This week I have invited several dancers into the studio to practice with me, all of whom are skilled and experienced performers. Thank you, team. We have been trying to take the sounding exercises practiced in week one towards a more
I've been thinking about the similarity between what we are doing and singing. I think the key difference is that we are constantly trying to relate the voice to space somehow, either by drawing it through space like a sonic crayon or trying
to place it in space like an object. There is less focus on the quality of the sound than there is in where it is coming from and where it is going. If anything like ‘high-quality singing’ occurs it is completely incidental.
Worryingly we find it difficult to keep this intention while moving our bodies through space and the best we can currently do is walk, turn and direct the voice in a direction. My next step is to think about dance vocabulary. Any particular contemporary choreography ( lets just leave other dance forms out of this for a moment ) might draw on material from various sources within the same work including but not exclusive to; existing vocabulary drawn from a particular master or such as Hawkins or Graham, existing vocabulary from social and cultural dance or other contemporary forms such as hip hop or pole dancing. It may include existing gestural languages including hand gestures such
as waving, pointing and also posturing. It may sample martial arts, movement which is superficially transposed from objects or seeks to replicate their form, pedestrian and functional movement such as walking or climbing a rope and
movement drawn from somatic principles.
Considering that we tend to talk about movement vocabulary as being tailored to a particular choreographic concern , it becomes problematic to think about it as analogous to verbal language. Whereas words themselves have comparatively
fixed individual meaning and must usually obey syntax, movement vocabularies in contemporary choreography, by comparison, seem to be far more fluid in terms of their intention and interpretation , often being a collage containing any
number of the vocabularies listed above.
Considering contemporary choreography’s ability to code switch between vocabularies in this way, I have started thinking about different contexts for vocal communication and reasons for talking. Three main areas that come to
mind are A. Vocal expression i.e. sounds but not words, B. Conversation and speaking with words, C. Singing.
Here is what I tried this week.
1. Warm up – starting with basic sounds (which last week I called primitive) such as moaning, whining and hmming, beginning with mouth closed then opening and closing the mouth like, perhaps, a tap and a tourniquet for the
2. Extend the sound. Shift the point of resonance. Add syllables and melisma always focusing on the resonant point in the body.
3. Send the voice to points in space. This might be a single direction per syllable or may be a sustained lateral movement like a horizontal or vertical line of sound painted on the wall, ceiling or floor.
4. We begin carrying the whole body through space, continuing all the above points. This adds the ability to move away from the sound as if it were the water from a hose or move towards it as if we were swallowing a noodle.
It might be relevant to mention at this point how difficult it is to maintain the sound while moving. While an abdominal contraction might cause a bagpipe-like sound owing to the restricted and forceful exhalation, and impact/s through the
legs may interrupt the flow of the voice, these feel like tangents. I am not interested in making a vocally percussive composition.
5. Improvisation. While continuing to practice moving the voice in and through space explore contexts A,B, and C. Again, the focus is on the resonance and space, while now also attempting to let text and song emerge. It feels kind of like switching between radio stations. Perhaps we could call it context radio.
Two tangents to pick up on next week.
Prosthesis – how can I use objects to extend, shift, or transport the voice.
Sharing words – how can we take shared responsibility for completing a sentence, a word or maybe a story.
And two loose ends…
My interest in code-switching between levels of formality and in terms of audience design is still lurking but is beginning to seem an advanced idea to consider after further exploration of more basic concepts.
I am still interested in looking at the choreographic implications of conversing, the transmission of it and the actions that result.
Perhaps I’ll leave that last one for you to think about.
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