Dance ≥ Emotion

It could be argued that dance has its origins in emotions. Movement (dance) coming from the need for survival (Sheet Johnstone 1966). The need to move towards food, towards mother, away from danger, predator, fire, etc. Similarly food could be seen as the stuff that satisfies the need for nourishment.

Food, however, has ceased to be simply nourishment. Think of all the cooking shows, and kinds of food that people eat that have little or no nutritional value. Food as entertainment and enjoyment. Also the food geeks who research how to do different processes and aren’t directly interested in food as nourishment. Think of Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s first CTO, who made that huge cookbook. Food as a means of epistemology.

So why is dance still so heavily associated with movement’s origin, emotion, and seen less as a means of epistemology?

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re-lease technique

As a choreographer, a dancer, a dance maker, and a performance theorist, I try to learn and understand as much as possible about my chosen field(s) of knowledge production.  This knowledge accumulation process involves seeing a variety of performance, ranging from performances happening in black boxes and white boxes, high budget and low budget performance.  It also entails reading a variety of books about visually oriented work – a history of ballet, Barthes, 7 Days in the Art World.  So, yeah, me!  I’m trying to expand my mind/range.

What particularly interests me, though, are the roots or building blocks of all this textual knowledge, i.e., words.  And as I am a (stuck, maybe) a post modern dancer, I am interested in taking apart ideas to see what the inner workings of it are.  But enough of this, let’s cut to the chase.

Release technique.  What is it?  Wikipedia, the compendium of all current truth and knowledge, defines it as “…an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of different corporeal practices that emphasize efficiency of movement in dance.  Emphasis is placed on breath, skeletal alignment, joint articulation, ease of muscular tension and the use of gravity and momentum to facilitate movement.”

Fine, sounds good. We’ll take it.  But let’s go deeper.  Re-lease.  The prefix of re- denotes something happening again, as in a re-petition of something.  As in a rechaulking of your bathroom tile because it is so old and you don’t want the water to leak through to the walls and floor and cause the wood to rot.

And what is the lease that is happening again?  Well, a lease, if you have ever rented an apartment or leased a car, is a contract.  You sign your name on a piece of paper saying that you will pay so much a month to be able to store all your stuff (cue George Carlin) and cook, sleep, shower and shave in a place for a given period of time.  For a car, it’s slightly different.  I am not exactly sure because I have never leased a car.  Why you sign a lease to rent an apartment, but sign a contract to rent a car, I don’t know.

Regardless, and not irregardless(!), a lease involves a contractual agreement between two parties for a specific amount of time.  Contractual…what word is hidden in there?  Contract.  And what contracts?  Muscles.  Yes, muscles.  So what do we have thus far?

Release is a repetition of a contract between two parties for a specific amount of time.

In the human body those two parties could be said to be the myosin fibers of the muscles that pull against each other when the nerve attached to that muscle receives a the signal to sign the contract.  And as something can only contract again if it has been relaxed, release technique is not the “focus on the ease of muscular tension” but actually the opposite.  It is the focus on the repeated engagement of muscles, or focus on the repeated creation of muscular tension.

Same coin, but the opposite side.

Contemporary Contact Improvisation…or achieving the full potential

If, as some have stated contemporary dance is about the search for and exploration of potential, then contact improvisation in its nigh-omnipresent hetero-normative iterations is not contemporary as the hetero-normativity represents merely a third of the potential permutations of the duet based on biological sex.

Extending this thought to the duet in relation to number, the normativity of the duet in relation to the physical practice of the form is also a limitation of potential.  A dancer of CI, in order to make use of the full potential of the form, should be able to dance with anyone in the place of practice and not be limited to one person.

In order to achieve the full potential of the form, and thus bring CI into back into contemporality, practitioners of the form must move beyond the hegemony of the hetero-normative duet.