Five: Strategies

There were several strategies that we developed in the studio to bring this not knowing into the experience of the audience. One were the short solos of
each performer, in which they elucidated an issue close to their heart:

In the second event of seven (video 1 above), Jouni started by a welcoming address to the audience that explained how what follows is not an attempt at
recreating an original work. Because of this scenario of one man and two women posits the man as the genius-Nijinsky, it was sort of an inside joke: Jouni
was the least knowledgeable of us when it came to Nijinsky because his background is in tap, and Nijinsky really is not part of his canon. Maija (video 2)
was intrigued by the processes of working out what might have happened in the studio in 1912–1913, so her solo embodied words used to describe
danced movement in the manuscript version of the piano score, which has Nijinsky’s notes scrawled in pencil on the desk of the piano. This solo also
functioned to expose for the audience something of the methods we had used in the studio. Anna (video 3) was interested in memory and time, as
exploring presence is important to her practice. Through recalling her centennial grandfather, she spoke of presence of the past and of how a century is
not that long a time after all. (It should be noted these were not texts the performers had learned by heart but rather a set of points they narrated, so that
what was said and how varied in each performance.)

Another strategy was not seeing, not showing:

As seen in these images (images 1 and 2 above), part of the Kutomo space in Turku was cut off by a curtain. This became part of the composition – the
performance would not stop if the dancers moved to the other side of the curtain. Thus, some of the dancing was not visible to the audience but it took
place in a space through which the audience had entered. In the theatre of the Ateneum Museum in Helsinki, this was not possible, and the curtains to the
wings of the stage were of heavy material. Alternatives had to be found, and thus new aspects emerged due to the new space: for example, in the first
event (video 4 below), Maija moves behind a curtain, and is almost invisible for a moment. Our lighting designer Vespa Laine worked to light the space in
a manner that would show the audience the shadow of movement, emphasising the not-seen. (The documentation also emphasises this as the usually
static camera moves to follow Maija’s movement.)

Here, it should be noted that this strategy emerged not as a conscious illustration of the gaps in historical knowing but from how space is conceptualised
in contemporary dance as integral to the event of performance. Dance takes place in space, and that space is not neutral but affects the movement
possible as dancers observe their surroundings in physical practice. In contemporary dance, the shape of a room, the materials of its construction, the
particular contact with the floor self-evidently informs movement qualities of dance that takes place in that space – this is self-evident. Yet, the serendipity
of a practical decision in a particular space acquired, at least for me, a more significant role, to the degree that I expressed the concern for recreating the
not-seeing aspect in the set-up for the Ateneum performances. In the proscenium space, however, I felt the performance became more a
traditional performance, the audience less connected to the dancers. One potential not present in this production would have been to seat the audience in
a different manner or to explore participatory practice, but these would have resulted in a very different kind of process of making art.

A third strategy was using tasks: in the last of the seven episodes, illustrated by the two images below (4 and 5) from the two different performance
spaces, one of the performers settles a small distance from the audience with their eyes closed. Another comes to them and begins to whisper, inaudibly,
but with a particular task, whilst the third moves in the space. At some point, the whisperer joins the dancer, then both depart before the standing person
opens their eyes and departs, ending the work. What is being whispered is that which does not take place in this space, and the performers decide who
takes which role at the beginning of the episode. The confidential whisper encourages to imagine what the whisperer might be saying based on the
reactions of the listener. The episode illustrates also how each of the performances was different because the choreographed events largely relied on
such task-based improvisation: the three performers decided who takes which role in this event each night after the previous event has ended. The
whisperer invents what they whisper on the spot, just as the dancer works out what they wish to focus on, and when the whisperer joins the dancer, they
follow but do not imitate whatever the dancer has conceived of as the task for that moment. Often, this meant that the last episode held echoes of
embodiments, phrases, and moods of the previous episodes, which in my opinion tended to emphasise how the work recalled itself and thus acted as a
fitting ending to the composition as a whole.

Perhaps the most obvious strategy arose from the movement tasks in the first rehearsals. Neither of these tasks was original; I have used both in my
dance history teaching for the past two decades. Starting from the first event prior to and during which the audience enters the performance space, the
performers occasionally recall the chosen embodiments of the first exercise. As much of the choreography is task-based improvisation, when and how
these embodiments occur shifts from one performance to the next. Some always occur in a certain section to mark time so that the three dancers
could co-ordinate their next task: Jouni’s “flowerbed” required he lay down, and ends with his hand falling almost like a semaphore signal, which easily
became a cue for Anna and Maija and was used as such in the performances.

The second exercise similarly created recurring movement motifs, but we found that creating groupings of two or three dancers did require work on
timing. The section later construed around the drawings by Valentine Gross (see video 6 below) became the closest to traditional step choreography in
the final work. For me, the proscenium space of the Ateneum theatre emphasised how in our re-imagining we were thinking of the sight lines of the 1913
production, and how much of the positioning of the movements imagined from the still images of that production actually reproduced also the perspective
of the viewer implied in those images. In Kutomo, where we had changed direction several times during the rehearsal process, I had not been as aware of
the audience’s single perspective. Certainly, could I change something in the composition post factum, this would be it.

To facilitate the audience noticing how, at times, the dancers fleetingly assume poses from the images of the 1913 choreography you may have noted on the previous pages of this exposition, we decided to place copies of the drawings and photographs used on the walls of the foyer where people could look at them before the performance began. These were not specifically indexed as our sources in any way: there were no words accompanying them nor spatial arrangement indicating their importance. In the absence of publicity photographs of the 2016 choreography, one of the 1913 photographs was included in the advertisement and programme handout. In deliberate contrast to reconstruction, however, the text accompanying it was simple, not explaining our interpretation of the 1913 choreography nor specifying our working methods, processes, or materials we had used. Again, I would have wanted there to be even less, to let the three solos in the work itself to explain its relationship to the past (videos 1, 2, and 3). Upon retrospect, perhaps the existence of the programme alleviated the performers’ stress about what to verbalize. The main point with the setup was to allude to the archive only in passing: it is present for those members of the audience who recognise bits of it in what is shown on stage, but the archive does not emerge as a requirement for understanding the significance of either the 1913 or the 2016 Jeux