As an interpreter, I feel myself as a medium or a bridge between choreographers and dancers, and between Chinese speakers and English speakers in this project. This experience has made me question what translation means for performing arts and how to translate in an artistic process that involves dancers and choreographers from diverse cultural backgrounds and linguistic or cognitive systems. Is there an alternative mode besides language emerging in this process? Are there many modes of translation occurring and shaping an
I feel the working mode of translating for a choreographer is like an improvisational duet. We tried to find a rhythm to make rehearsals work well and run smoothly—in other words, to keep the energy of the process fluent. This might take two days. Some choreographers only spoke one language, either Chinese or English, when working with their dancers, and I translated their words into the other language. Some choreographers preferred to speak both languages, and I just supported them when they needed me.
I observed that the London dancers in the sessions I worked desired to know the meaning of every word they heard. If they did not know, they looked panicked. Even though they had an interpreter, they might still feel unsafe and isolated in an unknown environment when hearing Chinese, which they did not understand at all. Asian dancers might also look confused when they did not understand English instructions, but they appeared to more easily accept uncertainty. I suppose this may come from diverse philosophies in different cultures. Chinese thought allows certain ambiguity to exist, which is distinct from traditional Western thought. The other reason may be that English as an international language is not totally unknown to Asian dancers. This is why two choreographers whom I worked with chose to speak English by themselves throughout the sessions when working with their dancers. Apparently, most choreographers still preferred to directly communicate with each dancer rather than through an interpreter if possible.
Although an unknown or
Through this experience of translation for choreographers and dancers, I have come to feel that these artists have to find their own ways to communicate by themselves at times, instead of through an interpreter—ways such as oral and body languages, and other forms of communication. If an interpreter always exists between them, they would not really cross boundaries. Maybe there needs to be an
4 thoughts on “Rethink translation in a process of “artcrossing””
well said, I-YIng! nice to hear an interpreter’s voice here on the blog too!
Thanks for this I-Ying. As well as it being good to hear the voice of someone who has so patiently translated for the last few weeks, it is a real pleasure to find it so thoughtful and considered. M
Lovely to hear about your experience, it draws attention to the role of the translators as making communication happen, or facilitating it, in the spaces. As you explain, at times this means translating what is being said, but in other moments taking a step back as it is already flowing…
I enjoyed reading from the interpreter’s experience and find it interesting.
I encountered a sense of calmness and smoothness this year when I was observing in the studio. Often, I wonder if there was an interpreter in the room.