Last summer when presenting a paper at the PSI conference (Leeds) I was introduced to the New York based performance artist Lindsey Drury. Following the conference we started an interesting and inspiring email correspondence, which led to Lindsey inviting me to perform at the Brooklyn International Performance Festival (BIPAF). As her practice/research works on similar ideas as mine, the idea is that I will work with her company, introducing my idea of the ‘visible choreographer’, followed by a performance at the Grace Exhibition Space.
After all the planning and writing of many funding applications, my trip to New York is now only a few weeks away! I am very excited and very grateful for this opportunity but I am also quite scared about showing my work outside my known network and without my company. How will the audience receive my work? Will I be able to get them interested in my ideas – how will it fit into current discussions within the performance scene over there?
I keep on having these nightmares of being on stage (there is always a heavy curtain lifting and an orchestra playing a big fanfare) and I don’t know what to do – being completely unprepared for this moment…
I might need one of these…
Having my notebook with me at all times and dotting down ideas as they arrive, I find the biggest challenge with this project is to not work with my company but with a group of strangers and for a very short rehearsal time of three days.
As I wrote about it in my last blog post, trust is a crucial part of my work. Only with a certain amount of trust these shifts of dynamics/power can happen and the vulnerability as a great component of these processes can be made visible.
Most of the dancers in my company have been working with me for many years, some even right from the beginning when I started with this research in 2007 as part of my final project for my MA at the London Contemporary Dance School. Over these years a great understanding developed, an insight not only of the context of the work but also of each other’s personalities and characters. Challenges have been faced, debates fought, a lot of wine has been drunk and very low budget touring experiences shared. I can become nostalgic now but all these shared experiences create a strong bonding and feeling of trust, which I will not have in New York.
So how do I create it? How will I find new and different approaches to get everyone involved in my ideas – how can we find a different form of ‘togetherness’ without me trying to re-create what I have in Leeds?
I would like to start with collecting stories, getting to know the dancers through their personal memories – reconnecting to the work around ideas of ‘home’, not only an ongoing interest of mine but also an idea we have played with in the last R&D weekend (June 2012). Inspired by Sophie Ernst’s exhibition ‘HOME: Architecture of memory’ at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (May 2012), as well as writings by Tuan (1977) and Ingold (2011) in relation to space, place and room, this will add a narrative to the conceptual framework of Before I decide. Ernst works with interviews of people in exile. Home becomes a memory, a memory of space, a way of looking – for her home becomes a non-place (Ernst, 2012). This will not only highlight the spatial shift of me working in New York but will also emphasise on the spatial aspects of trust and vulnerability.
Sharing these personal stories with the dancers in New York will hopefully create a feeling of connectivity and trust, allowing not only the dancers but also the audience to enter my work on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one. And as Bolt draws on Heidegger,
We do not come to ‘know’ the world theoretically through contemplative knowledge in the first instance. Rather, we come to know the world theoretically only after we have come to understand it through handling. Thus the new can be seen to emerge in the involvement with materials, methods, tools, and ideas of practice (Bolt, 2007, p.143).
Apart from working with stories about home, I would like to continue with the idea of having traces of previous performances in the current one, presenting this performance as part of my ongoing research, referring to previous performances or rehearsals. Working in a series of performance installations suggests an overall timeline with each performance being referential to the previous one, as introduced by Ana Sanchez-Colberg in Future/Perfekt (1998). For my research it offers a holistic approach to my ongoing practice-based research with its interrelated nature of studio performance driven research, where theory and praxis work together. Each new project develops my ideas further, identifying the work, so that the work becomes a constituting element within the system of choreographer, company and work. As the control shifts throughout the performance process, all participants become choreographer, company and work, referencing previous performances in the present performance highlights the presents of all three elements, underlying the choreographic direction (Sanchez-Colberg, 2002).
My first referencing ideas are:
- Playing audio recordings from rehearsals/discussions (2011) as a sound track for new movement material
- Bringing my old radio back, which we used in 2007 (Gleichzeitig)
- Letting the dancers continue with the knitting of my company, which they’ve started in 2011 in between moments of dancing
- Using task cards from my work with Verve in 2010 (Physical chain)
- Using Cardew’s graphic scores we used in previous rehearsals for new tasks but with my company’s notes still on it
Feel free to give suggestions!
BOLT, B. and BARRETT, E. eds. 2007. Practice as research, approaches to creative arts enquiry. New York: St Martin’s Press
ERNST, S. 2012. Home: Architecture of memory. West Bretton: Yorkshire Sculpture Park
INGOLD, T. 2011. Being alive, essays on movement, knowledge and description. Oxon: Routledge
SANCHEZ-COLBERG, A. 2002. Future/Perfekt: re-locating performance…or a dance about everything and the kitchen sink. In: V. PRESTON DUNLOP and A. SANCHEZ-COLBERG, eds. Dance and the performative. London: Verve Publishing, pp. 165-195
TUAN, Y.F. 1977. Space and place, the perspective of experience. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press
Photos: Philippa Thomas and Andy Wood