Collaboration with Claire Porter

Elaine Gardner & Claire Porter

Year: 2019-2020
DanceForce Member: Elaine Gardner
DanceForce Partnering Member: Margaret Kaiser
Artists: Elaine Gardner, Claire Porter
Community Partners: Bill Evans Teachers Institute; Burchfield Penney Art Center; Center Dance, Buffalo; Playwrights Group, NYC
Audience: 265
Counties: Chautauqua, Erie Ontario

Summer 2018
Elaine Gardner and Claire Porter meet at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Somatic/BETI Conference, directed by Cynthia Williams.

January, February, March 2019
Deciding to create a piece together they connect by phone and email and
discuss possible topics: modes of working, themes, resources, movement ideas and performance possibilities.

May 2019
They have first face-to-face rehearsals in Buffalo at Nichols School.
They outline scenes and movement options and identify key components,
possible scenes and overall arc/progression.
They experiment with stage sets of chairs and benches, sound scores and ambient noise, music, lighting, and sizes of performing spaces. They consider tech ideas for a video of a train and train station as backdrop.
They generate a narrative for the piece. It is a story of two strangers who meet on a commuter train and grow closer over the years. It is based on their own experience of getting to know one another while creating together. And the
choice of a train was inspired by Elaine’s aunt’s experience of her years-long train friendship with another woman who only socialized on their commute. Title: Stranger Exchange.

Summer 2019
They connect weekly via phone and email and discuss choreographic ideas and text ideas.
They are roommates at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Somatic/BETI Conference and continue to refine their ideas.
They preview Stranger Exchange in Claire’s Choreography Rehearsal Group in NJ, gathering feedback and working with it.
Claire has the text read several times in her Playwrights Group, gathering more feedback and working with that.
They costume and prop shop in NJ. Play with hats as a stage element. EG meets with administration of Gallery to set live performance dates for Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020, as part of First Fridays at the Burchfield. At the Annual Meeting of NYS DanceForce, in the Burchfield Penney Art Gallery, EG and CP direct the workshop, Stranger Exchange, based on their own experience of working together before knowing one another.

Fall 2019 – Spring 2020
After death of CP’s spouse, EG does alternate project at the Burchfield with dancers from Buffalo and Rochester and teaches several workshops.
EG and CP continue traveling to NJ and to Buffalo developing their duet. Continuing with their narrative they create a structure of seven scenes with two women who meet and, over their decades of commuting, develop a lasting friendship.

Spring 2020 – Spring 2021 (Covid)
They adapt to the quarantine. They create different scenes from home as they transition to a zoom movement play. They make variations of their full body movement. They discuss locations and filming possibilities. They consider scenes at office tables, in a library, on stairwells, in parked cars in garages, on solitary road trips, on empty streets by the side of the road.
They discuss logistics, expenses and make plans for creating a video of Stranger Exchange. They change title to No Matter/No Place.
As the quarantine becomes less restrictive, and appears to be ending, the play is then adapted into a radio play where it now sits on the back burner. They discuss workshop ideas for using the ideas/concepts from Stranger Exchange to create a structure for arts administrators, dance teachers, students and others to engage in creative dialogue to solve problems. They include their inspiring ‘bad idea’ scenarios.
Claire develops an offshoot, Train of Thought, a play of five friends traveling on a train who develop wacky (and wackier) stories together. It is read by her Playwrights Group several times where she receives feedback.

Summer 2021
Claire schedules a read-through of Train of Thought.
EG and CP create workshops.
The theme of the film will be the artists’ real-life experiences of deepening their friendship through the process of designing workshops for dance educators, students and the general public.
Gardner and Porter will continue to focus on the creative collaborative process and virtual performance techniques.

This project is significant as it brings together two well established mature solo dance artists. These artists intend to explore new ground in terms of movement vocabulary and content for dance/performers over the age of 60. The artists hope to identify other places where this kind of work can inspire a multigenerational audience of dance and theater goers.