Sunday, May 14, 2017

in response to William Lü's latest experiment on dance/language

And here's my response:
Movement is a state (and condition) of existence, and there are as many languages from movement as there are those made with vocals. (e.g. English   ) Just as with everything else, people all over the world have evolved various ways of moving and yes, also dancing: kinds of walking, bowing/greeting, not/touching, working etc. all depending on social norms, desires, and other conditions of life. Dance can exaggerate and/or complement these movements in such wonderful ways.

The next thing I am thinking of is how with the growth of European (post) modernism there have been schools like Laban Movement Analysis where an attempt was made to understand movement beyond a single language or single vocabularies. Anna Halprin, Elaine Summers and her work Kinetic Awareness®, Mary O'Donnell and her work Release, and other somatic movement approaches, Judson Dance Theater, the Six Viewpoints, but also writings of Wilhelm Reich (especially his article "The Expressive Language of that which is Alive") are all good examples. I would also think of Eurythmy and the amazing ways of how condensation and dilation of aura/ energy are made by the costumes and movements through space, very codified in specific relation to sound & vocal languages.

Fortunately there are many more such theories and thoughts about movement & dance all over the planet, sometimes with very explicit theories explaining every single movement, sometimes remaining centered in ongoing practice & vocabulary with all the philosophy and theory literally embodied and danced ...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

contemporary realities - Trisha Brown's "Set & Reset" - postmodern challenge & promise

(re-written after the recent passing of Trisha Brown)

recently I once again reviewed Trisha Brown's classic Set & Reset Version 1 on VHS video in its epoch-making one-take recording from 1985 by James Byrne, with the original cast: Trisha Brown, Diane Madden, Irene Hultman, Eva Karczag, Stephen Petronio, Vicky Schick, Randy Warshaw

it was a great joy how after 20 years of seeing this video again & again, this time I could finally follow all the various developments of the rather simple basic composition:
the dancers perform variations on 3 basic phrases,
which are continually modulated in ever new and exciting variations and interactions.

in musical terms, the dance resembles the Baroque form of the Fuga =
a theme is interpreted polyphonically, always with the same start, but different continuations. 

that's all, really ...
but in this realization alone there are up to 7 individual dancers, 7 such voices,
also interacting spatially with each other, and the results are wonderful, brilliant, complex, exploring swinging free-flow momentum and daring excitement.  

(see here the re-work of the Budapest School of Dance facilitated by Eva Karczag and Vicky Shick from 2009 with 8 dancers, among them prize-winning choreographer Adrienn Hód and dancer Emese Cuhorka)

1994 ...

I remember very well how as a young dance student at the Rotterdamse Dansacademie (now codarts) in 1994. I was very drawn to this piece, entirely fascinated - but not yet able to understand the movements well enough so that I could also follow them more specifically in their complex polykinetic development.

the complexity and variations went beyond the more mono-linear dance-vocabularies and practices that I had been trained to understand, even while I had started to independently study the Kinetic Awareness® work of Elaine Summers. I was confronted with entirely new languages, that originated from a different, deeper and wider understanding of the human bodymind and its possible movements.

this difficulty went so far that when I first saw work of Trisha Brown in Amsterdam 1992, I nearly fell asleep like babies do, because my brain needed off-time to rewire from the newly received kinesthetic information ... but when I got up from my seat, I could physically feel that my body had gotten a new understanding of movement, much like after a good dance-class.

ever since then I have kept re-visiting and reviewing this dance-recording, like a very very good book, and it has become one of the "Bibles" of my life, a true classic: offering a balance of simplicity and complexity, and an example that invites to be followed -
in fact, I've always had to be very careful not to merely imitate movements from the dance language of this piece and related work, although sometimes some of the moves just "pop-up" right in the middle of an improvisation ... (essentially creating a new tradition)
I believe it is no accident that for some time Trisha Brown collaborated and studied Kinetic Awareness® with Elaine Summers: both had been deeply involved with the collective later known as Judson Dance Theater, both created dance-works in public space, and I wonder how much Elaine's Fantastic Gardens with its use of film-projection-as-environment, helped to inspire Brown's use of film-projectors in her solo Homemade, 1966 -

she also had danced in Summers' early version of Energy Changes, called From the Still Point performed as a duet with Summers at Loeb Student Center, NYU 1971

there had been ongoing exchanges between both professionals, such as when Pearl Bowser, associate artist at Summers' Experimental Intermedia Foundation, filmed the performance of Brown's Planes at the Whitney Museum to be made into an intermedia-installation (see video), etc.

Linearity, con-formity ...
watching Trisha Brown instruct two dancers of her then-company in Michael Blackwood's documentary Making Dances from 1980, I do notice how Brown's ability to articulate her body is much more complex in its simultaneous multi-directionality than that of both dancers, who are trying to absorb the free-flow calligraphy, spontaneously thrown out by her into time and space.

it must also be mentioned that not much longer after this documentary Trisha Brown at one point did chose to return back to the traditional confines -with the capitalist-elitist financial rewards- of more traditional 'Western' proscenium theaters, and the expectations of a more traditional European/-American socio-economic elite.

what for many is new, amazing, revolutionary - especially for those of us who remain more stuck in repeating incremental variations of ever less deeply understood traditional dance languages (which in return often as not are made into 'new' disposable toss-fodder for the dance-industrial-complex) - is how Browns' work manages to bring a wider range of complexity of possible human movement together with such old-fashioned linearity, but still re-creating much of the liveliness that created this movement in the first place, evoking a specific kind of human character/state that these movements suggest.

Trisha Brown actually did what back then she said in Blackwood's documentary she so despised: she did turn around and did make a step back, took the most willing people of an audience by the hand, and crossed the line with them, again, ... offered something a bit more understandable, which still had some force of the exciting promise of multiplicity and complexity of organic, spiritual life in it.

as a result, today even the Paris Opera Ballet can find a way to come closer to an interpretation of Brown's choreography. see video here

others ...

peers, like Elaine Summers, who chose to continue the exploration of entirely new settings and new situations altogether, without looking back, paid dearly in every respect -economically and personally- for forging ahead and not taking the time to revert & effectively take others by the hand.

some of them are now admitted into the halls of classicism:

  • Merce Cunningham simply managed to continue long enough and kept toying with European-American classical Ballet vocabulary long enough to have the rest of the world catch up with him in time for economic support.
  • after a long while, Anna Halprin is now enjoying more and more some similar respect, and can look back on the collaboration with her architect-hustband Lawrence Halprin for visual representations of her work. 
  • Pina Bausch could find an entry via the languages and codes of German theater/drama and eventually became almost a household name, complete with a saccharine movie by Wim Wenders that emphasizes conventionally acceptable beauty, with what has become more widely acceptable of her once revolutionary work.

(on the change from revolting new to beautifully classic, suggestion to read the beginning of Gertrude Stein's Composition as Explanation, written 1926)

ecological, economical, cultural niches
as a con-sequence, it is useful to understand the necessity of both directions:
those of us who forge ahead, and those of us who actually form less radical hybrids with more traditionally accepted forms of expression. either one serves a purpose in the development of research and translation.

in a post-modern continuum, where there is no longer a single line directing one way forward or backward, any such developments become recognizable as ongoing processes of changing codes/vocabularies/practices/languages.

it is through languages such as those created by Trisha Brown, that we can become more ready to understand and appreciate her contemporaries (e.g. Summers, Halprin, but also Mary Overlie, Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson, Pauline de Groot, Katherine Dunham, Germaine Acogny, Tatsumi Hijikata ... - insert here the name of any pioneer, both "Western" and less- or entirely non-"Western" ... 

all of these pioneers, and all of us who are affected by them, create an important ecotope for understanding human movement & eventually the human condition. whether & how much we understand and support each other in these differences, remains a crucial question in these times, where the filters of what will "sell" all too often only allow for the most stereotypical and least understanding forms of dance for a wider audience, and where because of inequality a wider audience most often does not get a choice of acquiring more adequate means for appreciating such physically moving contemporary realities.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

dreaming econonomics

a very inspiring and much needed quote by Marie Curie, found on the blog of Andrew Wass :

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.
to see the post and more inspiration from his blog

community dance - evolving perspectives: intersectional, intercultural, communal

this article inspired the organizers for the coming International Day of Dance in Rotterdam to open up all levels of organisation and enable all participants to share in the responsiblity. tomorrow will see the first meeting for questions of scheduling, production, PR, and exchange in general ... (includes a very useful scale of participation)
*I don't vouch for the assumption about therapy that is put forward in the ladder: therapy is innately for self-empowerment on a personal level. Whether the approach and outcome are adequate in an intercultural situation is crucial, but I find the assumption of therapy as the lowest  (hierarchical!) end of the ladder, to be falsely generalizing a status quo and shut down any possible & much needed improvement.

I remember very well the un-ease I felt after leaving the Zwaanshals-area in Rotterdam back in 2004, as artists-in-residence. we came and were adopted as the 'village-excentrics', had some nice and inspiring interactions, but now it was time to move on. what about the people who I left behind?

now in 2017, it is more clear than ever that if I am working in a local situation, I need to be aware of, and get involved with the people who are a part of it, and they with me. this article was very inspiring

artists are sense-workers, communication workers, just like dreamers of any kind. following from this understanding must be an acceptance that just like every individual being, art/science that has an innate value beyond any immediate "use", actual or perceived.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

preparing to perform at 3x generations / CLOUD Danslab 11 june 2016

everyone gets as far as they can in their life.
often that turns out to be far from any single 'ideal', prescribed or realized as one goes along one's way.
when many get to a similar state, after they started in a similar state of being, feeling, knowledge, and other patterns, that creates a sense of 'generation'

in this improvisation I come as an individual, a professional dancer, but I also come as a member of a generation of dancers, more specifically here in the Netherlands.
what have we done? what were our questions, what were mine? what are mine? what is different from say the generation of Pauline de Groot? or, then, Ton Lutgerink and then Donald Fleming?

what about my "social background"?
the kind of culture that I get associated with, and that I associate myself with?

I remember a lively breakfast discussion with an elder choreographer-friend and my then-partner, where at some point I realized that the friend was still speaking from something that drove him & perhaps people of his generation, questions and resulting views, which for me had already been resolved, by what I did, but which he did not know yet, or was still working to get at. And that with my then-partner, who is nearly 20 years younger than me, the entire situation may well be the same.

so, what kinds of costumes and clothing will I need that re-presents me? & what I want?
my generation? ....

* since this group includes very experienced amateur as well as professional dancers (though I'm not sure about the representation of each in each generation-group) there is the added interest about how far an amateur wants to get, and can get, and how that can wonderfully complement/challenge what a professional can and wants to accomplish. vast GENERAlizaTIONS, I know, and therefore endlessy exciting and interesting ...

reading: Gertrude Stein, Composition as Explanation, 1926 (pdf) / (online)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Vrij Nederland" - dancing with elderly

starting February 2016 i've been substituting for a colleague at SKVR, the largest school in Rotterdam for non-professionals who want to train in the arts. the dancers are all seniors in various parts of the city, some of them confined to sitting, some can still move through space with greater ease. although there were some moments during the neighbourhood-project Delfshaven Dans! where the question of dance-ability came up, this longer time of concentrated work with seniors is new for me.

Saturday May 21st will see a small showing of work by several such groups. I will show a piece that I call Vrij Nederland, named after a periodical in the Netherlands.

the piece is in two parts:
first, the dancers create a sequence of improvised movements: A, A+B, A+B+C, A+B+C+D etc. then they end with a preset sequence that I created for them, creating tension in space, enhanced by colored organza-voiles, fairly reminiscent of Rudolf von Laban's Eukinetics or A-Scale.

i realized that in terms of professional work, this piece may seem a long way from the more mainstrem traditional proscenium theater, but that it counts fully as a professional piece and fulfills the mission of Reàl Dance Company: to re-search and re-form dance from the sense of movement.

with a bit of awareness, Vrij Nederland resists the Capitalist notion of a single value system, which tends to show young, "able" bodies moving in demarcated areas that are deemed acceptable or desirable.

why the emphasis on specific venues as the more valid places to experience dance?
why the emphasis on young bodies?
who decides about the value of achievement? about ability?
and why so often in specific dance-languages?

keep moving ...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

kinesthetic-formed dance

reform (theater-) dance from our kinesthetic sense, above all others
 train ourselves to let the movement be shaped,
not by movement language that we've learned,
but from our kinesthesy in relation to how we perceive and relate with the world within and around us

-> how are sound, visuals, even acting re-formed by such a sensation / experience?

I keep saying that Kinetic Awareness® is an exceptionally good technique for re-discovering the fundamentals of the self, understanding the root of one's own bodymindbeing, before any demands or judgements - then develop whatever potential there is and is desired.
Other than more μετά-oriented approaches, such as Ideokinesis, or BodyMindCentering, or even Feldenkrais, Kinetic Awareness® minimizes any instrumental meta-structures (imagery, instructions, narratives, pre-set movement-sequences etc.) and gives maximum space for experience and self-guided exploration. Props are employed by the student upon their own chosing. While it leaves such meta-structures behind, it is at the same time very systematic, because it helps to discover and follow the system of the practitioner's individual bodymind. so rather than anyone or anything external, the individual practitioner, the individual bodymindbeing, is the system (!) 

-> does dance truly come from the most basic experience of movement as being alive / on our frequency? can we enjoy music because we have a sense and experience of movement to draw from?

same for any other related art-form that involves sight, sound, smell, etc etc.
(and ideally beyond confinements of any single cultural zone)