Questioning questions… and the potential for dialogue? August 8th


In the relationship between questions and practice we are not in a linear progression, more of a mobius strip.

For me, questions open up the wider field. Key to phenomenological enquiry (description, curiosity, interdependent relational process, embodied here and now experience)  is the ability to acknowledge how our immediate interactions are affected by our embodied histories, our innate need to make meaning and to seek interpretation through questioning even as we embrace living in the here and now.

Choreographers question on a daily, moment-to-moment basis. Much of the work in the studio is an attempt to resolve, find embodied answers for those ongoing questions. Never finding, or wanting, a single answer, or truth, keeps us, as choreographers/writers/practitioners returning to the studio/page. Living now and questioning living now are partners in a dance of now and then.

And there is the Artscross theme of ‘uncertainty’, which colors the open enquiry that has no answers. I am already looking at the work through the pre-determined lens of uncertainty – if that lens is possible. And of course I am opening myself to questions. How do choreographers work with uncertainty in the studio, when they have three weeks to produce a performance? How do choreographers deal with the enormous uncertainty of working with performers they do not know (at least the UK choreographers)? Can they allow themselves to admit to uncertainty in the studio? How do dancers work with the uncertainty of the moment with the choreographer while their bodies carry historical and repeated codes of knowledge? What is my experience of uncertainty that I bring into the studio? Can I stay with, feel and experience uncertainty?  How long can I allow myself to embody not knowing?

So I set myself a challenge. Yes, phenomenological observation, yes, to enter into the work in the studio to see what arises. And to notice how the predetermined theme of uncertainty is played out in my body and others’ bodies within the studio. Can we catch a moment without fixing it? Perhaps, in a relational dialogic practice…

What did I see?

Kham’s performers – holding pieces of paper, huddled, absorbed in the act of counting, limbs jerking, quiet concentration, heads down.

Yen Fang’s performers — improvising, hip hop fragmented ripples, a sense of something playful, multi directional.

Avatara’s group laughs loudly. Her voice, sensual, opens the space: ‘I want strong women of the 21st century – you understand that?’

Yao — four double mattresses in the space. The group is sitting in a circle, talking their dreams. Laughter shared.

These moments open time, unfixing, waiting.


4 comments to Questioning questions… and the potential for dialogue? August 8th

  • Martin Welton

    Hi Emilyn. Perhaps it depends on when the question comes. I can’t speak for Chris, but for me the problem with PbR is when the Research Question (the capital letters are important) either so fully frontloads the undertaking with what ‘will’ or ‘should’ be discovered that it precludes the work itself actually being research, or else it places a demand on ‘the here and now’ that it can’t really sustain. You can’t reflect ‘in the moment’ without turning your attention away from the task at hand. For me, PbR is thus often a post mortem operation, a matter of re-considering what happened, wondering why some bits stick, others not, of hoping that someone more interesting than me has something to say about such matters…

  • Emilyn Claid

    Yes I entirely agree – that is why the mobius strip mapping is perhaps more appropriate than anything linear but how did it happen that a front loaded research question became institutionalised in the first place – if it is the artists that are doing the PbR? something to do with who holds the power perhaps… thanks for response.

  • Martin Welton

    Power perhaps, yes. But I wonder also if there’s not a worry about being seen to do ‘proper’ research, a concern for a sort of scientific undertaking of hypothesis, test and proof. Not all science works along those lines of course, but it’s a hard mentality to break free of I suspect. A case in point is the rush to explain everything neurologically. As Raymond Tallis, amongst others, has observed, showing that the brain lights up doesn’t tell us very much about art, or how to do it, or why it matters.

  • Angela Woodhouse

    Following this conversation with great interest. Loved the last line Emyilyn – and the question of uncertainty so central to discovery – who would want to live in a certain world?

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