I am still trying to find ways how to best write about my practice and research. How can I write from within, how can I capture the feel of reflecting ‘in’ practice?
Reflection – ‘on’ and – ‘in’ practice addresses two situations. Reflection-on-Practice tends to be after the fact and is written up later. Reflection-in-Practice tends to reference ideas, thoughts and reflections captured in the process. This is closer to ‘being in the moment’ (Fiona Bannon, 2013).
Melrose’s, Pollard’s and Butcher’s attempt in ‘Reflections on the making processes, 2001-2002’ serves as a good direction how to document process through writing (Melrose, 2005). Using different fonts to highlight thoughts by different people or thoughts at different times helps to create a reflection of the non-linearity of thinking within creative processes. There seems to be no single concern within the richness of creative processes (Vincs, 2007) but a patchwork of thoughts in no hierarchical order, some of them related to each other some of them not.
Whilst trying to reflect ‘in’ my practice I would like to cite Melrose, that,
At the same time it should be noted that we are asking the impossible here: that the ;visual artist speak her practice which, as choreographer/philosopher she has systematically preferred not to (Melrose, 2005, p. 67).
Feeling more comfortable in one form of communication than the other will always be visible in my writing, finding a way to approach my writing like I approach the making of choreographic work will hopefully help to create a similar flow of ideas.
The following is a collection drawn from different forms of documentation of my creative process in New York (2013). Reading the dancers’ journals and listening to discussions during the rehearsals as well as my talking diaries (documented on film), I have selected comments/statements/questions. Some of them read like a conversation, at other times they are less connected. I wanted to apply the methodology of using different fonts within post structuralist thinking and beyond, but unfortunately my website does not allow me this here.
Laura: The wood (studio space) has a soft light filtering through sunlight. It is still grey outside. There are birds, trains. We all sit with our yarns and needles and notebooks. We have danced together for years.
Katelyn: I feel really comfortable in Kathinka’s created world. Safe, not in a simple way, in a pleasurable way. Safe to play.
Kathinka: Building an atmosphere of trust is part of the identity of the work, ‘feeling safe to play’ allows the work to constantly unfold and challenge its boundaries. Working here in New York is showing me that my responsibility is to create an atmosphere that in the first instance allows permission for playfulness and fearlessness that settles in to a gradual familiarity with resources, thoughts and ideas so that the work can be taken to places and through intersections that may not have occurred otherwise.
Katelyn: I really appreciate the hat – it gives me a way to engage more, pick it up! (…) With the hats I feel a little like I’m losing touch with the composition, the through line. Before, I knew I was here to take part in Kathinka’s creation. With the hats I feel more vague. I can do anything. What holds it together if I can do anything?
Kathinka: Is this referring to choreographic signature? What is the difference between ‘taking part’ and ‘being a part of’? Who defines the through line?
Katelyn: When no leadership is given, there is a moment of hysteria when leadership is taken.
Kaia: I think this work shows a fearless faith that if you are practicing being in the moment, there is no lack of new meaningful experience. (…) It’s that moment of excitement when the choreographer makes a choice and the dancer finds something and everyone in the room witnesses the birth – and that’s the work! (Instead of re-creating the same moment.) (…) Kathinka came in and put herself in the front of the flocking – a different form of direction.
Kathinka: This is something I’ve explored here in New York for the first time. It gets me out of my controlling editing head and into my more fluid experimenting – suspending head/self and makes me follow my intuition more. It makes me feel closer to the dancers when sharing the same medium and working on embodying ideas.
Kaia: It was kind of a slow way of transition of taking it back because you [Kathinka] were still following Paige’s direction to do your solo but you’ve prepared – you thought ahead – you went back into the preparing mood, which I thought was beautiful because it was combined with the willingness to follow Paige’s direction but you were interested in the thinking. And by adding the audio you’ve effected our way of flocking but it was so softly and in relation to the direction you’ve received.
Kathinka: Being in and out of control, being in and out of focus. The smooth transitions please me, but the jerky ones, the juxtaposition of different ideas make the work exciting. I don’t think that’s something I’m good at.
Laura: I like the instruction to memorize someone else’s movement and perform it later. It gave me freedom to put something into a new context and composition. (…) Did we bully Kathinka? She said it was weird.
Kathinka: With ‘weird’ I mean that I was pushed in an unknown place – a place where I didn’t know the outcome. ‘Weird’ in form of being ‘un-familiar’.
Laura: She danced, we flocked. We all touched her, a sign of support – apology?
Kathinka: It didn’t feel like that to me. It felt more like we met on a different ground – similar to what I said before – we met through touch, sharing the moment of being in our bodies. And I enjoyed your support; it made me trust you, made me feel ‘safe to play’.
Laura: I could sense the pre-run energy would encourage us to get more experimental, more free, to enact choices that were maybe stuck like lumps in our throats before.
Kathinka: I really wanted to try and see where we could take it. I wanted to see where [you] would take it. It was really exciting. And it was scary because there were times where I completely lost control. Kaia at one point asked me to close my eyes and I danced with her, [you] got very wild with all the props in the space and we listened to Janet Jackson…
So [you] did all the things I would never do. And I had this voice inside my head saying: “NO don’t do this, this is wrong!” but it was great to go with it. And I really felt that it added a very playful atmosphere and I felt that for the first time the shift of power got realized.
Laura: She is toying to do something in a situation where she can’t do it.
Paige: I felt most present as a knitter and as a ‘teammate’ in this run. (…) I woke up this morning and remembered to play it simple, don’t overthink. (…) Kathinka, we have been pushed and now we are pushing you. We will expose your weaknesses and test your boundaries. We want you to show us your limits. We want your strength and your weak spots because we share them with you. (…) Power is embedded in these deep systems that we obey to and coexist with. (…) We need to push you, how much will you trust yourself outside your plan – how much will you trust us – how much can you give to the mass – if something threatens your true, non-negotiable values you can react, resist, fight, leave…
Kathinka: I’ve enjoyed that the feeling of being judged was not present in this run, that you’ve made choices, which challenged me and my artistic choices but also my position of being in control. But I hesitated to resist and fight. Could I fight and still keep an atmosphere of trust?
Paige: That was fun (Kathinka).
Kathinka: See – fun and weird.
BUTCHER, R. and POLLARD, N. with MELROSE, S. 2005. Reflections on the making processes, 2001-2002. In R. Butcher and S. Melrose. 2004. Rosemary Butcher: Choreography, collisions and collaborations. London: Middlesex University Press, pp. 66-85
VINCS, K. 2007. Rhyzome/Myzone: A case study in studio-based dance research. In: E. BARRETT and B. BOLT, eds. Practice as research, approaches to creative arts enquiry. New York: St Martin’s Press, pp. 98-112
Photos: Laura Bartczak, Kathinka Walter