ArtsCross began on Friday morning with Chris leading the choreographers (bar two, still in transit) in a workshop. It’s a privilege to be able to watch the process from the very beginning this year, and even more so, to do so with the rich background of the projects Beijing and Taipei instalments underpinning it.
It starts in a gentle, theatrical way. Across the performing arts, many of us will have done an exercise like this, although maybe not so often will we have found the finesse and variation in it that appears this morning! Chris invites all of the choreographers to ‘write’ their name with their bodies. This could be a movement response to its sound, or a physicalisation of written characters. They show them, and there’s a real joy in the immediate presence of differing vocal tones, alphabet, signs and calligraphy moving and resounding through their bodies.
They are then invited to adapt these patterns and gestures and begin to move them around the room. They can walk, pause for ten seconds, copy someone else, pause…and then they are off. He doesn’t really need to talk much more. Across their different styles, contexts, languages and cultures, the group find a fluid and collaborative form, flocking, leaning, separating, and hesitating. They sink and rise together, lowering and lifting one another from the ground. Vera Tussing takes Mr Guo for a walk, Mr Guo sinks. Vera sinks with him. Su Weichia runs towards them, hesitates behind their rising torsos, jogs backwards and Zhao Liang jogs with him. They turn in a broad arc, and pick up Eddie Nixon’s eddying arm. What would the algorithm for this be? It’s like the movement of a flock of birds, collective, but individual, like starlings over Brighton pier.
Later, Chris sits with the choreographers in a circle. He lays down ‘the rules’. They must work with a dancer from each city, and work with no less than three and no more than six of them. I seem to remember that he began some of the Taipei sessions with this dictum of Stravinsky’s – the more rules, the more possibilities; freedom in form. As he talks, one can observe them begin to think into the process. You can see their eyes moving between Chris as he talks and some inner space where the choreography is perhaps already beginning to take place, even in the absence of bodies. Maybe the movement they’ve just made together will feed into this, or maybe just the feeling or idea of how to pick up another’s presence, bodies sensate of other bodies, a flickering of tone, step, glide and run that phases in and out of walking or stillness.
Watching them move together, I feel a certain sense of relief, mixed with the simple kinaesthetic pleasure that comes with watching really good movers move well.