(In)visibility in Dance

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Research week on the (in)visible in dance in cooperation with Maria Mavridou and students of Artez, Arnhem. The work was based on some principles of ‘Let’s talk about dance’. Sharing and articulating experiences was considered just as important as moving and performing.

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Interview with Maria Mavridou

 

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Drawings by Maria Mavridou

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Text as an Introduction to the Subject of (In)visibility

Our field of vision – and the world we live in – is build up from the visible and the invisible.

If I see you from the front, I know that you also have a backside. Maybe I never saw you from the back, but still, I know you have a backside (since everybody and everything has a backside). And this knowledge is part of my experience of seeing you from the front.

Similarly I know that you have an inside. As all things have an inside. And I am aware that I have an inside myself although, most of it, I never saw. – Our world is build up from the visible and the invisible.

– Emotions

– God

– Secrets

– Genitals

– Music

– Air

– Memories

– Light

– Love

Are all both visible and invisible.

I suppose you want to be visible and invisible at the same time (and in different ways, at different moments).

How has this been part of you motivation to become a performer, dancer, choreographer? How has this influence your work?

Could this subject consciously be a topic of a piece you will make?

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Experiences with (In)visibility

As an assignment for the first day I asked the students to think of two personal experiences with visibility and invisibility that they had in their lives and that were somehow important to them.

The subjects that came up could be labeled under two categories:

– Stories about feeling ‘out of balance’ in relation to others. Being either invisible or exposing oneself too much.

– Stories that had to do with a certain amount of ‘being crazy’: Secrets, obsessions, stalking, the supernatural, solipsism, feeling sexually ‘abnormal’, a crocodile under the bed, thumb sucking, the forbidden desire to follow a road all the way to Canada, hiding oneself in order not to have to take a shower..

The sharing was very touching, amusing and curious. – Bárbara Carlos

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Talking about Physical Experiences

Regularly in between the improvisations, we gathered in a circle were everyone had the opportunity to talk. A big emphasis was put on the fact that we were not allowed to interrupt each other, once it was your turn to talk it was yours and no one else time to express your thoughts.Louise Pousette

We were able to find out new things and go further in the research through each exercise thanks to a lot of conversations. Bram developed a technique of conversation where we could really express anything, starting from ourselves and from a thought or sensation. He was always asking us to be very concrete even if we were talking about the invisible which isn’t something very palpable. It is also very hard for me to explain the sensations I have when I dance and make sense. So that was a hard task but it made me gain a lot of training in exposing my thought in a clear way.Elise Maniere

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Warming up

The warm up by Maria Mavridou was very exciting. Continuous soft moving as a group made of repetitive circular movements which putted me in a sort of trance. I think this exercise was relating to the invisible in two different ways. As a dancer, it was a first chance to get in touch with your invisibility. Doing simple, or very complicated repetitive motions for a long time made me able to just feel and see what is the essence of myself moving and to go with it. Each dancer had a different reaction to the movements that had a very hard coordination. We had to try them for a long amount of time and some people start to laugh, others make faces or get frustrated. For the audience, it was a way to see the invisible (here what is in the dancer’s mind) appear with clarity. Elise Maniere

The warm-up I proposed put the participants in a state of playful confusion and exhaustion, through disorientation, complex coordination’s, a fast-paced ~ 1h. 30min. journey without stops for rest or explanations, with the extra challenge of tuning together as a group and, in some cases, situations that challenged the limits of their personal sphere.
Inside this set-up I asked for a double attention, on one hand to very specific (visible) tasks given to them with the intention to carry them through and on the other hand to what is awakened (invisible) by these tasks. – Maria Mavridou

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Fake Healing Exercise

Between all the exercises I liked very much the “Fake Healing”: we were working in groups of three; one of us lay on the floor with closed eyes in a sort of passive-aware state. The others started to “heal” him/her in whatever way: using voices and sounds, objects, materials, touching, etc. When I was the person healed I was feeling a strange sensation: maybe because I was trying to understand what they were doing around me, I was very much impressed if they did something unexpected to me, as making the water falling on my face. And I also liked so much when they were working on opposite directions of my body (up and down or side to side). What I reflected doing it was that, even if I was not using my eyes I could still see lighter and darker areas, understanding if someone was passing in front of me of putting an object above. Using the other senses I also was understanding what was happening around me; but at a certain moment I was like overwhelmed by the “over-perception” that suddenly became a “no-perception”, as just an acceptance of whatever was coming next. – Loris Casalino

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Inner Child Exercise

We did an exercise about our inner child. What is my inner child? How do I connect to it through movement and with the others? I personally believe in the idea that you are what you are because of what happened in your life. So finding who is my inner child through remembering and moving with it brought me again closer to my real self. I remembered how much more open to others I was when I was a kid how eager I was to discover. For some other people it brought up more sad thought, but I think we all agreed that remembering yourself as a kid gives you information about who you are today. – Elise Maniere

Bram lead us to an improvisation based in the a visiting inner child (that we all have inside of us), which he thought that was what produced more results. Through this improvisation, we were actually able to bring many of our invisibilities to surface, which made me think of Freudian theories. At the same time, we were able to relate to each other while improvising in a different way. Sometimes my inner child was the one who was connecting, and maybe not with who was visibly there, but with the inner child of that same person. This time the theories that came to my head were more Kafkian, existentialist. This relations between us made the composition of the improvisation very interesting, something that Bram described as “growing like a flower or plant, slowly on it’s own”. – Joao Dinis Pinho

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Improvisation

I was many times thinking of the composition that was created in the improvisation, and questioning if it or other composing elements could be considered invisible. Later I concluded that not composition but the process of composing can include a kind of inanimate invisibility. – Joao Dinis Pinho

The improvisation to connect to each others invisible became more real and easier because we connected to our own invisible. They also started to make more sense because some sort of material was coming up from the inner child exercise or the fake healing. – Elise Maniere

Connecting to the invisibility of another person was for me a way to be able to improvise as a group and a way to guide the work with others to a much nicer place. We discovered that a certain sense of empathy was necessary to relate to the invisible of another person. You need to have the ability to put yourself in the body of the person you’re working with in order to move with them. – Elise Maniere

The most important outcome of the research week for me, was the very special atmospheres of the improvisations we had together. There was a certain calmness that was present throughout the whole week in general, I definitely would say – both in the physical work as well as the group talks. – Louise Pousette

The search for the invisible certainly created very introverted interactions in the improvisations. For example often with eyes focusing in weird directions and strange movement vocabulary, kind of autistic-like. It also seemed that people really were giving the sets time to develop in whatever way, being very present and not planning what to do next. It felt like we took the time to feel and think, not stressing about the outcome.Louise Pousette

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Some Conclusions

While editing the interview with Maria I wrote this summarizing sentence in a in between title:

‘In order to respect a person, and to not injure her, or make her sick, we need to relate to the invisibility of that person’.

This sentence turned out to be recognizable for the group and became part of our conversations:

In an interview that we watched, Maria Mavridou says that in order to not injure or make sick the person you are dancing with, you need to relate to their invisibility. This sentence makes a lot of sense for me. It is a way to explain concretely what every dancer means when using the word ‘’connecting’’ with someone. It is also a healthy pleasant way of working. – Elise Maniere

Another thing that generally was recognized as ‘true’ in the group was that in dance-performances it is the invisibility in that performance (also a performance in which ‘invisibility’ is not the subject) which makes the performance good.

What is the invisible in performance? We have all experienced it. That moment that makes us audience have inexplicable shivers is when I mostly face this invisibility. One way that Bram used to explain it was recognizing that “dance as an art form deals with the practical aspects of what it is to be a human being”, and a human being has many invisible elements like emotions, religion, secrets, etc. – Joao Dinis Pinho

I would say that there are two ways through which in a dance-performance the invisible can become visible:

a) A visible person connecting to his or her own invisibility.

b) People connecting to each others invisibility through their own invisibility.

In both cases what you see is the work, or process, of connecting. During the week words like; ‘tuning into’, ‘relating’, ‘sensing’, ’empathy’ and ‘curiosity’ were used a lot.

A question that came up in relation to this was: How do you know if you ‘really’ are connecting or relating to a person, at the moments that you feel like this?

Our answer was: You don’t. We had quite some conversations about projection, and whether if that what your are sensing from a person is ‘really’ what is happening to him / her, or not. It appeared after the exercises that sometimes people perceive quite exactly what is going on with a person, and other times they don’t. What also appeared (which I think is very interesting) is, that this doesn’t matter for the interaction. When the interaction feels right for the people, it doesn’t matter if they have thoughts about each other processes that are not ‘correct’.

Questions that arose in conversations between me and Maria after the week were: Could work on making the invisible appear in dancing / performing considered a technique? How does this relate to other conceptions of dance-technique? Maybe a subject for future research..

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Presentation

In the theatre, I felt the stress of performing permeate the group while adrenaline altered our collective behaviour somehow, making the invisibilities more distant and difficult to connect. Still, it was a successful experiment, indeed, in that I believe we still behaved more like humans than perhaps we ever have on stage, being trained performers.  This scenario underscores and re-asks the last question I wrote in my notebook that week, just before performing: “Does performing the invisible (thereby making it visible) necessarily change it in nature?” – Madelyn Bullard

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Reflections on the Week by the Students

By sharing some selected memories of our encounters with the invisibly visible on the first day, we began to know pieces of each other’s subterranean parts, as if figments of another body that equally comprise our shape.

These shimmering invisibilities of each person were somehow wild, not wanting to be tamed, appearing at their own will and deciding when to leave, if ever, smitten and smoldering. With this opening as a gate towards each other’s inner worlds, and a safe space for them to intermarry in the conversational and open context provided by Bram and Maria, we started to sensitively explore another realm together.

I cannot concretely say what happened most of the time, since the sensitive nature of the work allowed and encouraged us to be present in what we were doing; By not analysing its literality, we could reach beyond any given tasks towards a deeper exercise, and through these exercises, access a more subtle domain of existence.

Just now, I took a stroll through the forest to refresh my memory about the week. The night is misty, and as I walked deeper into the darkness, fully alone amidst the trees, my body began to vibrate from deep within, all my molecules at once, with a delicious feeling. I recalled something Bram might have said, offhand, about the body responding to being in nature, in that when standing beside a mountain, the body senses the physicality of that mountain, and feels small beside it. In the dark, the eye cannot distinguish between the forms it sees, all cloaked in varying shades of grey. In this setting, the lack of visibility allows for other ways of sensing to become keener. By relying no longer on sight, one comes into contact with the unknown. This is where the invisible lives.

In an experience somehow deeper than walking in broad daylight where everything is clearly defined, I could, through receptivity, see another world amidst the one we all share physically. Later, on the walk back, I sensed a tiny, still, and completely obscured living creature near my feet. When I crouched down, I rested my finger on its slimy back before it hopped away. Somehow, I am sure that without daily acknowledging the invisible during this past research week, I would not have had this experience, since I would not have sensed the froggy friend at my feet. “I don’t think it’s the same as awareness, or not the way people talk about awareness to indicate an attention that is sharp or alert,” I thought to myself. “The invisible is much more about being open . . . I think.” – Madelyn Bullard

As Keith Hennessey told me this summer in his workshop at Ponderosa (as I mentioned during the week), “There is the normal class we are all in, here and now, the bitch class above (analyzing and critiquing), and the witch class below (attuned to energy exchange and magical occurrences).” As a definite member of the witch class, I aim to learn how to work with my sensitivity by translating into the real, thereby acting as conduit between the unseen and the concrete. In the end, this week allowed me a soothing space to explore this creative mission that involves the most vital part of my personality. For that I am truly grateful to Bram and Maria. – Madelyn Bullard

For the study itself, the outcome of this research was not very concrete. At least not in my opinion, being part of the study. There wasn’t an answer to anything, because there wasn’t any question that needed to be answered but rather experiences that needed to be felt and explored. Having a conclusive outcome is not always necessary and in this case, I had a very special result: it made me a little disquiet, wanting to know more. That can be seen as a result. – Joao Dinis Pinho

For me it’s exactly this, it changed completely the way I look at people now, in general life, and even more intensively in arts. I do not only see the visible, and understand much more what’s going on with peoples bodies. I search always for more in making and dancing. I look to put out my inside, my invisible and to make it truly visible through movement.  It was an exhilarating week, with many discovers, many awareness, many connections. I got to meet and to understand so many different things in Bram’s research, that became an integrate part of myself in the sense that it has changed my perspective of seeing. When you think about it just the simple thought of invisibility in visibility is enough to keep you busy searching and perceiving it. And that’s every action you need in this theme. – Bárbara Carlos

I had a very nice week, with a warm and intimate atmosphere. Now looking back, I have to admit I still have a hard time seeing how I can incorporate the work that we did in my own creating, or in any performative context at all – even though I find it very interesting. I guess it is too far away from my own way of thinking about creating/composing/making at this point of my life. Still, I had a lot of valuable experiences on a personal level, and will remember the research week as a beautiful experience.Louise Pousette

Connecting to my invisible is for me a way to know myself better as a dancer, to also let myself be myself and awaken parts of me that were silent. It was a great opportunity as a third year student to be able to train in a way that pushes you to be a unique dancer.Elise Maniere

I was surprised when I heard Bram saying he felt like he took the role of the choreographer during the week when he shouldn’t have. (…) But I think he was just in the right place, as a researcher, I could compare him with a scientist that want to study a chemical reaction. The scientist still has to make a mix of the elements he want to react in order to study them. It is what Bram was doing by giving frameworks for the improvisation that were connected to his topic in order to be able to observe us. Elise Maniere

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Poem

– Celebration of the Invisibles

Cheers to the world of idiots

the world of fools and madmen

Cheers to the introverts, the ghosts,

the spirits, the ostriches, the crocodiles

hiding under the beds

Cheers to the stalkers, the ignored,

the left behind, the forgotten, unfitting,

too scared or too wild

Cheers to love and joy that connects

all particles

Cheers to the gaps, the empty spaces,

the silences that make us wonder

Cheers to the blushing skins and trembles

Cheers to all the unknowns –

adventures to be lived in the flesh

Cheers to the thumb suckers,

the straight, the gays, the transvestites,

the Sylphides, the poets lost in the forest

Cheers to all we like and all we don’t

the stucknesses and the free flows

the holdings, the tensions and the total abandonment

Cheers to the looking ahead and the looking behind

Is it dark, is it light the life we lived already?

It makes no difference

Let it be seen, free, unprotected, exposed

to the winds, the rains, the sunshines, the tears, the laughters

the puzzled looks and the polite smiles

What do we know?

We know nothing- We know it all!

To darken the darkness this is the gate to all wonder

Dive into the dark till it twists to its other side

Light Light Light of joyous celebrations of beings

unafraid to see their infinite connections.

– Maria Mavridou

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