Saturday, April 23, 2022

a response to a paper by Simona Noja-Nebyla via Academia.edu

(contribution to discussion of the paper "Approaching Ballet Education Core in the 21st Century)


Dear Simona Noja-Nebyla,

Thank you very much for your generous invitation. As there are only 11 hours left for me to comment and just before I was about to go to sleep, my contributions will have to remain superficial, given with the aim to honor the invitation.

Indeed why and which aspects to preserve, maintain, keep developing? Several approaches from the same cultural zone have emerged, enriched the options.

I would invite us to treat whatever anyone of us prefer to think of as ballet as a set of related dance languages. These have evolved over time, like any other language, including English, changed considerably, reflecting social developments, sometimes galvanizing them.

The roots of what is considered ballet I would trace as much longer reaching historically than a mere 360 years, which in human terms is, more or less, one empire. As recent empires that have emanated from the European subcontinent are dissolving into something else (decolonization etc.) so comes the question of what will be maintained, by who, and for what purpose.

One comparable development may be that of Latin into the Romance languages, based on the popular, "vulgar", not the elite "classical" variance.

Today, many use the vocabulary, but often with very different substrates, underlying concepts. Just think of the epochal difference between Merce Cunningham's adaptation of what he learned as ballet-vocabulary into his own way of dancing, via the variation created by Martha Graham in the US of A, again very different from the aims of Alvin Ailey and Janet Collins. And we haven't even begun to look into related contemporary dance languages.

Status, power, imperial more than not, may very much be one of the drives, being recognized as Kings and Queens, top of the heap, having made it socio-economically, speaking the language of the Dominators. Decolonization on the one hand, Afro-/American/European/Asian dancers claiming to be just as proficient and recognized in this language as a current process on the other.

All that said, I deeply believe that every language, every dialect has their innate wisdom and usefulness, and so it is good if enough people dedicate their lives to studying a very specific language, others in sharing insights from this knowledge with others.

The many dance technical aspects of what has been derived from Classical European-formed ballet, has fortunately been challenged to the core, with what is now often referred to as Somatic Dance Techniques as an invaluable gift from the late 20th century.

Perhaps the mere kinds of mono-linear figures and forms & sequences could be interesting, comparably to the chromatic 12-tone system that has been formulated from the European cultural zone. (again in response to and dialogue with Persian, Indian, Chinese, Afro-American, and other musical developments)

For a contemporary society that has finally understood and internalized the necessity of organic connectedness, mycelial, dynamic, ever growing, creating single lines in time/space, as happens in ballet-related languages, can be a welcome option for expression.

Of the current human languages, as we enter what is currently felt to be decolonization, two, English and Spanish, followed on a further place by French stem very directly from the hybridization of Latin with various Gallo-Germanic tribes-languages and dialects.

Perhaps that is a more interesting note to end on.
I hope this was useful to read.

Best of luck!
Thomas Körtvélyessy,
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
April 23, 2022

Thursday, October 21, 2021

lessons from "Raven Kassandra"

in many ways, revisiting and further developing "Raven" after its inception at Elaine Summers Dance & Film Co. / Kinetic Awareness® Center, 2005 and its first climax in 2009 at the National Dance Center in Bucharest, Romania, helped me complement & understand a lot, deeper, better.
it does make sense, the acronym BUILD (Better Understanding Involves Learning and Doing ) ...

revisiting the black series

the central equation of the piece is 1 over 0 = existence over non-existence, creating movement / process > presence vs. poetry (shaped expression)

this formula is also the base for the entire black series, of which this dance is a part. the black color could be inspired by the black clothing code of 20th century Existentialists, 1980s New Wavers. but even more importantly black as the radical absence of light, hinting at nothingness. (in 2013 I finally explored black as in Blackness, within the same series) 

none of these choices were very conscious: inspired by Meret Oppenheim, I always took the freedom to realize the pieces as they came to mind, including those that would form the austere, daunting, black series, the dark forces of nature. this existential series is always theatrical, fully absorbing, at times hermetic, cutting, austere, dramatic, but also present in the here and now of the performing moment. (like just about all of my work) 
 

no more "cold-starts" into a project
I realized while preparing for the performance that having continuously done cold-starts with the project-choreographies has been as harmful in the long term as it would be with the dancing body. 

spoken text (voice) vs. movement (text)
delving into the text "Kassandra" by Christa Wolf, exploring it in translation, from German to English, from meaning into presence, movement, props, persona's, became a main feature of the resulting performance.

elements that help to create communication in the moment
each part of the text that I decided on during the rehearsals got its costume (from just about every performance of works from the black series) 
one part already had specific lighting, the scene where Kassandra dreams of the God Apollon, giving her the gift of prophecy, but then wanting to have sex with her as a reward ...

during the performance
the drama, talking, (Tanz-)theater became very prominent, lots of spoken words, bringing me on edge as a performer, because as an actor I have little training when it comes to using my vocal chords for speaking in public. 

fortunately the speaking did not completely push back all other movements, I could dive (back) into  a continuum where movement would happen "naturally" on its own flow, at times going together with the speaking, at other times more autonomous. 


a sober cover for underlying mystery

I was surprised at my overall sobriety before, during and after the performance. I felt very matter of fact, despite the rather dramatic and existential topic and content.

the outbreaks of movement were - except towards the end- mainly "uncontrolled", uncensored, the most simple, unrestrained stream of movement. not unlike the prophetess getting overwhelmed by that piping, shrieking, ghastly little voice, hanging over her and wailing, screaming ... 

a better balance between the two extremes, ideally shaping in the moment would be good.

the outstretched arms to the side had been a very clear moment that I knew would be a corner-stone of this performance, and I am glad that I found a way into enacting them. it is very nice to have gotten a better understanding of the degree of form-alisation of action into poetry, specific words, nouns, compounds that are created to be holding specific moments of meaning. 

towards the end I did quite consciously re-enact rather specific movements from the very beginning of the Raven in 2005 : a quick contretemps of the hands and arms, triggering a vertical lunge/fall/precipice of the entire body downward. if I kept working more on this piece, listen to the dance more, would more pre-set movements emerge that would help re-enact the dance as itself? 

I was also surprised how much my voice became an exact reproduction of how I spoke the final words during the recorded performance in Bucharest.

resisting women, female resistance and silencing
countering innovation, (post)modernism

there was no music at any time in this piece, except an audio-recording of activist and co-founder of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, as she publicly denounced, ridiculed and exposed the ... shortcomings(?) of a right-wing ThinkTank defending the unilateral annihilation of the Iran Nuclear Deal by then-US president Donald Trump. I am not an uncritical admirer of her political views, but I loved how she just got up in the middle of a "serious" military meeting and started to deflate and debunk it, speaking a plain language, speaking her truth to power.

one direction that would interest me further is to explore is my long involvement with resisting, dissenting women (artists) who as often as not were downplayed and marginalised by their contemporaries: Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Meret Oppenheim, Gertrude Stein, ... and/or in dance more recently Anna Halprin, Elaine Summers, Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson, Mary Overlie, to name just a few. (update: later this year, bell hooks passed away, again an important voice who spoke out, against comfortable notions of any kind, an early advocate of James Baldwin as a Black Gay writer and thinker who just like her, prepared us for intersectionality)

these women clearly said no to then-dominant narratives that were kept over their chosen profession, they refused to give in and were in turn often bypassed, ridiculed, ignored, simply not mentioned more widely, despite their innovative achievements and hard work. 

somewhat the paths that they forged, are now more accepted and understood, even taken for granted, even if they themselves are often as not still glossed over, "forgotten", not mentioned in favour of (male) (White) and/or more recent colleagues. but their potential is still a challenge for most of us, today.

obviously there is a very patriarchal context: in a society where people who are categorised as women get blacked out by custom and design, they can be more prone to dissent and alternatives to the mainstream. (Gay men and non-genderconforming people alongside with them) but we must not forget that patriarchy is in no way more 'natural' or Goddess-given than sexual differences.

a living talking dancing book?
if I do it often enough, I could indeed become a living interpreter of the book "Kassandra", a medium interpreter, quoting each time what is the most fitting for the moment. my physicality and personality can co-create a very full, but not unbiased continuation, ... or bring my audience to read the book? (the English translation, is it good enough??)


thanks to close:
before the final rehearsal period, I had been in Berlin to present a work by Elaine Summers at POOL Shine New York Traces. (link here) that weekend, on Sunday morning, I had a long and important conversation with Yoshiko Chuma when we took a walk in a nearby park. the artistic directors of the festival, Wibke Janssen and Sara Möller also contributed directly to the inspiration of this performance. thank you!

it was also very inspiring to have Julia Hoza who came as part of her last year at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna, Austria (MUK) come to follow the rehearsal process as an understudy. we talked a lot, also about both being diasporic, 2nd generation, having roots from pretty much the same region between Romania, Ukraine, and Hungary, hers Romanian, mine Hungarian and German.

with all of the above, the piece came back to itself.
thanks to Anthony Hüseyin for curating the evening, all at Ubik/Worm who made it possible, the fellow performance artists, Cuartito Azul for the safe and workable rehearsal space, A. Enser and all supporters.

videos & webpage:
https://realdancecompany.org/raven-kassandra.html

Thursday, June 24, 2021

pain and trauma: Butoh, Kinetic Awareness® and political dance

today I finally got to work on my own spine again and noticed how a kind of 'cake' had formed around it, made of residual / habitual tension: it eased but at some level also constricted functioning. 

practicing Kinetic Awareness® and the ball-work I was able to finally address my spine without expectations, listen openly, not demand it to feel in a certain way or to move, if at all, at a certain speed, or ability/agility. instead I could leave it be, give it space, listen to it, gently allow myself to open up when I noticed I was moving at a speed (still slow, but noticeable and continuous, and mentally at a quite fast pace)

once again I realize how with Butoh, any potential restrictions are potentially undone, opened up, should not have to be confined in any way. this liberating potential, openness to being in connection with the environment & people remains an important challenge against norms & habits.

WITH YOU - dancing for peace in Myanmar - collaboration lead by kiori kawai on Vimeo.

as in more recent projects, I could also feel how relatively unharmed my spine, my central nervous system had been for the last 30 years of adulthood = no trauma, no hits (ok, one fall, of my own accord, in 2007)

* original song with footage from Myanmar https://youtu.be/zYqCSWMvD8Q


confronted with ongoing trauma and violence, from beatings to pushbacks, state terror, torture, sometimes over generations, what can be an honest and still emphatic response? (how) can I express solidarity, that I am moved by this suffering, without creating a shortcoming or travesty?

is it okay to work with my own traumatic experiences, apply them to a role, to give my hint towards what more there may be, but not pretending it was I who was made to suffer violation? or is it even a duty, since I happen to free enough of such trauma that I even can begin to speak of it, exactly because I am no longer in the middle of it being (re-)inflicted? 


Saturday, January 16, 2021

dancing snowflakes ...

as the first snow of the year 2021 is falling in Rotterdam right now, I am reminded again of the hundreds of refugees who are still left to die away from freezing as I am writing this post, in ever new waves of people, year in year out, now in makeshift camps in Camp #Lipa in Bosnia-Hercegovina, or on #sosmoria, all literally left in the cold by our murderous longterm impotence indifference including #EU and also very notably the recent #Dutch governments.

* the Dutch cabinet resigned officially yesterday, after they no longer could hide that under their responsibility ca. 20.000 families had been systematically racially and ethnically profiled and aggressively financially ruined by bureaucrats of the neoliberalized Dutch "welfare" system. if it hadn't been for internal officers like Sandra Palmen, let alone lawyer
Eva González Pérez, and continued attempts to work against being silenced, finally taken up widely by more mainstream White-oriented media, all too often casually 'forgetting' to name the ethnic profiling part, they still may be left alone today. also notable: no matter how much they already had suffered from the "missteps" of this "affair", they can apparently receive no compensations, before May ...

Snow Worsens Migrant Plight in Squalid Bosnian Camp ... "People are not animals"; stranded migrants freeze in ...
 

@rtful pursuit: September 2010
as much as I can accept the subjectively innocent magic of The Nutcracker ballet in its countless variations, deemed the "right" tradition, justified, high-culture, and especially the much better preserved music by Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, with its Romantic and unmistakeably Gay vibes from my childhood, it gets an especially multiple dimension today, ... after all, when this ballet was performed, millions of people, all over then the Russian Czar's Empire were equally and literally left out in the cold, ignored by those who got to watch and enjoy the ballet, in the relatively heated and comfortable theatre.... #lecharmediscretdelanostalgie  (link)

today one could re-imagine this part with all of the above dimensions, including #WhiteFragility the #snowflake trope , geometric mass-dancing of the (*all white) (female) corps de ballet, all silently echoing the coldheartedness of haves versus have-nots, who as the latter are made out-of-sight-out-of-mind, at least for a moment. and still find a way to evoke what magic had been conjured by the original dance, since it, too, was and continuesto be a given.

it could become a very interesting choreographic challenge to rise to. 

instead, I begin with this already very different variation by Maurice Béjart, the Marseille-born choreographer, who went on to feed Belgian, Northern French, and Swiss cultures with his highly sophisticated and crafted emotion-evoking intelligently entertaining arts and spectacles, based on aristocratic variations of what had once been peasant dance moves. notice the various cultural tweaks around race, gender & class in this part, as he revisits his own childhood ...


As visual artist Jean-Ulrick Désert said recently, it is all happening at the same time, valid and effective simultaneously, ... and it all works, together ...



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Contact Zone : Extended Body - Extended Self, outdoor session Luchtpark @Hofbogen Rotterdam 27 sept 2020

this session was part of the overall project Extended Body - Extended Self which I am organising with Contact Zone Rotterdam as a response to the Covid19 pandemic and its consequences in the Netherlands.  

*at the moment of writing, the number of infections has reached proportions of the first wave in March 2020 and keeps rising. Rotterdam is especially hard hit, ever since the pandemic began. until the time of writing this article, comparable to some States in the USA, the UK or Sweden, the official approach in the Netherlands has been marked by neoliberal exceptionalism and covert ableism, leading to unusually high rates of mortality, especially among the elderly population.

our main objective was to temporarily discontinue the monthly afternoons of contactimprovisation due to the high risk of contagion from the continued close contact with this dance form. we were also very aware of ongoing cases of ableism and sometimes new-age related denial of the virus that circulated in our related communities. 

as a consequence we decided to reconsider our course & re-visit skills that we found central in contact improvisation to deal with the current situation: listening care-fully, to our own bodymind and that of possible partner(s), open for sensing connectivity in the moment. how to find again such moments of connectivity, even if we keep a more safe physical distance from each other, is the main objective of this project.

our approach is multiple: every month there is a Zoom-session for people who wish to stay at home, a studio session where we maintain a safety distance of at least 1.5m in a very well-ventilated space, and for the months September and October, an outdoor session in a public location.

(for more information about the entire series of the overall project, please click here)  

 

the location
the Luchtpark Hofbogen is a public-private enterprise which is partly an open community garden near the city center of Rotterdam. the main edifice is a former local train-connection to Den Haag, and especially the above-ground former train-station that was part of it. after redesigning the entire space, the park borders directly on an area of parking lots and warehouses (labelled ZoHo by project developers), which for a while has been undergoing gentrification and became a prestige object for the city, wanting to promote design and creativity.

urban sketching
our objective for the outdoor session was the practice of urban sketching : visual artists getting together on an outdoor location to make sketches of what they see & perceive. every one works on their own and on their own terms, but they all do this in each others' presence.  in return, we would do the same but with our presence and our bodies in potential movement.

(thanks to Lody Meijer for bringing in this idea)

participants
NuRy Lee who currently studies for her Masters interior architecture: research and design at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, and Alina Fejzo, formally a dancer with Dansgroep Krisztina de Châtel, who works now as a freelancer and since some time also explores video and photography, both joined for this session. it was clear that everyone else the space with us had as much a right to do as they pleased and were not to be hindered by us.

click here for the foto-page of shots by Alina Fejzo


results & observations
we all found the area very wide & rich in information, spatious, open, 360 degrees. there are virtually not limitations in terms of how wide one can look. one can see the yellow air-bridge on the same level as the former train-station and people moving on it, but also people in the nearby residential areas on the ground below. the skyscrapers of the commercial office-area of the Weena are just as visible as the ongoing trains rushing through on the main line to Rotterdam Central Station.

on this Sunday afternoon plenty of people came by to stroll, meet each other, hang around, move around on their own as well.


for myself it was the first time since the lockdown that I could move in such a wide open space.  thanks to my continued practice of Kinetic Awareness® which I could partly maintain, and the previous performance series Wittgenstein, it was possible for me to move into this situation full-bodied and ready for the adrenalin rush and pleasure.

I was amazed at the amount of connectivities that were possible for me, also the clarity of sensation, of how far I could go, when I needed to stop etc. I could play with the weight and counterweight of the main construction on the location, the various parts of the former train platform, the massive stone, the wooden beams of the roof, the shapes, directions, various axis and levels that were all over & everywhere, and with my own physicality and weight in a continuously changing relation to them. the ease with which I could switch between these various planes and axis and feel these connections, was a true delight to experience.

timing added another possible connection in the moment, echoing rhythms and movements around me, including those of my fellow sketchers. Nury and I could trade movement vocabulary with each other, such as skipping-turning on one foot, looking from left to right, while Alina was busy making video and photo recordings of us and the location.

red-white tape
separation-connection tape

following the suggestion of M.T. from Contact Zone, the red-white tape which is usually used for separating spaces, often for personal security, now also became an item that we could use for connectivity. brought in during the session as an by Nury Lee, she and I took a lot of time measuring objects of the space with parts of these tapes, which we also had attached to ourselves as a visual and symbolic marker that we participated in this performance-session.

the tape was partly echoed by having it attached to the ground, but also to the info-box set up on one corner.

making personal connections with other people in this space proved to be the most challenging for me: on the one hand, I very much could and would need to actualize my own self in the space as a dancer, moving beyond the vocabulary of everyday visitors such as walking. I was aware that this was partly expected of me in my social function and specialisation as a dancer. ( = extra ability, training, spectacle, but also specialized kinesthetic exploration) on the other hand, without visible boundaries between the other people in the space and myself, the openness of the situation also could make them feel more unsafe, not wanting to get engaged, or disturb the performance area. 


ecology - the environment and a connective holding form
when the recently deceased choreographer and pioneer of somatic release work in the UK and Europe, Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson introduced Responsible Anarchy, she mentioned the use of a holding form for the various indeterminate actions that could become part of a dance performance in a desired way. 

I realize now that for us, this holding form, was actually the space in which we performed and its ecology, connectively linking independent agents, each on their own course, amid on-lookers, other visitors of the space, within the city, etc. indeed, we had various options at being response-ible with ourselves, each other, and our surroundings.

in many ways, having worked with Deborah Black on her way of teaching the Six Viewpoints, was also very helpful to facilitate this awareness of scale and connection, near and far.


conclusion
rather than demand of myself that I fulfill each of these tasks of the moment to 100% perfection, I allowed myself a decided degree of sketchiness, moving through, knowing that I would need even more time and practice to do better a next time.

above all I am grateful that I have been able to make this session come true.
thanks to all who have been making it possible!



Friday, July 10, 2020

Wittgenstein: first theses-results

during yesterday's after-talk about Wittgenstein at Leeszaal Rotterdam West (dank & nogmaals warm bedankt!) Joke van der Zwaard, who kindly supported and helped this project to be realized, asked what my results were of these dance-philosophical investigations.

the underlying 9 points are a first attempt, which will need to be further formulated.
rather than the mere 7 of Wittgenstein's inspiring Tractatus Logico Philosophicus I am happy that these points so far come to be 9, also used as the old medieval European number of the Holy Trinity x 3 = divine perfection ... :-)


(for more visual results such as notes, videos, photos, see also the project-blog)


=

1. dance as the experience and communication of movement has its own specific aspects, just like communication that is based on the use of breath & vocal chords. ( = in some human cultures traditionally the only recognised “voice” “words” "literature" etc. - this view is by now sensorially and cognitively scientifically untenable)

2. dance is a part of our process of being alive, it includes movement (= kinaesthetic) sensing, thinking, dreaming, remembering, abstracting into (audio-) visual imagery, notation etc. like any other sensorial process

ad 2. just like cells multiplying, plants growing etc. our organic actions, have organic consequences which need to be taken seriously. there is becoming/ growth, life / activity, death, destruction / dissolution, recycling.


3. dance is a fundamental experience, as well as communication and expression of our state of being, since it involves our entire physical aspect of existing as organic beings, closely linked to proprioception, emotions, interpersonal = social interaction.

4. there is no anatomical division between body ( = our physical aspect)  and mind ( = the functioning of our physical aspect)

ad 4. because there is no actual division, all (repeated) actions, instincts, "life-hacks", stories, myths, rituals, art, science, fiction, dreming, are all parts of these needed actions to survive.


5. dance as a way of being involves the full organic vulnerability of our existence. in cultures that assign aspects of hardness or softness to certain groups of people ( e.g. based on perceived and constructed genders ) these qualities are associated with those groups ( compare for example = “feminine intuition”, homosexuality as an inherently “feminine” or in any case “non-male” quality)

6. to silence, withhold, frustrate, impede the organic functioning of our bodyminds is not only a matter of control that can help with temporary survival: if it is done wrongly it leads to aggression, imbalance, with all destructive consequences (compare Reich, Lowen, et al.)

7. to silence and obliterate the personal aspect of a person, including their sexual preferences and life, as entirely separate from their professional achievements is dishonest, blocks information and learning for others who are in need of this information, and all too often used for the above (6.)


8. any simplifying abstraction, formula, pattern is on the one side a necessary and elementary function of survival, culture(s) are the direct result of many of such patterns collected and practiced. however, any such abstraction ( e.g. resulting mono-linearity) is never and must never be confused, let alone absolutely imposed on organic and chaotic multiplicity. Queerness, and many other kinds of “otherness” are good examples of such failures, all too often with catastrophic results, both on a smaller and definitely on a larger (e.g. planetary) scale.

ad 8 (via M. Tuk, T. Horvers) - communication functions via abstraction(s) of sensorial existence ( = signs) that are re-translated while drawing from personal experience: this is their potential richness in the case of shared ( = comparable) experiences & their shortcoming / limitation as well.

ad 8. ad 8 - successful communication creates communion = shared, common wealth
this is why art gets destroyed and controlled the more totalitarian a government turns out to be.
unfortunately such control often over-extends no-longer viable patterns of art / science / religion / communication / culture.

9. change remains possible. dance, as an organic function of the human body mind reminds of the chaotic existence and the balance with abstracted order, every day, every moment when we breathe, let go, re-tense, etc.






Monday, June 15, 2020

needing form/ula

while working on Wittgenstein and in the middle of social & cultural change around Black Lives Matter, I finally realise (again) the need for form and formula, to survive. these help to navigate within the world, and are essential. from identifying danger to dealing with other(s of the same) species, it is mandatory to perform the best working ones, in the best possible interaction and outcomes for all.

one may call this state truth where the action performed is most closely in sync with all other processes, and becomes a "natural" part, can be absorbed.

from instinct to habit to technology to culture to religion to science, these are all essentially strategies for survival. and they need to work well, for all involved.

( hence the famous think global act local )


with ongoing evolution ever wider areas of existence need to be considered and understood.
what is referred to as 'the' scientific method is but one way to better understand what is going on, how to best adapt, what course of action may be safest in a situation.

art is the same, creating, understanding by doing, sensorial thinking and interaction, a field of conversations where with every word we speak, every move we make, we re-create the dance, literature, acting of our times.

just like in science there are general pools of such interactions and then some of us specialise in observing and trying to understand them better.

extreme actions cost and can necessitate extreme counter-actions, unless a more deeply effective solution can be found.


i believe history teaches that any pattern and solution evolves, has its shelf-life, needs ongoing dealing-with, understanding, refinement, at some point needs to dissolve and let go, make space for newer evolving forms. like with DNA it can be good to retain a memory of such earlier forms, in order to understand better what is happening in the present. risk confusion, but then trust that with more complex evolving, an resulting outcome may be more sustainable.

there also needs to be space/energy for alternatives that at some point can provide a better solution, to avoid mono-cultures. in short, a well-working biotope of biotopes.