Thursday, May 31, 2018

understanding culture

translate for movement ... including emotions, body states, dealing with energy & dynamics in communicating from & with body states to one another

culture is creating shortcuts, patterns that can help to survive
whether it's on a level of growing cells into bones (for example) for translating gravity into movement, or a habit or an opinion. for training dance this insight is crucial.
I hope more dance professionals will grow into this understanding.

PS - keep in mind though ... ;-)

Friday, March 9, 2018

in response to Laura Shapiro's post "Reading and Writing and Dancing"

see the original post by Laura Shapiro here
responses published by kind suggestion & in communication with the author who is performing today, March 9th, 2018 *

[...] what is deemed language is multiple in "structures" (as in formations) and media, some of it expressed by use of vocal chords & visual abstractions made from those sound-patterns. But true literacy goes much further, known or unknown.

In my own view those who deem dance "non-verbal" actually are in danger to perpetuate what some call Kyriarchy (bell hooks calls it White Supremacist Imperialist Patriarchy for the culture-zone that you and I live with-in ... ) - because by implication they may negate the important kinaesthetic messages that are transferred, being body-states of all kinds.

To become literate in these body-languages is essential in becoming politically more able to act, so therefore it's also a question of (dis)empowerment, when people (still) do that - or when you get refused a job on an observation that for you is perfectly normal and clear.

[...] What I meant was that the more we are able to understand the signals and languages of our bodies, how they feel, the states they are in, and what is needed to do, we become more politically able as well, and have increased agency. But while for you it is clear that there is no actual division between mind and body, that they function as one system, others are shocked at such a statement.

It seems to me that in too many religions not only is a such division made, but what is relegated to 'the body' is all too often associated with negativity, such as sinfulness, low levels of existence, drives, inability etc.

I find these assumptions remarkably similar to how economically disempowered classes are seen, be they Women, (formerly) enslaved people, "lower classes", or even other animals:

- supposedly not able to deal rationally with themselves, thus needing 'higher guidance'
- deserving to be ruled, and above all disciplined for the general good, otherwise danger could ensue for a perceived (social, cosmic, or other kind of) order.

As choreographers, you and I and those who make poetry out of (human) movement, can communicate a better understanding of this system/continuum, where the created opposites of 'mind' and 'body' can be experienced working together.

I also believe that Elaine Summers and her work, and so many others (e.g. Anna Halprin) often met such resistance, because she would let her dancers speak their own language, rather than one already confined & accepted (e.g. based on forms of what is remembered as European-American classical Ballet)

There's actually a nice parallel in the German language for what I aim at: the word meaning 'mouthy' / 'with a mouth' ("mündig") means able & allowed to speak & express one's mind & views. Imagine if e.g. (cis)women (let alone trans-women) suddenly were allowed to freely speak their mind ... (let alone formerly enslaved people from African lands)


* Laura Shapiro is a New York-based choreographer, performer and teacher who has steadily continued to create and produce her own works for some decades by now. We met 1996 in Amsterdam at the Connected Bodies symposium at SNDO and have continued to be friends in professional exchange ever since then. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

ecolodances and A Love Supreme (new series..?)

after decolonization (Pelléas material / b.a.n.q.) and identity (medvetánc - degrees of (in)tangibility) i am feeling ready for a new series of dance that is freed up towards an ecological continuum and awareness with and in which to move.

paradoxically the music that I am drawn to can be described roughly as "Liberal Whitey Pleaser Pop/ular" : from a segue of the film-score by Stanley Meyers for the 1980s mini-series of The Martian Chronicles, to Rhythm of Life by Oleta Adams and Oh People! by Patti Labelle (maybe I'll even include Black or White by Michael Jackson ... ) - on the other end of the spectrum Ryuichi Sakamoto's NEO GEO which quotes and alters an Okinawan fisher-song and Balinese monkey-chanting, in an echo of post-colonial relations. despite their well-crafted and evocative sophistication, all of these works of music are essentially, and by today's standards, well-fitting with Bourgeois, well-measured, non-radical. they are also -let's face it- in danger of becoming consumable, and therfore disposable trash-culture, albeit each with a potential message that today may need to be taken more seriously than ever.

because the delivery is decidedly non-radical in tone, never hurtful, most employing a sandy yellow color in their respective videos, they may very well fit with an urgent need for less violence in the face of mounting ecological desaster for not only the human species.

the medium is ... the message?
despite these musical lenses for the dances, the internal messages are outcries, desperate, enraged, pleading, a push-back against too much careless and/or outdated verbiage that by-passes ecological understanding within or without.

similar to forms of tai ji quan, all movements are suspended in mid-air, with the spine gently tilted forward, never upright; the motions work with the entire kinesphere in an energetic sense, folding, condensing, contracting, releasing, dissipating etc. all body-parts are very involved, as is the gaze of the performer, usually centered, but receptive, listening, not outward; their acting intention, rhythms, shapes, subtle dynamics in-formation.

will I succeed to re-create the inner passion, deep emotion, connectedness, committment that the music mentioned above can evoke when I listen to it?

yesterday, Eurythmic therapist Kyra Flöcker, Jazz vocalist Ute Reinbott, and i worked on an exchange from our respective backgrounds. we explored musical intervals and how they felt in our bodies when moving with them in sound. interestingly I very often got resemblances with the Eurythmic teachings about each interval, which makes sense given that we kept firmly moving within a European-centered cultural zone for both of us.

for me it also was clear that the wider concerns of Eurythmics can lead to the needed ecological awareness that I believe is mandatory for a chance of further survival. the same ecological concern, but in a Socratic or even Zen-like tradition of not-assuming directly translates into the discipline of Kinetic Awareness® where the primary action is open listening.

for Kyra and myself, opening up ourselves to Jazz as a form of expression that we are familiar, but do not actively engage with (Elaine Summers loved to work with Jazz, for that matter) was a further step in our ongoing exchange. I also remembered when I accidentally discovered the use of swing in movement, which at that moment on the job helped me to keep on walking despite a serious impediment by a sprained ankle. this made great sense remembering the conditions for enslaved Afro-Americans trying to survive the plantations. the amount of internal pain that seems to keep on swinging in so much of African American music, even when the tone seems cool and low in energy,  equally keeps making sense, not just from intellectual reflection.

A Love Supreme
somewhat in contrast to the above, i also find myself listening to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, which given my own cultural development is a bit of a surprise: unlike with my youngest brother, Jazz never got too much of a direct hold on me, I missed clarity of melodic lines or chord-sequence, and quickly got disillusioned with the kinds of improvisation that did not fulfill what i was after - all of this coupled with a "subtle distance" (=internalized racism) towards Black African people. 

despite snide remarks from a.o. Miles Davis about this piece, the title alone suggests devotion and committment, risk, and movement. Salva Sanchis made a series of dances to it in 2014 and continued to work on them. the kinds of movement suggest a very similar development as what I described above. so much for being con-temporaries ...

anyway, i have only just begun working.
thank goodness I have a working space, and now a camera to record rehearsals with - thanks ever & again Deborah Black* and Kinetic Awareness® Center!

looking forward to further developments ...

* Deborah Black is currently developing and teaching her own practice called Radical Presence. more about it can be found on her website.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

revisiting "In Circles", 20-year anniversary | Rotterdam 2017

In Circles was started in 1996 and the original dance was conceived directly during the last months of my study at the Rotterdamse Dansacademie (now codarts) - a whirling furioso ...

on October 18th, 1997 the dance had its first public performance in New York City as Reàl Dance Company. now it's 2017 and I am revisiting the piece for a new performance, 20 years after the first time. the outcome will be presented on October 20th in Dansateliers, Rotterdam.

I already felt back in 1996 that I would need much of my career to grow and develop the tools that I needed to create this dance that I had in mind. then I went for it, and it was even more work than I had anticipated. but as of last week, I feel that for me the dance is as 'ready' as it could be, still evolving, in front of the audience, which it was and is meant to do.

for this public performance I got kind permission by Donemus publishers to use the original inspiration of Simeon ten Holt's now very popular classic Canto Ostinato as the music. after a long search, I found the specific recording from 1984 that had been used by Krisztina de Châtel for her work Typhoon and was also available at the library of the Rotterdamse Dansacademie (now codarts). this recording had been with me for over 20 years and I kept listening to it off and on. because this recording is 'set', I will have to adapt my actions to the set flow of the music.

in this respect, it was also important to learn about the frame of "open" and "closed" forms of choreography when I studied Open Form Composition at ArtEZ/Dance Unlimited, 2002-2004. It helped me work within the vast understanding opened up by Elaine Summers about dance and its infinite, sensorial, options.

accepting Open Form Composition meant accepting something 'unfinished' which was a major criticism and difficulty that I kept facing. it took a very long time before I could develop the softness and sensitivity of creating with a more kinesthetic memory. now I have a framework that does not have to harm the content, but help it become itself and still remain alive and in the moment.

I also feel much more aware of the Dutch local context in Rotterdam, in which I am working.  even if I can say that I am continually crossing over various places, I am still very much here and need to understand the ongoing conditions of making work here, if I want to be successful enough to realize what I want. SKVR Dansschool are kindly and generously providing much studio space, for which I am deeply grateful.

X crossings ...
basically, the dance is about getting lost in rabbit-holes of details, self-made, self-created structures that present the ever ongoing problem of entanglement, but also of growth & development, for which these structures have been created in the first place, an inevitable consequence of breathing, living, moving.

in my daily life, it is time after time that I get caught in these crossings -moments where I cannot move through. most of the time it is very unpleasant, a conflict, something that I cannot resolve, or something that I feel I am doing wrong, out of tune, violating the context at that moment. In Circles keeps literally moving into and exploring these crucial moments, repetitively, changing over time, but always varying around a number of eventually recognizable patterns. at times there are also resolutions, happening live during the performance of the dance ...

(and of course a moment can also be wonderful, uplifting, liberating, etc. )

intersectional => holistic awareness
In Circles marked the beginning of a series of works that I call the black series, related to the (non)color. all works in this series are very theatrical, open to the transcendental, meditative. they all explore emptiness, non-existence, which I realized is a source. all costumes in this series are black, no other colour except the human body of the interpreter. 

although I was greaty impacted in 1996 by growing up gay, a wider intersectional awareness of racism, or classism was all but absent in my mind, or at best in very rudimentary beginnings. living in a very multicultural city like Rotterdam, where delineations of cultural segregation are not always clearly visible in public space, this may strike as an anomaly. but it took me a very long time to slowly grow into some more understanding and I am very grateful to the people who knew how to make a positive difference for me in this respect. fortunately this process is continuing.

with the current series medvetánc : degrees of (in)tangibility where the dominant colours are organic brown and gold, I seem to have found a way out of the initial more conceptual white & black, to human/animal, understanding. still, much is to be done.
I realize that I cannot change much about the dance, it is me at that moment, a product of the culture that I come from. and so there are no overt references, as in Pelléas material / b.a.n.q. (2014)
however I believe it can be read in a closed way, or in an open way, open to change. that depends on the response-ability of the witnessing audience member, and once again I am asking myself what I can expect of a general public in Rotterdam, and those who will come to the studio-presentation.

if I were to transfer the dance to the originally envisioned five performers, each one of them would have to develop their way of dealing with the music, the movement-vocabulary (based on walking and gestures) and their interpretation. the very choice of performers would have to be done with consciousness about their society and where the performance will be done.

it is my hope that whatever will come out as the result, will sufficiently reflect the potential of the dance to a wider audience, still fulfilling the rule of Meret Oppenheim about good art ("either it lives or it doesn't!") and her admonition for the artist to "work, work, work, without looking left or right"
the pleasure of being in a stage where this is all I need to do (warm up and then do the dance to my fullest) is very fulfilling and I hope the audience(s) will have the same experience.

quote of the day:
To oppose something is to maintain it. They say here “all roads lead to Mishnory”. To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. [..] You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal, then you walk a different road.

To be an atheist is to maintain God. Existent or nonexistent amount to much the same on the plane of proof. Thus
proof is a word not often used among the Handarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or belief: and they have broken the circle and go free.

(Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

multi-dimensional thinking patterns

 from complexity to linear

many lines, emerging in space & time

many such processes happening at the same time

relative hierarchy:
here depicted as a continuum between green, blue, black, or red

to move uses energy,
con-sequentially -unless the one-directionality of time/energy is reversable-
e.g. going to red-black, when you really want to move to green (thus go indirectly)
will not always be helpful 
(but sometimes inevitable)

traces left behind of many such movements
"in circles" ...

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, danced by the original cast who significantly interpreted the choreography: Trisha Brown, Diane Madden, Irene Hultman, Eva Karczag, Stephen Petronio, Vicky Schick, Randy Warshaw

it was a great joy to experience how after 20 years of seeing this video again & again, this time I could finally follow all the various developments of the 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, 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) 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. when seeing these works of Trisha Brown I was confronted with movement-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 a live-performance of Trisha Brown Company 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 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. Brown had also 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 eventually did chose to return to the traditional confines of more traditional 'Western' proscenium theaters, and the expectations of a more traditional European/-American socio-economic elite, coupled with capitalist-elitist financial rewards, dearly needed to maintain her company on a professional level, pay a living wage to dancers, administrators, technicians etc. 

what for many is new, amazing, revolutionary - especially for those of us who remain in an area where we are repeating incremental variations of ever less deeply understood traditional dance languages (which in return as often as not are made into 'new' disposable toss-fodder for the dance-industrial-complex) - is how Trisha Browns' work manages to bring a wider range of complexity of possible human movement together with such an old-fashioned traditional mono-linearity, but still with enough of the liveliness that created this movement in the first place, evoking a specific kind of human character/state that these movements suggest. again, in that sense a classical artist: offering a balance of simplicity and complexity - in this case also tradition and innovation- and an example that invites to be followed ... 

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, or creating translations to a more traditional mindset, 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 managed to continue his career long enough and kept using European-American classical Ballet vocabulary, to form a possible bridge, eventually enough of the rest of the world would catch up with him in time for economic support.
  • after a long while, Anna Halprin is now gradually enjoying more and more recognition and respect; next to her collaborations with her architect-husband Lawrence Halprin, the documentations of her work are by now more acceptable for a larger mainstream, and her deep exploration of healing can be more accepted.
  • Pina Bausch could find an entry via the languages and codes of German theater/drama and eventually became another icon, 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 to be disseminated with a wider audience, and where because of socio-economic inequality such a wider audience does not easily get a choice of acquiring more adequate means for appreciating such physically moving contemporary realities.