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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

dreaming econonomics

a very inspiring and much needed quote by Marie Curie, found on the blog of Andrew Wass :

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.
to see the post and more inspiration from his blog

community dance - evolving perspectives: intersectional, intercultural, communal

this article inspired the organizers for the coming International Day of Dance in Rotterdam to open up all levels of organisation and enable all participants to share in the responsiblity. tomorrow will see the first meeting for questions of scheduling, production, PR, and exchange in general ... (includes a very useful scale of participation)
*I don't vouch for the assumption about therapy that is put forward in the ladder: therapy is innately for self-empowerment on a personal level. Whether the approach and outcome are adequate in an intercultural situation is crucial, but I find the assumption of therapy as the lowest  (hierarchical!) end of the ladder, to be falsely generalizing a status quo and shut down any possible & much needed improvement.

I remember very well the un-ease I felt after leaving the Zwaanshals-area in Rotterdam back in 2004, as artists-in-residence. we came and were adopted as the 'village-excentrics', had some nice and inspiring interactions, but now it was time to move on. what about the people who I left behind?

now in 2017, it is more clear than ever that if I am working in a local situation, I need to be aware of, and get involved with the people who are a part of it, and they with me. this article was very inspiring

artists are sense-workers, communication workers, just like dreamers of any kind. following from this understanding must be an acceptance that just like every individual being, art/science that has an innate value beyond any immediate "use", actual or perceived.