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In partial fulfillment of a Bachelor of Arts

degree in Dance

Joseph Reynolds
Pomona College Dance Dept.
Laurie Cameron

inspiration for #melt

Before choreographing my thesis #melt, I worked on my Fall semester piece
#heat, but both works were sparked by the Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative for Pomona
College. The initiative aims to involve students in the creation of a campus-based arts
culture and reinforce the centrality of the arts in academic and campus life at Pomona
College, among other goals. I entered Pomona during the element of Water,
performing in Peter Puccis Surfing piece. My junior year I performed in John
Penningtons piece Lift, Thrust, Drag for the element Air. Both opportunities
introduced me to new creative processes and viewpoints to approach creating a piece.
Surfing used two surfboards, a real element of the beach, as the central theme of the
dance. Lift, Thrust, Drag captured the element Air through a scientific lens and
creative combination of float, flick, and glide effort actions. These experiences prepared
me to embark on making #heat for the year of fire.
In Surfing, we waved across the stage and worked in teams to hoist a
surfboard with a dancer strapped onto our shoulders. Balance took on a new definition,
as we maneuvered a fake surfer on real human waves. I enjoyed Surfing because it
challenged my dance imaginary and physical capabilities. Goggles, swim caps, and
wetsuits made us swimmers ready for the ocean waves; each costume piece

strengthened the theme and increased the unplanned issues. After warming up, I
generated steam in the goggles; the swim caps muffled the music; the wetsuits
restricted our breathing and expedited sweating. A balance needed to be struck
between imagination and practicality. Every costume has its hitch, so I figured out how
to work with my situation. The stage was transformed into a beach side vignette, surfers
surfing on swimmers, washing up an inventive performance.
Lift, Thrust, Drag, taught me the importance of contiguous effort affinity
implementation. Focusing on the element Air from a scientific lens, Lift used text
scored vignettes about the concepts of lift, thrust, and drag to inform the piece and
viewer. I struggled to move consistently move like air because the task required doing
much less movement. Whether rolling, turning, falling, or running, the action needed to
stay in the realm of air. In rehearsal, I focused on moving slower and sequencing my
movement. In comparison to Surfing, I was more aware of different effort affinities
and how to implement them in Lift. Surfing and Lift, Thrust, Drag taught me to
simplify the process of creating a piece. They approached literal understandings of the
element and focused on a few aspects that were then fully explored.
The theme of elements excited me because any element can be an element of
change. Growing up, I wanted to be a police officer, fire fighter, chemist, and chef.
Anything that helped someone or created something found its way onto my list. High
school introduced me to investment banking, and now I want to become a dance talent
agent. Change has always excited me and the possibility for change is what keeps me
engaged in any scenario. My work on student government has reached from junior high

school committees to college administrative meetings. I take things seriously and out of
all of them astrological horoscopes has remained high up there. Im a Pisces, a water
sign, and the 12th sign of the system. Tucked in between winters end and springs start,
Im a mutable sign, making me receptive and susceptible to change.
My familiarity with the other elements pushed me to focus on fire. Fire is sometimes
unpredictable, destructive, and painful. Fires perceived dangerousness keeps many
people away, leaving more nuanced qualities unknown. Fire disappeared and
reappeared; it engulfed a space and immediately retracted. One cannot go a day
without interacting with air, earth, and water. Even out at sea, the expansive ocean
rests in cups of earth; however, fire must be created amongst the other elements. I
watched high definition slow motion up close video of fire and saw distinct movement
patterns. The fire moved three-dimensionally through space flickering, waving,
whipping, and billowing; however, the overall movement of the fire was generated from
the fires core. An almost white center bobbled in space, a deep orange to red gradient
aura brushed the abyss between flames.
Since I grew up in Brooklyn, without much space for outdoor fire, I accrued most
of my experiences with fire in my kitchen at home. My father, a jeweler by trade,
torched metals and chemicals to make his next creation on his personal home
workbench, while my mother timed cooking four pots simultaneously on the stove with
three trays along in the oven. On those days, Id be in charge of the heat. Fans plugged
into outlets, doors held open, ceiling fans left at full throttle, the house was a tropical
windstorm to mute our kitchen and NYC summers heat. I tracked the path of the air

going through the house with my imagination and body. Walking my imaginary breeze
blueprint, I followed the air, taking note of miscalculations and necessary adjustments.
Our home had one air conditioner for the living room and my parents bedroom. The
nights that were too hot in my own room for me to rely on fans left me in the living
room. I learned to live with heat and embrace all it did for my family. Fire brought the
bacon home and cooked it too! My relationship with fire is one of creation, not
destruction, so I wanted to show a greater depth to fire. I wanted to prove that fire can
and should be viewed with a greater scope. I saw in a challenge in making people like
fire. I wanted to create a narrative counter to the overwhelmingly negative one fire

creative process for #melt

My ideas for #melt stemmed largely from the changes I wanted to make to
#heat. Spring semester, I wanted to focus more on mimicking a fire. In #heat, The nine
dancers appear to mimic the irregular, sudden movement of logs or branches of a tree
that fall into new positions during the first burning of a new fire. At the same time, their
motion is reminiscent of the breaking-down of wood and charcoal at the end of a fire.
For #melt, I imagined a single flame of dancers that moves across the stage while
spark and ember dancers separated from the flame to dance in the rest of the stage. I
choreographed #heat cinematically, trying to have multiple scenes to explore an idea:
while there is a building sense of fire, the lack of continual increased intensity allows
the piece to capture, not the life of a single fire, but fire as a more inclusive and ongoing

concept. #melt will resemble one longer scene focused on a smaller portion of fire
physically and thematically, and incorporate the feeling of continuity #heat created.
#melt felt like a slower piece in my mind. I choreographed to a relentless house
electronic song focused on the idea of repetition and the exhaustive nature of a
relationship I am accustomed to doing faster pieces, quick and large movement. This
preference developed from my love of dancing in clubs and at parties. A time when I
had access to space, music, and other dancers to finally feel complete. I wanted a
simpler dance with a limited range of movement quality. My pieces in the past
incorporated a flurry of movements that kept the viewer engaged from section to
section. I bombarded the audience with many motions, so they witnessed the power of
a dancer. I wanted to #melt to illuminate the capability of a dancer and transform them
into fire.
Attending the American College Dance Festival at Cal State University Long
Beach this past spring break, I watched over 25 performances from West Coast
choreographers. I performed my Spring Dance Concert solo, but the conferences
greatest opportunity was the adjudicators. Listening to feedback from exhaustively
experienced adjudicators reviewing brilliant and shortsighted works, I absorbed
nuanced insights and thoughtful perspectives. The panel repeated a point about using
transitioning movement to enhance the piece instead of resolving to running in
between phrases. I noticed the trend of unstylized transitions confusing an already
clearly defined piece. The movement skewed the world the chorographer created
because the transition contrasted so greatly from the pieces established efforts. The

omission of walking or running in #melt helps validate the world the piece aims to
create. These glowing flowing bodies can be seen as people pretending to be fire or fire
played people. I hoped to trick the viewer into letting go of any humanity they may
project on the dancers by keeping all the choreography in the same world. This
information arrived during the earlier portion of my choreographic process, allowing me
to inject the adjudicators suggestions into my thoughts and movement.
On a playlist I created for this dance, I found a song that captured the weight of
fire. Beautiful Transformation employed an adagio tempo, making the song seem a
tad behind itself at times. Mr. Carmack, an electronic music producer from Hawaii,
created the piece. His song caught my ear because of the consistent tempo and discreet
additions of new instruments every four bars. The four and a half minute track used
dramatic breaks that built back into more complex rounds of the original phrase. A hip-
hop song with a timeless essence, Beautiful Transformation struck me as the right
song for #melt. After further research, I uncovered the song Mr. Carmack sampled,
Gabriel Faures Pavane Op.50. Pavane ebbs and flows from a series
of harmonic and melodic climaxes, conjuring a haunting elegance.1 Historically, the
pavane is also of a mutable nature, a word claimed by both the French and Italian.
From Italian [danza] Padovana, meaning [dance] typical of Padua2; from
French pavane (1520s), probably from Spanish pavana, from pavo peacock (from
Latin pavo), in reference to the bird's courting movements.3 In the mid 1700s the

1 Howat, Roy (2009). The Art of French Piano Music. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
2 "Online Etymology Dictionary." Online Etymology Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
3 "Pavane Etymology.", n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

pavane was performed at ceremonial balls for royalty and an opportunity for the
wealthy to don their best dress. The form presumably traveled from Italy to Britain
through France and by way of Spain. Eventually, the pavane faded away to shadows of
larger and jovial court dances such as the galliard. Four hopping steps followed by one
high leap allowed athletic men to show off for their partners. The pavane saw its revival
most notably for Faures use in 1887. Even now in 2015, the pavane encouraged me to
take a step back and reconsider how I would have created the dance.

BESS Analysis of #melt

(Body Effort Shape Space)

Coals - the opening imagery of #melt
#melt begins with seven bodies laying face up, spread out from downstage right
to upstage left. The two most distal bodies writhe closer to the center of the group, then
pause, as the music reaches a hold a network of sprawled bodies resemble
appendage mesh. The two dancers writhe to the closest still bodies, making contact,
the four dancers now writhe amongst the few remaining still bodies.
Ignition - transition into the body of #melt
As if an ember catching coals a blaze, the first two dancers began a canon of
movement that brought all the dancers to life. Gliding on their knees, diving and floating
into the floor, the dancers embody golden embers as they cluster towards center stage.
A golden ball of bodies slowly expands and compresses, arms draped with flames

reaching out and in. (Lengthening and Shortening

from the floor, dancers mimic small flames) Embers
that have coalesced into a condensed fire breathe,
growing larger until combusting into a steady
flame. (Passion Drive movement render space void
and focus on the weight and timing of the
movement) The dancers glide in unison towards
stage left, turning slowly clockwise, arcing their
arms towards their intended destination. (Direct
and Indirect movement across the Horizontal
plane; Sustained Arcing on the Vertical plane)
Sparks a duet within #melt
Two dancers peel away from the flame, leaving five rotating, collapsing and
expanding embers. Like sparks from a fire, the duo skips off from the flame. (Flicking as
they leap backwards away from the group) The flames revolve at a constant speed while
the duo transition into slower and stronger movement after turning out of their leaps.
The contrast between Quick and Sustained movement is clear because the fabric of the
costume accentuates every movement. Catching air and blurring lines, the fabric barely
comes to a full stop feigning perpetual flow. The sparks illuminate the dynamic nature of
fire, turning, sinking, and wrapping around one another. (Strong, Quick/ Sustained,
Free/ Bound) The duet incorporates Arcing and Carving connected through Rotation.

(Repeated Sustained, Lengthening and
Shortening) The revolving flame drifts
with very weak Spatial Intent towards
center stage before exploding.

Spread - transition in the body of #melt

Sprawled bodies call back to the opening of the piece, but this mesh broadens
from one dancer upstage to four downstage. Stillness breaks as the dancers Hollow
forward, overlapped palms overhead, rolling Successively into a forward lunge. (Light,
Free, Bound movement operating in the Spell Drive) Small wisps of fire melt into the cyc
blending as the hotter red and gold center of a blue pilot flame. A gust in the soundtrack
blows some wisps offstage as four remain flickering and whipping in a centered square.
Oxidization - transition into the body of #melt
Resembling a growing fire, the formations expand and return to center, arm and
bodies thrown like flames, reeling back and forth to capture more oxygen. (Spatial
Intent intersecting with Exertion and Recuperation) Forming a square the wisps slowly
rise into a 2nd position pli that immediately sinks deeper. Flames multiply as the
overlapped dancers of the squares vertices shift horizontally in opposite directions.
While the square schisms, three dancers burst horizontally through the center of the
square bobbing up and down like lively fire. (The Spell Drive and Passion drive of the

respective groups creates notions of Space and Weight within a Timeless context. The
blend of Drives achieves the variation in Speed and Weight, similar to lava and fire) Two
groups create a line inscribed in a square that transforms into a parallelogram as the
dancers now synchronize and unfurl backwards into the floor. The line group travels
greater distances and faster than the square group, before and after their moments of
synchronicity portraying fires constantly varying speed. The square group does a
series of rolls, swinging their legs around the Horizontal plane and Arcing through the
Sagittal and Vertical planes. Spreading into the floor and changing direction, the dancers
shift around like small drops of molten fluid on a cooler surface. (The Direct, Quick, and
Free rolls, Vision Drive, counter the groups previously Spell Drive established by the
Molten - transition in the body of #melt
After melting towards downstage center, five dancers weave through and
around one another like one larger glob of lava trailblazing downhill. During rehearsal I
told my dancers to imagine the
inside of a lava lamp and the
perpetual Flow of the fluid inside to
reference their movement. The
puddle diverges allowing two
dancers to roll through and continue
their duet downstage of the group, a reminder that they have not changed in
composition although they can separate from the group. Choreography from the first

duet repeats and the dancers are all blown to center stage forming an inverted pyramid.
Layers of flame fabric and gold bodies melt together recalling the motif of meshed
appendages; however, this use requires utter synchronicity. (Mobility Stability, a stable
lunge with the upper body waving then switching legs with a Hollowed torso) The
pyramid glides upstage while all shifting along the same wave. #melt has many
similarities to the quality of movement for water, but what distinguishes #melt is the
tension between grounding and rising. Water will displace and succumb to gravity. Fire
and heat perpetually rise, resisting gravity and forcing my choreography to interact with
Weight. An inverted triangle of three dancers is left after four dancers blow offstage.

Combustion - finale of #melt

The trio pulses up from the
floor, pliing with their right foot in
front and bursting into an en dehor
turn. While turning the dancers
carve three-dimensional spirals with
the circles formed by their arms,
landing in the same springy position they began the turn. As the trio pulses, the
remaining four dancers swoop in on an x-shaped pattern engulfing the stage is a searing
sea of red counter direction turns vary the speeds in the phrase and flare the flames
on the costumes. (Bound Quick turns punctuated by Strong plis into the floor to
Recuperate) The quartet ends their turns on the x-pattern closer to center stage in a

backwards lunge. They bulge their chests

away from center and body roll through
to their fingertips. (Sustained extensions
produce a siphoning effect that creates
the feeling of escaping heat) The trio exits
their turn into a lunge, pulling into the vertices of the inverted triangle. The quartets
X is also the four vertices of a square now inscribing the triangular trio. The backward
extension of the quartet is accented by the slow ascent of the three surrounding flames.
Both groups interchangeably frame and inscribe one another creating a spatial
kaleidoscope effect. The dancers
synchronize, repeating the triangle
trios pulses and slow ascent. The
piece climaxes with a bombardment
of turns and sharp stops building up
energy and momentum then tossing
it into the space a raging fire. Both
shapes adjust size, the square expanding and the triangle shrinking, transforming into a
rising circle. Finally, the dancers have reached their furthest from the ground and center
stage, a huge tension building, requiring a release. The ring of fire shrinks back into the
condensed steady flame, the intense red lighting evaporating, and the shimmering
timeless flame glides off stage right.


In #heat, I wanted to portray fire as spirits that come to life and experience a

variety of emotions. Watching videos of fire, I noticed throughout its course, the fire
burned in phases. Starting the fire, there are larger flames helping to set the rest of the
tinder a blaze. Smoke billows from the pile and the flames quickly cover the area. The
chaos of combustion subsides to shorter and steadier flames. Coals begin to form and
the larger pieces of wood lose their integrity. Imploding on itself, the fire starts again
from a hotter state. Reaching to some of its hottest points, yet holding its calmest. The
heat from the coals burn so hot they begin to re-ignite the already burned wood. A fire
loses its heat from the outside towards the inside, a pile of ash and charred pieces of
wood remain, proof they have served their purpose. I aimed to explore the phases of
fire showing the life of a fire. Alternatively, #melt was smaller in all regards.
I operated in my familiar realm of movement for #heat. Passion Drive and the
repeated use of Quick Strong moves drove the intensity of the almost 8 minute long
piece. I challenged myself to creating a shorter piece with a more specific focus. I saw
#heat as the first draft of a paper, with winter break and videos to make revisions. Some
drafts go straight to the trash, but my approach to #heat touched upon ideas I wanted
to continue exploring. Fire bursts from underneath a log, slowly wrapping around the
logs trunk. Disappearing and reappearing, fire can engulf a space and immediately
retract. Fire moves three-dimensionally through space flickering, waving, whipping, and
billowing; however, the overall movement of fire is generated from the fires core. For
#melt, my palette of movement would be tied strongly to Sustained, Successive, and

expansive movement relying heavily on Breath and Core Support. There was not a
traditional storyline, roles or dialogue. #melt was a sensorial exploration focused on
illuminating fires complex and dynamic nature.
As the choreographer, my dancer's came to me with questions, thoughts, and
realizations. We danced in a studio, so they were bound to combine the movements and
thoughts with all the themes and imagery floating in their head springing new ideas.
New ideas usually meant new distractions as well. In last spring's piece, Lift, Thrust,
Drag, I caught my mind drifting away on the concept of aerodynamics and the
momentum of the turns in our choreography. Learning movement in a studio is a very
stimulating activity. Natural distractions are abundant during a rehearsal and force a
choreographer to conjure the attention of their dancers while allowing them to develop
personal relationships with the choreography.
#melt was a cast that generated as many side conversations as it did discoveries.
I struck a balance between authority and advisor, answering questions and suggesting
new perspectives. Over the semester, I clued into how each dancer needed an answer
presented or where their choreographic challenge would arise. No discussion was taken
more seriously than those about costumes.
For #heat, I found three black mesh long sleeved shirts and I paired them with
three maroon leggings and maroon long-sleeved tops with a black lace front panel over
black leggings. Working with Monica French, Costume Designer, we created molten gold
flame suits. #heats body conscious costume highlighted the choreography so I retained
that element, but I also wanted longer attached fabric to simulate the movement of fire.

We combined both ideas by layering a metallic gold unitard under tie-dyed bodices and
long split panels. The dancers were able to perform even better because of the
costumes effects. Long fabric flames wrapped around their arms caught air, rippling and
floating so the dancers could feel the resistance of the choreography. The unitards
reflected the side lighting polarizing the costumes contrast portions illuminated shone
bright and those shadowed disappeared. The cyc was lit to mimic a pilot flame, across
the bottom 1/4 of the cyc. The pilot light effect highlighted a different aesthetic of fire,
using a saturated blue to contrast the bright red-gold dancers. I enjoyed seeing the
piece come together and watching my dancers perform without me. #melt was the first
time I sat out of my own choreography, so understanding the role as solely
choreographer took some time. Trusting my dancers was key because they were the
vessels for movement. My ideas could only come to fruition with the cooperation of my
dancers bodies, so I always asked them what they believed was a better solution to
some choreographic difficulty. Working together, we created a mesmerizing exploration
of fire.

My message to the audience was: fire lives. Fire conjures imagery of destruction

and celebration. Bringing fire to life for a moment before being extinguished, #melt
illuminates fire's harmony and dissonance. I wanted the audience to leave with a sense
of transformation, aware of fires complexity, and anticipating their next opportunity to
watch a fire, dance.

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