michael j. morris


In between places
4 February, 2010, 9:13 am
Filed under: inspiration | Tags: , , , , , ,

Somewhere between here:

and here:

and here:

and here:

Where is that?

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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.
covered/uncovering
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.



Thoughts on Batsheva and Gaga
11 February, 2009, 3:32 pm
Filed under: art, Dance | Tags: , , , , , , ,

feel your bones moving beneath your skin
feel your blood moving through your body
find curves in your body; multiply them
find the moons in your body, in your hands, on the back of your neck, etc.
[move as if there are galaxies all throughout your body]
find a quake coming from your center, as if someone were shaking you from the core
[boil your body; it’s 80-90% water; shake so that you boil your body]
let the quake come entirely from your back body; your front body
break apart your body so that you are moving in a million pieces
lose yourself in the quaking and shaking; have fun
take pleasure in your movement
hang over and touch the floor like you would touch a person
become thick, your body and your movement, as if moving through mud
[let the air be thick, and move as if you are shaping/containing the space]
become spaghetti in boiling water
[boil your body]
move from the periphery of your body; now lead from your pelvis
float
find the snake in your spine
slap yourself/your partner hard; soften into the blow and allow yourself to take pleasure in the pain
[embrace the fullness of your experience]
find a dense ball at whatever point of your body that you are touched; move that ball through your body to the next place your are touched; now do this on your own
[with each step, plant a seed and feel the flower grow up through your body to blossom somewhere on the surface of your body]
tap into your explosive power
tap into your voice
stretch your bones through your skin
stretch points of your body as far as you can from one another
melt the skin off of your body
[let your body dissolve, then let it return]

[a mix of Gaga verbal cues, as expressed by Bobbi Smith, Batsheva company member,  and Butoh-fu from Kazuo Ohno, Yoshito Ohno, and Yuko Kaseki]

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a class in Gaga, the “movement language” developed by Ohad Naharin as director of the Batsheva Dance Company. It is conducted as one continuous movement, no stopping, no mirrors, less “right and wrong”, more about sensation and synthesis within the body, led through a series of verbal cues. Shockingly, in my experience, this is how many Butoh classes are conducted. There may be pauses between exercises/experiences, but the essentials are still common: a basis in the kinesthetic synthesis of imagery in the body, led by verbal cues, less about form and more about authentic experience. I am curious about this commonality as the two forms seem to share no common root. A colleague of mine is formulating research into the inquiry of movement forms/techniques that come out of or after times of conflict and unrest. Butoh evolved after WWII. Gaga has evolved in the midst of the Israeli conflict. Austrucktanz evolved in Germany just after WWI, and shares many of these same sensibilities. There may be something here, some common denominator of why dance artists/human beings return to this places of sensing, de-prioritizing form, and prioritizing authentic experience/expression. All in all, taking this Gaga class fed my love of these concerns and reawakened many of my experiences in Butoh. I am curious how these tendencies/sensibilities/concerns may affect how I eventually “teach” a dance technique class. Having experienced these forms, I’m not sure I could teach a modern/contemporary class in the more traditional manner of matching shape and form, at least not without it being in the service of these concerns. And clearly these approaches have the ability to shape amazing dancers/performers.

Batsheva trains almost exclusively in Gaga and their performance of Three last night was easily one of the top three performances I have ever seen.

A brief clip. This is not from last night’s performance but is from the piece. This duet is not only virtuosically stunning, but it also feeds profoundly into the socio-cultural contemplation/research with which I have been engaging surrounding gender (and also gaze):

There may be little of my ecstatic reaction to this work that I can articulately express in verbal language at this point. Thoughts that comes to mind/words readily (and do not even begin to scratch the surface of its profound impact) are:

-My work so often concerns the expression/articulation of basic human conditions and qualities, theories and understandings of what it means to exist, to be human. And those things find expression in a slow, minimal fashion (especially in my current work). Yet they addressed so many of those same sensations and kinesthetic identities, but with speed and intensity and explosive energy. It was overwhelming, as if submerge in crashing waves of our own humanity, slung and flung and thrust from these moving bodies/beings.

-It was so refreshing to see choreography that seems so aware of its own meta-narratives. The choreography contained so many implications and potential interpretations concerning identity and gender and politics and even the semantics of the performing space (the theater). And I felt the truest conviction that it was all intentional, all aware, all sensitive to both what it was (literally, the movement, the bodies, without interpretation, valued simply as it is) and what it might “mean” (the meaning brought to it be the experience of the the audience). I felt that it took responsibility for itself, and did so audaciously, articulately, discreetly, and almost dangerously, somehow all at once.

And those may be the only two thoughts I can articulate in words at present. In lieu of something further, I can offer two other videos of Batsheva: