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The TOOLBOX Project

TOOLBOX is an ongoing special project of The Seldoms dedicated to invention and procedure. It is imagined as many things:  a dancemakers’ sourcebook; a method to spur creativity; a map for generating movement; a logical process employable for a studio session or an entire creation; and, a blueprint for building new tools.  

TOOLBOX can spark new tactics of dance making. Artistic Director Carrie Hanson initiated Toolbox as a way to trouble habitual ways of making and invigorate choreographic practice.  She states,


“A reassertion of a degree of abstraction may be a way to locate new impulses and ways of seeing and moving, and ignite an expanded physical fluency to advance our inquiry-based dance theater.”


TOOLBOX was born of an exchange between visual and dance artists. In July 2017, The Seldoms, along with Glasgow artists Fraser Taylor, Francis Lightbound, Inês Bento Coelho, Callum Rice, and Chicago artist Doug Stapleton, had a cross-disciplinary dialogue around how to translate visual art tactics to choreographic tactics. Supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund, the initial exchange took place in two locations in Glasgow, Scotland: The Work Room at Tramway and the Studio Pavilion at House for an Art Lover.  

The contributing visual artists come out of a wide set of practices — painting, printmaking, sculpture, shibori, film, performance, photography, collage and design. They shared their processes and terminologies that inform their respective practices, from which Carrie and the dancers assembled a list of action-based words that caught their ears and had resonance with the body. The dancers aimed their research around prompting movement within the individual's body, a foundational impulse before moving into choreography.


TOOLBOX has unique properties that distinguish it from other approaches: viewing choreography through the lens of visual arts with consideration to formal elements such as figure, texture, and materiality. It then focuses attention on somatic impulse and movement fabrication, while retaining an exteriority of perspective and foregrounding the visual aspect of dance.


The second phase of TOOLBOX took place in Spring 2018, within a course taught by Hanson at the Dance Center of Columbia College. Her dancemaking students, in conversation with Chicago artist Frank Connet, added "Deep Patterning" to the TOOLBOX, and also used the framework as a blueprint to devise their own tools. TOOLBOX has been introduced to participants in The Seldoms' Summer Intensives and most recently within Hanson's Fall 2019 Interdisciplinary course at UW-Madison.

The latest, and most public, phase of TOOLBOX was our 2022 exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. "Toolbox @ Twenty" was named one of the "Best Chicago Art Exhibitions in 2022" by the Chicago Tribune. Four dynamic pairings of a Seldoms dance artist with a visual or sound artist yielded new tools, new dances and new artworks by painter Jackie Kazarian, fiber artist Jacqueline Surdell, and sound artist Sadie Woods in HPAC's Gallery 1.  A new video installation of Bower Dance, created by Liviu Pasare and recorded at builder Edra Soto’s “Screenhouse” was projected nightly on the façade of HPAC. Dancers Sarah Gonsiorowski, Damon Green, and Maggie Vannucci were commissioned to develop new tools and solos. 

THE TOOLS (as of 2022)

ALLOW: observe the unexpected action or error and choose to exploit it
BOWER BIRD: create a "dwelling" around the body, with ornate embellishment

BRACKET: the whole of the thing crystallized into a concise statement

BUMP: brief, jarring event that moves from stasis to instability

DEEP PATTERNING: contains a “seed” – a simple pattern, durational and repeating, emanates from core to distal body parts

FLATTEN: movement from cube to plane, through sequential subtraction, relational as well to different perspectives

INVERT: establish a movement and reorient it to self and viewer with impulsive, peculiar dynamic

LIFT: singular saturated movement, the plate, mirrored in less saturated multiples
MASK: play with diverting flow and cutting pathways, by shifting quality and direction often and quickly

RHYME: a movement or sensory experience recalled and acted in another part of the body. It is synesthetic and dynamical variant

SCRAPE: a pathway of movement, deliberate, reductive with some possible resistance

SHADE: drawn attention to materiality, the nuance of the volume of the body.

SPLICE: stretch two movement concepts while simultaneously or successively infusing more articulated movements



TOOLBOX functions as a company values statement. It speaks to our ethos of rigorous craft, democracy in making, and desire to learn across disciplines. For our audience and partners, Toolbox offers a view of The Seldoms’ choreographic procedures. For peer practitioners, Toolbox can spark thinking about building vocabulary; it can inspire acts of translation from other fields to dance. For students, Toolbox draws attention to methodology; young dancemakers learn to recognize and build their own tactics,  undertaking an intensive study of a concrete set of tools, and more expansively, a blueprint for tool making.

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