Tuesday, May 10, 2011

spoken en schimmen - ghosts and appearances

currently I am creating a choreography and joint dramaturgy for a performance of "Erste Walpurgisnacht" by Rotterdam choir Toonkunst, which is to be presented on June 25th in the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam. The story tells of two tribes, one Christian, one (formerly) pagan, oppressed by the Christian tribe. In order to continue their old tradition of honoring their superior deity, the pagan tribe assembles torches and rattles etc. to create the impression of a Devil's Night in the mountains, howling and making lots of noise. the strategy works: the Christian guardians run away in horror and the pagan tribespeople can put up a great flame (bonfire?) to honour their Superior All-Father. this story was written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and put to music later by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

I realize as I go along that I, too, am touching upon various cultures.
the piece is created within the inofficially still ruling Dutch bourgeoisie, who are (for the most part) comfortable enacting such a story from their understanding. some Christian members of the choir however, chose not to participate in this performance.

now I am looking for pieces of religions that today I perceive as having a similar quality: bringing to the edge of understanding, practised by a socio-politically oppressed group of people, often defamed or denied - Candomblé in Brazil, Gnawa music in Morocco - Afro-American Spirituals? Celtic rites? Trance-music from the Raves of the 1990's? or "just" left-overs from e.g. Spring processions and Masked Dances from many parts of Europe with e.g. the advent of Spring, Epiphany (around January 6th) etc etc.

and I realize that I, too, must be very careful towards my commissioners who asked me to merely create dance that accompanies their vocal-performance: how far is it reasonable to go? how much light, challenge will be OK, what will be too much?

can I insert a reference to Palestine & Jerusalem without, figuratively, blowing up the Church and risking to 'bore' the expected audience of 800 people?

I do want to make a re-interpretation from and for the 21st century, but obviously I must not simply force my views on others. (that would be soooo 20th century and before that ...)
and although it was agreed that it is OK if I create a dance that questions the more simplistic, paternalistic perspective of the original story by Goethe from the 19th century, how to make that real?
I find important to challenge those points of supremacy, while the story itself is a perfect example for the unwillingness to give up traditionally inherited patterns, actually the necessity to continue practicing them, especially when they are connected to one's endangered survival due to oppression by another group.
being an intercultural person myself, I have experienced many times how important it is to re-iterate and re-perform certain songs, words, poems, records, videos that have been imbued with so much emotional content in my own past. (obviously not nearly being so threatened as countless other people on this planet at the same time)

do & see ~

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Invitation to Secret Dancers - Rotterdam 2011

This coming Friday I get to realize another edition of Elaine Summers' "Invitation to Secret Dancers" as introduction to a neighbourhood-dance event in Het Oude Westen (the old West) a very multi-cultural neighbourhood in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The performance happens in collaboration with the Elaine Summers Dance & Film Archives and is a part of the ongoing project "Elaine Summers Dance Scores", where several of her works from the 1960s until today are collected, together with data on first performers, archival photos, footage etc.
Also, we are honoring the call of UNESCO for the yearly International Day of Dance, this year promoting dance in public spaces ...  
click here for the Dutch blog with more information about participants, photos, and videos

realisation 2010 on the Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam
What keeps fascinating me is that while the dance may appear 'easy' and is designed to be very accessible, it is actually quite a challenge for anyone involved: the dancers have to be very sensitive to the presence of the passing-by audience who they make contact with and invite to dance. They also must maintain an acute sense of actions around them and have a sense for how they can contribute to it.
And any Secret Dancer coming by may still feel like having to overcome barriers of not being used to dance in public, before letting go and happily joining the dance in their own way, rather than simply exercising a prescribed dance routine. (which might, however, be a possible option)

for a wonderful realisation of "Invitation to Secret Dancers" 
by Elaine Summers Dance & Film Co. at CEC Solar 1 in New York, 2005 click here

"Invitation to Secret Dancers" is very clearly an outstretched hand / arm / limb / gesture towards anyone, inviting and enabling them to dance, and potentially encouraging them to find their own dance as they go along. I find that this is an ongoing theme in her work. By originating Kinetic Awareness® Elaine Summers has even developed an entire technique / practice where students are developing just that, under guidance from a teacher - their very own way to move and dance. "Invitation to Secret Dancers" deals with the fifth and final phase of Kinetic Awareness® where after articulation, coordination, speed and tension-levels, the practitioner deals with relating one's own sense of movement to those of others.

Dance Scores
Just like many of the dance scores that Elaine has created throughout her career, I understand this dance as a tool for empowerment, directly in line with other works such as "Illuminated Workingman" or "One and One and One and One". The artistic background is one that practices inclusiveness of all kinds of movement in their own right, from the very start, without giving up either trained or untrained vocabulary, but rather understanding both as being in a continuum, and accepting each for its own potential. Aesthetics become perception again, just like is suggested by the Archaic Greek term 'aisthesis', taking for true, rather than merely a specified design that is accepted as "beautiful" or "desirable".

By interpreting the score for the dance, anyone involved can learn more about the subject of the dance itself. This, too, is very much in line with many of Summers' dance scores - another example could be "Walking Dance for Any Number" where one becomes acutely aware of ways to walk, simply by closely following the instructions.

Doing this dance, I find myself becoming ever more fine-tuned and able to make contact and have possible communication with potential strangers in public space, an issue that I've met with over almost 15 years of producing and performing work in public spaces (see below a first production with "Invitation to Secret Dancers" as part of the series con·sens·us in 2004)

But I also find I become ever more aware and able to formulate possible kinds of choreography that can be included to become a part of "Invitation to Secret Dancers". 

And so on we go ... as Elaine likes to say: Merry Dancing!

uitnodiging aan stiekeme dansers / Invitation to Secret Dancers has been realized with Natalie Dupon, coordinator of Neighbourhood Park Het Oude Westen (the Old West, a neighbourhood in Rotterdam) with thanks to Corrie Kreuk, Culture-Scout Menno Rosier / SBAW, Bernadet van Winden / SKVR and Janine Brall / Studio Yoga Maya. The overall event has been made possible by grants from the Rotterdam Arts Council, Stg. Bevordering van Volkskracht, Alliantie West-Kruiskade, Stadsmarinier, and a large number of volunteers - thank you very much!

Friday, February 18, 2011

inside - out

these past two weeks I've had the luck of seeing several dance performances: the improvisational presentation of Ivo Dimchev as a guest of Baila Louca and Para|Diso by Emio Greco | PC.

having seen and enjoyed much of Conny Janssen's piece 'zout' which uses live-guitar music and some video-projection, having seen her in an interview-show on television, i realised that she is able to move and interact on the same level as Dutch people in general, which allows her to become a mainstream-accepted choreographer in the Netherlands (and certainly in Rotterdam, where her company is one of the main modern dance companies of the city, next to the Scapino Ballet, Rotterdam Dance Works and the Meekers)

nearly finishing my own video of my contribution to Elaine Summers' "SKYDANCE / SKYTIME / SKYWEB improvisation with sun, moon, stars" I realised today that all of us essentially choreograph on the same level, because we make intentional choices to influence events that create the experience of a dance which can be witnessed, experienced, and in some way or other appreciated by present public in a social setting. this is the same for all of us and it happens on a directional level.

i also noticed however how we each can fall short on the fulfilment of what we set out to do.
in the case of the mainstream work, i found that the sensorial experience was not always fulfulling what was promised by the choreography, it hinted at what may have been intended, but i found that the dancers did not always have sufficient kinesthetic understanding of their own physicalities to realise the intended movements, let alone having space for the quality of dreams and their un-directedness, unless one choses to consciously interfere, such as in waking-dreaming or day-dreaming. (i learned very much about this value during my particpation in Ione's 15th Annual Dream Festival, on invitation by Elaine Summers Dance & Film Co.)

to put it short:
they do arrange reality in a certain way that has been accepted, but in my own experience there is more to life that is bypassed by these choreographies.
one could say meta-level and micro level, the meta-level being 'culture' the micro level our universe as it is every day in any detail of our living being etc.
throughout time there are always other people who do feel the necessity to realise a way of directing / meta, that is more in synchronicity and understanding of the micro.
any scientist, any philosopher, but also any artist, any professional at all (peasants, bakers, priests etc.) have areas that they are researching, finding out about, in their own time, exactly about problems arising from such macro-micro mismatches
< the wonders of life & existence

< level of conscious direction, focussing

< wonders of life & existence

in my own work, i came to let go of any 'meta'-level until i had more explored from the micro-. this has lead me to the Kinetic Awareness® work of Elaine Summers, and the work of Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson, Mary Overlie and, again, many other teachers, where such explorations can happen without demanding that a preset meta-level must be met as a result in order to be acceptable (as does happen in forms of Yoga, or TaiChi, or Bartenieff Fundamentals, or in fact any set of movements that are codified into a 'language', similarly in archaic societies that recognize only one set of specific possible choices in design)

gradually, I was more and more able to re-relate the micro to the macro, and now have forms that have in themselves the conscious understanding of change being embedded in the choreography itself as a vital and decisive component. this is a demand I also make towards my own culture: that the ability of change be inherent and acknowledged as a fundamental part of any large-scale cultural system that wishes to remain alive and developing over longer stretches of time. (and be able more resiliently to deal with catastrophes or minor events of crisis)

the study of Open Form Composition at DANCE UNLIMITED in Arnhem was a great clarifying tool to learn, and it helped me to understand choreographies for dance-pieces as growing entities, that are moving, changing, have their own energetic conditions over time, and can give these excitements to others watching.

so who knows, after all, i might as yet be able to cross the bridge and make more and more people appreciate that what they may think of as a 'lack of choreography' '(too)ephemeral' etc. is not only very much adherent to the ephemerality of dance as in our life, but also can give very many vital components to any kind of culture, therefore being worthy of support.

[ "it's not impossible to - TURN IT IN-SIDE OUT ..." ;-) ]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hosni Mubarak stepped down after 30 years of Power

I have been following Egypt with excitement these days, like so many of us. It is wonderful to feel the excitement and energy that is in the air. Democracy Now! and Facebook have been my favorite sources of information.

Movement is movement is movement :-)
Chatting with a friend of mine in Alexandria, I remember the blog I wrote at my very first visit to Egypt http://alexandriaconsensus.blogspot.com This has obviously made me more concerned.
What got me especially were the fact that so many people got to organise themselves and together with each other. It reminded me of the term 'responsible anarchy' coined by Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson , originally a choreographic practice (to read more from here as an excerpt online you can click here or go to her website directly to download her book 'release')

many more people I find related, you can find their mentions further on this blog: Elaine Summers and her long-term work, many, many more artists, thinkers, originators, etc. etc. etc.

and so we are in movement ....