Tick and Talk of Common Time

Creative Process Notes

Creation Process for Tick and Talk of Common Time –- by Margaret Dragu

COVID-19 triggered the moving of my Fitness/Yoga personal/small group training  from IRL to ZOOM allowing me to teach people around the world without leaving  my living room. This was kewl. But I longed for more intimacy/connection with  my participants so I added TikTok dance crazes to my lesson plans and began  ZOOM recording my participants and me dancing together. This was popular and  fun but at the end of the week (months, years) I still felt displacement, absence,  and longing.  

Historic dance crazes (Charleston, Jitterbug, Twist and Macarena etc.) were  performed live in dancehalls/nightclubs or on TV shows like Ed Sullivan or Soul  Train. On the other hand, TikTok dance crazes, while viewed by a large public on  the internet, are recorded by individuals/small groups very privately in their living  rooms or workplaces with the social aspect only being a possible future connection  between the dancer(s) and their phone–scrolling viewers.  

When I watch TikTok dance compilations (and even my own footage), I feel a  rupture between public/private, and longing/desire. This rupture reminds me of art  concepts and processes of John Cage & Merce Cunningham with whom I have had  a 50+ year fascination.  

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company was founded in 1953 at Black Mountain  College. This was also the year I was born. Although my formative dance training  is German Modern Expressionist Dance via Nikolais and Hanya Holm, the  Cunningham–Cage art concepts always appealed to me. Cage-Cunningham created  dance and sound independently, then employed chance operations and tasks to  combine them in live performances inviting accidents, surprises and overlaps to  occur. Their separate-but-together collaborations expanded the fields of dance,  music, moving image, and visual art to dismantle hierarchies and create new forms  of choreography and syncopation. Cage–Cunningham stated their work was rooted in the scenic space of a “common time”. I am borrowing their term and bending  their concepts for this interdisciplinary project called Tick Talk of Common Time.  

For this project, I recorded dancers and artists from Vancouver (live) in dance  studios, parks, walking paths, and my living room. National & international  participants were recorded with me via ZOOM. I edited all this footage together to  made 5 TikTok dances. I gave one dance video to each of the five composers.  composer: They stripped off the popular music tracks and composed original music  and soundscapes. 

The 5 videos with original compositions were the immersive frame for 5 live-to tape Entr’actes. Each entr’acte was an improvised 2 minute performance by a dancing duo and a vocal transcribing duo created in the moment for camera. 

Detailed credits are shown at the end - pink text on textured blue-grey background
Margaret Dragu dances in her home studio, wearing a bright orange shirt. Her hands are lifted and she is standing.
Three dancers perform indoors and are represented in three Zoom screens.



Solo Dancers  

Justine A. Chambers, Kate Franklin, Vanessa Kwan, Johanna Householder,  Francisco-Fernando Granados, Angelo Pedari, Stephanie Bokenfohr, Margaret  Dragu  

Modus Operandi Dancers  

Bridget Lee, Allie Shiff, Alesandra, Rianna Logan, Mia Pelayo, Emma Wallace,  Brianne Chan, Abby Hunter, Natasa Kong, Emily Clarke  


Mark Haney, Nikita Carter, E. Kage, Sarah Sheard, Brady Marks  

Dance Whip & Administration  

Kate Franklin


Improvisational Dancers  

Justine A. Chambers, Margaret Dragu  

Improvisational Vocalists  

Stephanie Bokenfohr, Danielle Wensley  

A/V Designer and Camera  

Brady Marks 


Arman Paxad, Genki Ferguson  


VIVO Media Arts Centre  

Modus Operandi Dance School  

BC Arts Council  

DWI: Dragu Worker International  

TikTok Dancers around the world  


Examples of early Viral TikTok Dances  






A woman is dancing outdoors in front of a green tree.

Tick and Talk of Common Time

Title appears, Pink text on Grey – Tick and T-A-L-K Talk of Common Time  

Tick and T-A-L-K: Talk of Common Time is an opus in five variations and five  entr’actes.  

The variations include both original and found footage of professional dancers,  artists and day to day people doing viral TikTok dances.  

The entr’actes show a live to tape performance in a studio where two dancers,  Margaret and Justine, and two vocalists, Stephanie and Danielle, share moments of  chance. The studio has concrete floors and white walls. The lighting is moody with  subtle changing colours that create dramatic shadows and silhouettes. The vocalists  speak into microphones, in conversation with the dancers.  

By the way, I’m Danielle… … and I’m Stephanie and we will be guiding you  through the work.  

The original footage was made in so-called Vancouver in various locations  including Margaret’s living room, city parks, dance studios and recorded zoom  meetings. The people featured in this work are diverse in age, race and gender.  They are dressed for comfort, each showing personal style. Detailed credits are  shared at the end [of this audio transcription].  

Throughout, video and editing effects include smaller frames layered over the  mainframe like little windows that allow us to experience isolated dancers  performing in sync. There are also some moments of high saturation, where the  colour of the footage is hyperreal.  

Each TikTok dance includes a choreographed sequence of movement that repeats.  As the dances progress, the focus is less on the precision of choreography, and more revealing of the performer’s individual character while they indulge in the  movement. And now …  

Two dancers indoors, Justine and Vanessa

VARIATION 1 composed by Mark Haney  

In a strong stance, they dance to the beat. On the spot they swing their hips to one  side as they rotate. They strike triumphant poses, with clenched fists and hands  outstretched. They are sensual, too, with fingers aflutter.  

Composer Mark Haney describes their music as distant drum machine in an echo-y  cave made of crystal with disco whale low pitches and a relentless bass beat; not  necessarily pleasant  

First Entr’acte  

VARIATION 2 composed by Nikita Carter  

In a strong stance, they dance to the beat. With pulsing steps, they move side to  side, forward and back. They are fierce and indulge in moments of joy. Double  pointer fingers call us in to repeat the dance again.  

Composer Nikita Carter describes their music as Water Being.  Second Entr’acte  

VARIATION 3 composed by E. Kage  

Treading with intention, a shared reflection on loss and longing  Tides of giving and receiving 

Palms open, they push away and pull in  

Steady movement; they are embraced by the cycle  

Double pointer fingers call us in to a cacophony of beating hearts  

Composer Kage describes their music as contemplative taiko drums with bells and  vocals.  

Kage’s English Lyrics  

Loss of a parent like the ground dissolving, beneath your feet, nothing to stand on  Now I know how it feels, welcome to the club, hey!  

Among the books or skiing the slopes in the spirit world, you are there  You inspire and influence from the library of beyond, ho!  

One day I promise to meet you there, when its time, when its my time  As our physical realm will surely end, until then I will do my best, ha!  

Third Entr’acte  

VARIATION 4 composed by Sarah Sheard  

In a studio, a group of dancers, in unison; their steady and joyful movement  clashes with the eerie soundscape.  

Found TikTok clips are treated with high saturation and hyperreal colour.  A shared tension between two realities.  

Composer Sarah Sheard describes their music as solemn, formal and eerie.  Fourth Entr’acte  

VARIATION 5 composed by Brady Marks  

In uniform, in unison, groups of dancers; in public, in a studio;  They share a dance of quadrants; falling forward, back to the beginning  Dancing is another way of walking  

Composer Brady Marks describes their music as Amapiano Rhythmic Music 

The artists gratefully acknowledge they live and work on the traditional territories  of the Coast Salish peoples sḵwx̱ wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations.  

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