October 22 dreams and twists

October 22, 2009
Both choreographers are shaping the movement material that the dancers have created, learned, absorbed, and discovered. Tiechun, Jonathan, and Carolyn compose and/or build these dances surrounded by cameras, observers, student helpers, interpreters, friends, faculty from the school, and designers.
Outside in the bicycle lane: Beijing, I know, is not “China” but I see these radical signs of transformation: three wheeled vehicles fill the side “bicycle” lanes, where “anything that goes” is ok. Most are barely moving on tiny engines, or still pumped like a bicycle. These transport furniture, or garbage, or fruit and vegetable, or all forms of old junk like mini-moving vans. There are those that have enclosed “cabs” like mini-taxis, with room for one or two people inside. This fleet of patched and battered “expanded bicycles” move the old Beijing along side the giant glassy malls, the millions with shopping bags, and the dark brown population that still squats on the sidewalks and spits.

In a conversation with Tiechun: He thinks this experiment is really worthwhile. He has a chance to create a dance in a way that he has never done before: he usually has his own theme and vision but now he keeps the ”shaking” theme and does not know what will happen as he choreographs. He talks about the ”twists” in the bodies that he keeps putting in the movements. The torso twists are exaggerated from a folk or traditional body carriage movement. Perhaps this indicates the way that the world is coming apart. He is subtly moving the tectonic plates of the sedimented traditions. He explains this image of tossing paper coins at traditional funerals and how this enters the larger theme: the passage from life to death, we hover and/or shake at that precipice. More on that later.

Jonathan and Carolyn review and rearrange the poem, dialogue, and dream sequences into lines, formations, and astonishing unison works. I kept seeing these very idiosyncratic gestures (almost like hieroglyphs) that the dancers developed on their own, become dance phrases: is this a bit sad? Is there something lost in this transition? Sure, the tiny nuances that breathed with that individual dancer’s body and feelings are only traces in the danced version. Somehow in that passage, the movement becomes rhythmic, spectacular, and graceful, no longer the strange awkward and personal engraved gesture.
Still beautiful.

There is a dream sequence I missed the creation of: Jonathan asked them to think of a dream they had, put it into four phrases of movement that described the dream, These had to have an experiential quality that made the audience experience their dream’s feeling and we should also see the content of the dream. They had to create these spontaneously, without preparation. These phrases are filled with quick and large changes in body shapes and movement with facial expressions. These also are done in unison in different formations.

More on Jonathan’s structures tomorrow, but he said the work is really about dialogue. One instruction today to get movement more deeply in the body: “don’t fully do it, think about doing it.”

Each dancer reveals his own rhythmic dynamics, his own way of sensing the world, taking it in, struggling and pressing it out through gesture.

They still stay in place to dance most of the phrases. When Jonathan has them move in a line in unison upstage, it is like a gasp, a breathless space: we need that.

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