Oh, the Places you’ll go

This means that every act that is composed of A, is also composed of A’s  predecessor and successor. – Phenomenology & Mind : Noema and Thinkability : An Essay on Husserl’s Theory of Intentionality by Lukasz Kosowski pg 67.

in other words: Where you are is determined by where you have been and determines where you can go.

Improvising the technically pedestrian choreography

“While improvisation initially offered Jones a reprieve from the demands of technical training…” – page 115 from I Want To Be Ready by Danielle Goldman.

This quote refers to the choreographer Bill T. Jones. While it may be true that improvisation did offer Jones a respite from the rigors of technical training, I find that this statement sets up, or rather is indicative of an old and antiquated antagonistic binary about improvisation and technique.

I would say that good improvisation requires technical training.  The opposite of improvisation is choreography.  And to do choreography doesn’t require technical training but merely memory.

A dancer’s relationship to time, i.e., improvisation or choreographed, has nothing to do with technical training.  Choreography can be technical or not, improvisation can be technical or not. Though, I would posit that untechnical improvisation isn’t improvisation, but merely futzing about, regardless of how enthusiastic it is. Choreography, on the other hand, is merely remembering a sequence of events.

Technical, pedestrian, improvised, choreographic…one does not imply the otherScreen Shot 2015-11-19 at 6.29.36 PM

On Orientations | one place after

On Orientations | one place after
An Kaler
Studio 5 Uferstudios, Berlin
A little Q & A –
Why were there the evenly space strings attached to the floor upstage and the ceiling downstage?  To create an upward trajectory from upstage to downstage for the eye, maybe.  The angle of the strings relative to the front of the stage also creates a sense of movement.
Why to horizontal fluorescent tubes upstage?  Maybe to emphasis low upstage horizontality, a strong theme in the piece.  A Flavin reference, maybe.  Or are fluorescent tubes are just the current electromagnetic trend?
Why wear pants that are the same color and tone as the floor?  An attempt to make the legs blend in with the floor to negate verticality, perhaps.
The idea of this piece and the concept of the series – to explore “different notions of orientation” is one I enjoy.  I have often wondered about dance terminology (at least in English) in relation to the human form in space.  The term floor work, for example.  Floor work tends to be when the body is not vertical and the pelvis is close to or on the floor.  But unless the dancer is levitating all dancing is floor work.  Except for jumping.  But it’s impossible to jump and land without the floor.  So maybe everything is floor work except for what happens in the air.
I also appreciate that the performer never came to standing.  What percentage of dances consist of vertical or mostly vertical dancers?  90%? 95%?  Probably more. What I found disappointing was the lack of interrogation of what the body can do in a primarily horizontal position.  She didn’t explore the body itself and how it moves through its kinesphere and through space enough to challenge the idea of verticality.  Maybe this is what the phrase in the program “…conceiving of stillness as motion/emotion.”  was referring to.   But then, here again, the performer wasn’t still enough long enough to generate an emotion in me.  Attempting something that is normally seen vertically in the horizontal plane would have more strongly challenge the normative spatial orientation of verticality.  This, though, might come across as too “compare and contrast” and not poetic/artistic enough.
One statement in the program I am curious about – “Linking spatiality with temporality On Orientations | one place after…” This piece can’t link two things that are already linked.  Space and time are inexorably linked.  Maybe that statement is meant to indicate a problematizing of the space-time relationship.  This I did not see.  The stretches of stillness and the low verticality might have been Kaler’s attempt to question the space-time relationship.  Since space and time are linked, questioning one means the other is being questioned.  But the stretches of stillness in the Berlin dance scene are standard.  Unlinking space and time would be something to see!
Granted it has been almost a year since I saw Kaler’s trio at Uferstudios last summer and a while since I saw this solo, but I think both pieces have a very similar spatial trajectory.  Both pieces started downstage left, curved upstage to stage right, came downstage, back upstage and then moved towards center stage.  Is this an intentional choreographic decision to create a spatial theme for several pieces?  Is this a somatic spatial response to performing front of an audience?  I prefer the former to the latter.  I didn’t see the third piece in the series so didn’t get that data to help me understand Kaler’s spatial proclivities.  I wish I had been able to see it.

Presence vs. Awareness

What is it?
There are many workshops that deal with presence.  Practicing it, creating different kinds of presence.
But there is only one kind of presence – either you are in the room or you are not.  It’s digital,a binary.  Either the food is in your belly or it is not.  Either the whisky is in your glass or it is not.  Either you’re pregnant or you’re not.
If we are to look at the etymology of the word (and a little part of me dies when I do this), we see that presence comes from Latin praesentia – “a being before”.  The origins of the word have nothing to do with awareness.  Before…in front of…location…place…space…either you are before someone or not.
Does this mean that practicing presence is an exercise in punctuality?  You are either in the studio or not.  Punctuality is something that many dancers could practice.  Oh, the irony…we of time based art have a hard time showing up at the correct time.
What people really mean when they say presence is awareness.  When people say that someone is not very present, they mean that someone’s awareness is on something other than what they themselves are focused on.  Differing awarenesses.
Seeing dancers who are not very “present” on stage… well, that’s impossible.  If they weren’t present, you couldn’t see them.  They appear “not present” because their awareness is elsewhere.  Frequently inexperienced dancers seem “not present”.  Their awareness is probably taken up by nervousness, or anticipation of messing up the choreography.  Their awareness is of the moment they are in, but their awareness of that moment is of a different variable than what the viewer is aware of.  The nervous dancer is aware of his or her panic about the upcoming moments, getting that lift right, or freaked out in an open improvisation because s/he is “stuck” center stage in a ball facing the floor.  It seemed like a brilliant choice 2 minutes ago…what do I do now?
The “unpresent” dancers, though, have not disappeared.  They are just focused on something else than the viewer is.
Injuries can also come from lack of “presence”.  This, though, is a result of a difference in awareness.  Imagine a contact jam.  Person X is very present in (or aware of) his sensations – the weight on his torso, the sweat of his partner, the exertion of his muscles etc.  He is so caught up in his sensory perceptions, that his awareness doesn’t see the heel headed towards his face.
Heel meets face.  Ouch.  If he really weren’t present, then he would have not been hit.  If his awareness were outwards, he might have been able to avoid the incoming heel.  His awareness could have changed his presence to another location and avoided the calcaneal(is that a word?) collision.
presence, awareness, presence, awareness…
By conflating the two terms, and I would say that people favor presence, giving it greater value, we are favoring the mind over the body.
Maybe this is a Cartesian remnant, a vestigial thought held over from the Enlightenment – I think therefore I am – favoring the mind over the body.