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  • Writer's pictureFlo Vinton

A Play in Presence

Documenting 8 hours of creativity in nature

On a beautiful February day in 2022, eight humans and a canine companion embarked on a soul journey filled with spontaneous music, dance, and expression. One shot video. One shot stills. We all played together.

As a result, we have the opportunity to share with you a creative offering that represents Muse Circle’s values of togetherness, artistic integrity, connection to nature, playfulness, and inclusiveness. Our objective is not to share performances, but to offer you a glimpse into how we express ourselves spontaneously in nature.

Photo by James Yip
Pictured left to right: Ben Kwok, Liane Mah, Sophie Yip, Flo Vinton, Thomas Vinton, Alyssa Lam

Here are the components of our creative process in a nutshell:

  • Pristine location scouted in advance

  • Natural theater in which our Shadow and Light come out to play

  • Facilitators immersing themselves in Spirit to prepare a creative environment for others

  • Grounding ceremony setting aside Sacred Time and Space

  • Supportive structure for free expression

  • Minimal non-directive verbal guidance

  • Maximal inspiration from Nature (internal and external)

  • Subtle communication between Player and Witness

  • Understanding of The Work being bigger than us

  • Trusting our Divine Muses to provide what is needed in The Here and Now

Our way of creating reveals an understanding, over a lifetime of experiences, of how an art piece comes to life: we let it emerge from The Dreamland, we shape it within material constraints (technology, budget, time, space, talent, energy, etc ...), and we try to stay out of the way (the hardest thing to do as an artist!). Finally, we detach ourselves from any results and outcome.

For this music and dance film, we wanted to provide a counterpoint to the overstructured, urban, hyperconsumerist, overly technological, fast-paced modern life most of us are living - not to mention the antidote to the isolation felt during the pandemic. We also wanted to create an environment that allows for freeform and collective collaboration with minimal intervention. In our lifetime, we have witnessed too often the top-down authoritarian decision-making process used everywhere, including the art world. This project from conception to execution aspires to question how we come together to create an experience and ways to share it.

We have acquired in our toolbox over the years divinatory and inspirational card decks from special friends and have developed the practice of checking in with them when gathering for creative meetings. On the day of the shoot and before anyone else arrived, Liane Mah, our artistic collaborator, Thomas, and I picked one card each from a special set that we use to support our creative trio. We shared our intention for the day and the foundation was established. Later as we started to film, we brought in our friend Alisa Bary’s card set to inspire our vocal and body warm up, and placed it in the circle as an anchor for simple beauty and presence. Tifenn Vinton, our cinematographer, picked up on the strong visual elements and the powerful messages of the cards. The deeper guidance from the invisible world was established and The Muses came out to play!

Frame from A Play in Presence
Cinematography by Tifenn Vinton
Cards by Alisa Barry

What’s in the cards for today?

  • Transformation is the only thing that truly makes sense now.

  • Interrupt yourself and go a new way today.

  • Find your sacred space.

  • Sometimes the answer is to surrender.

  • Change the cause and the effect will change naturally.

  • What is your state of mind?

  • The unseen is what is really to be sought.

  • Focus on what is in front of you.

  • No beginning, no end.

  • Sit down and be quiet.

  • It’s often the detours that lead us to where we really need to be.

  • Head bowed. Hands clasped. Heart open.

Dancing in nature has always been a joy to share with friends. I love moving to bird songs, wind through foliage, crickets, frogs, trickling streams, and the more subtle tones emerging from under the rocks. When we are outdoors, the senses get magnified. The smell of grass, musky dirt, and the new buds’ sweet aroma all inform our body to move authentically following a choreography custom made and delivered by our senses.

We were invited to shoot on a gorgeous piece of land known as Ark Eden at the foot of Lin Fa Shan, Lotus Flower Mountain, in Mui Wo on Lantau Island. Liane introduced us to the generous Keeper of the Land and Planter of 30,000 Trees, Jenny Quinton, a local legend. After the four of us danced for a few hours together in this luxurious jungle setting, we were inspired to return and do something special. We spent a day scouting for specific natural amphitheaters where play would happen out of reverence for the beauty around us. We selected several spots that would capture the essence of the land. We ended up using only half of the selection.

Photo by James Yip
Canine Muse Oreo and Ensemble

Muse Circle values improvisational play because it helps us be in the present moment. Improvising music and movement with a group requires each one of us to be connected to ourselves and to others beyond the rational mind through the resonance of our body and its limbic system. We surrender to nature’s flow and to collective wisdom. In order to have a cohesive artistic ensemble with multi levels of experiences, talent, capacity and needs, we kindly request that the analytical part of our brain sit still and be quiet while we allow our inner child to come out. What this approach means exactly to us is that we let go of our self-importance, self-judgment, and self-doubt to allow for our authentic expression to shine through. We connect to our own musicality and danceability as we consciously notice our self-limiting beliefs (I am or am not a musician, dancer, singer and I can’t do this!). So often our mind’s self identities are in the way of communing with our own muses. Transcending our self-imposed limits can be a difficult process, but it is so rewarding!

Perhaps my reflection makes sense to you. If not, another way of looking at it is this: maybe we can just have some fun playing in the trees with friends! How about it?

Photo by James Yip

A few days before the shoot, we had a dozen artists confirmed: filmmakers, musicians, dancers and actors. By Saturday morning, five adults, one child, and one dog came to play before one cinematographer and one photographer. The omicron variant was just starting to spread in Hong Kong, and people preferred to stay home. We evaluated the risks and decided to honor the presence of our friends who committed and to keep our play date with Mother Nature.

We danced, played music and filmed for eight hours with two moving cameras and one still, all done with only a few prompts for a group of eight people ranging in age from 5 to 55, both amateur and professional (depending on the modalities in play), multilingual and multicultural (Cantonese, American, French). In a way it just felt like a day in the jungle with family. We enjoyed making music and dancing together with amazingly perceptive eyes witnessing and capturing it all!

Photo by James Yip
Ensemble with Tifenn Vinton, Cinematographer

Frame from A Play in Presence
Ensemble with James Yip, Photographer

We would now like to share A Play in Presence with you:

We entered the film in the Justice Centre Hong Kong 2022 Arts Prize exhibition “Colours of Humanity” in the Team Category. It won first prize.

Through this piece we wish to inspire people to go out into the wild, express themselves thoroughly, and discover the true value of their own precious human nature.

flo vinton
muse circle
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