A large group of people (thirty to eighty-four) walk from stage right to stage left, stopping to stand or sit according to a written score, demonstrating another way to think about walking and celebration of pedestrian movement. Jill Johnston wrote of the 1968 version of the piece that she was impressed with the assortment of bodies. “The fat, the skinny, the medium, the slouched and slumped, the straight and tall, the bowlegged and knock-kneed, the awkward, the elegant, the coarse, the delicate, the pregnant, the virginal, the you name it, by implication every postural possibility in the postural spectrum, that’s you and me in all our ordinary everyday who cares postural splendor.”
Two things: First one is news that I’m working with my fellow cohort member Lindsey Griffith to create videos, maintain, and update the unofficially official Instagram and YouTube channel for Towson’s MFA Theatre program. You will notice that not much information has been added to these places just yet, but a blank page is always a great place to start. Stay tuned for some really great updates from Brecht, Gertrude Stein, and the rest of the cohort!
Second thing is a video of site-specific choreography by Aline David. As I continue to think about site in my own work, I’ve noticed that many examples I’ve found have documented performances specifically for video. This one below is no exception as it utilizes jump cuts and helps situate the audience firmly in a viewing area. Although the intent to video tape is clear, it still feels as though I’ve walked in on something a bit more private, almost as though she’s not performing for the audience but for the space itself.
Arena is a performance choreographed by Madeline Hollander, which is comprised of a series of duets scored for 6 dancers and a beach rake truck. The beach rakes clear the path for the dancers whose movement patterns are recorded in the newly combed sand. In the first half of the performance, the dancers follow the truck. In the second half, the truck follows the dancers, effectively erasing all traces of movement as they go. These actions are repeated from 6pm until the sun goes down. The piece was presented as part of the Beach Sessions Dance Series on Rockaway Beach in Queens.
The initial concept for the piece reminds me of Richard Long’s A Line Made By Walking in that what is left behind is the trace of movements in the space. That the act of occupying the space transformed it in a subtle way. However, Arena marks and then erases the dancers existence and claims to the space by continually raking over the tracks. What’s really striking about this piece is the ephemeral quality of the movement documentation in the sand, which is true of every sand castle and message I’ve ever carved at the beach. Also, I’m struck by the durational and repetitive quality of the piece as this has been a direction suggested in feedback for my own work in progress.
Madeline Hollander is a New York based artist who works primarily with performance and video to explore how human movement and body-language negotiate their limits within everyday systems of technology, intellectual property law, and mass-culture.
Photography by Samantha Casolori; Film stills by Sam Fleischner
Steve Reich’s “Come Out” was an early tape loop experiment that features the voice of a man (Hamm) beaten by the police in Harlem in 1964. Hamm was abused for hours as police refused to give him medical treatment because he was not visibly bleeding. Hamm had received many bruises and recalls: “I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.” Steve Reich took those last five words and turned them into a haunting repetition that reflects and obscures the harrows of that abuse. Pitchfork has a very in-depth article expanding on Hamm’s story and the history of the piece during a time of civil rights struggle, a similar struggle we still face today.
This video also features choreography of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker with help from principal dancer Michele Anne de Mey. Using their arms for momentum while seated on stools, the accumulating movements create tensions between order and disorder through a highly structured dance. A sense of struggle and strength is reflected in the use of breath and sounds created through the tedious movements. De Keersmaeker’s style is based off of Steve Reich’s compositional methods using natural gestures and steps, structural relations to music and tension between two contradictory impulses: formalism and expressionism. She often uses these tensions to create tornado-like patterns of structured chaos as the piece unfolds. About structure De Keersmaeker says: “I’m obsessed by structures. But the most beautiful experience is to see such a construction generating something intangible, elusive- an emotion.”
As I’ve started working through The Intimate Act of Choreography by Blom and Chaplin, I can’t stop thinking about the potential of hands, the potential of isolating any body part and discovering how much I don’t know about it. The hands are especially interesting to me because many cultures believe the hands hold innate healing powers, beliefs that go back many centuries. An example of this are Mudras, which are hand positions that are said to influence the energy of your physical, emotional, and spiritual body. The Mudras were practiced in the East by many spiritual leaders including Buddha and are still used in meditation and yoga practices today. At Forever Conscious, they outline some of the most common ones including Gyan Mudra, which brings peace, calm, and knowledge.
Also included here is an excerpt of a piece by Pina Bausch, which demonstrates isolating the hands in dance. It reminds me a bit of Trisha Brown’s Accumulations in it’s repetition and progression but is far less mathematically structured.