’Wilderness’ … we scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all those whose nerves and emotions have not been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination. The word suggests the past and the unknown, the womb of earth from which we all emerged. It means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limits. — Edward Abbey
Without experience of nature, humans become mad. – Paul Shepard
Theater is the place where we process the question of how we want to live our lives. – Peter Brook
The Dancing Wilderness Project
was started in 1997 by Karl Frost as an exploration of the interrelationships amongst wilderness experience, body-based creative process, and how we choose to live our lives. With open mind and senses, we look for an immediate experience of nature: experience unmediated by ideas or preconceived limits. We explore…
- Nature as source of metaphor and inspiration for movement and image
- Quiet experience of nature as food for the soul
- Finding a different sense of space, time, and relationship away from civilization
- Dance not simply about the environment, but with it
- Extrapolating our knowledge and practice of dance and creative process in the studio to new environments: forest and mountain top as the stage and earth, pine needles, and rock as the floor.
Primarily organized as one to four week long wilderness trip/dance laboratories for groups of 6 to 15 physically curious participants, it has also directly birthed a number of stage works exploring the effects on body and psyche of time in nature, away from civilization. To date, there have been 16 of these laboratories.
In each trip, we hike in, bringing everything that we need for the time with us. We pack in our food and share such collective tasks as food preparation and clean-up and camp set-up/breakdown. We practice low impact camping, paying attention to our physical relationship to the world around us. Hiking to base camp will be moderately strenuous, and from there as strenuous or easy as you want to make it for day trips. The project is organized in the spirit of laboratory, where each brings what they have to share, some with more wilderness experience, and others with more dance experience. All should have some hiking experience and some experience working creatively with their body. Feel free to call or write with questions.
The creative work is rooted in the felt experience of the body and the senses. Karl brings his experience in improvisational dance, physical theater, and wilderness backpacking to the project — his facilitation acts as a springboard for group and personal explorations of the interface of creative/poetic experience with wilderness.
Each trip is unique… unique to the time, the location, and the assembled group. Contact Improvisation, Authentic Movement, and an open-ended invitation towards listening to the natural world serve as a base, but each person’s human and artistic response to the immersion in wilderness is the drive for investigation. The trips are experiential explorations meant to feed our ongoing creative process and to expand appreciation of our place in the larger natural world — an organic flow of structured and open time, hiking and dancing, group time and space for quietly receptive experience. In the calm opening of the senses that prolonged time in the wilderness brings, we find a more direct connection with our body and surroundings. All are encouraged to find their own personal voices and individual styles of integrating with group.
The basic format is to have at least enough backpacking time to get outside of the range of casual dayhikers and then make a base camp from which to explore without packs. For part of the time, Karl acts as workshop leader, offering explorations to kick start investigations in wilderness awareness and to provide some common language.. References usually include…
- Contact Improvisation
- Authentic Movement
- Viewpoints approach to improvisation and composition for dance/theater
- sensory explorations and mechanical studies in the new environments
- physical theater and paratheatrical explorations
- somatic psychology
- tools from Body research’s interactive theater work
Contact Improvisation deepens our physical awareness of our own and others’ bodies. As sensation directs and informs our movements more with a partner, we also take this as a metaphor and physical technique for interacting with the environment.
The simple scores of Authentic Movement (eyes closed permission-oriented movement and supportive witnessing) offer another route into deepening connection to the sensual world, helping us stay present with our own interests, investigation, and process.
We follow our curiosities into solo and ensemble improvisation/composition, sensory exploration, writing, voice/body work, or wherever our individual or collective muses take us.
We see the poetic act is a fluid balance of receptivity and creativity, combined with a sense of curiosity and emotional investment. We look for the poetic in our relationship to nature, our selves, and each other.
From this base, the projects are an improvised process, sometimes Karl being more instructor and sometimes more facilitator, helping the group find affinities of interest and coordinate time together and time apart solo or in subgroups. We decide together how much time we would like to work together, how much to have solo or open time. Sometimes the project is a continuous workshop led by Karl, sometimes, people find affinities in smaller groups and work on specific ideas or approaches together, sometimes there is more a spirit of group laboratory or desire for solo time. Each project is unique.
- March 29-31, 2016: Alcoi, Valencia, Spain
- summer 2016 (dates TBA): northern British Columbia, Canada
- both events as fundraiser for local environmental causes
To be kept informed, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chronology of the Dancing Wilderness Project with dates and wilderness areas visited
- Web page for Accidental Tourists: a post-dramatic dance-in-nature film filmed in Washington, Oregon, and California