shona

On 18 June this year the remarkable dancer, teacher and choreographer Shona Dunlop MacTavish died in her hometown of Dunedin in New Zealand. She was 99.

Shona had an extraordinary life, as uplifting and beautiful as it was tragic.

Shona in Cane and Abel by Gertrud Bodenwieser (1940)

In 1988, I was a 19 year old Physical Education student in Dunedin wanting to become a dancer. Shona was about 68 at the time. I’d heard about her Saturday morning classes (who hadn’t?) and I remember the feeling of trepidation when I joined the class for the first time. We improvised a lot, and did rather punishing jumps from deep squats like Russian Cossacks. It was hard on our knees and spines — so much extension in the back — and she was unrelenting in her desire to challenge our bodies and minds. Years later I vaguely remember a hilarious improvisation where I ended up either as Lady Godiva or the horse.

Those classes — and the few years I spent with Shona and the Dunedin Dance Theatre — were far more than training my body in the expressive movements of the Ausdruckstanz that Shona had learned from Gertrud Bodenwieser. They were about how we live our lives as human beings, how we take care, how we inspire and are inspired. Shona’s extraordinary joy for life and for being with others was profoundly moving for me. She seemed to be able to tap into our heartbeats with her own breath, to spark the dancing of our lives with action and will.

This world of ours doesn’t feel the same without Shona’s voice and breath: inspiring, nourishing and challenging.

Rest easily dear Shona; I’ll be dancing with you until my days are done.

Image: Shona in Cane and Abel by Gertrud Bodenwieser (1940)

history

History as “… a thin thread stretching over an ocean of the forgotten.”

— Milan Kundera, The Joke (cited in Waltzing in the Dark by Brenda Dixon Gottschild)

the dirt

Look for the dirt behind the shine

— Naomi Klein’s grandfather (in the acknowledgements to No Logo)

overton window

I was reading something recently (but can’t for the life of me track down the original source) about politics and policy and read of The Overton Window. Since then, the Baader-Meinhof effect has kicked in big time and I’m seeing it everywhere.

First line from the Overton Window Wikipedia entry:

The Overton window is a term for the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse.

Later in the entry it says this:

In his “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, in 1857, abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass described how public opinion limits the ability of those in power to act with impunity:

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37831314

I’m curious about the Overton Window in relation to what people are ready to see and watch in performance or on screen. What is tolerable? How is tolerance changed? How might the choreography or construction of performance or film consider the ways in which the work itself might slide through different tones of being popular, sensible, radical, unthinkable, and back to sensible …?

ahmed and recognising systems

Sara Ahmed is a remarkable writer. She writes in loops and tangles of words in which the words start to behave (or mean things) differently. It’s dizzying, simply, beautiful and challenging.

Here she is on systems:

You come against a system when you point out a system. When there is a system those who benefit from the system do not want to recognise that system.

feministkilljoys.com/2014/11/04/white-men

viola sunrise

In late 2006 early 2007 I had a chunk of Australia Council funding to research and develop a new performance installation called Crevice. The project was with Cormac Lally (video), David Corbet (sound), Shannon Bott (dramaturgy) and Kristin Green (architect). It was ambitious for sure, and I was never able to get the money together to do any more development beyond stage 1 (or perhaps I never tried).

The design looked like this (and we built and tested this design):

And here’s a little snippet of video (that I don’t think was ever used) that Cormac Lally shot and edited, and that I stumbled across the other day as I went through some old files. The filename was crevice16_viola sunrise_25%.mov.