michael j. morris


Autumn Quartet: The Dance/Our Lives

We ran the piece twice Thursday night. It came in almost exactly 20 minutes both times. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but it works for me. To briefly describe what the choreography is as of now:

-a collection of set movement material (two long phrases, and several tasks)
-an algorithmic improvisational score that determines the structure of the piece (I may share the score here at some point . . . right now that feels like too much information)
-a set way of beginning and ending, and a momentum that carries through the enactment of the score. The decisions are different every time we do it, but it facilitates the accomplishment of certain things: we all get undressed. we all get redressed. in between, we dance phrases, make angry gestures, strip for one another, bite one another, roll around a bit, etc.
-there is a sound score at the moment, a mashup I did from a playlist that we’ve been using in rehearsal:
“Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack
“Caddis” by ISAN from “Lucky Cat”
“Poker Face (Space Cowboy Remix)” by Lady Gaga from “Poker Face (remixes)”
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (single)
“Gwely Mernans” by Aphex Twins from Drukqs
then back to “Intro Versailles” by Reitzell/Beggs from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack

I think I am finally beginning to understand what it is that we’re doing. It just took talking to CoCo for a little bit. She helped me connect several “dots” that have littered my creative landscape for quite some time: the violent action and the integration of life and dance. These are very new ideas, but I’ll try to get them down somehow.

For years now I have had a mounting interest in violent actions of the body, for lots of reasons: their irreversibility, their potency for kinesthetic empathy, the fact that they cannot be faked, not really. And, on some level that I perhaps have not admitted before, because they leave a mark. A kind of testimony to the fact that the action was real, a real, visible, tangible effect on the body, a mark of how it is retained. This may have found a ready expression in my Lady Gaga “I Like It Rough” solo in CoCo’s “click here for slideshow or 6-8 character limit,” (early version of that solo can be seen here), the bruises finally fading over a week later. I’ve had lots of questions over the years about “why the violence?” Talking to CoCo last night about the new piece I am making, I think I finally have a bit more of an answer.

In thinking about the integration of life and dance, I have for years been concerned about the fact that dance is an art that lives in the body, the individual person. I’ve always had a discomfort surrounding the “theatrical” aspects that come into dance, the characterization element, the idea that what we do in the dance is somehow separate from who we are as real people. I think that was part of what first attracted me to Butoh, the emphasis on the cultivation of an inner experience that then emerges as the dance. It isn’t something that is put on, nor can it be taken off. In the more theatrical heritages of dance (I’m thinking a bit of story ballets, etc., but maybe even into more contemporary dance theater), the character is something that is put on, it is pretend, an impersonation. I think there is a place for dance of that nature . . . but it is becoming further and further removed from my experience/interest in dance. I think what interests me is the actuality of the action in the body, actions taken by realm people with realm ramifications in the body (and thus, perhaps, who they are). This is part of what I’m interested in researching for my dissertation (if I am accepted to the Ph.D. program to which I’ve applied), the ramifications of the choreographic process for the construction of individual personal identity through the body. At the heart of this is not only the assertion that the body is the site of identity, but also that dance action is an actual occurrence within the body. We are actually doing what we are doing/dancing. And that action is thus part of our “real” lives, who we really are, our identity. Even if a dancer is “playing a character” or putting on a role for a dance, the actions taken in that part are still real, they emerge from and have an effect on the body/the individual. I think this is the fundamental awareness that has provoked my passion for figuring out the integration of life and dance, the fact that the two are not two, they are one, dance and life all comprising experience that is lived in the body. The conceptualization of the two as somehow separate is something reinforced (maybe) by “dance as profession” versus “personal life.” Or maybe it comes from the theatrical heritage, that dance is something like theater in which fiction is enacted. But while fiction may be enacted, the way in which it is executed in the body is not fiction, it is real action taken in the actual body/person with real ramifications (this can be said for theater as well).

So how does this relate to the violent action, or this new piece I am making?

The violent action may have been an entry point into the speculation for me. The action that overtly, audaciously, has real effect on the body, irreversible, unable to be faked, emphasizing the “realness” of the dance. I still have a lot of interest in this, but now this has expanded a bit; I’m finding other ways to explore the dance as reality in the body, thus reality in the lives of the dancers. In this piece, we dance phrase material. It has its effect on our lived and living bodies, the way each of us move. The more familiar it becomes, the more that way of moving is integrated into our bodies, the more it changes the way we move “naturally” (loaded word, I know; what I mean is something like the ways of moving that occur easily, consciously and subconsciously, in the body), thus potentially changing aspects of who we are. There is floor work, some that borders on violent, and it leaves marks on and in our bodies. We undress, and it is our actual bodies being uncovered; it isn’t faked. We bite one another, and it is really our teeth pressing into flesh, our real flesh in one another’s mouths, in between one another’s teeth. We take off our clothes and we put on one another’s (real) clothes. These are all ways I think of this dance privileging/emphasizing the fact that it is not separate from our lives, from who we are, from the actual lived experience of our bodies, and the community of our bodies.

But it isn’t only the dance extending into (real) life, but life extending into the dance via the choreographic structure. There are discrete components of prescribed movement material, and a multiple page algorithmic improvisational score for the dance, but the choices are made by us in relation to one another. Those relationships are not (cannot?) be separate from the (personal) relationships that we have created with one another. When I choose to strip for Amanda or bite Erik or roll around on the floor with Eric, those choices are made both within the context of the dance/movement/structure and our lives. And even more subtly, there are the ways we relate in the dance beyond our structural choices. The ways we look at one another, the ways we react to one another, the way we laugh or talk or adjust for one another during the piece, even the “rules” (of the algorithm) that we choose to break. All of it is not separate from who we are to one another.

 

Okay.

I think I’ve run out of words. But that’s where this piece is, where my thoughts are.

Tonight I’m going to see the Resident and Visiting Artist Concert being put on by the OSU Department of Dance. I’ve seen some of the work and heard great things about the other work. I’m looking forward to it.

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1 Comment so far
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I think one of the major reasons I can appreciate your movement is because it feels real.

and I think this might shed light on our conversation when I replied to you “Because I’m real.”

Comment by epfalck




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