When he first got in touch with me following a recommendation offered by Alice MacKenzie, Christopher told me he was looking for a choreographer to help him make a dance that was going to address one’s coming to terms with one’s ADHD diagnosis. He reflected on the experiences he’d had interviewing choreographers and shared with me examples of scores some of the choreographers he interviewed proposed be applied as methods for movement-making and collecting to be later written into reproducible choreographic structures.
My intuitive response was to insist on contextualising my offering as dancerly rather than choreographic in the attempt to focus his research on experimenting rather than reporting, at least for the time being. I say “reporting” to highlight the common feature of suggested methodologies, which is to concern themselves with organising the superficial–literally, the surface–without questioning how the superficial is organised relative to what is beneath the surface.
When organising the superficial before organising the superficial relative to what is beneath the surface, one is forced to assume that what is beneath the surface is already organised. This is exemplified by scores that require of dancers to express their feelings, for example, without ever asking what feelings the dancers have and why. Now, although I do not think it wrong to assume that what is beneath the surface is already organised, I think it irresponsible not to ask how. This both in the context of knowledge production (research) and art making (politics).
To give an example. Whenever a choreographer tells a dancer to express, without creating an opportunity for “expression” itself to be studied, the dancer in question is forced to assume that both the choreographer and the dancer know what “expressing” means and (!) how it is done. Imagine a scenario in which the dancer succeeds in expressing and so pleases the choreographer; following the dancer’s success, neither the choreographer nor the dancer can account for the dancer’s success. The choreographer might resort to evaluating the dancer as talented, the dancer might resort to admiring the choreographer for whatever reason. Now imagine the scenario in which the dancer does not succeed in expressing and so displeases the choregrapher. Since neither the choreographer nor the dancer can account for the dancer’s lack of success, both are at a loss. The choreographer will likely disqualify the dancer and turn their focus elsewhere, the dancer will likely turn against themselves.
These scenarios are stereotypical, deducted from observations I’ve made over the years. Know that they are also uncommonly dramatic. Both describe power in its capacity to serve as a compensatory mechanism. Power, in this case, emerges as the operative standard in response to a lack: a lack of knowledge (experience) and a lack of methodology (practice). The dancer who knows what it took for them to express what they were required to express in a given context does does not require to be called talented because they don’t need their work compensated for by their superior. The choreographer who knows that the dancer they are working with understand what it takes to satisfy the requirements placed before them by their superiors does not need to call the dancer talented because they don’t need to compensate for their success.
To say that neither has to compensate for the dancer’s labour is an understatement. In most cases where dancers know what it takes, the time is consumed by the study of what it takes: dialogue is developed, documenting practices. These knowledge-affirmative relationships consume the time, and so render power-moves unnecessary, i.e. inoperative.
Christopher, Anais, and myself–who were participating in the workshop–were all diagnosed with ADHD recently and in adulthood. Neither one of us is certain how to relate to the fact that all those experiences we’ve had in life, many of which provoked negative responses, are now classified as evidence of our symptoms instead of being classified, as they always were, as evidence of our non-confirming personalities.
Christopher decided to highlight “masking” when making the crocheted structures. “Masking” is (another) compensatory principle, which neurodiverse individuals engage intuitively–especially in childhood–in the attempt to lessen the intensity of the negative reaction to our person we’re likely to encounter on a daily basis. An example of “masking” is me investing energy towards not fiddling in my chair and staring out the window, lest my boss come to think I’m not paying attention. An example of “masking” is an example of understanding the domeneering importance of superficial values. Professionalism is often more readily communicated via one’s attire rather than one’s competence.
Having made these observations, I decided to focus the workshop week on sharing methods with Christopher and Anais–neither of whom are experienced dance scientists–with which to begin organising the superficial relative to what is going on beneath the surface. These are the skills needed, is how I explained it to myself, to being targetting the question of certainty: how do we learn to relate to those sensations that informed all of our behaviours, if–having received the diagnosis–the names of the behaviours themselves changed? If we spent the majority of our lives masking our behaviours, how to we learn to recognise the mask and become able to see the behaviour in its own right? What do we need to know to be able to do that, to make those distinctions? Sensorially? Emotionally? Intellectually? What will our behaviours looks like, if ever they get to “look like” independently from the masks they necessitated being covered with? And finally, what will we learn about ADHD, if we get to behave ADHD without masking? How does ADHD behave: how does it move? How does it dance?