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?

An Empirical Definition

The absence of an empirical definition of what is meant by improvisation  has been an obstacle to conceptual clarification.

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.

Jam ~ Performance

A Jam is a situation in which all participants have equal access to movement, location, and observation.

A Performance is a situation in which participants have unequal access to movement, location, and observation.

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.

Another Definition of CI

Contact Improvisation is the simultaneous exploration of, experimentation with, and execution of physical and perceptual attention to the location, duration, and operation of one or more touching or potentially touching surfaces between two or more bodies.

Togetherness: reset the song

Togetherness: reset the song

What exactly is togetherness?  To unpack this term and open up several ways to understand it, I offer several readings of the word using de/re-constructive etymology.  I am not talking about going back to the Greek, or the Latin, but taking just what we have when we look at the English word togetherness.  I mean, why do people always talk about the Greek roots of words?  Did words not exist before the Greeks?  Where did they get their words?  Why don’t we ask that and go even further back than the Greeks?

But I digress.

The first two letters are T and O.  This spells “to”.  According to Merriam Webster to is a preposition that indicates “the direction of something”, as in “You are going to Hell!”  The word “to” can also indicate addition, attachment, connection, belonging, possession, accompaniment, or response to something.  Last, but not least, to can indicate the infinitive form of a verb.

The third, fourth, and fifth letters of togetherness are G, E, and T.  Get, again according the Merriam Webster dictionary, means “to gain possession of” or “obtain by entreaty or permission”.  What did you get for Christmas?  As the years go by you will get old and get really wrinkly if you keep smoking.  Get can also mean “understand”. The definitions of to and get could be combined to mean “in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being” or simply “to understand”, as in, “I get the joke.”

The letters 6 through 8 of togetherness are H, E, and R, respectively.  Her is the feminine third person singular pronoun indicating ownership.  As in, “I am her bitch.”  Pretty straight forward.

The last four letters, N, E, S, and S, when combined in that order spell ness.  Ness, according to the dictionary in the version of Microsoft Office I am currently using, is “a section of coastline that projects into the sea”.  Why a man named his company using two words 99.999% of men don’t want to hear and became the richest man in the world is still a mystery.

But I digress.

Combining, then, the four definitions of the parts of the word togetherness, we get the definition in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being of a woman’s section of coastline that projects into the sea.

Who exactly this woman is I cannot say.  But from the definition I would postulate that she has beachfront property.  Whether this property is a white sand beach in Jamaica, or a rocky pebble beach somewhere near Big Sur on the California coast, or a raging section of waterfront down in the Tierra del Fuego, I cannot say.  But what I can say is that she must be wealthy.  She doesn’t have just beachfront property, but a section of coastline.  And from the times I have been to the Hamptons and hung out with old money in Martha’s Vineyard, I have seen some nice spreads, but no one talks about having a section of coastline.  That is some serious dough.

But I digress.

The meaning of in the direction of gaining has some interesting connotations.  Does it indicate that in the state of togetherness one is merely in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being of her section of coastline that projects into the sea, and will never actually reach the ness?  Does this mean, then, that actual togetherness is impossible?  That it is a continual striving for an unobtainable goal, that no matter how much I try, I will never reach it?

Does this gaining refer to understanding or conceptually receiving something from the coastline, as in I finally made it to her coastline, her damp, writhing, fecund coastline and was so moved by it that it projected into my blood, my heart, my soul, that I groked it?  That in essence, I became the sea that her coastline thrust into?

Or are we talking about mere real estate?  That by entreaty, by fair means or (if those didn’t work) by foul, by marriage or by war, I took possession of her section of coastline that stands valiantly against the dark angry seas, a bulwark upon which the innocent Andromeda was lashed to by her father King Cepheus, King of Aethiopia, in order to save his people from the Olympian wroth of Poseidon.  Clearly we have a case of female collateral damage – two men using women as pawns in their struggle for domination.

But I digress.

Continuing, though, in this vein of gender, I wish to draw your attention to the third and fourth words within togetherness, her and ness.  Combining them we get herness.  –ness is a suffix and, as we all know, means the state, condition, or quality of.  Therefore herness is the state, condition, or quality of being her.  Her is not only the feminine third person singular pronoun indicating ownership, but also the feminine third person singular pronoun used to indicate the reception of action, whether directly, as in “Gonna smack her with a lead pipe/ Gonna smack her with a 2×4” (The Dead Milkmen) or indirectly, as in I gave her a diamond ring and a fur coat as way to ask for forgiveness for my terrible wretched behavior in the previous example.

The appropriateness of the examples aside, to get herness…hmm… in the direction of gaining possession of herness.

Does to get herness mean in the direction of gaining possession of femininity?  What level of herness are we talking about, the superficial layers of vestments? Whenever I put on my wife’s clothes I feel that I am merely in the direction of herness.  I am about 500 miles off from being anywhere close to being mistaken for a her.  Or are we talking about the whole enchilada, the whole kit and caboodle?  Chop chop snip snip, oh what a relief it is!  Did you know that Thailand and Iran are the #1 and #2 countries for most sexual reassignment surgeries in the world?

But I digress.

We could be talking about an individual who is already female biologically, but who nevertheless feels inadequate in the role of woman due to societal and cultural pressures.  Through a variety of methods whether sartorially and/or surgically, she tries to develop a heightened level of femininity?  Or are we talking about an individual who goes in the direction of gaining possession of femininity by becoming the ultimate nurturer and caregiver.  Is Angelina Jolie trying to gain femininity by adopting so many kids?  Was Oprah, whilst she had her talk show, trying to gain femininity by providing all of her audience members with free food, books, sweaters, and VW Beetles?

Thusly, in a partial conclusionary summation, we have two readings of the word togetherness – to get her ness and to get herness – each with multiple connotations.  I haven’t even gotten to the vowel replacement processes.  Using a simple a for e process we get the terms to get harness and to gather ness.  While the former evokes thoughts of Japanese rope binding, rock climbing, and animal husbandry, the latter brings to mind territorial wars and relates to to get her ness.  But I will not go into those readings now.

I must egress.

 

 

Heart and Soul

Paraphrasing Schuller and Duke-

‘”Improvisation is the heart and soul of [contact improvisation].” However, [contact improvisation] is not the heart and soul of improvisation, and they are definitely not one and the same.’ – John Henry Duke, Teaching Musical Improvisation: A Study of 18th and 20th Century Methods, pg. 16