes in which to collaborate, teach and learn.
In 2005, I met Christian Bambara, who is an African contemporary dancer, choreographer, actor and teacher from Burkina Faso. We found that West Africans regard "tradition" seriously and that our ways of conceived "tradition" were quite similar, as were some of the questions we posed about making dance, despite our differences in background. We began to develop a fruitful dialogue about our practices. Christian suggested that I contact African contemporary choreographer Souleymane Badolo, who agreed to mentor my work and act as a big brother.
Christian and I began working together in Los Angeles on his piece, "Ninga," for our company, the CCBdance Project. We really could not afford studio space, so we went to a park nearby for a few months to rehearse. In 2006 we moved to Chicago and actually rehearsed in the park here, too, in our sneakers. By the winter of 2006, we were lucky enough to find out about Asimina Chremos' live/work space, silverspace, which was a loft in Wicker Park. We began renting a few hours a week to dance in her "living room." We also rented rehearsal space from Rachel Germond, who maintained an oddly shaped dance loft with uneven floors and walls in a building off of Division street. Finally, we were awarded space grants to work at the Chicago Cultural Center and Links Hall and were thrilled to have consistent rehearsal space for projects. In 2009, we received an invitation to be a part of the Outerspace collective, which was run by Asimina Chremos. The collective also rented an open loft/space/small apartment which shared a wall with Asimina's home/loft space. We jumped at the opportunity to have a shared dance space for eight to twelve hours a week. I began working on my solo piece, "improvisations for love," in this space.
Then in 2010, Asimina let it be known that she would be moving, and we put in a bid for her live/work space, hoping to keep the "light alive" in Chicago and continue our own investigations and choreography in that space. We lived in praxis place from 2010-11, loving every moment that we were able to sink our bodies into improvisation and dance along the uneven, very used floor. One of the absolute joys of living in the space in which we danced was the ability to test the limits of improvisation while living in a very well-worn, industrial space in the center of the city. I think that living in that space pushed me to really listen, not just to my body, but to everything going on around in the city including the train, the people, the heater and the pipes. I began to improvise with the cityscape.
Central to my process is improvisation. This a tool for movement research that is centered on finding movement and following influences (memory, spiritual energy, sound or rhythm etc.) Since my time in Chicago, I have begun looking for new textures, created movements and phrases. Movement research is a process in itself that for me seems to take shape depending on the project. Improvisation is process that I follow--an internal, energetic and spiritual space or way of being to make dance. Text and intertextuality have also played a part in my recent choreography. There is a layered concept of creating dance for me now which has been influenced by my Haitian teachers, by Souleymane Badolo, and through working with Christian Bambara. This layering can drive a piece, just as layering of physical theater, improvisation, phrase material and other modes of presentation can be so exciting.
As a dance artist I have chosen to let my practice-based questions guide my intellectual inquiry, and I contribute to the community through organization around central issues that I encounter. Much of my written academic work has focused on describing my collaborations in Haiti and analyzing traditional and African Contemporary work. Ideas of what is traditional or contemporary and new experiments in contemporary work are extremely political and challenge the structures of power.
At the same time, part of the amazing work of creating dance for me is that it permits me to express my experiences in coalition with the communities and artists with whom I have worked. On another level, making dance allows me to attempt to portray the complex spaces that connect people, as the movements and process that I engage represent connections to mentors, friends, past collaborators, partners and communities. It makes sense to me that my process, technique and work are defined as experimental and post modern. We all live in a multi-faceted and deeply complex set of realities, and making dance in this way allows me to express this . The new vocabularies that I employ, my ways of making, and my technique express another postmodernity.
Dance is also a way of loving, and it can aid in the development of shared conceptions of belonging and a respect for differences. (It can also be just plain, old beautiful.) With this love, I am striving to communicate to people the way I experience connections while presenting complex experiences and commentary. My evolving process is part of my lived experience, and I seek to make dances that are interconnected places, spaces and connections to people.