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)
Dancehouse is a venue in Melbourne, Australia. It began as an artist-led space in 1992 but now is slightly more conventional in how it is organised, funded and run as a ‘dance centre’. As part of Dancehouse’s 21st anniversary celebrations in 2013 they asked a bunch of people who had danced and made work there over the years to tell a story and maybe even do a dance.
Back in 2006, David Corbet and I were working closely on a bunch of different projects. Often this including working with video in various ways. We got interested in pruning moving images down to the cellular (frame) level; that is, editing frames of movement to attempt to generate flickers of screendance. micro50s were born – the 50 referring to how many frames in 2 seconds of PAL video – and we called the project microflicks.
I’ve discussed my ongoing work as a dramaturg with Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas in various posts on this blog here, here, here and here.
Their latest work – Andante – has its London première tomorrow on Thursday 2 November at The Place (tickets and details are here: theplace.org.uk/whats-on/igor-and-moreno–1. The work has been developed slowly over about three years and the team of people involved are smart, caring and committed: Giorgia Nardin, Eleanor Sikorski, Alberto Ruiz Soler, Kasper Hanser, Sophie Bellin Hansen, Seth Rook Williams, Sarah Maguire, Hannah Blamire, and Melanie Pappenheim.
Like their previous two works, Andante is brave in its vision and sense of the theatrical. It is demanding and accessible, it is patient and evocative. If you can get along to The Place, I suspect it will be well worth the effort.
I first encountered the remarkable Swedish choreographer Efva Lilja through her books Dance, For Better For Worse (2004) and Words on Dance (2003). But I’d never met her in person until late last year on a bloody freezing day in Leeds at Error and Creativity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium. She gave a keynote that day and I made a few very rough notes which I’ve included below. The notes give a sense of the breadth of her thinking and ideas, but not any sense of her drive, presence and beautiful playfulness.
Last Wednesday the esteemed dance anthropologist Andrée Grau died suddenly. She had an inquisitive, sharp and beautiful mind, was quick witted and profoundly inspiring to her students.
Here’s a video of Andrée from 2011 talking about dance anthropology. In it she suggests that “to dance is a social duty”.
Rest and dance easily Andrée – your intellect, compassion, and beautiful wrestling with ideas will remain. Of course I’ll miss our bloody-minded arguments, but know that I will do my best to remember my social duty as a dancer.
The thing about conflicts of interest is that they are inevitable. I’ve experienced them from various sides: I’ve benefited from them, missed out because of them (perhaps), others have benefited from them because of me … you get the idea. I’ve seen them involve friends, colleagues, husbands, wives, partners, families, former lovers. In a few situations the conflicts of interest were named, but nothing was changed or adapted because of them. In even fewer cases (perhaps two that come to mind) the conflict was named and the decision-making process was adapted. In all these cases we could never know who – or how – people have been privileged or disadvantaged by the conflict. Indeed, I’d argue that in any decision-making process our cultural, racial, gender-based, political, aesthetic, social (the list could go on and on) understandings of the world and people act as conflicts of interest (we just call them biases). Given all of these things, how could I ever know that I’m making the best possible decision for the people and organisations involved?
But the really insidious thing about obvious conflicts of interest (marriage, partners, friendship, etc) is how they affect other people. The simple perception that there is a conflict of interest – by those just on the edge of the event or decision – is enough to cause righteous frustration, anger and bitterness.
In the dance community people just say that conflicts of interest are inevitable because “it’s a small field”. But this is not the problem. I know of no organisations in dance that have publicly announced conflicts of interest and the steps they took to counter the conflicts. Such a simple action would at the very least let the dance community know something they already know. More importantly, the organisation responsible for the conflict of interest would be letting us know that they know.