Workshop ensemble and diversity
The three workshops accompanying L1danceFest 2014 have presented us three very different approaches of dance. How can we embrace dance, the protean, how can we start dancing at all? If we join a dance course, anywhere in the world, what can we expect? What kind of attitude and perspective can we obtain by working with the different teachers and the methods represented by them? Hard to say.
Although the workshop leaders only showed us teasers, given just a short time amidst the various programs of the festival, these were hugely beneficial for the people who had been using all their senses to observe as many sensations on themselves as possible, and stockpile all the ideas coming into their minds during the three classes. This may sound a little bit brusque concerning an “activity” like dance, which we only “do”, still we cannot forget about the fact that just like every movement is action-reaction, dance is also a dialogue not solely held with ourselves; based on which we can set up certain “communication models”, in which certain functions and elements are now and then given priority. The example may be imprecise, but the methods are also developed along such theoretic principles.
Uri Shafir and Nadar Rosano – dancers from Israel, who also performed their choreographies at the festival – and Ben J. Riepe (from Düsseldorf, Germany, the artistic director and choreographer of his own dance company, resident of the program Identity.Move!, holding a workshop in the framework of the program) were the ones mobilising a part of the dance-enthusiastic audience, who were interested in more than just visiting the various events of the festival, and also other participants, like many students of the Hungarian Dance Academy.
From the above mentioned artists, we had the chance to meet Uri first, who introduced us to the mysteries of Gaga on two days, for two-times 1.5 hours (I also participated in the classes). I wouldn’t want to go into details, since Dance Script blog already features an article exclusively on this, but by all means I wish to mention one important stylistic feature of this movement language, which is based on a joyous and liberating feeling. From the 1.5 hours of continuous moving and dancing, I shall stress the importance of extra energies and impressions gained through the applied associations and the ‘activation’ of imagination, because these expand the limits of our bodies like an aura. Secondly, I shall recall the Vitruvius Essay, which is an adequate example for demonstrating the use of the body and paraphrasing the idea how our body – as a non-permanent state – can change its space in space. For a better understanding, I would like to quote a medley of Uri’s instructions:
Imagine that your skin is several centimetres thick, and your much thinner bones are floating within, shoving a different density of flesh in front of them, being surrounded by it and filling the greater body, which is moving, dancing inside honey or floating in water.
„...so many smiles and hugs get stuck / on the branches of the world.” (Attila József)
Unfortunately I couldn’t participate in the workshop of Nadar Rosano, but based on the impressions and the accounts of the participants I could reconstruct an image worth to mention to illustrate that dance can hook a person on so many different ways. In the performance with the two other dancers we saw how suggestive and expressive Nadar’s movements are, backed up with a deep level of consciousness and huge memory material. His body immediately reacted to a momentary internal impulse and crushed it out, adding a rawness to the taste of the choreography, in the best possible sense – the taste of our own flesh could be like that; this is the moment of self-dissection, the luscious horror of self-exploration.
This way of self-perception constantly stimulates and alters the ideas – even though the same happens in each case, we can distinguish different qualities within this – so they are circling with the movements just like two wild animals eyeing each other – being each other’s mirror images at the same time. Therefore, although the encounter is mental, it is still(!) physical, since it is the mind which induces the movement against its physical actions, which react on itself again. This way of internal construction was extremely spectacular in Asphalt, Nadar’s performance, and it perfectly matched the processing of the memory material the piece was playing with: getting stuck on the barbed wire of memories and the difficulty of breaking away from them – and we shall not forget: just like the identicalness in the above mentioned example, the more we are fidgeting and going deeper and further, the denser are the barbs of the wire, making it even more easier to get hooked and start squirming.
This indeed requires technical skills; his workshop was also announced as contemporary dance technique, and after a choreographed warm-up, the participants started to work with combinations. Nevertheless this kind of work needs choreography, in order the system described above can be as tensed as the skin stretched on a drum.
Entering the void
The three-hour workshop with the German artist Ben J. Riepe was a solemn journey of self- and most of all, body-understanding; moreover an enlightening experience. First, let us learn how to walk – standing is basic – and the task is to observe ourselves as kinetic constructions.
From which point of our body do we start going? – was the simple question we were asked. We observed this in the course of our first step, walked on, then stopped, exchanged impressions and tried again. Piece by piece, from the tiniest elements, we have put together the structural frame constituting movement. Namely, we learned to use the space of our body, observe its geometry and the physical rules applying to them – on which we didn’t go into detail (although we received an intriguing explanation of the proportions of the body defined by the golden ratio, but this wasn’t the main point.) This was followed by a dynamic transformation within the process, that is, running, and then slowly walking, what is even more difficult because of the sensibility of balance. Because, walking in a slow pace doesn’t necessarily mean that the movement is actually slowed down. This is the anatomy of movements dissected with the most profound, almost surgical preciseness – the hygiene of a killer –, also the preparation for the moment and for what follows. And why is this important? Because of enhancing the awareness and discovering our own space. That minimalism, which is included in the movement, becomes loaded, down to its tiniest bits simply by its physical creation. Through this experience, the personal space is sized up and the casual space of the other getting into interaction with us becomes a predictable event – no matter if the other is standing a few centimetres or several metres away from us. Let us only walk:
During the exercise, the discovery of the vectors sectioning the body results in an opening up, through which we can foresee our movements in the space, so these – even if later, but meeting with another vector – become predictable even from a greater distance, and this is where the game begins. This is the game of empty space, where solely those lines of force are dominating and structuring the space, which praise the chanting of emptiness. Since people moving in the space are by no means running around criss-cross, but they become a part of a (pseudo-)constructed system, where the set of rules are constantly determined by them. Without words, without dancing, just by the simple act of walking, all the superfluous energy is getting absorbed and becomes a medium-constituting resistance – maybe this develops continuously the existence-within defined as plot, dramaturgy, or narrative from an outside view. The actual happening of the predictable collision of the directions of movement in fact depends on our will, but the serial, collective avoidance all lead to a scenario, which would, in an opposite case, present the competitive situation of assertiveness. The space constructed by people becomes the main attraction, which in fact generates its creators on its own, but makes them equivalent with itself through its dynamic changes and structurality. Whereas space, as machinery, draws the attention again on the body, as machinery – this is already the self-reflection of a machine in a machine; this perpetual motion machine is driven by emptiness, which alone can absent itself from change by not being there at all.
Kristóf Farkas - KÖM
Inhabiting the body
Have you ever felt like spaghetti wobbling in boiling water? Like a seaweed rocked by the wind? A huge balloon filled with water? A jet plane roaring its engines? “It is not enough to do it, you have to feel it” – as Uri Shafir told us many times during his two-day gaga workshop, an accompanying event of L1danceFest 2014.
I didn’t know much about gaga before I went to the workshop. I googled the word, and found that it was a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, founder of the world-famous Batsheva Dance Company in Israel. I read it was based on the natural movement of the body and improvisation, but I didn’t have the slightest clue that it is going to be like a revelation, the greatest happiness I have ever felt through movement. Gaga gave me the feeling of being present, being in my body – being alive. It flushed my senses with the pure joy that lasted for days after the workshop.
I have to mention, we didn’t do the gaga training for professional dancers (which is the daily training for the dancers of Batsheva, and the company offers intensive summer and winter courses for dancers all around the world as well), but the gaga people’s class, which is open for everybody. It is such a delicate, gentle way of movement, which doesn’t require exceptional physical skills; we only use the resources we already have in our body, therefore even 80-year-olds can do it – in fact many of them are participating in the classes.
In everyday life, most of our movements are automatisms, we tend to use (exploit) our body as an instrument (even dancers use it as an artistic instrument), instead of inhabiting and cherishing it. Being mostly busy in our minds, we can easily lose the feel of being in our body. If we really neglect it, it starts to send us warnings in the form of pain or illness. But once we start to care for it, and give attention to it – almost like praising a child or caressing a pet –, the body rewards us with an instant gratitude and happiness. No wonder that gaga has a therapeutic effect – as Uri told us, Ohad started to develop it after he was badly injured as a dancer, and this was his own way of rehabilitating (re-inhabiting) his body.
The method is all about listening, following the way of the movement and its effects in our body, on a very deep, almost cellular level. The mirrors of the rehearsal room were also covered, to help us focus on the inside, not on how a movement looks. The instructions given by Uri – a charismatic and very inspiring teacher – may have seem silly or strange at first, but the visuality of the images he told us helped not only to imitate them, but – by using the power of imagination – to let ourselves deep into the feel and (hopefully) experience transubstantiation itself. Even though we were following instructions from the outside, we started to work with our own, natural perception of the body, being calm and aware at the same time.
At first it was surprising when Uri said we should only use “30 percent of our energy”, just “find the right engines” to perform a movement, and let go of the rest. As well as focusing and concentrating the energy, “letting go” is equally important, to release the (emotional) tension from our body.
Once we see and feel the different engines at work, we discover their connectedness, and by communicating with them (the qualities of giving directions and listening can also be developed), we become more conscious and more sensible about the actual status and the processes of the body. We may sense the weight of the body parts, the thickness of soft flesh on our bones, the spots where we hold unnecessary tension, discover how the energy flows within us and where our strengths lay, and by becoming more efficient in our movement, there is less and less need for effort, which could diminish the pleasure of moving.
Gaga is not only a technique, it is an approach that can become a part of everyday life – as Uri said, “we can do it while chopping salad in the kitchen”. It may help us to regain the feeling of owning, co-operating with and loving our body, experience the wholeness of body and mind, and ultimately lead to a healthier, happier, more balanced and also longer life. My only heartache is that there is no gaga class or community in Budapest yet, but I keep Uri’s words in my mind: “You just have to jump on a plane to Tel Aviv...”
Orsolya Bálint - KÖM
Oh, Roberta – Atrebor, Ho
On the last day of the festival, we have seen probably the most poetic artistic performance in Roberta Milevoj’s voice. I use the latter word on purpose, since on the language of dance, her choreography and her presence articulated ‘voices’ used in writing, opening whole new dimensions. She put her personality in a distance where the spectator could appear as a space for her. The elevation of movements into poetic metaphors, basically the entire dance vocabulary presented such legible formula, which, going beyond itself, could only find its meaning in the summoned movements. Only a few choreographies can make the leap not solely to represent themselves through their movement substance, but also to create their own hologram – in this case the choreography could supplement its three-dimensionalness with adding an interpretational horizon to it, creating an atmosphere, which could accompany its own incarnation with its music (the sound of movements – how poetic) on a way which elevated the scenery similar to a poem. Namely, form and content – oh, such rigid words – co-operate and coexist in such a beautiful cohesion, which can be re-evaluated in the ambient created by them. If I wanted to quote really simple and elementary lecture book terms – which I don’t want to, still will do – I would say that the aura of the created atmosphere infiltrates the scenery on a way that it draws the attention more on the essence visible, or rather sensible “beyond” the poem/dance and/or poemdance/dancepoem. I could as well quote Sartre, who described poetry as (a veil – my own addition) revealing the delicate reverse of words, which offers an insight and a perspective to the extraordinary other side, about which we can only talk about but cannot put into words. This could as well be already the metaphorical image of transcendent also formulated by him, but I wouldn’t want to go further into the subject...
The performance of Roberta is especially difficult to approach, only possible through abstract ideas and reading structures – since it just as difficult to talk about the experience as about a poem. I mean I could describe or review the dance in its ‘proper self’ – hearing this, Robin Williams would jump on the desk as in Dead Poets Society, making the pupils tear the book apart – but I could only scratch the surface of what I could talk about... O Captain! My Captain!
It is clear that Roberta is an exceptionally good dancer. The choreography is not only conceptual – without striving for a solely perceptual reception in its concept – but it is a sensible and personal confession in an imaginary – why imaginary, fulfilled(!) – stance, where “the space is superopen for you”. In fact this idea of space creates the space for itself, in which itself can be created and can exist – the performance delivers in metapoetic terms (if I may complicate it even more – and oh, I will – namely on its metalanguage) about its own way of delivery. On the other hand, can we talk about it as of a dance performance? The way we can talk about a poem, we could as well talk about it... Still it is just like “dancing about architecture.” – to be continued –
Kristóf Farkas - KÖM
Oh, Roberta – Atrebor, Ho
A fesztivál utolsó napján a hét talán legköltőibb, szerzői előadását láthattuk Roberta Milevoj megszólalásában. Direkt használnám ez utóbbi szót, hiszen a tánc nyelvén olyan írásban gyakorolt, "hangokkal" bírt koreográfiája és jelenléte, mely új dimenziókat nyitott meg. Személyét olyan távolságba helyezte, ahol a néző mint tér jelenhetett meg számára. A mozdulatok poetikus trópusokká való előlépése, eleve az egész táncnyelv, oly olvasható formulát mutatott fel, mely magán túlra mutatva, immár megidézett mozdulatokban nyerhet csak értelmet. Kevés koreográfia képes meglépni azt a szintet, amely mozgásanyagával nem csupán önmagát képviseli, de saját hologrammját is megteremti – vagyis ebben az esetben három dimenziósságát képes azzal megsegíteni, hogy értelmezői horizontot is mellérendel, olyan atmoszférát teremt, mely zenéjével (a mozdulat zenéje – oh, mily költői) képes úgy aláfesteni saját megtestesülését, hogy a látottak egy költeményhez hasonlóvá lépnek elő. Vagyis a forma és tartalom – oh, mily rideg szavak – olyan gyönyörű kohézióban tudnak együtt működni és létezni, mely az általuk megteremtett környezetben értelmeződhet újra. Ha nagyon egyszerű és általános iskolás tankönyvi fogalmakat szeretnék citálni – amit nem szeretnék, és mégis megteszem – olyat mondanék, hogy az életre keltett hangulat aurája úgy lengi be a látottakat, hogy a vers/tánc és/vagy verstánc/táncvers "mögött" láthatóra, inkább érzékelhetőre vonzza a figyelmet. Talán Sartre-tot idézhetném, aki a költészetet, mint a szavak finom fonákját megmutatót (fátylat – saját betoldás) jellemezte, mely átlászóságával enged be- és áttekintést a különleges túloldalra, melyről csak beszélni tudunk, de azt megfogalmazni nem. Ez talán már a szintén általta pedzegetett transzcendens metaforikus hasonlata lehetne, de tovább nem kívánnék menni a témában...
Kifejezetten nehéz, és csak elvont dolgokkal és olvasási struktúrákkal közelíthető meg Roberta előadása – hiszen, mint ahogy egy versről is nehéz beszélni, úgy a látottakról is. Értem ezt úgy, hogy (j)el(l)emezhetném én a táncot a maga "valójában" – Robin Williams a Holt költők tárasáságában az asztalra állva tombolna ezt látva, könyvet szaggattatva – de csupán felszínét kapargatnám annak, amiről beszélni tudok... Ó Kapitány, Kapitányom!
Robertán látszik, hogy iszonyatosan jó táncos. A koreográfia nemcsak, hogy koncepciózus – anélkül, hogy koncepciójában kizárólag perceptuális befogadásra törekedne – de érzéki és személyes vallomás egy olyan elképzelt – mit elképzelt, megvalósított(!) – léthelyzetben, ahol "a tér ténylegesen nyitott számodra" ("the space is superopen for you"). Vagyis ez a térelképzelés azt a teret teremti meg maga számára, melyben ő meg tud születni és létezni tud – metapoetikus nyelven (ha tovább bonyolíthatom – és oh, bizony, fogom – annak is metanyelvén) beszél az előadás saját megszólalásmódjáról. Ellenben, beszélhetünk-e így róla mint táncelőadásról? Ahogy beszélhetünk egy versről, úgy beszélhetünk róla is... Csak épp "olyan, mint építészetre táncolni." folyt.köv.
Farkas Kristóf - KÖM
Dance yourself free
The last performance of L1danceFest 2014, Simulante Bande, choreographed by Veronika Kotlíková and Tereza Ondrová, was a deeply moving and uplifting closure to the festival, presenting us with a special point of view that we rarely get to see, or even try to avoid. Without reading the brochure, when we enter the auditorium, at first sight we would probably have no idea that two of the four dancers we see sitting on the stage are disabled. Does it matter, anyway? Hell, it does.
Disabled persons cannot take anything for granted – not even as much as others can’t. They must learn to take care of themselves and find possible ways of getting on and getting around in a world where they constantly face obstacles, reminding them of their limitations. Not just the basic, physical ones, but there is also an emotional barrier from the majority of society, reflecting mostly personal fears (what if the same happens to me or my loved ones?), ignorance (if I don’t care about this issue, it doesn’t seem to exist at all) and also a sense of guilt, which they often try to overcompensate with forcing help on the disabled, depriving them of their hard earned independence. But we shouldn’t be so harsh on the majority either, it is never obvious what we can do, or shouldn’t do for a disabled person, which way do we help them best. (Simple as it is, we should just ask them.)
But as challenge can evoke the inner strength and courage, disability can also make a person more creative, motivated to overcome the obstacles, continuously push their limits and appreciate even small accomplishments. This creativity was essential for the choreography, as the two choreographers took the given disability as a possibility to find new ways of movement and self-expression – freedom – in a very limited world.
The four dancers (Veronika Kotlíková, Alena Jančíková, Zuzana Pitterová and Petr Opavský) start out from the same position on the floor, exploring what they can do if they keep on sitting. If we look at the moves closely, we see that without the legs giving an upright posture to the body (counteracting gravity), the arms take over the lead of the movements and also provide the balance. The arms start the shifting and the spinning of the torso; they elevate the body by reaching up in the air or by pushing it away from the ground. The arms are also pulling the legs like puppets on a string – a slightly comic image, but why couldn’t we ironically laugh at our challenges? Still, the overall harmony and organic flow of the movements makes us completely forget that ‘something is missing’. Isn’t it just a matter of perspective? Or, as we say in Hungarian, the seating always defines the standpoint of a person.
In the next moment the two healthy dancers get up from the floor and move along, leaving the previous fellowship and the disabled behind. To the charming music similar to the melody of a Wurlitzer, they start dancing; swinging, jumping, spinning with an ease like floating over the stage, while the disabled dancers watch them with a wistful yearning. It is a common experience for handicapped people that we get to feel, when they suddenly find themselves all alone, being trapped within their limits, while the world impatiently rushes on without them.
There is no single storyline, we see many small episodes, sketches of everyday life, addressing the challenges of the disabled in a ‘healthy’ world (oh well, we are all handicapped in one way or another), from small pains to big heartaches – the same issues any of us faces, indeed a bit different. Somebody insists to tie a disabled person’s shoelace in spite of her will; a man finds a disabled woman attractive and special at first but leaves her for a healthy one at the end; a disabled person lashes out her frustration on others...
The situations seem familiar, we can connect to them easily, but the perspective is split between the ‘two sides of the coin’. It is the dialectic of “we are all the same/all different” that shifts our perception continuously from identifying with the current story and distancing ourselves from it, allowing us to examine our reactions to the actions seen on stage.
The duos, trios and quartets keep constantly changing, as if we would watch a revolving stage. The pace changes just as rhapsodically as the large scale of emotions the dancers show us, from the dynamic of anger and frustration to a slow, jaded resignation to trembling anticipation. Maybe the most beautiful and most touching scene is when the two healthy dancers lift one disabled dancer from both sides, holding her between their arms, and start dancing around like in a waltz, sharing their freedom of movement with her. But the healthy dancers also had the courage to be really ‘mean’, handling the situations without a faint-hearted political correctness or self-righteous empathy.
The movements of all the four dancers are equally refined and graceful, as their grace comes from their – choreographed, but still – spontaneous, natural character. They are not miming, not forcefully trying to give a meaning to their actions. It seems they are all only aiming to find a freedom, a primeval natural state through movement, like a river searches its way through rocks, grazing off the hard edges, just like we see the differences in abilities and possibilities dissolving in the artists’ common passion and their – contagious – pleasure and freedom found in dancing. We all should dance ourselves free sometimes.
Orsolya Bálint - KÖM