SuperGroup is the Minneapolis based performance collaboration of Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson, and Jeffrey Wells. Since 2008 SuperGroup has made a range of performance, from durational structured improvisations to cabaret style drag to highly layered works for stages.
We make work with the faith that experiences radiate.
We layer elements next to and on top of each other to generate structural alternatives to narrative or abstraction.
We make work rooted in rigorous questioning.
We make work by looking for new ways to open discussion and we make work by celebrating the discussions already present.
We make work to honor the queerness of all of us, everywhere.
We make work that acknowledges our bodies, ourselves, our audiences as complex and powerful entities that crave a full range of experience.
We make work to initiate new beauty.
We allow work to emerge from people together; to share with people together.
We bring our unashamed, embodied, intelligent, talented, skilled, flawed, powerful, full selves to our work.
CREATING NEW CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE
SuperGroup was founded to support the artistic collaboration of Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson, and Jeffrey Wells with the intention of providing a structure to allow play, investigation, rigor, and space, leading to a range of performance experiments rooted in the progressive dance community of Minneapolis. The members of SuperGroup have strong faith in the power of contemporary dance to communicate self, question normativity, and discover new ways to exist in the world, allowing audiences a chance to dream, imagine possibilities, and think inventively.
LEARNING FROM, EXPANDING ON, AND RECONTEXTUALIZING
Many performance creators have been influential to us, and as a means to explore their contributions to the field as well as their impacts on us, we consciously appropriate aspects of their methodologies. We often work with chance based procedures inspired by Cunningham and Cage, we borrow improvisational and generative tools and structures from Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer, theatrical aesthetics and devices from David Gordon, embodied vocal techniques from Meredith Monk, and fractured narrative text tactics from John Jesurun, among others. We are deeply interested in how varied concepts and ways of working coincide or compete with one another, and how they translate into our collaborative creation processes. We value an open exchange of ideas and source from other artists not to recreate or imitate what they’ve already accomplished, but to recontextualize and expand upon their oeuvre, believing that these practices are rife with impalpable possibilities inviting further investigation.
ENGAGING IN EMBODIED PRACTICE AND PROCESS
Although our processes change from project to project there are a number of choreographic and movement paths that remain consistent. We use a range of improvisational structures as a way to tap into our unique body intelligences in order to synthesize and offset our physicalities and to generate unpredictable, kinesthetically logical material. We then manipulate this movement using a range of structures, often setting it against or placing it within repetitious, abstract components. For instance, in our work ‘Shouldwetitleitnoworwait’ (aka ‘Shouldwehavechangedthetitle’) we sourced specific, emotive, communicative gestures, ordered them using the non-repetitive number pi, and then combined them with a simple walking phrase. We did this to create a kind of virtuosic performance not predicated on heroic physicality but on cognitive complexity, as well as to explore the poetic possibilities inherent in pi; a never ending generation of newness imaginatively extending out past the temporal confines of the performance. In our more recent work, we have begun exploring more state-based structures both as generative tools and performance modes, using text based prompts to tap into individualized movement within a group context.
DEVELOPING INTERDISCIPLINARY, MULTI-TASKING BODIES
In our work we are deeply invested in the intersection of dance and other performative art forms, including music, text, and visual design. We simultaneously re-envision the role of dancer and dance, allowing for both to embrace a broader definition of acceptable performance criteria, often resulting in dancers that sing and speak and the creation of encompassing performative worlds.
A major thread in our recent work is the multi-tasking performing body. This concept manifests in performance as dancing layered with incongruous speaking and singing. Our initial impulse to explore multi-tasking was an interest in using chance-based procedures with multiple elements but to move them from the level of the performance (e.g. Cunningham pairing his movement with unplanned decor and music) to the level of the performer (e.g. one person simultaneously performing incongruously created movement and text scores). What we found was a richly complex world full of cognitive dissonance, exciting vulnerability, and an understated virtuosity. We’ve continued to pursue this kind of work as a way to imaginatively relate to the modern practice of dissociative multitasking. We are constantly experiencing ourselves in multiple places at once. Through technology we’ve become used to displacing our cognition across the globe while carrying out a separate physical existence. We use multi-tasking to question this displacement as well as a way to unearth and develop new experiences and ways to engage with the world. Through dividing the mind and the body within one performance we hope to highlight their synergism and the intelligent,creative, and emotional play that results, allowing audiences a new kind of appreciation of their own bodies within cognitively distracted modern life.
LOCATING OURSELVES IN OUR COMMUNITIES
Working in the medium of live performance, which is inherently tied to physical space, SuperGroup maintains the value of being an active and contributing member of the many communities (performance, geographic, queer, etc) of which we are part. We approach this responsibility in two ways. First, we feel that in order to allow our performance to be in conversation with our communities, we must be visible. To this end, beyond our full-length works, of which we produce approximately one every 12-18 months, we seek out local performance opportunities, and accept invitations to perform whenever we get the chance, from cabaret-style shows to visual art events, from fundraisers to play and film festivals. The second way is through teaching workshops. To date, we have taught methodology workshops at Temple University, Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, Zenon Dance School, Bedlam Theatre, and Young Dance.
Recently we have been given the opportunity bring our work to cities outside of Minnesota through the SCUBA Touring Network and the Joyce Theater, which is presenting our 2012 work ‘The Tent Has Been Pulled Down’ at the Invisible Dog in May 2014. We are excited to be interfacing with new audiences and artists and are already beginning to experience the growth and clarity of purpose these interactions engender. Simultaneously we are conscious of the ways touring pulls us out of Minnesota and are actively seeking strategies to negotiate a productive balance between sharing our work with national audiences while continuing to be engaged, supportive local artists.
COMMITMENT TO THE UNKNOWN
Within our work we strive to reach a place where individual control of specific material becomes irrelevant, replaced instead by an inextricable group ownership. We believe that collaborative performance is valuable for its inherent elements of equality, accountability, and variety, and that these values contribute to the creation of challenging, interesting, and unexpected performance. Because our content, concepts, and practices get filtered through multiple minds and bodies before a project is complete we often don’t know exactly what is being made, or how audiences might respond. We find great inspiration in this mystery. Especially when thoughtfully contextualized, contemporary performance can help us transcend boundaries and create space for wide thinking and conversation. Through our performance we are committed to these values; to stirring dialogue in our audience and to fueling the imaginations of our communities.