Studio and stage….space and place

Watching Su Weichia’s rehearsal I am drawn to the clarity of the use of space and realise again how he is looking at the studio but seeing the stage. The studio is a metaphor for the stage but the stage space itself is a convention for a magical, malleable, open space that could be anywhere or nowhere with the help of our imaginations and the agreement of everyone present to suspend disbelief.

Later watching Vera Tussing work I was led to consider how the choreographers see the space, not just the studio that becomes the stage space, but what is the space that they imagine as the ground on which their dance takes place?

I imagine Su Weichia’s dancers have begun their journey far beyond the space that I see and they continue far beyond it. I am only seeing one small part of the whole, I am looking at an opening that is only part of a vast landscape, the dancers pass through that opening, through my field of vision but they began long before I glimpsed them and they continue long after they have passed beyond the limits of sight.

Vera Tussing is working on an exercise involving improvisation inviting two dancers into a competitive space that she suggests might be a basketball court and they respond immediately, the gaze locked and the feinting, jockeying, chasing and running — intense and playful all at the same time. I see a boxing ring and then I realised the barre at the back of the studio is has become the ropes – the space is contained and framed and within these constraints. I wonder if her stage for this section will acknowledge and reference the rectangular dance floor linoleum which is bounded by the back wall, the side lights and the front edge – becoming both the actual and the metaphorical arena.

Suddenly the door at the back of the studio opens and dancer almost enters, stopping still as she feels the intensity of the rehearsal – but she has broken the arena and seems to me, (and to her?),  to be in the performance — most significant for me, the metaphorical space of a studio is also broken, we are in this particular place, this studio with that door, the ropes become the barre again and it is that particular barre, in this particular place.

I am reminded of Doreen Massey, the human geographer, who has contributed to notions of space and place as distinct ideas. I wonder how this figures in the realm of performance when disbelief is suspended and we are sensitised to possible reconfigurations or interplays between the two. And when our working space, the studio, is a simalcrum for a performing space which is itself open to transformation and might represent implicit or explicit places. Of course Massey notes that ‘place’ is not fixed, but is open to reconfiguration and reinterpretation, so perhaps what I am noticing is also a metaphor for the wider world, as another writer once noted.

Studio and stage…space and place

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