Planning my trip to New York

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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.

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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…

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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.

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“Before I decide” (2011)

 

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.

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‘HOME: Architecture of memory’ by Sophie Ernst (2012)

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
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Neil Callaghan as our guest performer in “Gleichzeitig” with my old radio (London, 2007)


I am thinking out loud here, ideas are floating – my notebook always nearby.

Feel free to give suggestions!

 

References:

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

 

 

 

Yoga and the ‘Visible Choreographer’

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Whilst exploring my practice/research of the ‘visible choreographer’ and the consequences of being present/active in the performance event, my yoga practice (Ashtanga) has become more and more part of my daily practice. Only recently I have made the connection between both and how they feed each other.

I’ve started an email conversation/debate with Marie Hallager Andersen about this topic and I will soon post it here as well.

But first an introduction below.

The authentic practice of yoga is an unremitting attention to the present experience, whether in body, mind or heart. (…) According to yoga philosophy and psychology, the only place to begin an investigation of yoga (…) is the present moment, because this is all that is actually occurring. (Stone, 2008, p. 8)

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Michael Stone

 

Stone highlights the focus of yoga on the present moment. This clearly links to key elements within improvisation. Midgelow states,

I hear the sounds of the world about me and nothing but the absorbing ‘now’ exists, for I am entering fully into the moment (Midgelow, 2011, p. 11).

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Vida Midgelow, Improvisational Movement Practice

As my research on the ‘visible choreographer’ overlaps with aspects of improvisation, yoga helps me to be more in the present moment and not getting caught up in planning ahead. Within my role of the choreographer I am used to structuring and planning ahead. Even though I can be focussed on present creative processes there is always a part of me that plans ahead, imagining how different elements can unfold and link. Yoga offers a rest from this and allows listening inwards without jumping ahead. Focusing on the breath and following the series of postures in silence (Primary series) challenges me to stay in the moment, listening inwards and becoming conscious of the business of the mind.

The challenge when being the ‘visible choreographer’ lies exactly here: I observe the happening and what it suggests, trying to prolong the moment before I decide. By focusing on the moment I can react more fluently to the dancers’ responses. I can observe where the work wants to go, can follow its lead. However, my role differs from the other performers, as I at the same time have to imagine an overall dramaturgy of the performance. Both modes stay in conflict with each other and the unexpected responses/interactions of the dancers force me to switch between both.

Being in the moment and staying with it can also mean that I get confronted with situations of not knowing or being bored with the happening, having to stay longer in the place of not knowing. Referring to yoga Stone states,

As we slow down and investigate our experience from moment to moment, we are, in essence, studying the way we organize and construct our experience. Slowing down gives us an opportunity to get to know what it is we are investigating, rather than the usual tendency of superimposing our theories on whatever it is we see (Stone, 2008, p. 36).

Rather than jumping ahead and superimposing decisions, the challenge of the visible choreographer is to listen for longer and see what the moment suggests. This is not always easy, especially when being watched by an audience, but the frustration and vulnerability this causes intrigues me and plays an important part of making the choreographer’s thinking visible – the visible choreographer and her way of organising and constructing experience becomes visible.

 

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“Gleichzeitig 3″ (Leeds, 2009)

When working with my dancers we start each day with a yoga practice, tuning in on being in the moment, listening inside, becoming sensitized towards the subtlety of each moment. For the dancers the challenge of the work lies less in being caught between planning ahead and being in the present moment but in making decisions/changing the pathway of the performance process in relation to what is there in the present moment. Making a decision truthful to what is there can cause insecurity of being judged. The element of overcoming judgement plays an important part within yoga. It emphasises on listening inwards to one’s body’s need without following preconceived ideas of what should be done, finding the edge of challenging the body without pushing it too far. A great amount of sensitivity is needed for it – the confidence to follow what is needed.

Stone calls this the non-dualistic perception and explains,

Yoga is the inherent union and interconnectedness of all existence before we split things into subject, object or any method of categorization. (…) It is being so fully present in an action (or non-action) that you don’t need to create a self (Stone, 2008, p. 11).

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By being in the mode of a ‘selfless self’ the fear of judgement dissolves and decisions can be made truthfully to the present moment. This clearly links to the dancers’ challenge of reacting in the moment without the fear of being judged. Taking ownership of the happening and reacting to what is there without using it as a way to present the self, helps to overcome the fear of judgement, places the focus back to the work and the possibilities it presents.

This is only the beginning of a longer exploration. Look out for the upcoming conversation with Marie Hallager Andersen!

 

References:

MIDGELOW, V. 2011. Dear Practice … : The experience of improvising. Choreographic Practices. 2, pp. 9-24

STONE, M. 2008. The inner tradition of yoga. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.

Photos: Ulrike Heuer

Trust and Power

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Referring to Ingold, Pollard describes the choreographic process as ‘grown’; the choreographer therefore provides an environment for the work to grow rather than building it (Pollard, 2010).

Lee highlights the importance of the relational practice with her dancers and how she as the choreographer

nurtures the growth of the piece (Lee, 2010, p. 34).

This idea of nurturing implies two strands for me. Firstly, there is the nurturing and providing of an environment of trust so that the company and I can explore ideas without fear of failing. Secondly, and of course strongly related to the first one, there is the nurturing of the work, letting it grow without too much control.

Nurturing an environment of trust is especially important when working with the concept of the ‘visible choreographer’. Sometimes I find that my ‘over’-sensitive way of caring about the atmosphere between all participants can stand in my way, especially in this kind of work where the conventional format of the hierarchical structure between choreographer and company gets irritated. I consciously choose dancers who are independent, intelligent and not afraid of questioning authority. I want the dancers to challenge my decision-making, which can cause disagreement and insecurity but is necessary to gain greater depth of research by making each decision process conscious and working outside the known. This can provoke vulnerability on both sides. A great amount of trust within the company and for the work is necessary and therefore it is essential to give emphasis on nurturing the research/creative environment.

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“Before I decide” (2011)

An on going discussion and discrepancy within the work with the ‘visible choreographer’ is the need for an artistic vision to provide a framework for the dancers to work within. This can make them feel safer as the fear of being judged by the audience and myself, is at times very present. However, as much as I want them to feel confident I do not want to fix the parameters too much to make sure that a shift of control can occur. If the dancers’ way of interpreting my tasks would always be how I envisioned it their responses would never irritate my planning ahead. Nevertheless, I do want the work to have a clear style and when working in March 2011 we agreed on specific rules to set guidelines for the dancers.

To still give space for the unexpected we invented the ‘joker card’ similar to John Zorn’s use of the headband (Guerrilla System) – whoever wore ‘the hat’ could do what he/she liked, which created a great change of dynamic and moments of un-expectancy. Nevertheless, discussions throughout the rehearsal process made me realize that the dancers felt more empowered and confident when working within a set framework and a clear aesthetic vision contributed to it.

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“Before I decide” (2011)

In regards to Ingold and the idea of the choreographer providing an environment for the work to grow (second strand), again a great amount of trust is important. During the work on Before I decide I sometimes felt that I could step back and see where the work ‘wanted’ to go, that it developed best when I did not control it, trusting that it would unfold in the right way and nurturing its growth (Lee, 2010). Working with a theoretical concept rather than a pure narrative idea, for me the creative process included two very different moods of working. These were: Following the flow of the work and my intuitive ideas and stepping back and observing my thinking.

Being in it was as important as stepping out of it. There was a constant shift between cerebral and phenomenological ways of working, seeing the work as an object and being within the work/being the work. The timing of when to do what, became significant. When do I follow the flow of the work and when do I bring it to a hold? Discussions within the company played a big part of the work and it was important that everyone was fully involved in the conceptual ideas underlining the work.

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What interests me here is that both elements, the cerebral and phenomenological approach, are strongly linked to the performers. The subject of this work is its participants and their interaction, which makes the distinction between the company, the work and myself at times quite blurry – makes the relationship between all three constantly shift.

This refers back to Lehmen’s Funktionen (2004) and his idea of:

People do not make communication. Communication makes people (Lehmen, 2004).

How much does the work influence the company and myself? How much can we allow it to take its lead?

This dynamic was similar during the performance event even though the performance had a more defined framework. There was still a shift happening between different moods but the relationship changed from the company and I in relation to the work, to myself in relation to the company and the work. During the performance the company became the work, which I crafted. However, my distance to the work kept changing – at times I stepped out, observed how it unfolded, even ignored it, giving it time to develop (I always had books with me, which I read to distract me or take ideas from). Then again I was in the work; I became the work, when interacting with the dancers.

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R&D weekend, June 2012 (Leeds)

I’ve realised the importance and effect my positioning in the space had on the trust within the group of performers and on how I could nurture the work. We played with different options of where to place myself in the performance space. Sitting centre stage on the floor with the work happening around me, made my observing an active participating and the stepping in and out was easier. The transition between the different moods of working became smoother, I was able to observe, mediate my thinking without jumping ahead. This highlights the importance of staying in the presence, trusting the work to unfold, nurturing the growths of the work.

But the question stays: When do I observe and let the happening unfold and when do I interfere?

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References:

INGOLD, T. 2011. Being alive, essays on movement, knowledge and description. Oxon: Routledge

LEE, R. and N. Pollard. 2010. Writing with a choreographer’s notebook. Choreographic Practices. 1, pp. 21-41

LEHMEN, T. 2004. Funktionen. [online]. [12.07. 2010]. Available from:

http://www.thomaslehmen.de/seiten/e/07_funktionen.htm

ZORN, J. 1984. Cobra. [online]. [10.02.2011]. Available from: http://www.4-33.com/scores/cobra/cobra-notes.html

Photos: Josh Hawkins, Ulrike Heuer, Andy Wood

The choreographer as the total performer/ total person

"An infinite winter" by Peter Laycock (2010)

‘An infinite winter’ by Peter Laycock (2010)

Turning up the volume on the internal noise,
Wanting to let it leak out,
Exposing the interior by giving attention
To what I was trying so hard to block out.
 (Stuart, 2010)

As my practice of the ‘visible choreographer’ develops, one important aspect for me is the visibility of the human side of the choreographer. This includes being confronted with moments of not knowing in front of the audience, of having to react to unexpected responses by the dancers and of having to let go of control. This can provoke a great sense of vulnerability, usually not visible to the audience.

Stuart captures the sense of vulnerability within performance – the internal noise – that fascinates me and plays a driving force within my recent exploration of the ‘visible choreographer’ and its possibilities within the performance event. Referring to Mantero and her idea of the ‘total performer’,

Stuart states, “I am not so much interested in the total performer as in the ‘total person’, including their hidden self. How does the person rub up against the performer?” (Stuart, 2010, p. 29).

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Meg Stuart

The choreographer becomes present as a ‘total person’, not only as a choreographer’s signature (Melrose, 2006) embodied by the dancers. This presence includes more than just managing the performers and their actions, and in relation to Stuart offers the question: How does the person rub up against the choreographer? What parts of my self are usually hidden, how can I present my total self within the performance event?

The ‘visible choreographer’ becomes

“a body dreaming in public” (Gormly, 2010),

being fully present, allowing the vulnerability of not knowing to arise, constantly provoked by the use of improvisation and its unpredictable nature.

De Spain highlights the great amount of intimacy within improvisation by explaining its demand of staying in the presence, describing

“the interplay of what I want and what is wanted of me” (De Spain, 2011, p. 29). He defines being intimate as “becoming so close to something or someone that the subject/objectness we usually feel dissipates (at least for a while)” (De Spain, 2011, p. 27).

This subject/objectness is evident in the relationship between choreographer and audience as there is never any direct contact between both. Usually I watch my work during the performance standing in the back of the auditorium, observing the audience watching my work, never being visible to them. The choreographer usually only communicates to the audience by having her ideas embodied by the dancers. Ideas get translated through the object, the dancer. By having the choreographer as an active member of the performance event this subject/objectness of the relationship disperses and the choreographer enters a place of intimacy and vulnerability. This does not only offer the audience a more intimate experience of the choreographer’s presence, as the ‘total person’, but also offers new challenges and opportunities for the choreographer.

Her presence becomes a solo within the performance context. One could say that the role of the ‘visible choreographer’ becomes an autobiographical performance within the setting of the choreographic process, making not only direction and instruction processes visible but also presenting the self of the choreographer, her thoughts, her personality, her doubts.

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‘Momentary Distraction’ (2011)

Kron explains: “to use the detail of your own life to illuminate or explore something more universal” (Kron, 2001, p. xi), highlights how all aspects of life inform the choreographic process.

My life experience as a choreographer filters through the creative process and this process includes all possible creative pathways, not only the ones selected for the final performed work. The ‘visible choreographer’ therefore draws attention to this broad range of ideas and influences, the dreaming, the thinking and roaming before the decisions get made – ‘Before I decide’.

Heddon explores the idea of the self by saying: “There is the self who is performed, and the performing self” (Heddon, 2008, p.27).

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‘Before I decide’ (2011)

This means, not only can the ‘self’ not be separated from the notion of the choreographer, the ‘self’ is also split in performing and being, the performing ‘self’ as the choreographer and the presence of the performed ‘self’. How am I present during the performance event and how do I present myself? Or referring to Stuart what do I hide? The performance framework adds a layer of selection within and highlights my personal approach to my role as the choreographer. How do I rub against the convention of my role as the choreographer? What aspects of the choreographer’s role create the friction?

Working within the setting of improvisation, I, familiar with the use of planned structures, struggle with staying in the moment, resisting the choreographer’s tendency (my tendency) to plan ahead, control the unfolding of the creative process. What happens if I step back, stay a bit longer in that moment of uncertainty, the moment “Before I decide’? What vulnerability do I face and how can I mediate this to the audience? This refers back to De Spain and how

“the interplay of what I want and what is wanted of me” (ibid.)

offers the opportunity of intimacy and vulnerability. And Gormly’s idea of

“a body dreaming in public” (ibid.)

becomes the articulation of my thoughts, questions and doubts as the performance unfolds.

I am still in the process of finding different ways of mediating this ‘dreaming’. During the R&D in June 2012 I played with commenting the performance process, following my stream of consciousness whilst observing the performers. After overcoming a first shyness and getting comfortable with the speaking, I experienced a greater easiness with the directing, the talking became a description of the seeing, I was able to follow the work and its organic flow.

One dancer commented: ” Your instructions became more intuitive because you talked about what you experienced inside as you observed and did not just rely on the external. The talking became an indirect instruction, less ‘do this, do that’ – much more organic and more because you had done some research in your head, which we were part of” (Marie Hallager Andersen, 2012)

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R&D weekend (June 2012)

Another dancer added that I stayed longer with one idea, gave it time to let it unfold more, which offered a greater opportunity for the dancers to explore it physically. The waiting became part of the directing and I seemed less panicky (Daliah Touré, 2012).

I am fascinated by these challenges I face within my practice, the vulnerability of ownership and responsibility and how it offers me new ways for performance. There is an autobiographical aspect to my work, which I usually only find within solo work. Being able to stay within my choreographic role and performing together with my company allows me to stretch this experience. It is a very personal process and helps me to take greater ownership of my role as a choreographer, but it also offers an exciting perspective of challenging convention. How can it change our view of choreography and performance, how can sociological studies give us a greater insight in its operations, focusing on its human side and the interaction between all participants?

To be continued.

 

References:

DE SPAIN. 2011. Improvisation and intimate technologies. Choreographic Practices 2. pp. 25-42

GORMLY, J. 2010. Everyone is going solo, together. [online]. [20.11.2011]. Available from: http://www.danceireland.ie/downloads/library/Everyone-is-Going-Solo-Together.pdf

HEDDON, D. 2008. Autobiography and performance. New York: Palgrave MacMillan

KRON, L. 2001. 2.5 Minute Ride and 101 Humiliating Stories. New York: NY, Theatre Communication Group

MELROSE, S. 2006. The body” in question: expert performance-making in the university and the problem of spectatorship. [online]. [28.05.2011]. Available from: http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/staffpages/satinder/Melroseseminar6April.pdf

STUART, M. and Peeters, J. (ed). (2010). Are we here yet?. Dijon: Les Presse du Reel

Photos: David Blinks, Joshua Hawkins, Ulrike Heuer,

Looking Back – Writing as a Mode of Making

For the last months I have been working on evaluating the different stages of my project Before I decide (2011-12). Some of it will be further developed into possible publication but for now I thought to post these different chapters to give a greater insight into the work. The evaluation is divided into the different phases as followed:

  • The unfolding of ideas
  • The rehearsal process (February – March 2011)
  • 1. Performance at stage@leeds (March 2011)
  • 2. Performance at Howard Assembly Room (2nd July 2011)
  • Reflecting – letting ideas settle/grow (August 2011 – July 2012)
  • R&D weekend (16th and 17thJune 2012)

Some of these will merge into new headings as I rewrite them for this blog but I will try to keep the original feel of it and not jump ahead too much or let new influences alter it.

Enjoy reading!

 

THE UNFOLDING OF IDEAS

The beginnings of projects always fascinate me – there is a freedom of letting ideas wander in all directions, making connections between different inspirations, trying not to select but letting it all float and unfold in unexpected ways.

I always start writing in my notebook from very early on, catching ideas as they come, having the notebook laid out open on my kitchen table so that my eyes can catch it when I walk past. This time I knew it would be a longer project and therefore bought a bigger notebook – always A4 so that I can see different ideas next to each other, making connections as the ideas lay out.

There is a difference between ‘mapping’ (mapping out concrete key points) and ‘touring’ (adding ideas/inspiration as they appear without any order or hierarchy). ‘Touring’ examples regarding the interaction with sound/musicians, were Alvin Lucier’s “I’m sitting in the room” (1969) and Pauline Oliveros “Tuning meditation” (1971), which I came across when co-teaching with the composer Clive Wilkinson at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Alvin Lucier (1969)

In my notebook no explanation is written next to it but both works had a sense of layering material I wanted to capture. Reflecting on how the work unfolded, these notes were not directly visible in the performance but influenced how I worked with live recordings during the performance process, using loop stations to layer sounds as the performance progressed. This refers back to my work in 2009 (Gleichzeitig 3, Leeds), which had an emphasis of layering material as a documentation of time passing.

These notebook entries are similar to what Lee describes as,

“letting my imagination roam for what I might call a ‘dream’ image of the piece” (Lee, 2010, p. 26).

These entries have a sense of letting questions, ideas and images float without selecting or setting them in some kind of order. This reminds me of my yoga practice, the use of asanas/meditation to be able to be in the presence, not jumping ahead to rushed conclusions – and as the title of the work says: stretching the moment of ‘Before I decide’.

These early stages of the creative process include working with, as Pollard calls it,

“multidimensional schematic categories [dealing with] modulating between the present perception and the anticipated” (Pollard, 2010, p. 32).

 

Working on Lehmen’s ‘performance walk’ with the ‘Architects of the Invisible’ for Light Night in October 2010 (Leeds) drew a clear link to Lehmen’s work and his ideas for Funktionen (2004). Defining a group of performers as a social system (Luhmann, 1995), their interactions become one of the five functions/categories, which are material, interpretation, manipulation, observation and mediation. These functions clearly link to the instructions I give to the performers.

Linking my work to Lehmen’s work, Luhmann’s social and Foerster’s cybernetic theories made the following questions arise:

  • Am I as the ‘Visible Choreographer’ part of the group of performers/social system?
  • Or do I belong to the environment, which makes the social system select the produced material?
  • Or do I belong to both?

In reference to Lehmen and Klien (2008) it was clear to me that I needed to keep the hierarchical element within the work to create this friction between the traditional concept of choreography and the democratic setting of improvisation. The relationship between the group and myself was not as clear yet but I knew that I wanted to create an environment where shifts of dynamics/control would be possible.

 

Apart from the notebook I started a diary on my flip camera, ‘Talking diaries’, three weeks prior to the start of the rehearsals. I set myself a task of talking into the camera at a specific time twice a week. This would continue as the rehearsal process started, documenting the findings or questions at different phases of the creative process. There was a clear ritual and rigor of having to stick to these times even though I did not always have a new idea or thought. Listening back to the clips, there is a sense of sometimes ‘mapping’ or ‘touring’ – changes in the voice, gaps between sentences, eyes wandering around the room, leaving sentences unfinished. But there is also a clear evidence of relieve when something more concrete came up, especially because I knew that a selection of these clips would become part of the performance.

I wonder if my notebook is therefore a more honest documentation of the ‘touring’ or the, as Lee calls it, ‘roaming’ of my imagination. However, both forms of documentation were vital in their different characteristics, the open notebook – always present and ready for notes to be added – and the set out dates for the ‘Talking diaries’, giving structure to the thinking/process. Early entries in the notebook include Yoko Ono’s Fluxus instruction ‘Snow piece’ (Ono, 1963), which later appeared in the work, giving it a sensual feel and referring to some work I did in Berlin in 1998.

 

SNOW PIECE

Think that snow is falling.

Think that snow is falling
 everywhere all the time.

When you talk with a person,

Think
that snow is falling between you and on the person.

Stop conversing when you think the person is covered by snow.

                                                                        (Yoko Ono, 1963)

 

In one ‘Talking diary’ entry (3rd February 2011) I question when a creative process actually starts, which refers to Vincs’ idea of a rhizomic structure in relation to the interconnectivity of ideas within practice-led research (Vincs, 2007) or Sanchez-Colberg’s idea of each work leaving traces in all following works (2002).

Bringing these talking diaries into the performance by exhibiting them in the foyer of the performance space but also playing them off an amplified Dictaphone during the performance itself, made the whole choreographic process visible, presented the ‘visible choreographer’ within all stages of the process, as well as documented the creative process with its many different facets and “multidimensional schematic categories”(ibid). The writing in the notebook continued even throughout the performance event and is visible to the audience by a live camera pointing at the notebook and projecting my writing for the audience to read.

Apart from the audio memories of the early stages of the creative process, the notebook kept its focus on the present moment of my decision-making – “Before I decide”.

 

References:

KLIEN, M. 2008. Framemakers, choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company Ltd

LEE, R. and N. Pollard. 2010. Writing with a choreographer’s notebook. Choreographic Practices. 1, pp. 21-41

LEHMEN, T. 2004. Funktionen. [online]. [12.07. 2010]. Available from:

http://www.thomaslehmen.de/seiten/e/07_funktionen.htm

LUHMANN, N. 1995. Social systems. Stanford: Stanford University Press

ONO, Y. 1970. Grapefruit. New York: Simon and Schuster

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

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: Dr. Fiona Bannon, Joshua Hawkins, Kelly Preece, Harry Theaker, Andy Wood

 

 

Women and Yoga

 

This is a conversation Marie Hallager Andersen invited me to participate/comment on in regards to ‘Women and Yoga’.

 

In November 2012 Marie invited 3 female yoga practitioners to comment on questions about yoga in relation to women as a gender (not a sex) – such as role models, body image and specific yoga styles.

Please have a read. Comments are welcome!

Women & Yoga: a conversation about role models, yoga styles and body image. 

What is a ‘visible choreographer’ and why does visibility matter?

Having been selected during my dance training as a student with ‘talent’ for choreography I placed myself in these shoes and abandoned the idea of following the route as a performer. Once I left college I followed the pathway of creating work and directing other dancers, developing further my choreographic and leadership skills and enabling my ideas to become embodied and performed. My place was now in the studio, being involved in the creative process in collaboration with the dancers but not on stage.

Sociologically speaking this means that in the studio the choreographer, or I, and the dancers become a social system where the dancers form a community and respond to conditions of authority. Martin explains, whilst the creative process progresses a shift happens from the choreographer’s ideas being embodied by the dancers with external impulses becoming internalized, concluding with

the dancers [shifting] from input to output (Martin, 1985, p.16)

For the choreographer this means a transition of loosing control and becoming less ‘visible’ as the work gets closer to the performance. The authority shifts from choreographer to dancers and whilst the choreographer is still visible in the choreographic structure of the work, the dancers bring the work alive, revealing themselves in the work. Once the performance starts

the choreographer’s loss is almost as sudden as the audience’s surprise
(Martin, 1985, p.17)

 

Different conflicts arise in these situations for me:

  • Is my ‘choreographic signature’, as Melrose explains (Melrose, 2006), enough to be present in the work? And is the ‘choreographic signature’ human enough?
  • Why does choreographing mean not being visible in the performance event? Can I be present as the choreographer (instead of dancing in my choreography)?
  • Would this finally allow me wearing different pairs of shoes at the same time? And no either or?

 

Terlingo states, in order to prevent a state of ‘structural looping’ or ‘unresponsive stasis’ we need to find

a new form of applied choreography that reveals the continuity between thoughts, our actions and the world around us: a choreography of changes (Terlingo, 2008, p.17).

The ‘visible choreographer’ applies exactly what Terlingo suggests by including the choreographer in the performance event and by making these connections clear and visible. I, as the ‘visible choreographer’, play an active part in the performance event, allowing the process of continuity to unfold between my thoughts and actions in response to the performance process and its setting – the dancers, the audience and the performance space.

Choreography becomes then, as Terlingo calls it, ‘a choreography of changes’ – playing an active part in the performance event makes new shifts possible, makes changes visible. The shift of authority (Martin) can now move in both directions and by working with improvisation it allows the social dynamics to constantly change – a state of flux between input and output. Furthermore, like the dancers I can reveal myself in the work and do not separate myself from my ‘choreographer-self’, my ‘fully’ self becomes visible – or as Klien states it:

A work practice that allows me to be human (Klien, 2008, p. 13).

 

Key points are:

  • Authority
  • Humanity
  • State of flux
  • Choreography as a social system
  • Challenging hierarchies

 

Klien describes choreography as a

dynamic constellation of any kind, consciously created or not, self-organized or super-imposed. [Choreography is an] order observed, an exchange of forces; a process that has an observable or observed embodied order.  [To choreograph therefore means to] recognize such an order, [which makes choreography an] act of interfering with or negotiating such an order (Klien, 2008, p. 1).

The ‘visible choreographer’ makes the order transparent, plays with different dynamic constellations and the shift between super-imposed and self-organized material. The layer of observation becomes visible and embodied by the audience witnessing the choreographer observing the performance process, interfering, directing and manipulating its progression.

 

The visible choreographer becomes:

  • A narrator,
  • An explorer,
  • An observer, manipulator, interpreter and mediator (Lehmen, 2004)

To be continued.

 

References:

KLIEN, M. 2008. Framemakers, choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company Ltd

MARTIN, R. 1992. ‘Dance as a Social Movement’. Writings on Dance: Living Dancing (8), pp. 8-21

LEHMEN, T. 2004. Funktionen. [online]. [12.07. 2010]. Available from: http://www.thomaslehmen.de/seiten/e/07_funktionen.htm

MELROSE, S. 2006. The body” in question: expert performance-making in the university and the problem of spectatorship. [online]. [28.05.2011]. Available from: http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/staffpages/satinder/Melroseseminar6April.pdf

TERLINGO, D. 2008. The choreography of changes. In: M. Klien, ed. Framemakers, choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company Ltd, pp. 16-17