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!

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