michael j. morris


While I don’t have time to write about the profoundly inspirational experience I had viewing “Inscription” (by Mara Penrose and Renee Ripley), I did want to share some images I captured in my viewing. See this project was a perfect space in which to continue my thoughts around dance and architecture, initially inspired by the Forsythe project last year, and reinvigorated by my viewing of Sololos last week (see previous post): architecture as choreography, choreography as architecture, bodies/choreography directing/supporting/distributing the flow of human motion through space in a similar way that physical spaces function, and the ongoing exchange/definition of moving bodies and architecture.

“This performance involves OSU Department of Dance students: Mara Penrose, Bernice Lee, Leigh Lotocki, Lindsay Caddle-LaPointe, and Joanna Reed, as well as Tristan Seufert from the School of Music and Renee Ripley from the School of Architecture.”

[featured in these photos are Lindsay Caddle-LaPointe, Leigh Lotocki, and Mara Penrose]

27 February, 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Grad School | Tags: , , , , ,

For next weeks class meeting of “History and Theory of Postmodern/Contemporary Dance,” on a day specifically looking at the postmodern turn in visual culture and representation, coming out of a week looking at gender theories in dance, we have been asked to bring in four images of (dancing) bodies:
1. Normatized/Reified
2. Transgressive
3. Beautiful
4. Interesting

These are my selections as of now:

"Normatized/Reified Bodies" (taken from Pina Bausch)

"Transgressive" (from Catherine Opie's "Pervert")

"Beautiful" (Ko Murobushi)

"Interesting" (Jiz Lee)

I am least comfortable with the last category. “Interesting” risks a connotation of objectification, that this person is simply of interest to me. To be clear, I find Jiz Lee sexy, beautiful, and transgressive in the extreme (all in positive ways), but it is this image in particular, the challenge to resolve the apparent disparity between the exposed breast and the humongous cock, the provocation of the direct gaze, etc.

My mind is swimming amidst readings about intertextuality, choreology, phenomenology, Rudolf von Laban, Choreutics, performativity, Trio A and Yvonne Rainer, etc. Selecting these images offered a necessary reprieve from the reading and writing.

SIP: An Informal Showing
5 May, 2009, 10:33 am
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance, Grad School | Tags: ,

For those of you in the Columbus (or near Columbus) area:

The First Year MFA candidates in the Department of Dance will be presenting “SIP”, an informal showing of our current work, at 7:00pm on 15 May 2009 in Studio 1 in Sullivant Hall. This event is intended as an evening of sharing our work with one another, friends, faculty, colleagues, and community. The work being presented will be mostly in-progress, and as such, we hope that dialogue and feedback might be part of the sharing process.


So many things; so little

Tonight I saw the show Japan Dance Now at the Wexner Center for the Arts, featuring three contemporary Japanese dance companies: BABY-Q, Nibroll, and Sennichimae Blue Sky Dance Club. I am enraptured. All three were amazing performances, and although they had moments of stylistic intersection, overall were three profoundly different voices. It was a well curated show, and excellently performed. Oh, and there’s the part when I was moved to tears.

You can see a video with clips of these companies below (they appear in this order: Sennichimae Blue Sky Dance Club, BABY-Q, Nibroll):

The piece by BABY-Q brought me very much into my head it was a solo by Yoko Higashino accompanied by multimedia elements entitled E/G-Ego Geometria. It was for me a successful integration of dance and video (not all dance accompanied by video succeeds in successfully integrating the two, in my opinion). The meaning I brought to it had to do with the erasure of individual identity, the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown of the person, and all the factors that contribute to these dichotomies. Descriptions that come to mind are:
faceless legs in silver platform heels
the body lost in the barrage of visual media
small conversations between a person and a camera, projected on a twenty-foot tall wall
white. black. red.
In the incredible density of the video projected into the space, which also served as the primary lighting for the first half of the piece, the body of the soloist became transported into an almost virtual world. The media was so much and so encompassing that it almost served to remove the dancer’s presence. Gradually stage lighting was added, and in seeing the body lit from multiple angles, and the lighting of the videos faded by the additional light, the body became more present. And then was further uncovered. We were allowed to truly see the dancer, her face, “who” she was.

The second piece was entitled Coffee by Nibroll. It was even more of a battery of video images, loud music, fast movement, constantly shifting costumes and characters and interpersonal dynamics. The program notes described it as an exploration of the boundaries we cross in the course of our daily lives.

The true gem of the evening (for me) was The end of Water by Sennichimae Blue Sky Dance Club. It was full of subtlety, slow movement, articulate gestures, gradual lighting fades, stationary dances, and a gamut of humanity and emotion. They describe their company: “this butoh-based all female troupe seeks to uncover new, original physical expression with a pop sensibility. Their choreography is born out of carefully observing elements from the physical memory of modern life and bringing them into new light.”
From the first section as the lights came up to reveal four figures lying on the ground slowly and gently stirring, I started to cry. I can’t necessarily explain this emotional reaction, except to say that it had to do with recognition. This is a big word for me, and is central to the relevance I see in art as a whole. The most profound experiences I have had with art, be it music (such as Meredith Monk’s mercy or impermanence) or dance (such as Yoshito Ohno’s Emptiness (Kuu) or Moeno Wakamatsu’s Dryope from Project OVID or CoCo Loupe’s In the Clear), standing in front of a wall sized Lee Krasner painting or a piece by Ann Hamilton, or reading Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson or Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton, the common thread of these experiences is that I sensed or saw or felt something familiar, something being created by someone else that I recognized as connected to my own experience. This sort of interpersonal human connection is why I engage in art, in dance, reaching towards a sense of knowing and being known through the work.
I felt that tonight with Sennichimae Blue Sky Dance Club. I felt understood and represented and recognized. I felt their humanity, saturated with nuance and complexity, immediacy and history.

It was a truly rewarding show. It has two more nights here. For those of you in the area, I hope you have an opportunity to see it.

For those of you interested in a more in-depth review of the show itself, and not just my experience, I found this nice blog by a commentator who saw the show a couple of weeks ago. You should check it out.

Inspiration for today

Sometimes I worry that when I post in such rapid succession that no one reads the posts before. At the same time, I only know of two or three people who are reading anyway . . . and I am trying to honor this space as a “public creative platform” as much as it is forum for discussion and ideas. So I wanted to post a few inspirations from today; I hope you read the other recent posts as well:

First, an article I stumbled across that feeds PERFECTLY into the research I am doing concerning the presentation of gender in dance, historically and in the present. It is called “The Travesty Dancer in Nineteenth-Century Ballet” by Lynn Garafola. You can find it on JSTOR here. I am certain ideas will spark from this article. It discusses the rise of female travesty dancers (cross-dressers, in this case, women dressing/performing as men) in the Romantic ballet in France and England. Already I am curious how sexuality may have played a role in this shift . . . the over-feminization of the female in the Romantic ballet, the exile of the male dancer, to installment of female dancers in male roles, all concurrent with the rise of institutionalized prostitution in the professional ballet theaters. I am wondering if the exclusion of the male dancer and his replacement with female dancers was a response to the sexual desires of the desirous male audiences, many of whom were seeking assignations with the ballerinas.

Inspiration from different areas (not devoid of gendered content):
Fashion. The Spring Couture lines have been released. I finally got a chance to look them over. Here are just a few things that stood out to me:

Christian Lacroix 
Christian Dior






And photos by Adam Pretty of gold medalist Olympic diver, Matthew Mitcham:


Just stunning. There may be an unfolding dichotomy/discussion in the depiction/perception of kinaesthtics (kinesthetic-aesthetics) in fields like dance, fashion, and sports . . . and how this may relate to gender. In reading Dancing Desires recently, the dichotomy was presented that men in dance are generally considered feminine, whereas women in sports are generally considered masculine. It was the first time I became aware of this potential parallel. I’m not sure this “inspiration” post contributes any to this discussion, but there are elements here: women in dance who dress/behave/move like men (in dance, who are already considered feminine; so many layers of gender construction there . . .), women in fashion, and these incredibly graceful portraits of a truly great male athlete. Maybe just by posting these here in this collection I am contributing to the discussion, even if only in my own thought processes . . .

Hope you are inspired today.

A Ongoing love affair with subtlety
1 February, 2009, 12:17 am
Filed under: art, creative process, Dance | Tags: , , , , ,

As part of the audition for the graduate program in the Department of Dance here at OSU, I ran sound for all of the auditioning potential students’ solo presentations. It was such a vast, rich array of work, all within a form a limiting as a solo. I was acutely aware of the contextual nature of this presentation, that for me, seeing all of these solos (something like 30 dances?) twice in one day, each one was taking place in the context of all of these other works by all of these other artists, each with their own identities and backgrounds and personal politics and interests in the field of dance. In this dense field of material, contrast emerges, one piece setting the next in sharp relief. Without deviating into a discussion of specific works by specific artists, I am more interested in exploring a developing awareness of what I enjoyed seeing, and why (note: this is not likely to be an extremely academic or theoretical analysis of excellence in the composition and performance of dance; more likely is that it will be an extremely subjective exploration of my own tastes. you’ve been warned.)

I am in love with subtlety. Nuance. Specificity (I have reservations concerning the inclusion of this word; it requires further explanation; read on). The work I enjoyed the most was not composed of popular movement vocabulary, feats of strength, flexibility, or virtuosity. They were specific, by which I do not mean to say that they were overt or clear expressions of a communicable idea. By specific I mean that had a pronounced identity, even if that identity was not easily quantifiable, classifiable, or recognizable. These pieces were like the individuals that created them (perhaps, even most likely, reflected the individuals their creators), full of layers, few if any of which looked like popular movement vocabulary. To be honest, so much dance, and much of what I saw today, looks the same. There are the same movements, gestures, postures, positions, relationship to the music, relationship to the body and the audience, and gravity. The piece that I am considering “specific” were not those things. I also don’t mean to say that they were “novel,” something new that is interesting for the sake of its newness. I suppose what I am trying to say through my addled, clouded mind is that the postures, gestures, and movements were specific because of their nuance. Simple, subtle qualities that made this person, this dance, specifically this and less relatable to . . . that. And this specific, nuanced, subtle identity (captivating in itself), served as the departure point for specific, nuanced, and subtle transitions, deviations, and returns. It’s almost intoxicating.

And why is that? Why this love affair, this fascination with subtlety, specificity, nuance? I think it has to do with why I engage with art, and even more specifically, dance. It has to do with the depths of perception. My choreography, and what I look for in the dances of others, is something almost . . . erotic. There’s a charged word. By erotic, what I mean is longing, a desiring/reaching/wanting that contains lack. I engage in art for the sake of interpersonal human connection, in dance for those experiences and expressions that find articulation most readily in the body. This corporeal articulation of experience is for me primarily in the pursuit of understanding and a recognition of our common and uncommon human experiences. 
When I see a dance saturated with specificity and nuance and subtlety, I feel that I have so much more of a sense of those experiences. I may witness this dancer moving and be overwhelmed with a sense of shared experience, that whatever it is that they are expressing/embodying/experiencing, it connects to my own history/memory/sense of my humanity. Or perhaps I don’t have that sense of shared experience. Instead I may have an awareness of our Otherness, the uniqueness of our identities, our individual experiences of self, our individual realities, and our experiences of more communal realities. I feel that the more subtle, the more specific and nuanced the physical expression, the more access I am given into those insights, those connections, those things that are the objects of my desire (through dance).

I wonder if these qualities I appreciate in choreography/dance have direct connections to qualities of identity. I wonder if the choreographer who holds a more specific awareness of self creates choreography with more specificity (even with “self” is not the subject of the work; Meredith Monk once said something along the lines of her work not being autobiographical, but still being extremely personal. She entertained the possibility that the more personal we are/our work is, the more universal we/it becomes. And here we are again at this word universal. I believe here I mean it in the sense of readily relatable to a multiplicity of individual experiences). I wonder if this specificity has to do with memory, or age. What might be the relationships between the nature of personal cognition and the nature of the creative activity in which you engage?

I just looked over at my “tag cloud” and saw the word “between”: between is an ongoing thought process with me. It is something like the space of understanding, framed or hedged in by distinct or discrete objects/ideas/identities/etc. Perhaps the specificity of those things at the periphery of the “between” space contribute to the richness of the experience that takes place in that space. What I mean to say is that perhaps the space between the more specific sense of myself and a dance that is more specifically itself in more fertile with possibility for understanding/recognition. 

I feel as if this post is all over the place. If you’ve read this far, please forgive my fragmentation. It’s been a long week/day, but these were ideas that were rolling around in my consciousness. I felt that I needed to address them in some way.

nowhere near sleeping

It seems as if Barack Obama is the new president elect, and this is a victory to celebrate. It makes me think of a line from Queer as Folk years ago: “Mourn the losses for they are many; but celebrate the victories because they are few.” This is a victory I can celebrate.

At the same time, as of 12:09am ET, three more states are projected to ban same-sex marriage, and one state is projected to ban same-sex adoption.

I’m looking at my tag and category clouds. GRAD SCHOOL. DANCE. ELECTION. MEREDITH MONK. PAULINE OLIVEROS. RESEARCH. What is arising from all these seeming disparate thoughts bunched up together in this online creative space? What lies in between these ideas, these subjects, and what do they reveal about one another?

Today there is an election. The course of our nation is being decided, as it always is. As I look at it, I think about listening, and research, and emergent perspectives. As I write, how am I listening, what am I observing? As Karen Eliot said today, we have made such progress. There are still battles to be won, liberties and equalities that this nation seems unprepared to afford all of its citizens. And yet we have elected the first biracial president of the United States. The world and nation continue to change.

And the question arises, as it always does for those both inside and outside of this art form: why dance? Why dance now? Of what value are our dances, our practices, our study of this art form? Equally, why blog? What is the point of any of this? I am reminded again of a quote by Meredith Monk, who once said [regarding the autobiographical qualities of her work] that she is convinced that the more personal we are, the more universal we become. And as this nation, this world, continues to evolve, I believe it does so through human encounters, relationships, and new understandings of one another and who we are as a human race, and how we fit into the Whole of this universe. And dance is part of that. It can be part of how we connect with one another, artist to artist, artist to audience, audience as general public, in relationships through the work that re-contextualize one’s experience of the world in which we live. And it is my hope that as we experience more of those connections in more articulate fashions that we will come to a higher way of being, existing, governing.
That is surely not the only answer to the question “Why dance?”, but it is an important one on today of all days.


In honor of hope and love, I reference you to one of my links, the Love Art Lab:
Love Art Lab Green Wedding #4 

Drawing nearer to sleep.