Side notes from the Side Yard

What does consensus mean for our rehearsal process?

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The Yard's media and communications Intern Erica Lindegren, dancing on Menemsha Beach at sundown on a Sunday. – Photo by Chloe Jones

A Salt Lake City native, Chloe Jones graduated from Wesleyan University this past May with a double major in dance and Hispanic literatures and cultures. She currently serves as development intern at the Yard, a position which brought her to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time. In less than one month, she has fallen in love with the Island. Her other great loves include dancing, writing, traveling, cooking, and hiking. She will be reporting each week about her experience working at the Yard.

The Schonberg Fellows’ departure last Monday marked the Yard’s shift to shorter residencies (mostly one week), which will make up the remainder of our 2015 Yard Arts Season.

We kicked off this new phase with a joint program shared by Kimberly Bartosik/daela and Trainor Dance, two wildly different companies from New York City. Both arrived at the Yard only a few hours after the Schonberg Fellows departed. It’s always a quick turnaround here.

That evening, in the living room of the Front House, we held our standard orientation meeting for new artists. Going forward, every Monday will be a room full of new faces.

After the orientation, I went with my fellow interns to the studio for our weekly intern rehearsal. Over the course of the summer, the five of us will develop an original dance work to be performed in September. We operate as a collective, so no one intern plays the role of choreographer.

In rehearsal that night, my fellow intern Ari proposed we explore the concept of consensus and its role in collective art making. Should we prioritize consensus in our own group process? What happens if we agree to disagree?

To get at these big questions, we decided to create a “score of consensus.” Imagine this score like a game — rules but no winners, parameters but no predetermined outcomes. The specific rules and parameters are irrelevant.

We agreed to stay inside our “score of consensus” for 10 minutes. We set a timer, and Ari put on a song. Having only just invented the parameters, we had no idea what would happen. Not knowing is part of the joy and magic of dance making, but also part of its deep challenge.

To be honest, I’m not sure what happened in those 10 minutes. My memory is a blur of movement.

We finished rehearsal at 10 pm, and stepped out of the Yard’s open-air studio into thick darkness, our path back to the Side Yard barely visible. I thought about Holly, the Yard’s artist-services coordinator, telling the newcomers at our orientation that they would likely want to carry a flashlight at night. “You’re no longer in the city,” she joked.

As Rebecca Solnit writes in The Faraway Nearby: “Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you’re doing, by walking into darkness.”

Walking around the Yard at night, in a nearly undiluted darkness made possible by the absence of neon signs, headlights, traffic lights, city lights, I wonder how this place affects creative process and also how it mirrors it.

Our “score of consensus” felt like a step into the darkness Solnit describes: a quick dip into the unknown. I hope we tread farther into that darkness, daring to leave the light of what we know.