Stefanie Batten Bland’s CONCRETE Immersive Theater Intensive


Watching dancers flip and leap in a darkened theater, eliminated at a distance – that’s one factor. Being totally immersed, performers working throughout you and all your senses absorbed – that’s an entire different. With post-postmodern dance persevering with to blur traces of style and elegance, there’s lots of recent, intriguing work taking place that falls into the second class. 

Stefanie Batten Bland is on the vanguard of this sort of work, in a mix of European and American traditions (from Invoice T. Jones to Pina Bausch to Punchdrunk and Emursive Productions). She’s additionally build up the following technology of artists working on this vein, by way of initiatives equivalent to this summer time’s CONCRETE three-week intensive at Montclair State College in New Jersey. Dance Informa speaks together with her concerning the nature of immersive theater, what’s in retailer with CONCRETE and the way all of this can transfer ahead into the long run.

Immersive or experiential theater: Enjoying within the sandbox, rigorously

Immersive theater (or bodily or experiential theater, as nomenclature options) requires “modalities to exist collectively,” Batten Bland explains. Viewers members are additionally in shut proximity, and performers don’t have “the safety of the fourth wall,” she provides. It asks us “to confront reality and fiction on the similar time…which feels humorous and wild and exhilarating all on the similar time.”

CONCRETE Immersive Theatre Intensive logo.

Not less than the place performers are involved, “isn’t that the expertise of everybody’s first-class once they determined they want to do that for a residing?” Batten Bland quips. For her, it’s a pure development to create on this method – coming from the “grandeur of storytelling” of Pina Bausch’s work, for instance. She’s additionally very open to what’s going to emerge by way of alchemical course of, one other high quality of working on this style. “I by no means know what’s going to transpire from what involves my thoughts in a second,” she says.

There was extra change between the “two sides of the pond” of theater and dance, Batten Bland believes – and this sort of work is being extra celebrated. Creating on this kind additionally does require shut and intensive dialog amongst all collaborators. Everyone seems to be “enjoying within the sandbox,” she says – enjoying rigorously.

CONCRETE: The area and time to construct 

The specialised skillset required to do all of that isn’t automated, and never essentially the identical as normal trendy and postmodern approach. “The performers have to be taught the approach [at hand] to immerse viewers members in that method…with the instruments to dismantle stereotypes and disarm viewers members’ biases,” Batten Bland affirms. There generally is a complete lot of unknown in that – and that place, of awkward silences and nervous laughter, generally is a place of “analysis.” 

“Over the previous couple of years, I’ve seen how a lot work it takes to coach the trendy dancer to achieve these abilities” – and about “how we prepare in larger schooling areas,” she notes. Inside all of that, “opening up methods to know what embodiment means” comes the necessity to study and refine how such methods are realized. “It’s investing in self,” Batten Bland says. “The work is the work…I can’t textual content it to you.” 

With all of that, enter CONCRETE, an immersive theater intensive, kicking off at Montclair State College, from June 10-28. Batten Bland is evident that it’s a pilot program. Out of Batten Bland’s “rolodex” of collaborators and companions, Montclair State – the place she can be an assistant professor – was essentially the most obsessed with working together with her. Issues moved ahead from there. 

The identify “CONCRETE” provides the sense that “we’re churning as much as put these kinds collectively,” she explains. It’s laying a agency, strong basis on which to additional construct. The sense of that pervades your entire expertise, right down to particular person class names equivalent to “Gravel” and “Stones.” 

Disciplines on supply to check embody clowning, partnering, voice in motion and dealing with props/supplies. Individuals will examine stay artwork instruments equivalent to ensemble work and shaping how stay performers are perceived in bodily area. The three weeks of research will culminate in an immersive manufacturing. 

Stefanie Batten Bland and dancers in Wandering Bodies show, The Glass House. Photo by Michael Biondo.
Stefanie Batten Bland and dancers in Wandering Our bodies present, The Glass Home. Photograph by Michael Biondo.

With three weeks below three totally different administrators, there’s ample alternative for foundation-building. All of these administrators are educating artists, within the true sense of the time period; “each artist we have now educating is a good pedagogue…the roster is intentional and particular in that method,” Batten Bland says. That roster consists of such celebrated trade movers and shapers as Jamal Abrams, Kayla Farrish, Pleasure-Marie Thompson, Guillaume Segouin, and Kelly Ashton Todd. Leslie Kraus and Dan Safer will function Administrators, with Batten Bland on the helm as Creative Director. 

CONCRETE is open to each faculty college students {and professional} artists (any artist 18+). There is no such thing as a requirement to attend your entire intensive; professionals who would possibly discover the related expense and scheduling difficult are welcome to affix for the morning lessons. Attending afternoon periods is required for becoming a member of within the exhibiting on the finish of the session, nonetheless. 

One might foresee challenges with such a motley association of artists working collectively – but Batten Bland doesn’t. “In the event you’re a very good choreographer, you’ll make work for a five-year-old or 90-year-old,” she believes. She questions the “very Americanized mind-set…that generations can’t coalesce.” Immersive theater itself, being intergenerational, defies that concept, she notes.

Stepping ahead: Build up future colleagues and a extra sustainable subject 

Batten-Bland is hoping to see contributors stroll away from the expertise “with entry…to be a part of this style – one other area that’s dominating hiring markets proper now.” It’s readying artists to be employed, she notes. She envisions them going again to their “faculty or proscenium work” with recent conceptions of “what embodiment means.” How we prepare artists to discern, suppose and ask questions additionally really issues to her; “that’s all fascinating to me.” 

Company SBB in Fleur du Mal show. Photo courtesy of Company SBB.
Firm SBB in Fleur du Mal present. Photograph courtesy of Firm SBB.

Such groundwork in artists can nurture the myriad of modalities that may feed all of our technical fields. “That makes my job simpler,” Batten-Bland affirms, by making stronger colleagues and fortifying the sphere. Most significantly, maybe, she needs contributors to “come away a greater individual and artist.”  

As for the way forward for CONCRETE, Batten Bland thinks that the pilot might even result in an immersive theater college minor or main; “then it’s off to the races…who’s going to be the primary to make that program?” Whoever it’s, Batten Bland needs the pedagogy and the work to proceed. “I’ve seen what SUNY Buy and Goddard did for me, and I need that torch to be handed.” 

Functions to attend CONCRETE are due by March fifteenth. Discover directions for making use of, in addition to extra concerning the intensive, right here.

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.


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