This paper is a conversation about building depth in our relationships with our bodies and our meeting points with each other. Framed within the context of an improvisational dance practice, the authors, Dianne Reid and Melinda Smith, reflect upon their long-term shared dance practice, their evolving performance work, Dance Interrogations, and the cultural shifts possible as a result of long-term artistic practice. Their unique, long-standing collaboration (over six years and continuing) is unique in Australia and internationally. It is a collaboration which challenges deeply held beliefs around the low expectations of people who have a disability and explores the choreographic potential in the body and artist who experiences Cerebral Palsy—a condition affecting the muscular and skeletal system and which can make voluntary movement such as that in dance, difficult. Their practice itself constantly shifts between artistic formats in both studio and performance contexts, and draws upon a range of technologies familiar within the cultures of screendance and disability. This account is improvisational, an undoing of structure, to encourage other angles and depths of perception.
This article discusses participation in a group dance improvisation practice over time. Described, is a regular dance practice and how it is the dancing over time itself that is the situation in which something is ‘going on’. Participating or acting in this practice allows ways of thinking, understanding, experiencing, knowing that exist only while or at least because of the participation in this dancing. The term ‘action’ as suggested by Hannah Arendt in her book The Human Condition, is used as a concept with which to think through the dancers’ experience in a shared practice. Other ideas including Claire Bishop’s participatory art and Tim Ingold’s discussion of ‘drawing together’ are explored to define participating in dancing in a studio practice, and to articulate what is happening and how that participation can be observed.
This research investigates the studio processes of seven Western Australian choreographers to develop case studies that unpack the memories, emotions, and sensations that illuminate creative decision making in experts. These dance professionals participated in Natalie Cursio’s With A Bullet: The Album Project (2006-7; 2013–4) that invites them to recall the first song to which they ever ‘made up a dance’, and to use this piece of music as a springboard for, and soundtrack to, a new piece of choreography.
The study uses qualitative measures of phenomenological and somatic modes of attention to examine choreographic cognition, with a focus on ‘knowing how’, and other manifestations of ‘feeling’ that a decision is ‘right’, in order to illuminate creative decision making in choreography. I use the choreographers’ memories, emotions, and sensations to interpret their strategies for problem solving in the complex physical, emotional and social space of the studio. Memories and knowledge can take the form of tacit understandings performed during the process of transmission from choreographers to dancers, offering alternative ways of knowing and articulating creative processes.
Cursio’s With A Bullet offered a unique opportunity for choreographers to reflect on their own development as artists, and the research presented here makes a contribution to the ongoing task of placing embodied knowledge on a par with that expressed through linguistic propositions.
This article details the operations and dynamics of a small yet resilient community of performance practitioners who have been engaged in ‘open improvisation’ as a form for performance. The article also responds to questions about the practice and values of open improvisation. The Melbourne improvisation scene, which has grown up around Cecil Street Studio, fosters a ‘community-oriented’ practice in performance. This practice remains a common, yet often unquestioned one, and defined by an generally accepted set of principles.
In this article, the particular focus is on a group of dance improvisation practitioners (as a subset of improvised performance activity in Melbourne) who established and presented a monthly performance event called The Little Con from 2005–2011. An examination of this marginal event raises questions about its reach and the aspirations of its participants. Would identifying and understanding the values of open improvised performance as they operate in this scene improve or deepen audience reception in Melbourne, but also in Australia more generally? Is it also possible that individual improvisers within the Melbourne improvisation community do not seek to define sufficiently nuanced practices? Could then, a differentiated range of practices by individuals lead to a more attributable presence for dance improvisation artists and their work? This article does not find definitive resolution to these questions but seeks to activate them within a defined context of practice—a context that is at the same time impacted by activities, practices and approaches to improvisation in an international arena.
Lucky Lartey reflects on his first two weeks residency and mentorship with Serge Aimé Coulibaly, supported by Ausdance National's Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship and the Innovating Practice Grant (Ausdance NSW).
Marilyn Miller reflects on the importance of Creating Pathways National Indigenous Dance Forum, held at the National Museum in Canberra from 27 to 30 October 2005.
Gabrielle Nankivell, the inaugural recipient of the Ausdance Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship, shares her travel story, research notes and workbook from Vienna, Munich, Barcelona and Berlin, where old and new influences shape her practice.
The subject of travel and professional development, and the value this experience offers artistic practice, arises regularly in the dance arena. As artists we seek these experiences because we are hoping to find something other than what we know or perhaps even something that makes us finally feel at home – either way, we are seeking something to ignite our imaginations and to deepen our knowledge and empathy. We hope to meet people, build new relationships and share practice. We imagine it will generate energy and feed our motivation. We take to the road to connect with others and to connect with our selves. To paraphrase the sentiment of many a wanderlust quote, travel opens the mind and makes the heart grow... We know and the philanthropists know. Travel and international exchange is a good thing.
Patrick (Lucky) Lartey is a Sydney-based dancer and choreographer, originally from Ghana, West Africa. In September this year he was awarded the Keith Bain Choreographic Travel Fellowship, which provides financial assistance for an emerging choreographer to travel internationally with the sole purpose of developing and extending their choreographic practice.
Nerida Matthaei, Australian dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Phluxus2 Dance Collective shares her experience of the World Dance Alliance Korea Choreolab and conference. Nerida received the Chin Lin Award for the best young scholar for her Pecha Kucha presentation at the World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific conference in Korea.
Fraser writes of having arrived at an understanding of improvisation that, rather than being about moving, is about ‘attention’. Instead of using an (imagined) objective view of a body to generate or create interesting or new movements, he employs a kind of noticing from the inside to move with his body, to cooperate with it as it fluctuates and changes. This noticing is full of ‘gaps’ and his attention is drawn to certain physical sites only to be lost as the noticing of a particular area swells, is dispersed or is replaced by a more immediate physical concern.
Olivia Millard explores the use of scores or verbal propositions in improvising dance. Examining the use of scores in her improvisation practice, she discusses what scores might be and might do and how they relate to the real time composition of dance in the present of its making. To help explore these ideas I refer to the theory of Nelson Goodman and discuss the use of scores by other dance practitioners including Steve Paxton, Yvonne Meier and Anna Halprin.
Anne Scott Wilson, a former professional dancer, discusses how she came to understand embodied processes in her visual art practice using photography.
This article looks at a particular moment in the practice of improvisation when the individual is still attending to unique or specific needs. In time, it comes before preparations that involve others, or the doing of something that is organised into an ‘exercise’. A practice rarely begins at zero moment with a group of improvisers arriving together with everyone ready to start. An allowance is made for a transition, and what the improviser chooses to do during this time is left up to them. This is the moment I am calling–‘warming up’ or ‘to warm up’. Taken literally the expression ‘to warm up’ indicates actions a dance improviser can do to prepare their body to improvise; a body-based preparation to attend to particular bodily needs in order to be physically ready to do dance improvisation.
Australian choreographer Lewis Major was one of eight choreographers selected to participate in the International Young Choreographer Project (IYCP) held in southern Taiwan in July/August this year.
This research questions how a ‘lived experience’ of contemporary dance could be deepened for the audience. It presents a series of choreographic ‘tools’ to create alternative frameworks for presentation that challenge the dominant modes of creation, presentation and meaning making in contemporary dance. The five tools established and applied in this research are: variations of site, liminality, audience agency, audience-performer proximity and performer qualities. These tools are framed as a series of calibrated scales that allow choreographers to map decisions made in the studio in relation to potential audience engagement. The research houses multiple presentation formats from the traditional to the avant-garde and opens up possibilities for analysis of a wide range of artistic dance works. This research presents options for choreographers to map how audiences experience their work and offers opportunities to engage audiences in new and exciting ways.
Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring has inspired a plethora of artists in its hundred years of history. As it transcends geographic barriers, it has also been choreographed by many great dance masters such as Maurice Béjart and Pina Bausch from the West, and Hwai-Min Lin and Helen Lai from the East. In this paper, Ting-Ting Chang focuses on the choreographic aesthetics of versions of The Rite of Spring by choreographers Zhang Xiaoxiong and Shen Wei. Zhang’s version depicts images with references both to the original work of Vaslav Nijinsky, and to aspects of Asian culture in a way that is sensitive to the original music and to his memories as a child living in Cambodia. Shen has been known for his organic movement vocabulary and unique way of using Chinese cultural elements. By tracing their separate creative processes, she discuss how choreographers negotiate tradition and innovation through their different choreographic methods and aesthetic visions through contemporary dance.
New dance forums in India have evolved recently, allowing performers to identify conflict areas in performative practice. This development has arisen as a consequence of questioning techniques as exercised in classical dance pedagogy. Aastha Gandhi's research looks into different tools of performance provided by Gati Dance Forum in New Delhi to engage with these techniques through different pedagogical approaches. The learning and unlearning of performance skills constantly challenges the dancer’s perception of audience-performer, body-dance and dance-space relations, vis-à-vis the individual choreography-creating process. The need to challenge the body to go beyond the taught and practised language has consequently developed a distinct performative text, which is visual, verbal and embodied. Deriving from a theoretical idea of Paul Ricoeur’s, the performance text is examined at levels of structural explanation and interpretation, where the different components act as ‘discrete units’ to form an arranged whole and the constituent units acquire a signifying function.
Interject (a site-specific dance work) was performed on a ledge inside the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand in November 2012. This paper reframes a complex picture of web-like connections and challenges around the relocation and re-envisioning of several site-specific choreographies into one specific site. How do you re-negotiate the dance content in a different site? What are the ramifications of an additional dancer? How do you interact/negotiate with the everyday use of the site? Is it a new work or not? These questions are discussed along with the unpacking and interrogation of my journey and a review of the end product as the choreographer in this process. This reframing will make reference to the past and how it has enriched and informed the expanding field of international site-specific dance (Brown 2010, Kloetzel & Pavlik 2009, Hunter 2005) and this particular project.
Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker has published three different volumes of A Choreographer’s Score in which she explains her choreographic processes. Each of the volumes contains interviews and parts of the choreography which are recorded on DVDs and published in writing together with the scores. The need for those publications might have been triggered by Beyonce’s use of de Keersmaeker’s choreography in her video Countdown and by a general need to create a legacy for her work. The question that such a publication poses is: what is documented here? Is it based on an idea of the work or a choreographic process or is it an instruction manual for performance? How does de Keersmaeker’s attempt relate to the archive as a place of reinforcing patriarchal law as stated by Jacques Derrida or is it rather an open approach to dance and performance as an art form, able to escape that law as Rebecca Schneider has discussed?
The arguments presented in this paper, offer a reminder of ways we might practice research as a mindful endeavor and in the process, seek new comprehension of our world. Sparked by my annual reconsideration of what is important to share as a teacher, I visit ideas that we might underpin nimble thinking and so hone significant change. In this way, the paper offers, a gentle disturbance to the streamlining and consolidation of practice-as-research in the academy. The discussion champions practice that reveals ideas, without rushing to answers. To recognise the opportunities afforded by this place of not knowing, there is need to recognise that our search is to provisionally affirm, rather than finally confirm, order. In grappling with ways to guide researchers, I argue that understanding the consequences of ‘how’ you engage with the potential of knowledge is the significant aspect of practice-as-research that we must protect.