One week after… Sounds

Now, back in London, I have had some time to think about the experience of being in Beijing, working with Shobana and the dancers in the studio. What was my position in the project? As Paul Rae suggested to me in one of our inspiring conversations, I could say I was a kind of translator or mediator: I was trying to express with my body what Shobana wanted to get from the dancers, the quality of movements, the precision, the intentions…

Of course, the main problem was the language barrier. The translator was with us from the very beginning (not easy to get used to the time delay when passing across the information). But as we had simultaneous actions happening in rehearsals (as is usual with Shobana), by the begining of the second week I felt I had managed to communicate with the dancers using a kind of esperanto vocabulary. This consisted of very basic English words (verbs and directions mostly), some Chinese expresions (like numbers, “one more time”, bits…) and finally, and most usefully, sounds. I managed to develop an incredible repertoire of sounds to express movement dynamics. This was new for me. It’s true that I always tend to let the breath tell me what to do while dancing, but that’s very different from teaching movement dynamics through sounds.  It actually worked very well and, like the system,  we all (the dancers and myself) felt we were communicating in order to achieve what Shobana wanted. They also gained a certain understanding of the intentions behind the movements, and how to apply them while dancing the full piece.

I imagine this project (dealing with Shobana’s movement) has been a difficult task for the dancers, as they found themselves having to work very differently from their previous experiences. After my time with Danscross, I feel the universality of dance is not quite as obvious as we might think (I need to keep thinking about this…) But I’m glad to know that during the process we crossed that difficult edge and, after lots of hard work, I managed to establish a common land where sounds (and a full range of nuances between them) became a point of contact between two dance worlds.

Hope the new team have a good time there and enjoy the process. Best regards from London.


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