While still at Bennington College, I was a member of a dance improvisation group working with Susan Sgorbati, a long-time member of the dance faculty who had developed her own practice called Emergent Improvisation, and was very generous about allowing students into her process. In the fall of 2013, Kaya Lovestrand, Kenny Olguin, Emma Villavechia, and myself were working a little more freely with Susan than we had in the past: developing our own scores, working with musicians, and staging improvised performances. At some point in the term, we were approached by Jonathan Barber, a member of the photography staff, who was interested in collaborating with our small group out on Commons Lawn, where he had captured a spontaneous student dance improvisation 40 years prior in 1973.
The photos Jon had taken of this chance occurrence were of great sentimental value to him. They captured a spontaneous, unplanned moment back when he had been a recent graduate of the college, and he loved how the dancers had been lost in their exploration, yet open to an observer of his nature. These types of moments were what Jon was interested in and he asked us if we might try our hand at recreating the ethos of the originals without concerning ourselves with the forms of the dancers (Laura Chapman, Annie LaRoque, Starlina Payson, and Lisa Kraus).
When it came to shooting, Jon was completely hands off with regard to instructing us, but he was an ever elusive presence around us as we improvised. Sometimes I would catch glimpses of him crouching, or lying down out of the corner of my eye. He did a remarkable job of moving with us, aligning his camera with our constantly changing whim and fancy, and in all this I think we ended up capturing a part of that original group's sense of freedom and curiosity, while adding our own touch in our own time.
In the making I — 1973
In the making II — 2013
All these images are a selection chosen from Jonathan Barber's In the Making II. They were captured on three different days in the fall of 2013. You can find more of Jon's photos here.