Why keep a record of rehearsals, when ultimately it is the performance that matters?

Why make public that which is often necessarily kept behind closed doors?

These (and probably many others) are questions that any account of a creative process must address in some way — and perhaps especially one that puts itself in the public domain using social media.

So, by way of introduction, let me say who I am, what I am doing here, and, what I hope that this blog may be able to do through my participation in it. I am a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. I’m neither a dancer, nor in some respects a dance scholar, although dance has often been a major part of my research. I’ll say a bit more about that slightly evasive set of qualifications shortly, suffice to say for now, that my role might be thought of as that of the interested stranger, a curious other who sits to one side, observing, noting, thinking but not intervening. Although much of what I write will inevitably involve an effort to transcribe the detail of what happens, and to try and illuminate the details with my own thoughts and reflections, these will inevitably be partial. I don’t pretend to be about to report on the whole thing. In fact, it’s really only certain details that will follow – those that stand out, those that are curious, anomalous, or revealing – and that, despite their partial nature, might help to give a wider sense of what is going on. Similarly, I’m not going to pretend to be impartial. What you read is inevitably refracted through my own experiences, both in the rehearsals I watch, and those I bring to them.

In writing and thinking about dance, I’m less concerned with the ways in which we might think of it as especially different from other art forms (although in its technique, and some of its modes of expression it may well be). Rather, I am watching it and thinking about it as a theatrical form (live, public, staged) that is meaningful because of what it does, says, shows and affords through movement.

This piece, Jonathan suggested several weeks ago, concerns the memory of movement. It is in part a memory of technique, of steps, sequences, patterns and rhythms that are personal to each of the dancers, but it is also shared amongst them as repertoires, trainings, teachings, and predilections intersect. Part of what this blog, and the videos, photos, and interviews that will contribute to it will be trying to do, is to point out and illuminate these individual and intersecting memories. It will also attend to the memory of movement necessary to making and rehearsing the piece, and to the acts of remembering that serves (and in some respects become) the act of performance, by noting and reflecting on it as it happens.

It is already clear in the process that age serves a certain sort of remembering, evidenced by the timing, effort and awareness in movement of a collective body as much as any individual one. As a curious, not-dancing other, who sits to one side of the rehearsal room, I will be using the blog as a forum in which to try and bear witness to some of this. However, the memory of movement is also what connects dance to the rest of us. The feel of turning, sinking, sliding, spinning or coming to rest are present to all in our own feelings of moving through the world, and in the way that the world of things and others moves and moves with us. Watching dance is a memory of movement elsewhere.

 

The Memory of Movement
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