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.
I spent a couple of hours in a choreography class with first year undergraduate dance students at Coventry University last week. Here are the notes I sent to the group after the session. Perhaps of interest?
Ideas. It’s the quantity of ideas, not the quality of ideas. Ideas have no value. They are neither good nor bad. The trick here is just to begin with your work/practice/writing/making and feed in more and more ideas. These, in turn, generate more ideas. Ideas are self-generating. See Johnson, S. (2010). Where Good Ideas Come From. London: Penguin Books.
Imagination. What do you need to stimulate and nourish your imaginations? Films, books, conversations, music, observations, listening, seeing. What do you focus on and what do you notice in your periphery? See Casey, E. S. (2000). Imagining. Indiana University Press.
Commitment and care. A key paradox (at University and perhaps even in life) is to be fully committed without caring too much. Commit. Don’t care. Of course I don’t mean don’t care because being committed is a sign of caring for something. It’s more like focus on the process of commitment, and don’t care about the outcome. This is hard at University because in the UK children are told from age 6 that you have to do certain things – and give certain answers – in order to succeed. This is a terrible lie that is sold to the young people of this country. The deepest challenge you will face at University is coming to terms with the opportunity provided in your classes to explore your ideas, imaginations and spirits with freedom and courage. If you succumb to the desire to get good marks you will miss an extraordinary opportunity to explore what you are capable of, what you are interested in, and just how committed you are prepared to be (the paradox is this will mean you are more likely to get good marks). The strange thing about commitment is that – like ideas – it feeds itself. We get better at being committed by practising being committed. See Ken Robinson TED talk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (you’ve probably already seen it)
Text and iteration. This session was not about manipulating text. It was using text as materials in order to understand the principle of iteration. Change the word text for movement and this should be clear. See Kelley, T. (2007). The Art of Innovation. Crown Business.
Liveness. What is alive in what you are making? (Maybe it’s just a little bit). How do you know if something is alive? I don’t know the answer to this question (because in part it’s about taste). One answer could be: You will just know. Don’t kid yourselves when it isn’t alive. Don’t pretend it is. It’s hard to bring back something from the dead. Better to keep feeding and nourishing new versions (or iterations).
Colin Poole and I have been working on a new performance project. It’s called Our White Friend. Here’s an initial blurb and link, and here’s the r&d blog. More details soon.
Our White Friend
Tim Wise is an American authority on white racism. Through public lectures and books he educates white audiences to recognise and be responsible for their race-based privileges. We are interested in Wise’s craft in public speaking, his authority on race, and what might happen if we were to imagine that he is an artist. How might this proposition enable us to test the limits of Wise’s practice as public speaker and white ambassador? Whose voices count in this debate, and whose faces are acceptable?