Poetics of Contact


First, some words and phrases to spark the Imagination … The Felt Experience, Artistry and Craft, Sensation, the Play of Felt Meaning, a Collaboratively Generated Physical Poem, Existing in Time Space and the Body, Stillness and Motion, Emotion, Ritual, Intention/Specificity and an Openness to the Unexpected, the Pleasure of the Kinesthetic Experience given space for Reflection, States of Awareness, Collaborative Composition…

The technical work is a pleasure in itself, but it really comes into its own as the fine awarenesses that we open up give us a deeper window into the self as manifested through the body… our self and each other. As we view the self in the dance, we find the play of meaning, whether that be in the simple pleasure of the play of physics and kinesthetics or in other aspects of the self… psychology and theater.

Thinking of the metaphor of the poem, there is a sense of arc in time, a sense of craft and composition, and a sense of meaning played with in multiple layers. I think of the tight arc of the haiku or a wild rambling beat poem. Unlike a spoken or written poem, though, it is intrinsically in relationship to the choices of other, so we are brought into relationship and collaboration. What do we find together? What do I find in relation to this specific other?

As the triggered reactions that we seek to inhibit in the technical work are rooted in unconscious fear of interaction, they are also a window into our social emotional self… the sensitivity cultivated in the technical work gives us a deep and peculiar perception of the other’s emotional body. We can inhibit these triggers, following along the lines of healing work like those of Alexander or Tai Chi, or we can look to free up the energy that they contain and actualize or complete them, following the healing works of Arne Mindel (Dreambody work), Peter Levine (Trauma Work/Somatic Experiencing) or the theatrical works of Butoh and Jerzy Grotowski.

The touch exercises that form part of the basis for the Axolotl project , work with this sensitivity and take it into directions that span the territories of and blur the distinctions between art-making and healing transformation work.

This line of work for me is very much about creating alternative spaces for physical exploration. As the contact jam scene consists of spaces that are held in different ways (or more often simply not held), rather than try to change the jam scene to create something else out of it, I prefer to think about creating new frames of exploration so that we can have different contexts to explore in. The participatory performance works, Axolotl and Proximity represent two experiments in this direction of creating alternative frames of explorations, but I also aim to create a kind of structured jam space (or perhaps a variety of them) that changes or coheres some of the assumptions of the participants so that we can explore together in ways that are not necessarily allowed in an open, non-cohered space. For example, creating rules of no-talking or specific frameworks for talking, understandings around solo space/duet/group exploration and how we flow between perspectives.

Viewpoints work is one of the reference points for how we look at the poetics of a dance… recognizing different lenses on how we can view an event and make choices about how to improvise or compose, we look at Space (personal kinesphere, interkinespheric space, the room, the social space, the experienced space of skin, muscle, bone), Time, Shape (particularly as felt proprioceptively, but also as seen visually), Narrative (the story or arc in time, maintaining a sense of memory a reference to the past and possibility of future, how densely the moment is perceived), Dynamics/Kinesthetics (qualities and experience of motion, physicality, body organization, musicality of speed and effort), and Emotion (as experienced directly through the lens of the body before words (passive sequencing work/Dreambody/Levine) as well as through the lens of culture and concepts of emotion). These 6 Viewpoints serve as a basis, but we also explore deconstructing them and recombining them and opening up to new ones.

The Question of Experience: the poetry that we explore does not exist in space, but in the heart and mind… in the experience of the individual. How do we experience a dance… as a blur of motion or as a flow of interlocking physical propositions, statements, questions, answers, responses, and adaptations. How does the dance then exist in memory afterwards? What are the impacts of a dance later… as the pleasant euphoria of oxytocin and adrenalin left in the bloodstream, as the visual memory of an art piece, as the clear body memory of a flow of actions, as remembered reference point for the exploration of emotional content in our selves and our ongoing story? Specifically, I recognize that I am simultaneously making choices about MY experience and MY PARTNER’S experience, and that these represent two interlocking but distinct poems. My art making might have to do with my experience, or, turning some frequently held ideas of how to do contact on their head, I might concentrate my art-making concern on the poem of my partner’s experience … what we might call Performing For Touch (another concept borrowed from both Axolotl and Proximity.

 Posted by at 10:40 pm