Playing The Field — Intro to my Fieldwork Experience

Have you heard of Fieldwork?

In a nutshell, it is a 10-week workshop in which performing artists of various disciplines (dance, theatre, music, writing) gather weekly to share work which they are developing and receive feedback from other participants.

In more detail, Fieldwork is a core program of The Field, which is an organization dedicated to serving “independent performing artists on a completely non-exclusive basis.” (meaning everything is open to artists from all aesthetic viewpoints, cultural backgrounds, and levels of development). Fieldwork participants meet each week to share their work and receive feedback in accordance with a particular system which was developed in the 80s by Steve Gross and other emerging artists. The system involves an experienced facilitator, who guides participants in providing feedback which is thoughtful, honest, and direct. This allows the artist (at any experience level) to feel safe in sharing work that is in development and provides him/her with a response to the work which is meaningful and useful to the process.

for all artists who would like to break through the isolations of working alone, would like to expose their work to a larger circle of artists from other disciplines, and would enjoy getting to know and work with a larger community. Also for people who work better under a deadline, these workshops are an incentive to keep working and producing material. – from The Field Chicago website

If you want to learn more visit

My Involvement

Though founded in New York City, The Field has extended its reach through association with other organizations throughout the United States and even into other parts of the world. Fieldwork is made available to artists via members of The Field Network. This is how I’ve come to experience the workshop!

Several Dancers Core, a company founded in Houston and based in both H-town and Atlanta, (I’ve written about them here) initiated The Field Forward Network in 1992. They offer Fieldwork workshops in both cities and I am currently a participant in their Fall Fieldwork session.

the grass of the fieldMy Experience… so far

I’ve completed Week 3 of the 10 weeks. Of Week One, I can say that I didn’t really know what to expect. I came with a loose idea and a phrase of movement. I wasn’t sure how much I would be sharing about my work/process and I’ll admit it made me nervous. I soon discovered that part of the Fieldwork system is for the artist to say very little about their own work, which can be difficult. When presenting something raw and untested, the tendency is to want to explain and defend what you’ve done so far. However it seems the object for the artist in this structure is to show and let the work speak for itself.

It was a bit intimidating to put a single phrase of movement before an audience of other artists without explaining where it was coming from or headed toward. However, a few things comforted me – 1. it was evident that others were in the same predicament, and 2. we were briefed that responses were to focus on non-evaluative statements (not I like/dislike, but I feel/I saw).

By Week Two, some additional work and thoughts were still brewing so I chose not to show, participating as a viewer only. There is value for an artist in this part of the process too. I write about dance and performance. Of course, it hones my skills to talk about what I’ve seen and felt. But, I’ve found I learn about my own artistry and process by reflecting on the work of others. This reflection better equips me to occasionally step away, even from my own work, to “see” it as others might.

In the last session (Week Three), I did have material to show and felt much more relaxed in presenting. What I have appreciated most each time I’ve received feedback is that not everyone in the group has the same level of experience with dance. It provides a richer and truer reflection than I could ever hope to get from a group of other dancers or choreographers. And, though the group is positive and friendly, I am not surrounded by friends but by individuals who are putting the work first.

I want to continue writing a bit about my experiences in the workshop as I go along. This introduction has been quite long and if you are still reading, I appreciate it. I’m going to aim for weekly updates from here out.

Have you been involved in Fieldwork? Whether you have or have not, feel free to share your thoughts below!

Published by Nichelle

Nichelle balances careers as a dancer, instructor, writer, and mother. She is a seasoned performer whose strength lies in bringing dramatic

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