13. From October 9 to November 6, 2009, I worked with Tomislav Feller, Alma Soederberg, Teilo Troncy, Yurie Umamoto, and Emma Wilson in Berlin. We had a showing on November 7 at Tanzfabrik. It was a first exploration of the circle structure and an examination of pantomime’s gesturality and how it can become dance. The main inputs were:
- Our experiences with the work with Paxton and his “Material for the Spine”
- Pantomime classes at Mimecentrum Berlin
- Paxton, Steve (2008) Material for the Spine, a movement study, Contredanse: Brussels.
- Cramer, F.A. (2001) Der unmoegliche Koerper, Max Niemeyer Verlag: Tuebingen.
- Cache, Bernard (1995) Earth moves – The Furnishing of Territories, translated from French by Anne Boyman, MIT Press: Cambridge, USA.
The main practice consisted of grafting pantomime and “Material for the Spine” (which studies not only the spine but also its relation to the arms and hands and to space) onto each other by studying both in the same period and by testing various scores that were based on the idea that a choreography or movement exercise could be treated like a piece of furniture that existed independently of its execution –as a kind of residue in space that affords the movements it scores or frames and the movements of tracing the first with the hands and other body parts. We called this practice miming the body and its traces (instead of any other imagined object). Interestingly, Decroux pursued with his technique, mime corporel, something that was not so different from our search. He distinguished between mime objectif as an illusionist performance of imaginary worlds and mime subjectif as an abstract performance of soul and mime processes. For the latter we might also say of imagination and sensation processes, especially as Decroux propagated the development of an inner sense of detailed movement as a motor for form rather than meaning or narrative. Although his understanding of dance as the simulation of surpassed gravity doesn’t fit with the self-understanding of contemporary dance, his notion of the body as pure matter, objectified in the moving, non-bodily piece of art, is not so far from Yvonne Rainer’s examination of the body as object. For both Rainer and Decroux the body does not unfold content. The difference is that Decroux failed in making his point of view productive for the theater, as he would stubbornly try to erase all contradiction from his practice, while Rainer, and with her Paxton (even if very differently), have been embracing paradox and absurdity.
Our practice in Berlin was situated on the line between the body, its objecthood and the impossibility to hold all the traces of its movements together. The images emerging were hard to grasp in their three-dimensionality that was heightened in the circle. The reciprocity or inter-dependence between movement and tracing it becoming movement created an ever-evolving flow of movement-images that continuously escaped meaning. However, we attempted to work with meaningful gesture such as a prologue in which two dancers summarize the piece through gestures. The interest lay exactly in the tension between these two poles of gesture and movement or making sense and sensing: “We believe that certain images can become crystal-clear while never entering into the order of the identical.” (Cache, 1995: p.16) Although this hypothesis at the beginning of Earth Moves wasn’t central to the thinking about this project “choreographic things, dancing # 1”, it appears as a guiding principle to it in retrospect. It was also Cache’s understanding of furniture, based on his hypothesis, that inspired the look at choreography as furniture: “[…], furniture is also that object that is directly connected to our bodies. For our most intimate or most abstract endeavors, whether they occur in bed or on a chair, furniture supplies the immediate physical environment in which our bodies act and react; for us, urban animals, furniture is thus our primary territory” (Cache, 1995, p.30).
Bernard Cache,1995: Earth Moves, MIT Presee, Cambridge