Sunday, 31 January 2010

Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection/Dominque Rivoal's film

It's nice to be reminded of what we achieved with Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection; and it's useful encouragement to get on with the next incarnation. Maybe it will be in a library on Walthamstow's High Street?

Friday, 29 January 2010

Daghdha residency: Roberta Lima

I flew directly from New York to Limerick to start a two-week residency at the Daghdha Dance Company. I applied for the residency so that I could work with the video artist Roberta Lima whom I met in Beijing during our residencies at the RedGate Gallery. The video work that she made there with my help has already been shown in an exhibition in Tirol. Coming from a practice which had involved her own body, Roberta seemed drawn to the discipline of dance and the possibilities it could offer for her to experience her body in a new way that didn’t require the needles, suspension and body modification.

I am drawn to Roberta’s use of video as a way of observing the body but also setting herself at a distance from it through the layers of her video image. I am so close to my body, aware of it as a means by which I understand physically the ideas I want to explore. I still use it one of a number of mechanisms by which to communicate to other dancers.

I use video in a very direct way to communicate my experience of particular buildings or sites to people who are not present at the live ‘performance’. The style I use is a kind of verité. The mobile phone video is low quality but suggests an immediacy and authenticity. It doesn’t draw attention to video effects even though I do edit the material and add music to guide the viewer’s response.

With Roberta, I can begin to unpick the theoretical underpinning of using video and the relationship that is set up between the screen image and the breathing body.

In terms of working method, I see that Roberta is able to video an experiment and consider using the resulting footage in an exhibition. Of course with the Tattered Outlaw films we used some of the first takes of our performances on the towers too, but we did many takes of the same set up and I had already worked a long time on developing the choreographic material that we used in those performances. The specificity of each performance is important to me but it's also important that I allow the specificity to develop within coherent structures.

In Roberta's company therefore, I'm confronted by my need to be prepared, to correct and, perhaps, to work hard as a justification of the value of what that work produces.

This experience reminds me of what I encountered in myself when collaborating with the quicksilver Xiao Ke too.

Roberta attaches a spy-camera to her body and invites me to move her. She responds to strong physical impulses from me: I push her, fold her, lift her, tug her and though she’s not a dancer, her body yields and resists as her instinct takes over. Her analytical control is temporarily suspended. Initially I am uncomfortable about the process: her passivity and my physical dominance, the disparity in our size, make me question my role. Yet as we go on, I feel Roberta's body assert its capabilities. She is still smaller than me, still physically weaker but as I sense her areas of strength I can free myself to exploit them

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Niche at APAP 2010: Brooklyn Bridge

On a snowy Friday morning, we met with the Culture Ireland team and a New York press photographer to take pictures of Niche on Brooklyn Bridge. We recreated the original poster image and variations of it that included Bernadette with the iconic bridge in the background and a fortuitous construction worker in high-vis vest passing through the shot.

The pictures (photographer Bryan Smith) were used in Irish Times articles about the Culture Ireland sponsored delegation of Irish artists at APAP and while none of my dancers are Irish, the fact that they converged in Dublin in that period of economic wealth and have maintained a relationship to Ireland, makes their experience telling and typical of strand of the Irish story.

Of course that Irish story has already woven New York into its historical plot twists and so it's not surprising that Niche looks right under the skyscrapers. Belinda Mc Keon's Irish Times article gives a sense of the hustling that appearing in APAP required and that too is part of the ongoing cultural narrative. Now the Irish government, through Culture Ireland is investing in the promotion of Irish artistic talent in this particular North American market, hoping not only to create opportunities for those artists but through them to attract tourism to Ireland. Being part of that effort isn't a problem for me since it's clear that the programmers of the selected Irish work have chosen a range of that reflects the range of the Irish experience. The contemporary dance showcase had four works with very different aesthetics, ranging from Dylan Quinn's dance theatre, to Liz Roche's crafted delicacy, to Daghdha's improvisational aesthetics and my..., well it's always easier to summarise others' work than one's own! I'm grateful ultimately that what the New York audience saw was that even in the relatively small field of contemporary dance in Ireland there is a variety of interests and approach that communicates something about the complexity of the contemporary Irish experience.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Niche at APAP 2010

This week I've been rehearsing an excerpt of Niche at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. We're preparing for a Culture Ireland showcase of Irish choreography there that's happening as part of APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters).

Apart from the thrill of seeing Baryshnikov there, it's been wonderful to rehearse in the studios with their panoramic views of the upper west side. They let in the city in the similar way to the windows of Dancehouse in Dublin. Only the scale is suitably grander.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Dadao Live Art Festival - remembered

I've been roused to post after the Christmas hiatus by an email from Xiao Ke. She sent me a link to the Chinese contemporary art website Art-Ba-Ba where, quite unexpectedly, photos from my performance of Cosán Dearg in Shenzhen in 2007 have turned up. I can't work out why they've surfaced now.

The discussion, prompted by nudity, is about freedom, and while I can't decipher the precise intention of the post, it seems to wish for liberation of the body and mind.

I am reminded that these ephemeral performances have the potential to haunt, to return unexpectedly, suggesting that they have a continuing life and impact, even when they have slipped from my consciousness. This potential tells me that the idea that I leave things behind - move on, forward, away - is a misconception.

Maybe it's time to revisit Dadao. Just before Christmas, I received a preview copy of the documentary, Dancing on the Edge, which Talal Al Muhanna made about the 5th Dadao Live Art festival experience. Having spent more time in China since then, I squirm at little at my naivité and ignorance: the documentary is right to capture that. When he posts it online, I'll add a link to it.