“My own desire to see myself and other neurodivergence (ND) people met with more understanding and an open mind was the driving force behind my concept,” stated Dance Canvas/Atlanta Contemporary Resident Choreographer Meaghan Novoa when asked the inspiration behind their piece “Inter(facing).” Inspired by their personal journey of moving towards more self-awareness and acceptance of neurodivergence in themselves and loved ones, Meaghan is creating movement gestures that encapsulate their experienced memories as someone who is neurodivergent. “Within my creative process for this work, I’m specifically recalling/facing memories of social difficulties and translating these scenarios into movement gestures as a way to cathartically confront how I successfully, and at times unsuccessfully, connect to my environment and those around me as someone who is ND.”
During the lockdown period at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals experienced feelings of isolation. Meaghan compared this feeling to one that is commonly felt by neurodivergent individuals because of misinterpreted or scrutinized motives or habits expressed during times of stress. A goal of their piece is to explore isolation, misinterpretation, and scrutiny, and attempt to reframe these experiences in a way that might be validating to neurodivergent people.
The physical structure of the Atlanta Contemporary Pavilion has supported many of Meaghan’s ideas and led to a lot of exploration in the space. She enjoys figuring out how to surpass limitations in site specific works and how to bring those “limitations” into the choreography. “To fully actualize my ideas, it’s important to me to use the Pavilion space in its entirety. To accomplish this, I’m bringing the physical structure of the performance space into the work itself by using the walls that surround the space as a “partner” to the dancers to prop them up and create imagery of the walls offering support, familiarity, and security.” Meaghan’s cast is also using ropes as props within the piece. The ropes, according to Meaghan, serve as a method that allows dancers to counterbalance, create suspended shapes, showcase movements of struggle, and surrender to coexist. “To me, the use of the ropes symbolizes struggle for some but ease for others and represents how simple interactions can be so difficult for some (Referring to ND people) but so easy to others (Neurotypical people).” Discovering the shadows created by the Pavilion’s structure has also impacted their work. “I’m really enjoying how shadows on the ground divide the space into a grid, similar to a gobo on the stage and I’ve been playing with that a little in my choices of where to space the dancers.”
Although the space has served to be very informative in Meaghan’s choreographic process, the space has also brought along challenges. “I think the most difficult part of rehearsing outside (for me) is the distractions. Imagine deliveries happening in the museum and nearby businesses, street traffic, trains coming and going, weather changes and sometimes all this happening simultaneously, it can be a lot for the easily distractible. (Though overstimulating, it certainly provides comic relief!). However, for Meaghan, the beauty outweighs the challenges; “I’ve just learned to come [into the space] more and more prepared with each rehearsal.”
The personal feedback from the audience throughout Meaghan’s choreographic process has served as a driving force behind their piece. Meaghan, who is not used to showing choreography until the piece is finished, found the Midsummer Showing very insightful. “The midsummer showing was super inspiring, eye opening, and I really value the feedback I received from the audience and from Angela and Dana.” She continued, “When you’re creating something so personal, it’s easy to get so deep into your own thoughts, and the Midsummer Showing was the perfect opportunity for me to see how others interact and relate to (or don’t relate to) my choreography.”
In the coming week, Meaghan is excited to continue to implement the feedback that she has received to add more layers between the dancers’ interactions and movement inspiration. They also want to continue to play with the proximity in the piece with the large amount of space that their cast must work with. Not only is Meaghan excited for the audience to hear the newer music pieces that she has chosen, but they are also excited to convey impactful messages and leave the audience with genuine and intimate feelings. “I want to convey that making assumptions about people based on only your perspective alienates everyone involved and doesn’t leave room for any dialogue. Not everyone faces problem-solving or processes their emotions in the same way.” She continued, “I think the work will be very exciting once it’s finished, I have an amazingly talented cast.”
Meaghan’s full work will premiere on September 11th at the Dance Canvas/ Atlanta Contemporary Residency Final Showing. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/summer-choreographic-residency-closing-performances-tickets-400843191777). The show will start at 6 pm and feature the works of all six of our resident choreographers. The show will take place at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center under the outdoor Pavilion.