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What Comes First: Context or Movement?

November 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the things that I’m trying to find for myself as an outcome of this process is what I would like to generate first: the context or the movement. Some rehearsals I come in with a very set idea of what I want the movement to mean and other days we set movement and then layer on a contextual meaning. To be honest, I’m not really digging either approach. What I find most intriguing and promising is when movement is created without having some later application of meaning. Why should every movement mean something anyways? I don’t want every movement to answer why for the viewer. I want movements to generate images that generates moments in time that generates an experience (gotta love those run ons).

What I’m discovering is that I’m enjoying creating moments in time. Moments that are loaded with contextual meanings of their own right, they may share a common theme but are not generating a narrative. I think this growing interest is a result of my recent appreciation for Tere O’Connor’s work. I’m beginning to become  interested in the architecture of these moments that are being created in this process and  I’m excited to discover interesting ways of framing them in the dance.

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  1. November 18, 2009 at 1:42 am

    What great questions to be asking yourself! What an exciting place to be in your process.

    Can I problematize some of it? Not to create controversy or conflict, but maybe to offer a different way of looking that might help you see other things? To be clear, I am in no way trying to tell you what to see/think, just to offer different ways of looking, and maybe through those ways of looking, you might come across new discoveries:

    -Context or movement: there is always context and there is always movement. When we are creating “contexts,” we are already doing so in movement, and we are never generating movement outside of contexts. That was my first thought as I was reading . . . what the movement is shifts based on its contexts, it is never truly fixed in time/space/meaning. It is moving, and that sense of non-fixity is at the heart of what it is. Contexts are constantly colliding, and in the moment by moment collisions, there are the movements (of the dance). With each repetition, the movement is something different, both on a physical level (the muscle fibers, the alignment of bones and gravity and neuro-muscular connections are in constant fluctuation, never the same thing twice) and on a less material level (the level of “meaning”? significance? identity?) And these levels are not separate from one another. They are un-divorable information for one another, the “meaning” constituting the physical, the physical constituting the “meaning.” Maybe.

    This question of “meaning” . . . in this course I’m in with Sheila, “History, Theory, Literature of the Analysis of Movement,” this word has become fraught. The recurring questions we have referred to with each system of analysis are, “What are they giving attention to/looking at?” and “How are they reading those things as meaningful?” There are SO MANY ideas of how movement is meaningful, what it means, how it means, how we perceive or interpret what movement means, and how context has almost everything to do with this question. It makes the idea of intending movement as capable of communicating an intended meaning . . . well, fraught. We’ve even come to a place where we can hardly answer what we are referring to in the word “meaning.” So I had to make a working definition for myself: “Meaning is the substance by which a thing is recognizable.” It is before recognition, before language, before interpretation. It is the way that we know a thing. I would venture to say that each movement has that . . . in the doing and in the seeing, it is something incredibly specific (the doing and the seeing might be/probably are very different specificities). This realization has completely changed the way that I am making dance, or at least changed the way that I am thinking about how I make dances. The process is somewhat similar; how I conceive of what I am doing is different. It has more to do with getting to that sort of “meaning,” the kind that you know in the body, before you put a name to it, before it becomes metaphorical for anything else. It is it. Irmgard Bartenieff once said something like, “Movement doesn’t express anything else. It is itself the expression.” Maree read this quote to me earlier today about a composer playing a piece of music and being asked what it was about. He proceeded to play the piece again.

    I am not saying “dance for dance sake” in the conception that the movement has no meaning. I am saying that the movement has intrinsic meaning, a deep identity of what it is from which we recognize it as itself.
    And I am also saying that this deep identifiable meaning is never separate from its contexts. It is the collision of contexts in the action of the body.

    I think you are on to this . . . moments of contextual meaning “in their own right.” Exactly. They do have meaning. It isn’t whether or not all movement has or does not have meaning; for me it is a foregone conclusion that it does (when I am operating with the aforementioned definition of meaning). The question then becomes how this is privileged in the choreography, in the process, in what it is that you are making.

    Beautiful video clip. Thanks for sharing that. Very rewarding break from my work.

    I hope you don’t mind my writing a little essay here in response to your post. Clearly you sparked a lot of ideas. I hope they spark more for you too.


  2. November 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks so much for the comment. You really helped my thinking process in terms of my approach to movement.

    You can write a little essay anytime 🙂

  3. November 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I’m glad it helps.
    Keep writing. I’m sure other little essays are bound to unfold.

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