August 19 2015
WHAT IS THIS DANCE?
I spent the first few hours of today’s session in the studio by myself. Immediately as I entered the studio I felt myself do that thing where you try to define the outcome of what you’re trying to achieve when you haven’t even started. Classic Maddy move of putting pressure on an outcome, or even just trying to achieve ‘something’, in a program designed specifically to be relieved of this. So I had a big dance to free my mind, nothing too serious, coming in and out of it as I pleased, learning my body on that day at that time, just to let mind and body be open to offers, questions, problems and tangents that I assumed were going to arise during the session. Also, at this time my ideas are all so interwoven and jumbled in my brain so I really needed to let my mind rest and bring it back to the body to find a bit of peace within the chaos.
I’ve been thinking about endurance, pushing the body to its extremes, allowing it to be exhausted and barely coping. I’m interested in putting the body in a place where it is just managing a situation and is not being controlled by the brain. Trying to create situations where the body’s instinctual intelligence takes over. And I don’t think this is a place where the brain disengages from what is happening but more that it becomes an observer of the body’s movement.
A couple of ways I have found these experiences are from spinning for extended periods of time and balancing on one leg. There’s some sort of complete and un-escapable engagement that arises when your body strives to survive the task at hand. It can become mesmorising…trance-like. Illogical and surprising shifts take place in the body, something you could never define or choreograph, it’s fascinating. To me. And perhaps it’s not so much ‘the body’ taking over as such, but when it’s in a state of survival, exhaustion or precariousness, the messages are sent so quickly from the brain the body moves before the brain has had time to recognise or identify the thoughts. I guess it’s like if your heading face first towards the ground you never remember actively thinking, “Oh I’d better put my arms out to protect my face”, it just happens right?
Not so long ago, I experimented with spinning holding a bag of salt with a hole in it. The experiment was for something unrelated but what struck me during the process of emptying the salt was how when my body began to falter, I went a little off course and in this time of fighting to bring it back to the centre of the spin I noticed how the salt was reacting to my stumbles, it’s behavior accentuated the actions of my body. Through my body’s coping mechanism the material became animated and a creative behavior in itself. Also, what was left at the end of this experiment was an expanding circle of salt, becoming sparser as it expanded, leaving a sort of eclipse/planetary image on the floor. A trace left behind of what has just occurred. It reminded me a little of my friend Tony’s work. He’s a visual artist and a dancer who creates large-scale artworks through holding graphite and moving his arms on the floor whilst shifting his body little by little around on the spot, check it out:
His work is definitely a lot more meticulous and prescribed than what I’m working with
but it’s just that idea of a process your body undertakes which leaves a tangible thing
that reflects what has happened in that space.
Anyways, I feel like the complexities of the body are revealed in these situations of
coping and I’ve been thinking of ways to use materials/sound/film perhaps to highlight
these complexities and nuances the body takes on during the experience. At the end of
the day everything is material, everything is matter, so can these objects take on and
become a part of the materiality of the body itself?
We spent much of the session discussing and questioning these ideas. For the last
part I shared a score of Eleanor Bauer (USA/BE) for us to work with each session as a
weekly practice. The score is called “Dancing not the dancer” and it encourages a non-
judgmental approach to improvisation. Saying yes to your body’s impulses, being
inside and observing your body at the same time, being 100% present and committing
to it with your everything. Through a series of half hour and 15 minute improvisation we
took the opportunity to tune into our bodies, observing and embracing our impulses,
habits and mannerisms. Stripping back from anything defined or prescribed to find a
purity and honesty in how our body is moving. I’m hoping that working with this each
week will get our bodies and minds into a place that notices and allows instinctual
movement to be revealed when it comes to attempting the endurance tasks.
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