Next Choreography 2014-15

Term 3 – Festival Planning

We’re back from the Easter break and had a really useful first session back starting to plan the Next Choreography Festival on 4th July. I was impressed and struck by the enthusiasm and energy that the whole group had to be fully involved devising the activities within the festival. It was clear to me what a strong sense of togetherness and community has developed between the group over the course of the last 8 months since the programme began.

Here’s our book of words for this week – it gives a good snapshot of that connectivity!

Book of Words sess 1 term 3

 

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monad [mon-ad, moh-nad]

monad

 [mon-ad, moh-nad]
Philosophy.

(in the metaphysics of Leibniz) an unextended, indivisible, and indestructible entity that is the basic or ultimate constituent of the universe and a microcosm of it.

‘Natural forces – wild energies – often have the capacity to frustrate representation. Our most precise descriptive language, mathematics, cannot fully account for or predict the flow of water down a stream, or the movements of a glacier or the turbulent rush of wind across uplands. Such actions behave in ways that are chaotic: they operate according to feedback systems of unresolvable delicacy and intricacy.

But nature also specialises in order and repetition. The fractal habits of certain landscapes, their tendencies to replicate their own forms at different scales and in different contexts: these can lead to a near-mystical sense of organistation to a place, as though it has been built out of a single repeating unit.’ (MacFarlane, 2007, p246)

This study of a certain form being the structural base for all nature is called monadism. For some Native American tribes, this form was the circle, seen in birds’ nests or the course of the stars. For others it was the rhomboid and parallelogram, and some the lozenge. Mathematician and biologist D’Arcy Wentworth proposed it was the spiral that was most ubiquitious throughout nature: in spiderwebs, seashells, the turns of a narwhal’s horn, the  pine-cone’s configuration of scales, and in the breaking sea wave. Vaughan Cornish was convinced it was the wave, and spent his life pursueing earthquakes, gales, whirlpools, sandstorms and snowdrifts. Ralph Bagnold spent decades studying sand dunes, and concluded: ”Instead of finding chaos and disorder. . .the observer never fails to be amazed at the simplicity of form, an exactitude of repetition and geometric order.” ( Bagnold, as cited in MacFarlane, 2007, p260)

Reading about this reminded me of our session back in the Autumn with Ruth Little where she, too, was teaching us about archetypal forms and patterns that exist in the universe, and how they occur in every scale. It is useful for me to remember that when creating, I can zoom in or pan out onto anything and this scrutiny/bigger picture can help me see something new.

She also talked about the chaos vs repetition that I mentioned in my first paragraph, but called it Rule 2 – ‘All Living systems move constantly between order and disorder’ and Rule 4 – ‘Nature repeats itself in its core forms.’ It was really inspiring that her philosphy to work was so inspired by ecology and the basic physics of the universe- very refreshing actually, to be reminded amongst all the techniques and theories and clutter that I’m learning in my training, that fundementally, everything is always in motion. The universe, full of energy, is constantly moving, the earth is moving, I am moving, the very matter is moving. I, and the work that spills out of me, will never stay the same. We are constantly moving forward. Thank God!

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Presence and Performance – week 11

In the last session of term 2 we delved into the quality of presence and how that supports performance. We spent time a long time blindfolded, and then time sitting face to face with a partner just simply being and watching. Tasks that are perhaps challenging to sit with, but which require us to let everything else drop away and be as present and honest as possible. We finished by watching a few clips from the documentary about Marina Abramovic’s restrospective at MOMA – The Artist is Present.

Book of Words week 11

 

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Participation week 10

Over half the group were ill this week. I was not well either, so our session was a little more quiet than usual. We talked about and played with ideas around participation – what ways are there of developing work where the presence and activity of the audience is essential for the work to be able to come alive. We spoke performances we had experienced where the participatory nature had worked really effectively, and experiences we’d had where it hadn’t. We wondered about what makes that interaction work so brilliantly in some contexts and not in others. We looked in a little more detail at 3 case study projects – my audio work, Walking Stories, Manual by Siobhan Davies, and the Performing Book by Janine Harrington.

Here is our book of words from our small, select session!

Book of Words 10
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Review of Ultima Vez: What the body does not remember?

One musician sat at a table, scratching, swiping, flicking and banging rhythms into the hollow wood. Paralleled on stage, a male dancer belonging to his right hand and a female dancer belonging to his left. They are manipulated by these sounds with only the minutest of delays, illustrating the amount of time taken for the vibrations of the table to meet the Sadler’s Wells stage floor. The dancers lay obediently, rolling, planking, dropping and thrusting into a lateral freeze as if each vibration controlled their movement. This action/reaction game is repeated just enough for the audience to begin matching sound to movement, it becomes an enjoyable anticipation and a satisfying atheistic when your split second guesses are played back to you. Certainly a catalyst for a piece full of confrontations demonstrated with incredible physicality accompanied by a charismatic score.

Choreographer and film maker Wim Vandekeybus successfully revives his physical theatre piece ‘What The Body Does Not Remember’, once challenging audiences of the 80’s now enticing audiences of today. The dance content is subtle but powerful due to a seamless amalgamation of pedestrian and technical movement. The episodes play on themes of attraction and repulsion exposing the thin line between the two. Resembling the childhood hot lava game, two dancers balance cautiously on chalk blocks, engrossed in their own tasks, they remain for the most part unaffected by the whirlwind of chaos slowly unravelling around them. Circular pathways heighten the energy of the piece as they begin to run, an element of risk immerses the dancers. A female trio, peruse each other swinging on and off their jackets whilst throwing and catching chalk blocks. A male trio create a similar impressive display in the form of a relay race, timed to perfection, they seamlessly pass around the chalk block, hand to hand, keeping great distance between them only not for a second. Things turn dangerous as dancers begin to disseminate the blocks. A scene of suicidal block throwing unfold as dancers mercilessly throw the chalk blocks above their heads to be snatched to safety at the last moment.

Evidence of the previous scene are wiped away by a variety of colourful bath towels. Like items on a conveyor belt, dancers continually cross on a diagonal pathway, as if coming out the shower, towels are wrapped around the hair, body and hung on arms. Uncaringly they begin to take the towels from each other which then overlaps into a more ruthless theft of jackets. Hanging on rails at either side of the stage, costume change is intentionally visible to the audience, emphasising the dance idea of pedestrianism. An unexpected flash of nudity receives a collective exclamation from the audience. This episode emphasises the callous behaviour that people can withhold.

Snatching of possessions leads into the possessiveness of each other. Male dancers scale the women’s bodies as they stand affirmatively in a wide stance, gradually leading them astray to be caressed before snapping back, only permitting the men’s contact to go so far. At this point the relationship between music and movement changes, no longer does it seem the dancers are reacting to the music but rather, through the mesh screen, the musicians are responding to what unfolds in front of them. There is a deep, clustered rumble for the scaling of the bodies with a gradual crescendo matching an increase of intensity, with two sharp hits on the snare to replicate the self-resetting of the female dancers stature. The intervals between these qualities varying each time, leaving you unsettled and bringing about most strongly the idea of attraction and repulsion.

Small moments of humour are perfectly dotted around the piece never once disrupting from the sustaining tension, however, the longest form of light relief is found in a mirroring/ family portrait scene. A woman settles herself on a chair and maintains a parallel stacked position, although completely still, her open chest and face suggests that she sits with purpose. A man enters the stage with a chair, inquisitively staring at her before positioning himself downstage mirroring her position laying down on his side with his chair tucked underneath him. She remains purposeful, fixing herself into different positions, making it evident that she is posing, nonetheless, throughout this she is oblivious of her imitator who waits eagerly, analysing and assessing ways to replicate what he’s seeing onto his plane. The other dancers accumulatively filter onto the stage to join the woman, they bring with them character and meaning. Clustered closely around the chair, shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other and a few knelt beside the woman’s knee with ever so slightly characterised faces revealing imagery of a family portrait. The changes of position now increasing in succession, the theme of fear becomes apparent. It appears that space is tight and like a game of musical chairs no one wants to be left out, resorting in people being carried and sat on.

As the dancers and musicians filter in for the curtain call you can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied with only 80 minutes of entertainment, your mind is still active and ready to retain more exciting scenes of engagement and struggle. However, what appears to be the set up for the post-show talk is in fact for an astounding musical finale. Three musicians sat center stage, a table each, begin to relay the sounds of the first episode in complete synchronisation, you can almost still imagine the dancers’ responses (and truthfully still wait for an encore entrance). A swift flick of a page reveals they are reading from a score, bounding excitement within of what is about to come and not left disappointed the musicians begin to branch off onto separate rhythms creating a beautiful polyrhythmic score, sounds appear to bounce off, echo and complement each other, they dip in and out off unison before breaking off into even more complex rhythms with more challenging hand movements and changes away from the traditional 4/4 timing. A treat for the ears, after your eyes have been glistening and heart pounding proving Vandekeybus knows how to create a multisensory, interdisciplinary show that your body is sure to remember.

 

Bibliography:

Ultima Vez, (2015). What the Body Does Not Remember. [online] Available at: http://www.ultimavez.com/en/productions/what-body-does-not-remember [Accessed 15 Feb.]

Blackpoolgrand.co.uk, (2015). Review: Ultima Vez – What the Body Does Not Remember « Grand Theatre Blackpool Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/blog/review-ultima-vez-what-the-body-does-not-remember/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2015].

Mackrell, J. (2015). Ultima Vez – What the Body Does Not Remember review – bruisingly powerful. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/feb/11/ultima-vez-what-the-body-does-not-remember-sadlers-wells-review [Accessed 28 Feb. 2015].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 9 Term 2: How do we choose where to present our work?

This week participants began the session by revisiting a task they did in week one of the programme.

What does it feel like to peel away from the edge of the space? Exploring surfaces, textures, temperatures, architecture.

Where does the body fit and how?

How is the centre of the space different from the edge? Is there one you prefer? Can you tell why?

It was interesting to hear the responses from Next Choreography about how comfortable they now felt, not only with one another as the relationship between them all has evolved, but with being tasked in a way that was once out of their comfort zone…. Perhaps recognising how far they have come on their journey of choreographic exploration.

Charlotte, with the help of a passage written by Rosemary Lee, began to draw participants’ awareness to the space in which we create work. How does the site inform the work we make, and how can you use bodies to animate the space? How much time do you give to simply be in the space before attempting to embed work in it?

What aspects of the architecture of the space would you like focus on?

Where do you want your work to be viewed from?

Below are some images of Next Choreography experimenting with making work in spaces they’ve selected within our Siobhan Davies Dance building….

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Session with Siobhan Davies

Last week we were lucky enough to have an exploration of Siobhan Davies’ work Manual. The workshop consisted of giving one person laying on the floor instructions to stand up. Sounds easy enough?

Me:’Ok so, bend your your knees’
Partner (laying on the floor): ‘how do I bend my knees?’
Me:’By lifting them up?’
Partner: ‘I can’t just lift my knees, what else do I have to do?’
Me: ‘Engage your stomach muscles, keep your pelvis in line. As you gradually lift your knees the base of your feet should start to rest on the floor while your knees are coming up towards the ceiling.’
Partner (STILL laying on the floor): ‘Ok that’s much clearer, now what to I have to do?’

The exercise carried on all the way to standing in a similar pattern, as I slowly tried to give my partner clear efficient instructions to eventually reach a standing position.

The experience, was somewhat frustrating but a good laugh too. I learnt a lot from the workshop especially about how much of our body we have to use to do what we do so naturally as our daily routine. My patience was tested, but I also reflected gratefully that I had a body that was mobile, and could take part in these daily movements so effortlessly.

As I thought about how aware I had to be in my body while doing this exercise, I remembered all the times I’ve been on a train in rush hour where several people were getting cross with me because I wasn’t thinking about my rucksack on my back. As I had been standing on the train close to people forgetting that I also had a big rucksack invading others peoples space.

I have also been one for knocking things off of shelves in shops by accident, because I had not been thinking about the Rucksack and extra space I should be aware of.

After reflecting on last week, I have still felt grateful for the ability to move everyday. But I have also been much more aware of my Rucksack!

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In response to Ultima Vez

Next Choreography went to see Wim Vandekeybus’ Ultima Vez performing ‘What the body does not Remember’ on 10th February at Sadler’s Wells. This was Wim’s very first choreographic work, back in 1987 – quite impressive for a 24 year old with no dance training and no prior choreographic experience!

This week during our session, we discussed the key elements that we’d experienced in the work – the quality in the movement, what it had made us feel, think, sense, how it was structured, what were the themes that seemed to be running through it. In response, 3 members of our group – Sarah, Isla and Emily G started choreographing something new. It was exciting to witness the energy and commitment in the room. Concentrated!

Here is our book of words from the session and a couple of pictures.

Book of Words Session 6+7 Ultima Vez Response In response to Ultima Vez

 

Below is a short clip from the piece, to give a context to what we were responding to.

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