Little Miracles - Exploring harmonious relationships through the body and paper clothes.
Sharing - Phase 1
This research attempts to answer the following inquiry:
How could the interaction between the body and costume be used as a medium to explore deeper relationships between the human being and a limiting context?
Dancers interacting with paper made costumes are a metaphor of the human being interacting with a limiting fragile context, it helps me explore how two elements with an extremely different material nature could interact physically as a unity.
How do I intend to connect theory and practice in this research?
The concept of harmony is the umbrella that connects the theory and inspiring approach to practice. Harmony is understood as the agreement or the joint work of different but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity.
It pays attention to the following additional questions:
*How could the material properties of costumes serve as a physical reference of an intangible concept (harmony)?
*Which mechanisms might help the dancer to embody a limiting costume (context) and still move in a harmonious way?
*For me, which movement qualities better represent harmony?
*How could the findings organize and take shape towards a choreographic piece?
You are welcome to follow the arrows to navigate the process.
Intervention 1 - A second skin, gravity and resonances
A particularly important aspect to be considered when working with clothes is the information we perceive through the direct touch of our skin and the materials, as the intention is being aware of the sensations and voluntarily adopt the costumes as a second skin.
Haptics refers to a perceptual system that integrates cutaneous and kinesthetic information, processing the material characteristics/properties of surfaces and objects through an active manual exploration. Some of the principal dimensions of haptic perception are roughness, compliance (elasticity and viscosity), thermal, weight, curvature, angle, orientation, shape, and size (Lederman & Klatzky, 2009).
In the following video, you can see the Second intervention carried on with 2 dancers. To see the intervention, watch the video with sound so we can navigate the process together.
Note that the original score was modified according to the needs and development of the practice.
In the following video, you can see the first intervention carried on individually. To see the intervention, watch the video with sound so we can navigate the process together.
Note that the arms were intentionally left free as they are part of my signature and expressive tools and I plan to keep on using them at will in my future work.
The following pictures of the costume after the practice show the explicit damage made in the pelvic area. The whole time, I could appreciate the tension in this area, as well as resonances in my core when another part of the body moved. I could follow through sensation, tension, and sound. After I removed the costume, I could confirm visually the modifications on the costume and that inspired me for future pelvic explorations.
Analysis and reflections
- Direct contact of the skin and the material is crucial.
- Slow speed in the exploration is important to allow the body to process the sensorial inputs.
- Core and pelvis have potential to further exploration of movement generated in that area.
- In order to have a real parameter of the special boundaries of the costume/container, it is ideal that the structure of the costume is a unity from the beginning.
- A tight costume made of flexible material limits the natural mobility of the body, however expanding the body to an unnatural shape might offer more movement alternatives rather than a “body like” shape container.
- Our body adapts and regulates the range of the movement as well as the strength, pressure and tension it uses according to the properties of the materials, one should direct the attention to the skin and proceed slowly to allow the body to have enough time to process what is being perceived.
- Direct movement exploration finding its origin in the pelvic area.
- If using water as an image of a body filling in a container, might be interesting to consider using verbs that help to direct a physical exploration.
- Consider: Expand, ripple, solidify, press, flow, melt, evaporate…
- Note: consider the visual aspect.
Analysis and reflections
Research insights in relation with the previous intervention:
- Direct contact of the skin and the material is crucial. Perhaps keeping the fabric clothes in the upper body distract the attention of the objective.
- Slow speed in the exploration is important to allow the body to process the sensorial inputs. This worked well. However, repetition and time is key, several long sessions might be needed until the dancers achieve a high sensibility to the materials to start exploring the idea of water and containers.
- Potential in further exploration of movement generated from the pelvis.
- Starting with a defined structure (costume) works well.
- I wonder what happened with the tight costume, similar to the previous intervention it seemed to offer fewer triggers for unconventional actions. However, I could perceive the dancer’s resistance to this experiment and I wonder how much of the result was because of the conditions of the costume, how much is on her attitude towards the experiment and how effectively/or ineffectively I shared the aim of the practice.
- Space and friction is a factor that also stimulated movement.
- Direct movement exploration using verbs, actions related to the liquid expansion quality that I am looking into the movement.
- Tool, start with a disassociated relationship between the dancer and the costume to prevent too much thinking and more listening to the sensorial stimulus. As increasing confidence appears, you can shift the guidance to a more embodied practice where the dancers start accepting the costume as her own.
- For future trials consider the following liquid verbs: ripple, filling in, gravity, expand, steam, wave, bubble, boiling, steaming, splashing, and flowing.
- Note: consider the visual aspect. The dancer with the wide pants expressed many sensorial images after the practice, however, as a viewer it was difficult at times to appreciate and participate in all the images the dancer experience.
Photo of the costumes after practice, again we can clearly see the result of pelvic involvement in the movement. The tight pants is destroyed in the pelvic
Working with others
I wanted to try with different bodies others than mine to be able to observe from a different perspective, as well as to witness how different people's minds, sensibilities and imagination interacts with the material.
I experienced trouble to find a studio where I could carry on these experiments due to the strict lockdown in those weeks. I managed to find a studio where it was possible to practice and two voluntary dancers to try the designs.
In our first meeting, I introduced them to the subject and purpose of the research. The following photo of my journal, are the notes I kept to make sure I keep in mind essential information.
In the slides you can see photos of the preparation phase of the intervention, materials, paper bandages, wrapping process.
Intervention 2 - Trying basic design possibilities with paper made costumes and the body, exploration of the physical boundaries of a paper costume.
As a choreographer, I tend to impose my ideas and arrive at the studio with a definite concept. I want to develop a more collaborative approach and co-create with the dancers, presenting the concept and inviting them to enrich the process with their ideas and active input.
Based on the insights of previous practice, I wanted to integrate the dancers in the costume design process. We started by thinking about the 2 most basic clothes design for the lower body, in our perspective, we happen to think similarly in terms of pants and skirts.
We decided to try 2 initial versions of pants made of crépe paper, one tube line (shaped according to the dancer's size) and a wide loose pants with a leg short and the other long. I expected that being in contact with the material (touching) during the design and making process would help to have an informed idea about the boundaries of the costume prior to starting the intervention.
The following pictures show the process of making the costumes for the practice.
In the following 2 pictures, you can see the planning of the intervention, personal log and reflections about this practice.
We started with a connecting exercise, bringing awareness and calming the mind. Attention in the perception of the skin emphasizing the adaptation of the body to the conditions of the costume, thinking of the costume as part of the own body. Slow exploration, constant negotiation between the physical input and the response of the materials.
I notice certain confusion/resistance with the process of embodying the costume, Dancers with the wide lose pants played more with both the materials and the spatial conditions. In contrast, the dancer wearing the tight pants focused the exploration on weight balancing patterns through space instead of exploring the physical boundaries of the costume.
In the picture below some of my notes.
Processing information, experience and allowing intuition to guide in the process of integrating the insights in the design of the following intervention.
Now, it is the moment for:
The methodologies applied and the documentation
I followed a phenomenological approach and I selected the following formats of documentation: photography, video, audio recording, zoom feedback loops, writing in a word document and a notebook that hybrids personal log, sketchbook and journal. Inspired by the book Embodied Inquiry by Celeste Snowber, I inserted my research activities within my daily routine and kept a daily log of the work. To capture the details of the interventions, I applied the phenomenological methodology proposed by S. Gallagher and D. Zahavi (2009),
Inspiration /reading/Brainstorming ---- Design 1---- Literature review and
Reflecting and insights -------------- Doing Intervention 1
and ideas, feedback loop and documenting
Doing Intervention 2
Reflections, insights, feedback loop
Share moment, feedback and reflections
Decisions and new design towards phase 2
I decided to save these insights and choreographic ideas for future interventions, and continue with the second part of this session. Practice with skirts.
GO TO REFERENCES
Finish the exposition here if you have enough information, reflections and insights about the process.
Exploring without immediate spatial conditions, rigid fragile material and movement originated in the pelvic area. Working with paper skirts.
In contrast with the spatial/material restrictions explored in the solo created in Intensive B (Click here to see the solo), I wanted to explore the possibilities offered by a wide container but dealing with a different kind of restriction. I choose a craft wrapping paper with a medium defined structure (rigid) but non-elastic (which makes if fragile).
The intention of this experiment was still exploring the physical boundaries of the contained starting the movement from the pelvis, searching for different ways to fill in the empty space inside the skirt structure, negotiating the intention of expanding with sensorial information (touch, sound, visual) about the limits of the costume.
The pictures show the process of creating the skirts (giving structure by folding the material).
In the following video, you can see the third intervention carried on with 2 dancers. To see the intervention, watch the video with sound so we can navigate the process together.
Note that it was planned to use the same original score that the interventions with pants, however, I modified my approach according to the needs and development of the practice, I tried to follow a more free and intuitive approach. The face of the dancers lighted up since the moment they wore the skirts, so I decided to use that enthusiasm and uncovering the studio’s mirror add a visual stimulus to their practice.
In this intervention, I intended to speak less and listening more. I said the aim of the exploration before we started recording. I wanted to give the dancers the freedom to explore from their own experience and less focused on my voice.
I tried to intervene only when I perceived that the mind was intervening too much instead of listening to the sensations.
From the beginning, the visual effect of the skirt was beautiful and inviting. Dancers0s energy was up and they were excited to move and explore. I could notice that when the dancers got fascinated by the reflection on the skirt in the mirror, they shifted their intention to the mind and disconnected from the skin.
Auditive, visual and spatial stimulus.
Interesting light effect on the material, some movements can be appreciated only when the light is set behind the dancer.
Visible change of texture and structure of the material.
This interaction improved; however, I could find alternative references to the same idea until finding the words that trigger the desired action.
The sense of embodiment has not been reached yet.
Solo created and performed by me during the intensive B of the COMMA program based on our choreographic learning zones. My first attempt to create movement using clothes as an alternative to my habitual choreographic habits.
This solo was the development of a previous solo based on my choreographic habits and creation tools.
I find this costume especially inviting, the combination of the shape/design, connotations, color, resistance/fragility, sound, and visible transformation of the material offer inspiring content for a piece.
Below you can find pictures of the costumes after our practice.
Analysis and reflections
So far, the material characteristics of this costume trigger more the experience of both dancers and viewers. More movement, more sound, the
The constant auditive stimulus of the material served both as an inspiration and as a reference for the dancers, it helped regulate their actions.
Research insights in relation with the previous intervention:
- Direct contact of the skin and the material is crucial.
- Slow speed in the exploration is important to allow the body to process the sensorial inputs. This worked well. Constant repetition of the objective is needed.
- This material (wrapping craft paper) has the rigid and light structure that represents better the idea of a container.
- Potential in further exploration of movement generated from the pelvis, however, I must find the words/stimuli that trigger to action.
- Starting with a defined structure (costume) works well. However, not having direct contact with the skin with the boundaries was confusing for the dancers.
- Think about visual, auditive and kinesthetic references of the same idea so it can work for different dancers.
- In this case, the challenge is more in the fragility of the material (it is not elastic)
- Light as an additional visual dimension to the container and the body.
- The sense of embodiment seems to decrease when the dancers focus on the visual aspect.
This exploration was particularly useful to reconfirm my aesthetic choices. From the beginning, I knew I had a preference for this design as it offers more visually: a defined structure, an apparent” delicate rigidity “as well as the meaning it could have.
- I give more value to the visual aspect by personal taste. I choose to work in skirts.
- Consider keeping that input (visual) only for myself while composing/directing the practice. Dancers should focus on the kinesthetic and auditive aspects. No mirrors during the session.
- The sound of the material in movement might serve as a base for a rhythmic/musical composition.
- Think about the sound of the paper being manipulated in different situations as an indirect guide for the dancers to explore the movement. How would that work?
- What about applying the “water verbs” mentioned in the previous intervention to the paper? How do those actions sound in the paper?
-How could I facilitate the embodied practice where the dancers start accepting the costume as their own even when they don’t have a complete tactile reach of the costume. How could they feel the costume as part of themselves when they cannot feel it? What about thinking about feeling the costume as we feel about hair? It is part of us, it is us but we cannot feel though it or totally control it (but we can direct it)
- For future trials consider the same design in different materials.
- Note to self: consider the visual aspect. Dancers expressed more tactile stimulus while wearing pants, for them the kinesthetic experience was more significant. However, I as a choreographer give more value to the visual experience of the audience/viewer rather than to the introspective experience of the dancers.
The concept explained in a map
(from the general to the particular to the universal)
"Joint work", unity, agreement of the parts
Applying the metaphor :
(It represents unnatural (Representing the human being) restrictive conditions)
Interacting in a harmonious way:
As a unity, the balance/negotiation between the characteristics of both elements: Paper (rigid, fragile, inanimate, static) & dancer (flexible, adaptable, thinking, desire, creative, agency, emotive, alive in motion)
How could that interaction be explored in the first phase?
By inviting the dancers to apply principles and mechanisms of embodiment: Recognize and accept the paper as part of oneself and not as an external element, bringing attention to the senses, starting with a slow somatic exploration (haptics), promote awareness, postponing the rational and allowing perceiving the information of the material (and choreographer), attending to images given by the choreographer.
Here you can find a basic description of the methods used to generate, capture and document the data
I am interested in developing further embodied tools to apply to my own creative work.
I dragged from my previous Essay Creating movement language through the body and clothes, theoretical knowledge about the mechanisms present in the process of embodiment and I used it as a guide in the design of my interventions/improvisations. Also, I used that as a starting point to introduce the voluntary dancers to the key elements of embodiments when interacting with an object/costume reminding them that they should accept the object as part of themselves, applying sensorial data and imagination.
In this first cycle, I explored both in a theoretic and physical way the concept of harmony. I looked for references, analyzing my own process and the possible applications, as well as included the research in my daily rituals (morning routine) to avoid loss of focus. and create momentum.
I found inspiration in the text of Celeste Snowber to keep an alert and appreciative state where I could transit through my day and find connections with the concept of harmony and what does it mean to be embodied.
Following the advice of Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit, I prepared a box where I started collecting materials (notes, samples of papers, books, containers, and lamps), at one point it didn't fit anymore and everything when outside of the box and found a place in my office. Due to lockdown and lacking a studio to carry on interventions and film, I prepared a room in my house where I could work in silence.
A sketchbook served as a journal for academic and artistic references, notes, drawings and any vision or intuition arrived in my daily meditation moments),
The improvisation/ exploration sessions were recorded in the video for posterior self-analysis and to share with my peers and mentor in the feedback loops, reflections were captured in my journal. In my hybrid journal, I developed a practical way to organize information for future analysis and writing. In purple there are quotes and citations, in yellow post-its there are self-reflections, in black or blue I keep ideas, notes about my process, and possible next steps as well as sketches.
As I am working with the dancer's body experience, I applied the phenomenological methodology proposed by S. Gallagher and D. Zahavi (2009), it offers a pragmatic way to document and analyze what happens in the experiment process, approaching the first-person experience trying to capture how one is “thinking, perceiving, acting and feeling… by the careful description, analysis and interpretation of lived experience” (p 21), this is by literally talking about the dancer’s experience as detailed as possible after each intervention and keeping my journal next to me when the intervention was performed by myself.
Area of inquiry and key words
The core interest of this research is the concept of harmony. The expected outcome is a deeper understanding of the key elements of harmony and how those could be integrated and manifested into my artistic work.
Once that Design 1 was updated and the planning was done at the end of October 2020, I started the process from a rational state with a literature review about the origins of the concept and selected those keywords that were more adequate to my artistic interest. (Click here if you wish to know more about the literature review, etymological evolution of the concept harmony and reflection on how I apply it to my work)
Harmony can be studied in different fields, however, I am focusing my attention on the following aspects: agreement of ideas, feelings, or actions, or a pleasing combination of different parts, a combination of separate but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity.
It is important to point out that I am sharing this document as a practice-led researcher under an artistic scope, and not as a theoretical-philosophical approach.
I decided to work with paper and the human body. It is a metaphor for the free emotive human nature and the fragile, restrictive, uncomfortable conditions in which life develops in modern society and the urge to find grace and possibilities within those conditions.
Key elements (words)
Harmony: Agreement of ideas, feelings, or actions, or a pleasing combination or arrangement of different parts, combination of separate but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity. Relationship between the parts in practical combinations. To flow, no resistance to the conditions and finding the way to still achieve a purpose.
The conditions: Metaphorically, the conditions refer to the context in which somebody is living. In practice, the conditions are represented by the costume.
The body: The body of the person understood as an unity of the sensations, thoughts, feelings, shapes, desires and memories. This body/person should be willing to suspend the intellect and allow the shape and properties of the costume informs about the development of the experiment. I think on this body as the soul which gives life to the costume/body.
The intention: The purpose, aim, motive or objective of the body/person.
The costume: The costume symbolizes the conditions, it should be understood as the skin of a different body, a container with its own characteristics, possibilities, and limits. It is a body that needs a soul to experience life and pursue its purpose.
The material properties: Literally talking about the characteristics of the materials, weight, elasticity, fragility, resistance, shape, etc.
Embodiment: Bodily mechanisms that allow the dancer to accept the material properties of clothes as their own body. Awareness, incorporation, constant negotiation between the agency of the body and the adaptation to the conditions. Negotiation between move and being moved.
Favorite basic definitions found in dictionaries and encyclopedias
According to the Cambridge dictionary:
A situation in which people are peaceful and agree with each other, or when things seem right or suitable together. An agreement of ideas, feelings, or actions, or a pleasing combination of different parts.
In art, harmony is the combination of separate but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity to a painting, drawing, or another art object. A situation in which people live or work happily together without any big problems.
According to the Collins dictionary:
A combination of parts into a pleasing or orderly whole; congruity. An agreement in feeling, action, ideas, a state of agreement, or orderly arrangement.
Blaisse, M (1994) Moving back. https://mariablaisse.com/portfolio/moving-back-film/
Bugg, J. (2015). Embodied design and communication: Drawing with the body and cloth. Academia. https://www.academia.edu/14811188/Embodied_design_and_communication_Drawing_with_the_body_and_cloth.
Carruthers, G. (2019). The Feeling of Embodiment: Our Target of Explanation. The feeling of embodiment: A case study in explaining consciousness. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. DOI: https://doi-org.lib.fontys.nl/10.1007/978-3-030-14167-7_2
Chopinot, R. (1986) Le Défilé. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7pwa7n
Cunningham, M. (1997) Scenario. https://www.dansesaveclaplume.com/en-scene/1101396-ballet-de-lopera-de-lyon-scenario-de-merce-cunningham/
Gallagher, S., & Zahavi, D. (2009). The phenomenological mind an introduction to philosophy of mind and cognitive science (Second). Routledge. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287271653_The_phenomenological_mind_second_edition.
Gobierno de México. (2015). La danza de los pascolas y el venado, elemento identitario del norte de México. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. https://www.inah.gob.mx/boletines/1507-la-danza-de-los-pascolas-y-el-venado-elemento-identitario-del-norte-de-mexico.
Graham, M. (1930) Lamentations. https://marthagraham.org/portfolio-items/lamentation-1930/
Harmony definition and meaning: Collins English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/harmony
HARMONY: Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/harmony
Jalet, D. (2013). Les médusés - a choreographic journey by Damien Jalet in Le Louvre - Paris…. https://vimeo.com/70849036.
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Kilteni, K., Groten, R., & Slater, M. (2012). The Sense of Embodiment in Virtual Reality. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 21(4), 373–387. https://doi.org/10.1162/pres_a_00124
Lederman, S., & Klatzky, R. (2009). Human Haptics. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 5, 11–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-008045046-9.01905-7
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Analysis and reflection about the etymological evolution of the term Harmony, based on The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Harmony by Ilievski, P.
I got an intuitive feeling about the way how I feel and understand the concept of harmony, but it was difficult to translate it into words that allow me to share my intentions and vision with others. I decided to track back the development and application of the term to help me identify and share with others the way I see harmony. For this purpose, I utilized the text The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Harmony by Macedonian linguist, classical philologist, mycenologist and historian Petar Hristov Ilievski (1993). In his writing, he explains the etymological origin, semantic evolution, and application of the term harmony until its most ancient origin in thee Mycenaean Greek.
The concept is related to the story of the wheel and to horse-drawn war chariots consisting of multiple pieces. ‘The original meaning of /(h)armo/ was “joint work” like an arm with its most mobile joints. The arm is an organ … which… can carry, pull, or push a load. The wheel is a kind of substitute for the arm’ (p 22) This express a sense of unity and practicality between all the parts that conformed the chariot. Physically, the term means “junction…fastening, joint” (p 24) , which also fits my personal feeling of a functional relationship between the human being and its surroundings, either other human beings, its own body or the conditions.
Ilievsky explains how Heraclitus and Plato conceived harmony as a cosmic force, ‘the soul of the world and harmony are synonyms…it is a force which unites the opposite elements of chaos’ (p.25)
At this point, I found a connection with the original inquiry when I applied to the master program, I talked about duality as the extreme opposites of the same content but in different degrees depending on the side we are looking at (ej. light-dark, health-illness, love-hate, etc) and how, in theory, individuals choose to situate themselves at one point in the scale according to the point where they direct their attention. Ilievski mentions that Aristotle used the term harmony in an ethical sense as ‘the middle…the highest point on the line that connects the ends of poles’ (p.28) Expressing a sense of balance.
Ancient Greeks used to observe the horizon of the earth on the sea (which curves in the edges), that’s what Aristotle means when he talks about the middle as the highest point, literally, the highest point of a curve, ‘high’ refers to a middle point and not about being above or superiority whatsoever.
According to the author, for the Greeks, the ethical and the physical (aesthetic) domains were indivisible. There lies the origin of their ideal of beauty as something good and desirable proportions, symmetry, and coordination. I want to make a parenthesis here to express that I am merely describing what the text states and not about my personal artistic choices. For me, beauty and harmony lie in, yes, the pleasant relationship of the parts, yes, how things fit together in a useful and not confrontational arrangement, and, yes, that something triggers pleasant physical sensations to both dancers and audience. I am open, curious, and appreciate the visual contrasts and different compositions that can cause pleasure. I agree with professor Ilievski when he expresses that health in all levels is ‘the result of balance and proportion’ (p 29) and the domination of one element above another causes illness and chaos.
This text brought the next choreographic insight/inspiration:
-Exploring physically with balance, finding the point of equilibrium. Playing with "The middle point visually", "what would be the highest point visually?", "What happens when (visually) the dancers have different dimensions/size, how could that middle be explored?"
Choreographic notes to self for further consideration:
-"Opposite elements of chaos?"
-How do I define a pleasant relationship between the parts?
-Which are the parts?
-How the parts would fit together in a non-confrontational arrangement?
-What do I consider useful choreographically speaking?
-What do I mean when I mention pleasant physical sensations?