I walk into the studio and Yen Fang is working with three men. Two men are mirroring each other’s movement, in close contact, facing each other but not touching, perceiving each other with all senses. The third man is moving on the ground between them, like a Golam figure seeking attention, twisting and turning, arching and falling. Yen Fang observes closely, talking intimately with them, as they improvise.
The women are spread out across the outsides of the space, improvising individually. Yen Fang works with each woman one to one. Each dancer improvises with a particular set of instructions, to embody and embrace Yen Fang’s movement quality. These dancers are fabulous. One woman’s lower back is so expressive, arching and curving from minute to extreme degrees. Her body is fragmented, wrists broken, shoulders tipped, hips distorted, feet turned inwards, dissolving into soft palpitating muscular ripples, moving in multiple spatial pathways, never fixing, always changing, multi fronted, a body fired with intelligent contradictions. She moves towards a certain direction in space but another movement, another direction, has taken over before the first is completed. No action is fully performed before the balance is shifted, no limb is extended to complete a conventionally expected shape, change has already happened. The conventions of formal space are displaced, the dancer works in many dimensions, superbly articulating each micro detail. No mushiness here. The improvisation ends and an intimate dialogue begins between the dancer and Yen Fang, who intermittently, throughout the dialogue, demonstrates with her own body — and she is stunning to watch. (I am aware here that I am talking about ‘dancers’, I do not have the names of the dancers in front of me to equalise the dialogue in written words).
Yen Fang is particular in her search for multiplicity. As she observes one dancer improvising, she notices how he moves his torso from side to side, two dimensionally. She works with him to increase the possibility of multi directional movement, twisting, turning, curving, dipping, and tilting. I am reminded here of how we hold our emotions in our bodies – and yes Donald, the body always lies – we all hold parts of our bodies against the fear of letting go to the unknown.
So – I watch movement language that fills me with the energy of uncertainty, of not knowing, a potency of possibility. There is no truth here, no final statement. This is not about authenticity. This has nothing to do with seeking truth, real or representation. This is a full-embodied practice of undoing all that. I sense in my body this is about embodying the intelligence of constant change, aliveness in the moment of moving here and now.
I am also drawn to the relational practice between Yen Fang and her dancers. She meets them as people, with personalities, with voices; she meets them equally in the space. They are in dialogue; there is an exchange of knowledge. She is not telling them what to do, and they are not waiting to be instructed. Yet both of these are happening. Something is created between them, here is a creative between-ness.
Yes I am writing after the event and I can make connections with forms, codes, styles and histories, Forsythe, Jonathan Burrows, European postmodern dance. I can also contemplate how these individual voices will come together as a group. But not when I am in the studio. I am observing process, I am engaged, and I am in the moment. And I want this aliveness to continue.
I am wondering about how we might make process as performance – in this context of Artscross. I feel sad that this process must take the shape of product, that this inter-relational, dialogic moment of uncertain knowing must somehow fix itself into a choreographic shape that becomes there and then rather than here and now, where Yen Fang’s presence and dialogue with her dancers is abstracted – to be replaced with a relationship with a fronted, seated, audience. How can this uncertain knowing be maintained through to performance? For here and now, in the studio, is the unique immediacy of performance process. And this is perhaps a place where the dialogue between observer, writer and choreographer might hover.