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)

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.

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.

Monday, June 8, 2020

ungrowing from neurotic constrictions - Reich, body work, police defunding towards community programs

today's show of DemocracyNow! (June 8, 2020) gave very inspiring examples of demands to de-fund the enormous budgets used by police in the United States of America. my immediate thought went towards the understanding of Wilhelm Reich, more than 100 years ago, about the desperate need for a freely moving, breathing, acting bodymind, which then can be much more response-able, social.

in many ways I am following his analogy to cancer-growth, needing enormous amounts of energy, and depriving vital functions of the oranism from functioning because of uncontrolled growth.

the call for defunding an overgrowth of a single apparatus and re-using that energy/funding towards programs that go to many of the roots of why policing can be needed in the first places makes all the sense: invest in the organ-ism as a whole, in its well-being, actively de-fund energy from the armour.

excursion Wilhelm Reich and body armour
Reich understood the problem of constricting this movement in such a way that it interferes with vital movements of the bodymind, calling it neurosis, identifying an exalted state with the name emotional pestilence, citing racism as one of the outcomes. Reich re-discovered that these constrictions are actually muscular, ongoing contractions that are insufficiently released or not released at all. his analogic name for this state was body / muscle armour, because he understood that it did keep the individual "together" literally shielding weaker parts of the body from damage, but also kept the overall energy low. more often than not, sexual moves, especially of the pelvis would be most restricted, leading to an inability to orgastic release.

dance has always been heavily regulated through all ages, precisely because it culturally regulates body movements and physical communication.

(in the Netherlands, enormous cuts have been made into the increasingly de-funded arts, with subsidized dance taking some of the most crippling cuts, for a relatively unremarkable saving of money. bullying is a more apt name of what is being done. parallel to these actions were governmentally lead defamation campaigns marginalizing art as "leftist hobbies", de-professionalizing the practitioners. today, in 2020, the Dutch Royal Airlines company receives a 4 Million Euro bailout, employing 30.000 people, with nearly 1 Million Euro bonusses to the top CEO's, while the entire arts-sector, after much protest, receives 300 Million Euro, but employing 300.000 people)

it is time to re-vive dance again, with the openness of pioneers such as Elaine Summers, Mary O'Donnell-Fulkerson, and their precedessors, the rigour of somatic work that is to understand, rather than (re-)constrict, with the individual dancer as the very "frame", creating their own dance.

existing dance languages remain precious collections of knowledge, movement and expression technologies, repositories of states of being evolving over time. they give understanding of where we came from historically, give examples that can be studied.

at the same time it must remain vitally clear that development of contemporary dance become more than just a re-evaluation of these traditionally grown forms, even the oeuvres by all the mentioned choreographers & thinkers above.

Monday, January 13, 2020

bridging technique / hypber.ballet

like 'skeletal' architecture, where the columns free the walls from having to carry the building, #bridgingtechnique can free the dancer from a single vocabulary (compare with maison Dom-Ino by LeCorbusier, brought into full movement by Zaha Hadid ... )

this approach requires a careful choice of the best possible 'skeleton' and ingredients : so far I have found #KineticAwareness, #BodyMindCentering, #contactimprovisation, #taijiquan, #LabanMovementAnalysis, #CunninghamTechnique, #EshkolWachmanMovementNotation, #SixViewpoints, all together creating the possibility of #hyperballet, as one of many options

fortunately this is just one of the many diverse directions in dance, each dance-culture has different goals and means, in the endless desire to move, communicate, and survive ... 

 * for a more detailed description and critique, read