michael j. morris


this I believe

I have been neglecting my blog lately. I’ve gone over a month without posting anything.
Life right now is a montage of:
-Teaching “Writing About Dance,” a second-level writing class for undergrads at OSU–a sort of introduction to dance criticism–which involves hours and hours of grading papers. It is time consuming, but full of rewards, not the least of which is the opportunity to share dance/dances with students who have only experienced dance in limited settings, if at all.
-Reading Judith Butler. I am taking a seminar in the “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” department focused that is entirely focused on the works of Judith Butler. It’s being taught by Mary Thomas. I’m thinking a lot about subjectivity, psychoanalytic frameworks, speech act, and the constraints of epistemology on ontology. This week I’m reading Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death.
-Writing. I’m taking a writing course called “Aesthetics and Criticism” from M.Candace Feck, and it is giving me an opportunity to delve deeply into the intensive project of my own writing. I will share some of those writings here.
-Dancing. I did a video shoot two weeks ago for Lindsay Caddle LaPointe, in which I danced with a giant sculpture of a praying mantis. The next two weekends I’ll be performing with cocoloupedance at TRAUMA.
-Teaching yoga. I teach a yoga class every Wednesday night. It’s called “Queer Yoga” and is sponsored by “Queer Behavior.” Currently, the class meets at 83 Gallery in the Short North, Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30, $5 for students, $8 for the general public.

In an effort to share a bit of this with some range of readership, I’m posting a piece of writing I did earlier this quarter. It follows the format for “This I Believe” on NPR. You can read the essay guidelines here. Below is my statement of belief, specifically my belief about dance. I’m considering submitting it to “This I Believe,” but either way, I wanted to publish it here:

Who/How I?

I believe that dancing is an act of forming, deforming, and reforming the body/self, a belief that turns back on itself, calling into question this very “I” whose belief is professed. Dancing has taught me that “I” am my body, even if “I” exceed my body and even if my body exceeds “me.”

Language is limited—and limiting—in this way: to articulate myself in speech is always to simplify and to reduce myself within the term “I,” an anonymous first-person that accounts for myself only in ways that are presumed to be shared with all others who have described themselves with this term. Indifferent to whatever words might surround this “I” in a given context, it is the perpetual declaration of a self that remains the same with each repetition; each time this term is deployed, “I” represent myself as unchanged. This is not the only limitation of language: to speak of “my body” is always to figure it as separate from myself, as property—“mine”—which, in order to be possessed, must necessarily be distinct from the “I” who claims it. From within the boundaries of what is speakable then, “I” feel myself questioning, “What of myself is excluded from this term ‘I?’” and protesting, “No! This body is not ‘mine,’ it is me!

Dancing cannot be limited within these constraints of language. In dancing, “I” am never separate from this body that moves, nor is this body unchanged by its motion. Dancing reveals myself as more fluid than solid, more transient than persistent, continually mutating with each gesture, often in ways uncertain and unforeseen. Through these bendings and flingings and fallings and collidings and tumblings and sinkings; through fleshy places become firm then flaccid, finding firmness once again to only again inevitably become flaccid; through the touch of skin against skin, the calm and sudden disorientation of giving and taking weight that confuses “you” and “I”; through encountering another’s movement as my own, taking in choreography that becomes yet another version of myself; through focus that transforms cells into galaxies and becomes a prayer in the gaps of body-becoming-universe; through calluses and tears, surfaces pushing and opening outward, clarifying the uncertainty of my boundaries; through sweating and bleeding and crying, flowing beyond myself: through dancing, “I” am made as this body, a making that is always both unmaking and remaking.

Dancing reveals myself as a matter of repetition with difference, each moment of movement becoming both this body again and for the first time, each “again” not quite the same as it emerges from the cellular and neural residue of actions that came before. Regardless of whether the movement is thought of as rehearsed or improvised, it is always both, a reiteration of how “I” have been before and an enunciation of how (thus who) “I” am now. As this body moves in so many ways through so many forms, its dancing displaces and replaces this “I”—and this nearly ineffable fluctuation becomes my most fervent belief.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

ok.
ok.
ok.
i’m ok.
you’re ok.
because you dance and you write and you place the most inexplicable concerns in front of my eyes.
i believe you and me.
what i can’t believe is that this was NOT WRITTEN BEFORE I DID MY MFA!!!!!!!
i needed this. because i understood it but did not have anything close to this ability to pronounce it.
so i was a source for you a very long time ago for something maybe we can’t recall anymore or maybe we can.
now you are my source. my re-source. it just keeps coming around and around. simultaneously more crystalline and more fluid than before.

“Dancing reveals myself as a matter of repetition with difference, each moment of movement becoming both this body again and for the first time, each “again” not quite the same as it emerges from the cellular and neural residue of actions that came before. Regardless of whether the movement is thought of as rehearsed or improvised, it is always both, a reiteration of how “I” have been before and an enunciation of how (thus who) “I” am now.”

Comment by cocoloupedance

i didn’t finish.
the last quote from your post ……….
i will read this daily as a part of my practice.

Comment by cocoloupedance




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