As Steffi wrote earlier, it’s cities more than nationalities that are at play in the mix of people in the studios. It’s hot and muggy in London at the moment, and the city doesn’t really have the infrastructure. This heat is pretty unusual! But with the windows open (at least in the studios I visited), the atmosphere in the studio felt close to the city itself. ‘The studio’ is often nominalised and abstracted as if only one existed, which rather belies the multifarious architectural, social and emotional spaces that they otherwise are. There’s an argument to be made, of course, for a ‘metaphysical’ studio (Zarrrilli 2002). But there are also tangible, quotidian studios, which do not always differ in terms of ambiance, space or sociality from the activities streets, and weather outside their walls. In this hot weather, with feeble British air-conditioning offering little respite, the doors and windows are open. And the city is tangible. This city — London — is home to some of us, but it is also an elsewhere to most of the participants of ArtsCross. Indeed, like many Londoners, I wasn’t born here, only moving (when work did) in my late twenties. Moving through some of its streets, doors and passageways, it remains an elsewhere.
Hsiao Mei only arrived from Taiwan this morning, but pitched straight into her rehearsals. She spoke a little about her thoughts on the piece she wants to make (I’ll maybe save the details for another post), and then asked them to begin improvising around movements from their daily routine, watching them intently, and then side coaching them. The dancers all move around or through moments or fragments that are recognisable gestures or patterns of quotidian behaviour, although its already too ‘danced’ to qualify as ‘pedestrian’ in sense of those everyday movements drawn into dance by Childs, Rainer et al.
Watching this, and thinking of how jet-lagged Ho Hsiaomei must feel, I’m reminded how elsewhere and home are not always as separate as we might think. Like the studio and the world outside, they lag over one another — they keep going when their normal or usual pace and place should have finished or been left behind. One of the received wisdoms of my theatre training was that the world outside should be left at the door of the studio. Removing your shoes, obeying the rituals of entry and exit, prepared you for the ‘extradaily’ tenor of practice (Barba 2000). Is it always so desirable to have it this clean cut though I wonder? Aren’t those touching points between the polish of performance and the grain of everyday life the source of some real pleasure?
Zhao Liang’s company are only on the second day of rehearsals, and although they are still figuring things out, and exploring possibilities, the movement is already complex and beautiful. Long ribbons of elastic are stretched across the room, and as the dancers move, they wrap and unwrap themselves in and out of it. The don’t have the tensions of a rope but there’s a feeling of them being pulled one way or another: home and elsewhere. At 8pm it’s still 30 degrees, and the dancers are working right to the point of exhaustion. Some of them are on their second rehearsal of the day. All of us are willing the rain to come, for their to be some easing to this intensity, for the city outside to come to our relief.