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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Inscription

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]