If Only (2021)
Qualities for performativity
The choreographic material has been structured and formatted in a way to facilitate moments of unforeseeable specificity.
photo by: takumi morozumi
Through RISK there’s a potential for FAILURE
I asked two performers to explore “contain the collapse” as a physical movement exercise. First, they did this independently, then we explored how it could work in a duet. The task involved an oxymoron— creating contradictory conditions to reveal a paradox. When exploring this independently it created an interesting physical state, yet when asked to “contain each others collapse, while still exploring their own” in a duet, challenges arose as the mind had to concentrate on more elements. A layer of text material was added into the equation, along with the microphones and wires. I was attempting to overload the dancers with layers of information, tasks and details, causing them to eventually “fail” in their attempts. The moment of failure was when the performers “collapsed” in a sense; as if a system was overwhelmed. I found this moment alluring, it only happened for a brief moment before the performers attempted to tune into the task again. I experienced this moment as vulnerable, the performers seemed extra alert and aware. I wondered if getting to this state could be an approach to work in the unexpected and indetermined. We talked about failing collectively, and I explained that the importance of the work was about working and trying quality that came out of the tasks, rather than “succeeding”. This took the pressure and self-judgement off the performers, creating a sense of freedom for experimentation and play. We continued to work with impossible tasks in the process, accumulating layers of information to push the performers to be in uncertain states; where they knew that they might potentially fail. The process required these discoveries and discussions, to clarify the important parameters of the performance.
I noticed that if dancers were too “in their head”, they were actively thinking, planning and trying to get the task “correct” — then they were already tuned out and not present, hence the idea of overloading the system. During Rosalind Goldberg´s workshop early August 2020, I discovered parallel interests in creating space for the unknown to occur, failure, and layering of tasks. I connect with Goldbergs multi-attentive practice: where the dancers’ interest in the explorations is important throughout the structured choreography. In her work this is achieved by overloading the dancer with information, giving them something to concentrate on all the time and having physical anchor points. For me this multi-attentive practice echoes in my practice of layering tasks and parameters that the performers are working with in a performance.
Through LISTENING practices there’s a potential for BUILDING
The need to work with a heightened state of listening was an aspect that continually came up in the process. The listening became a tool for composition. As we were working with a pliable form, based on tasks to explore it was vital for the performers to be tuned in together, aware of what is happening in the space so that they could respond, react, and build onto these situations.
Play and exploration became two interlinked terms in this body of work. The work was continually playing with the power balance between the layers of words, sound, silence and movement. Simultaneously, through playful concentrations the performers were pulling the materials in different directions: creating an in-between space for materials to interact and connect. By pushing their comfort levels, they expanded their capabilities and boundaries: creating new paths, connections, establishing a larger playing field for the creative process. In this state of listening there was a beautiful alertness that transcended from the performers bodies as they are working and exploring tasks that I gave them.
After discussions with my mentor Janne-Camilla Lyster, I realised that the audience were working with the same parameters as the performers: that the reading of the performance lies in the listening. The tuning in and listening was a vital aspect of the choreographic work and process. In our discussions I discovered that if this state of working wasn’t present in the performers there was a potential for the work to collapse and not have the wanted effect. The subtle nuances of listening, alertness, and attention were at play in the work. This was a risk worth taking as the honest presence and collective listening had a power to create a landscape floating in and out of meaning, references, and importance.
photo by: takumi morozumi
Through PRESENCE there’s potential for CLARITY
During the process there was need to help the performers to avoid the tendencies to become to self-judgmental when they were researching in tasks that I had given. I realised it was vital to facilitate a process where the performers could dare to be in an unknown and unfamiliar state— the spaces between knowing.
the thinking performer in action
clarity in the unclear moments of a physical exploration
an honest and vulnerable presence
The thinking performer in action is my reference to Deborah Hay and the way performers interpret while engaging in a practice of perceptual questioning from her scores (Goldman, 2007). It’s about emphasising the dancers’ engagement and physical responsiveness, rather than the appearance. It was important for me that the performers were interested in discovering new possibilities in explorations. I noticed during the process that when the performers dared to be in moments of indeterminacy, there was a physical presence that transcended. For me, it was about how the movement material was articulated and executed. What triggered me was when I never saw it coming - it surprised me. I wanted to try capture this in a performance situation- the liveliness, playful concentration, and unpredictable clarity.