Where can I begin to describe my work? Let’s start easy: I make dances.
I make dances where the movement material is created at the same moment it is performed: the creative process of the dance maker coincides with the performative moment.
The dance I make is produced from a place of heightened awareness and receptive streaming, a place where the dancer is able to recognize, identify and appreciate the moment and the elements that form it. It is a place of thrilling sensitivity where the dancer, following the flow, becomes the servant to the dance, where the dancer becomes transparent.
What do I mean when I say I try to become transparent when I make a dance? I mean I want to be a vessel for the dance to unfold: it is not a case of relinquishing control of the dance, stepping into another state of consciousness or just do whatever comes. It is rather reaching a heightened state of awareness of the self and of the environment. The stream of consciousness from which the dance originates cannot detach from recognition, appreciation, and observation of the moment. I find this especially necessary in order to include the environment in which the dance happens, and therefore the audience who witness the dance.
I could replace the word “appreciation” with “curiosity and acceptance”. This is a word, or rather a concept that I find of crucial value for the process I describe above. It is the avail-ability to comprehend (in the original meaning of the Latin word – grasp together) the situation, regardless of personal liking or disliking, with awareness and respect. This is how I am in the best possible condition necessary to deal with the information I receive during the dance making process, to respond to the environment as well as to be able to offer back with generosity.
So what is the practice needed to develop and mature awareness and appreciation? Is this something that can be taught?
During a couple of decades of practicing and teaching improvisation, I have put a lot of focus on the choice making process, building up tools and skills to inform and expand my choices in the (instant)-compositional effort. I studied and developed strategies to choreograph in real time the factors in play: space, time, and relations to other performers and/or elements participating to the improvisation.
But after some time I began to feel as all the time spent in studying and teaching the notions and compositional skills concerning time and space in dance, I had finally landed to a place where time and space don’t matter anymore. Or rather these are no longer external elements to be controlled or manipulated to reach a certain objective of excellence. Therefore I aim to achieve timelessness, spacelessness and forgetfulness. Timelessness as when there is no fast or slow, but only being in time, being in the moment; spacelessness as when everything becomes part of the dance, all spaces are included, internal and external alike; forgetfulness as surrendering of the ego and letting the self be placed right “on top” of what I am doing. It is a place where there is no choice, because whatever choice made is the best possible one.
I found that the best way to reach this place is to begin from an attentive observation of the body. For this I employ my experience of somatic practices, such as Body Mind Centering, Alexander Technique and Contact Improvisation. In these practices the emphasis is placed on experiential learning, focusing on learning from within rather than from imitation of an outside model. Somatic refers to the ability to sense a process “within you” and the practice still intends to increase one’s ability to function.
Looking deeply at the body systems (cells, fluids), structures (skeleton, muscles, bones, connective tissues) and sections (feet, legs, torso, arms, head) is the basis to develop a deeper understanding of movement. These explorations are aimed to expand one’s range of movement and refine articulation and vocabulary, and also they are a way to enhance our ability to listen and observe; at the same time opening up the space for discovery and learning, and forming the technical base for the practice of improvisation.
This is the technique and it requires the outmost level of discipline and integrity in the work, as it offers many questions and no dogmas.
In this context, the practice is a constant refinement of awareness, perception, observation, and appreciation, all necessary to keep the practice itself going: I don’t practice in order to get better, I practice because the practice is what I do.
The same approach naturally applies to the performative moment. Practice and performance end up coinciding: the practice is the performance – the performance is the practice. The process is the product – the product is the process.
This is in my opinion the key aspect that makes performing improvisation so exciting and so relevant, and a somehow subversive concept in today’s product oriented society.
In an improvised performance, the creative process and its inherent fragility are widely exposed. I personally believe this exposure to be part of what makes dance appealing and engaging: it is perhaps a window into the performer’s soul, it is a chance to experience a world where not everything has to be known and understood, a world where acceptance and curiosity rule.
Or to use the words of people who have managed to articulate superbly these concepts:
“More of me comes out when I improvise.” — Edward Hopper (painter)
“Being possessed by (…) timelessness, spacelessness, forgetfulness (…) is permanent and total satisfaction of our desire” – Mark Patrick Hederman, Manikon Eros.
“Movement affects sensory exchange. Using the sensory motor understanding is what brings the world into focus. By moving my body I can bring the environment I inhabit nearer, achieving access to it.” — Alva Noë (philosopher)
“Moving beneath the maps we inhabit, dancing discloses a richer sense of being to the world. The dance holds the wisdom to unknowingly eradicate the artificial, frozen ground of rational assumptions and place the feet right in the soil: to align the world anew upon the earth.” — Michael Kliën (choreographer)