Nine ‘talking, thinking, dancing bodies’ met at DSW on October 19th. Our purpose, to talk and think about the dancing bodies of Fluid Festival thus far.
There were a few ground rules, a short list of ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ originally developed by Lee Su-Feh of Vancouver and delivered to the group by Justine Chambers. The rules are intended to encourage inclusive and meaningful conversation about dance and most importantly, respond to the proposals that artists are exhibiting through (in this case) dance performance.
The idea of this response, that the performance is only one part of the conversation and that without the response the essence of the performance is being projected to an ‘empty house’ resonated in my mind. It is true. Now, more than ever, open mindedness and critical thinking are pre-requisites for participation in society. It can only be expected that these skills would be hard at work when dealing with society on an abstract level such as in dance.
Anyway, the floor was open for discussion about performances from Fluid Festival or anything else for that matter. I started by offering a description of the first few minutes of Junkyard / Paradise by Mayday Dance. Important to note, that I said what I saw. This is one of the rules and while to me it has been a ‘buzz kill’ in dance talk recently I stuck to it. I like rules, and would come to love this one.
I also love hypothetical ammunition. As the conversation morphed into a discussion loaded with nine interpretations of an extremely complex performance by Mayday Dance, the ammunition was necessary. Not to say that there was one way to interpret the work, but there are the facts, and if you think that squatting is peeing then at least, first and foremost we can agree that squatting is squatting. Then, the personal experience of the work can be brought to the forefront from a place of consensus. I believe that it is the establishment of these facts, what actually happened that will open our minds to think critically about our own reactions and the reactions of others.
I have also experienced the desire to say nothing about a performance for various reasons and for many people this reason may be that they ‘don’t get it’. Understandable. ‘Getting it’ is usually a matter of interpretation which is pretty personal. Discussing dance starting with the facts or what was ‘seen’ provides a context in which spectators can begin to develop an interpretation of what they have seen. From here the response to the performance can be delivered and the conversation begins!
This was an important happening. I encourage you to discuss and check out the talking, thinking, dancing body via battery opera and Justine Chambers.
Alison Kause is an Edmonton-based contemporary dance artist and a collective member of the good Women Dance Society.