As the end of the residency draws near, my focus has also shifted to the presentation of the research. I have generated choreographic material through the GPS location process as well as the filmed improvisations, but a straight forward presentation of these does not feel appropriate. My thinking has gone beyond just the making of dance material and physical investigation. I have also been thinking a lot about how different modes and the ‘framing’ of performance can affect the performer-audience relationship and how it is experienced as a consequence.
The dances that I have created require further physical investigation and development in the studio; time that I do not have in this particular residency. However, I wanted to find a way that I could share my physical research, and how I arrived at this point, whilst also touching on my wider interests in the art form of dance and performance. Could I do both? Perhaps I could set the whole showing or artist talk up as a performance, trying to operate on both levels? Once this thought insinuated itself, I realised I could no longer un-think it.
In the reality television industry, I read recently that they refer to their work and genre as ‘structured reality’. Performances can be a form of this. I am attempting to frame the upcoming event in a particular way and I’m aware that the choices I make regarding the of wording around what it is/what it will be will be very important. Presentation? Showing? Demonstration? Performance? Lecture? The most approximate description I have is that it will simultaneously be a presentation of my process and research, and a performance called insituation (working title), with both being a pretext for the other.
I am not very interested in the “what is performance?” type questions or assertions like “everything is a performance”, but I am interested in the shifts between the poles of what might be seen as performative vs non-performative or authentic vs non-authentic, the grey areas, and how these are experienced by myself as a performer and by the audience. Can these shifts occur within the unfolding of the work? Can it operate on multiple levels at once? To quote the choreographer Xavier Le Roy “I am not so interested in what it is, but what it does”, and this has really underpinned a lot of my thoughts.
I was unsure how much around these ideas I should disclose, not wanting to affect any readers of this blog and their experience, should they choose to come on Thursday. I realised however, that there will probably already be different audiences present: blog readers, people who I have sought advice from, people who have seen parts of the work in progress etc, and I am more interested in how these different groups come into contact with this situation. It will be a collage of thoughts, murky and unclear. I am not really sure how it will go, but I am looking forward to experiencing it together with the audience.
This week, I am rehearsing and choreographing more GPS dances that I described in my previous blog, from locations further afield. Although not a primary objective, I have found that the task is conducive to generating a large amount of raw material in a short space of time. I have become interested in how I make decisions when faced with different movement options. The numbers that I use in the GPS task dictate a direction, but not ‘what’ (a limb? Head? pelvis?) or ‘how’. Sometimes I choose one movement over another simply because it feels good, or feels right. These are the moments when I have to trust that I have gained an accumulated physical knowledge that cannot always be articulated in words; perhaps this is an apt definition for dance?
I have largely abandoned the idea of analysing footage of my improvisations from last week. I was intending to extract different parts from the footage to create a solo. I may still have some use for them, but I have realised that it was the very doing of them that was useful in this process, not the outcomes I had planned for them. The time spent improvising will have influenced my decision-making in the GPS process, and I think that may be enough. (If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m also averse to trawling through 5hrs+ of footage of myself in the studio..)
Dancers often get asked how they remember all the choreography. I think each dancer would have a different answer to this. I know that I rely heavily on external spacial relationships to orient myself in a space. In the GPS tasks, the number sequences for locations become a text, like a musical score, that act as triggers for my kinaesthetic memory. Conversely, when I dance these, I am able to recite large sequences of numbers at the same time. It is an interesting exercise in memory. As I continue to rehearse the material, this mutual relationship will begin to fade and I will likely be able to perform or recite these two things independently. I don’t necessarily want this to happen. I want to try and retain the task within the dance, because this allows for a different, more unfamiliar relationship to the material and creates a particular performance quality.
In my video blog I mentioned the idea that our bodies retain traces of every movement that we have ever done. This is probably the same with places we have been at different points in our lives. I think in this project I am making some sort of connection between choreography and ‘place’, or choreographies being distinct places.
As I walk into the space, I’m reminded of the words by the performers in Tino Sehgal’s This Situation (2007). “Welcome to this situation!” they intoned in unison. It is a situation indeed, and I really have no idea where to start or how to start. How did I get myself into this? Julia?!
I’m acutely aware how out of practice I am in making. Of course, I consider the act of dancing a form of making as well, but this for me happens within the context of someone else's practice. I have not had to express or explore my own choreographic concerns for a long time, and for clarity, I have consciously put much of this enquiry on hold whilst I work with Dance Exchange. Working in the studio feels a little like trying to coerce an animal out of its cage.
Move. Just start.
I decided prior to coming that I would commit to an hour of improvising every day. The decision to improvise was made precisely because of my aversion to it. I don’t mind playing around in the studio, but improvising is a little like the practice of meditation; I’m not disciplined enough to persist when my mind begins to wonder. I flit about from one somewhat familiar movement to another, overthinking what I am doing, and eventually get bored. This is especially the case when I’m the only one in the space. Still, this seemed like a useful place to start; a way of uncovering my movement habits and maybe finding glimpses of something interesting. I have filmed all of these improvisations, and will attempt to break them down into different themes that I can identify. I am not sure yet what criteria I will employ to do so, but I’m hoping I’ll recognise them when I see them. These will then form the building blocks for solo material that I will explore next week.
The remainder of the time in the studio is spent on a choreographic process similar to Trisha Brown’s Locus (1975). Where Brown assigned the alphabet to points in space, I have assigned numbers to the sides and corners of the room. This allows me to create dances from any string of numbers. I have chosen to use the numbers that make up specific GPS locations of places I frequent whilst here in Christchurch. Perhaps it’s an attempt to ground this material (and myself?) in a specific place. This place. The process feels paradoxically clinical and intimate at the same time.
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