First Social Art Residency in the Yucatan

At the recent 10-day Social Art Studio in Mexico a group of 7, mostly non-theater/non-poet artists, created a haiku performance. The wonderful thing about performance is that it is not just thinking and talking, but it is actually doing. The making process is doing things quickly, without much of a plan — not knowing exactly what or why. It involves directing others — telling others what to do, where and when. It involves following directions, suggesting, trying it again, trying something different, sleeping on it, wondering if we were making any progress. Not everyone’s cup of tea. The discipline of this social presencing theater was in doing things together, making an “end product” called a haiku performance, and sharing that with others.

We used a loose adaptation of a method that I learned from Greg Pierotti who worked with Tectonic Theater, called “moments.” Each of us would bring some “moments” of movement, haiku, image, or ideas to the group and direct us in activities that would explore that “moment.” We then looked for themes or potential “lines through” and arranged the sections according to the Japanese aesthetic principles of jo ha kyu. Jo is an “orderly beginning, ha is breaking, and kyu is a rapid conclusion.

These principles live in the haiku form of poetry and in the more extensive group poetic form called renku. Since we were collectively making multiple haiku, the renku form of jo ha kyu seemed like a suitable structure.

Ricardo had introduced us to the practice of writing a haiku (a short 3 line poem reflecting our direct experience) after our morning 20 Minute Dance practice. In the beginning days of our Social Art Studio, we took learning journeys to a Mayan village. During the residency we learned about the prototypes that our colleagues were creating to explore questions they were holding. Creating the performance gave us an opportunity to reflect on what we saw and sensed. The haiku form invited us to be in touch with our perceptions and to get to the essence of our experience.

Each person in our team hosted the making of a section of the whole. The ensemble co-created this for the community. Ninni and Penelope began with an installation of carefully placed beautiful objects from nature on a rock formation with haiku by John. Daniela welcomed the community into the spectacular amphitheater designed by James Turrell. The stage performance combined movement, haiku and film. It began with a tribute to the ancestors and the land, it continued with reflections on social spaces and on the role of a social artist, poignant films by Miguel on impermanence and continuity, a ritual expression of the relationship between the moon and the milpa (traditional garden), followed by an invitation for those in the audience/community to offer a haiku and a 3 phrase Field Dance. The evening closed with Ninni inviting us to make a mark with natural pigment on banners that we attached to trees with a pin made of a thorn. The full moon appeared.

Much gratitude to Claudia Madrazzo for inviting us to this Social Arts Studio and to the haiku performance ensemble — Ninni Sodhal, Ricardo Dutra, Daniela Ferraz, Penelope Phylactopoulos, Miguel Labas, Kobun Kaluza with special poet, John Stubley

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