Posts Tagged: Ruth Little

monad [mon-ad, moh-nad]


 [mon-ad, moh-nad]

(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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Book of Words Session 11

After all the talking, thinking, reflecting, absorbing, I felt that it would be great for this week’s session of Next Choreography should focus more on doing – a glimpse into next term, and a physical drawing together of many elements from different sessions within this term.

We did things with eyes closed and ears open, ears closed and eyes open, eyes closed and touching, eyes closed walking backwards. In fact lots of walking backwards! Opening all the senses, opening the possibility of sensing through our backs. Drawing on our need for negotiation, co-operation, and peripheral vision. We composed short things and manipulated them, we put them organised ourselves through various different systems – we watched/experienced the system at work. I was reminded of Ruth Little, Lucy Cash and Charlie Morrissey all rolled into one! We took over the building in two wiggly lines moving backwards, and without realising it or planning, our activity became a performative experience for all of the audience members entering the building to attend the Crossing Borders talk. Quite lovely! I’m looking forward to all that next term might bring.

Here is our book of words for the session

Book of Words Session 11
Walking backwards in lines
Walking Backwards in lines
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What is a dramaturg? What is dramaturgy? – Ruth Little

Ping pong balls, Spirals, Shell from the beach, Energy, Argument, Order, Disorder, Repetition, Nature, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Everywhere, Chaos, Simple rules, Pattern, Rearrange, Repeat.

Living organisms all function in the same way, we look for patterns and change of patterns. For example the change of pattern in our voice in conversation keeps the other participants interested.

Nothing is new! Even our dreams are a jumble of everything in our past experience.

Although I have definitely not got a deep and detailed grasp on what a dramaturg is, even brushing the surface of dramaturgy provides hours of exploration and realisation. From what I gathered in our session, the role of a dramaturg working in dance is to make sense of the movement. By looking for patterns, connections and relations to act as roots to bring work together in a greater understanding.

A dramaturg can work alongside a company, a director/choreographer to dig deeper into an idea.

The most interesting example I took from the session on dramaturgy was a picture of a huge tree with a massive trunk lots of branches and filled with green leaves. Underneath the picture showed all the roots spreading through the surface of the ground to a much wider proximity. The leaves and branches represent the finished work, and the roots represent the the research of the dramaturg.

Ruth Little’s session made me realise that anything and everything is related in day to day life. It’s fascinating how closely everything is related! I believe this is very inspiring when creating work.

tree roots
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Dramaturgy is…

We’ve had a bit of a star studded term really, including sessions from Siobhan Davies, Charlie Morrissey, Lucy Cash and most recently Ruth Little. We’ve been to see Mirror City at the Hayward Gallery where we were lucky enough to be introduced to the exhibition by Frank Bock, and a couple of weeks ago we saw Jasmin Vardimon Company at Sadlers Wells. Tonight marketing expert, Jane Packham is coming to share some of her wisdom with us, and the first term of Next Choreography will end with a trip to the South Bank to see Candoco.

I want to share a few insights that I gleaned last week about dramaturgy from Ruth Little. Ruth has worked as a dramaturg for theatre and dance companies and with artists across the UK and internationally for over 15 years. Her approach to dramaturgy draws on the sciences of chaos and complexity and on the dynamic structures and processes of living systems. She currently works closely with Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui amongst many other artists.

So, a brief summation of some (but by no means all) of my notes

Dramaturgy is something that you ‘do’ not something that you ‘are’.
Dramaturgy is the relationship between movement and meaning.
Dramaturgy looks for patterns, looks for moments of changes, looks for possible meanings and impossible meanings.
Dramaturgy keeps the questions of the work alive.
Dramaturgy keeps feeding the questions that keep the work alive.
Dramaturgy keeps the flow of ideas flowing. It is an enabling role that believes in liquid networks.
Dramaturgy is a way of thinking.
Dramaturgy is ecological thinking (systems thinking) – small tip: if you say this to anyone who you’ve not met before, who doesn’t know anything about dramaturgy, then perhaps dash away after making this statement…it can take a while to explain fully and that is quite tiring!

Creative processes can’t be short-circuited: sitting with problems and watching the system is really important (though not always a comfortable experience).

Energy within any system dissipates over time – it’s no surprise then that things fizzle out – quite re-assuring really…

Thank you Ruth as always for sharing your huge breadth of knowledge and curiosity. Inspiring stuff.

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