(Me and Saara being dramatic in the name of Transitions publicity. I’ve even got full make up on and half a tin of hairspray in my locks! Tres bizarre)
I haven’t been so clear about what I’m doing this year on this blog. Mostly because I’ve been too hectic with the doing of it to be writing about it. So, to clarify, this year I’m doing an MA as part of Transitions Dance Company at Laban. We’ll be touring a triple bill of works created with three different choreographers (Bawren Tavaziva, Zoi Dimitriou and Miguel Pereira), which is pretty damn exciting…! It’s really a beautiful thing to be involved in, alongside a very warm, interesting and inspiring group of individuals, and with amazing opportunities coming our way on a daily basis. Much to be grateful for.
Each of the pieces in the triple bill is unique and almost entirely different in it’s demands and aesthetic than the others. It’s a fertile learning situation that I find myself in, and I’m making the most of it. At the moment we’re rehearsing the pieces in preparation for the previews on the 5th and 6th of February. But more about all that to come another time…
The other side of this MA is that I’ll be completing a thesis. My ideas are just getting past the initial composting stage (as Natalie Goldberg calls it, in this lovely book about writing), but this is the general gist of it so far.
To me, improvisation is dance. All dance was improvisation once. So I want to explore dancing (and solo improvisation specifically) as a way of thinking and a form of embodied knowledge. Thinking doesn’t just happen in the brain. Oh no, I have come to know that our whole being is a thinking, perceiving, receiving body of knowledge. We communicate with our bodies just as much as we do through the words we speak or read in books. See a sprinkle of my thoughts on that here.
With my ‘I am a dancer and I have to write a thesis’ head on, I’ve started to explore the inkling that the fullest expression of embodied perception, knowledge and an ability to move more fluidly, both physically and mentally, between different states, textures and modes of thinking, can be experienced through developing my practice of improvisation. Yes that was a mouthful. Yes I much prefer writing in a non-academic way. But yes I am going to write this bloody thing and learn something new and useful from it.
I’m interested in solo improvisation as a rich site for breaking down the mind-body dichotomy, and as a way to experience my dancing body as in conversation with a world not entirely delineated by the barriers of time and space. Again, sounds pretentious, but really all I mean is this….
- Our bodies hold memory, history, learning. We develop from a unique set of circumstances, inclinations, talents, limitations. We absorb the knowledge of others, and are also in constant dialogue with our past selves, relationships, ideas, places, even objects.
- We are composite, complex creations. If I look at my practice, in the context of researching and creating a solo work, maybe I can unearth and better understand my own individual skills and idiosyncrasies. How can I bring all the diversity of my ‘self’ and all the complexities of my ‘life’ into my practice, which is, yes, you guessed it, ‘my dance’?!
- Like Miguel Pereira asked, what the hell is ‘my dance’ anyway, when all the technique teachers and other interested folk have gone home, what do I do? What’s ‘my thing’? If ever there was a time for me to epxlore this, it’s now. Before, that is, I head out onto the cold streets of life as an artist beyond the confines of this lovely cotton-wool institution.
With this in mind my mixed media thesis will consist of a large amount of practice-based research, with myself as solo improviser and subject, and also as performer/creator. I’ll be exploring ‘my dance’. I want to develop and encourage in myself this embodied knowledge, alongside a repertoire of ‘ways of knowing’. I’ll be focusing on the often under-appreciated ‘slower ways of knowing’, such as inutition, focusing on inner states and mindfulness, in dialogue with the favourite of our culture, the analytical mind, as and when appropriate. NOTE: ‘As and when appropriate’ being the key term here.
The research will eventually develop into a performance (potentially structured improvisation), in which the aim would be to make what I’ve discussed visible. I want to explore how to engage both the senses and the imagination. Integration of mind and body. Subtlety, freedom, ease, flow, letting go of control whilst remaining attentive and precise, imagery, detail, the physics of the body. How can you create a space in which the audience can experience this, rather than simply observe or understand it analytically? How can it remain primarily about play, following pleasure and finding freedom – but also reaching greater self awareness in my dancing?
Hopefully I’ll then come to some enlightening conclusions about all this, with a view to understanding how I could impart this tentative know-how to others at a similar stage in their dancing in future. We don’t really teach improvisation. It’s something we do and hope that we’ll get better at through a process of trial and error. Is there some way to approach this which breaks down the ‘mystery’ of it all?
Also, what does it mean for me specifically, at this point, to improvise, dance, create and perform ‘alone’? Are we ever really ‘alone’, and whatever the answer to this, since life is always in relationship, how can I share my ‘alone-ness’? Improvisation as a way of dancing, and improving, my relationship with the world…. feeling connected even when I’m dancing alone… or something like that?! Hopefully it makes some sense…
And of course, let’s not forget the most important thing, my friends… priority numero uno… find the flow and enjoy it. Perhaps then other people might enjoy it or even join me.
‘There is a field outside of right and wrong… I’ll meet you there!” Don’t know who said it but I like it.
Welcome to my first impromptu friday night relaxed solo rave. From plain old warm up to wobbly legs and funny walks, with a bit of enthusiastic song-miming and amateur dramatics chucked in. And all finished off in a trippy tropical colour (to make it seem more rave-like)… and because that’s what people do these days innit? Instagram and all that. Keepin’ up with the kids 😉
Enjoy my meandering dance into silliness in the name of ‘research’. This is basically me doing what I do when left to my own devices.