A MONTHLY FEUILLETON (PART 8: MAY)
By Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz
At Easter, I managed to escape philosophy of movement and flew away to Puebla City to take part in the PERFORMATICA festival. Invited by Mayra Morales, a Mexican dance activist, I was able to premiere a project I‘ve been working on for nearly 2 years now.
But enough about me.
Today’s report is supposed to be about others, for a change. Being so far from home and my regular dance/performing surroundings, I was amazed to discover that over 16 hours of flight from Angers people ask the same questions.
Therefore this text is devoted to different answers to:
HOW DO U EXPLAIN WHAT U DO IN LIFE?
In other, though similar words, when we encounter somebody today, most of the time the conversation starts with:
- Hi, what’s your name?
- Where are you from?
- What do you do?
A bunch of people struggled to act out this conversation model over and over again, on a warm Mexican night over several glasses of Mescal and Victoria beer.
Trying to be brief, Christina from Essen who performed a very successful solo here in Puebla came up with a pill-like formula:
“Do u know ballet?” She would ask; if yes, then she would say: “Ok contemporary dance has nothing to do with it. And do you know Pina Bausch?” (In Germany, especially in Essen, she still has a big chance to hear an affirmative answer.) “Well then what I do has nothing to do with Pina either …”
Perplexed, she starts going into more and more possibilities.
“So first I would say I am a dancer, as a violinist would say she/he is a musician. Then if asked for more precision I would mention contemporary dance. The next step occurs only if my interlocutor really shows interest. If this is the case, I would avoid comparison by negativity to video clips and musicals, but try to specify what could be an experimental approach to movement. If we had met in Essen, I would definitely be tempted to the ballet/Pina Bausch relation and would eventually go into details trying to define modern dance, jazz, pointing out what is and what isn’t commercial and entertaining in the dance world.”
“After a second thought,” adds Christina, “as we would already have drifted from clips to Pina I would simply invite the brave inquirer to see a show together. On me, of course!”
Gilad, an ex-Batsheva dancer working actually on his own strongly political projects, would sum up Christina’s meandering explanation in one phrase: “Do you know the distance between Ballet and Pina Bausch?” Well, Christina’s work is that distance still further away from Pina.
Maybe not entirely logical, nor true, it sounds simple and appealing.
Gilad tends to call himself a “maker or doer in the field of contemporary dance”.
Avoiding the word “dancer”, between performer and interpreter, he chooses the latter. According it a more personal input, the Israeli maker apparently is at the head of a strong movement of doers of dance.
“Georgia, from Italy,” says a thin blond girl who assists all our evening talks in Cholula Puebla. “Definitely a maker, but also a dancer, a movement researcher,” she laughs, “whatever one wants to call me.”
Similar to Christina, she would as often as possible invite people to come to see performances. “Mine and others’,” she adds, “because one needs to see at least a hundred of them to be able to have any picture of what contemporary dance is, or rather might be.”
Agnieszka, a Polish dancer living in Brussels, feels more secure under the “maker” label. It is more accurate, whereas the term choreographer seems so fossilized and institutionalized, so far from what could actually be contemporary.
Also Mayra, the co-director of the Performatica festival, avoids calling herself a choreographer, although she has just recently received a grant for a new dance creation. She prefers seeing herself as a “rejector” – one that rejects. By rejecting she is able to create via a constant questioning, while she feels that settling with a definition of herself as dancer or choreographer would make her less inquiring and subversive towards herself and her art, or rather her “doings”.
This is really curious, what can be limiting in such a broad job definition as given by Forsythe – “organizing things in time”?
When my term came, I was so confused that I welcomed the word “dancer” with relief. Yes I am a dancer, I grew up one and still am. What I do is dance, I also try to choreograph and to do art in general, I guess. Every day, as B. says, I have to redefine for myself what it means to me. It is a hard enough job, so when it comes to communication, I’d rather say I am a dancer, and not make others even more confused than I am. When they don’t know what contemporary means, I’d show them myself! I would, I swear. If they are into the discussion, I’d show a few steps of release, then a quick contraction, then I would improvise a while around the things that surround me and give a brief summary of Bel’s last piece, or resume Xavier Le Roy’s “Self Unfinished”.
And if they are into me, more than the topic itself, I will invite them for a private show at my place and present them parts of Superamas’ work life.