My work is primarily site-specific and last month as part of a wider experiment (http://www.eyecontactexperiment.com) I stood on the high street of my relatively small commuter town in Hertfordshire with a cardboard sign which read, “Where has the human connection gone? Share one minute of eye contact to find out.”Although I didn’t have many takers (you can read all about the details of my experience here http://ant179.wix.com/newnessyoga#!Wheres-the-human-connection-gone/cz7q/5620fe590cf2c3576e616661); it was fundamentally an immediate, meaningful connection shared with others. From the perspective of performer (and specifically contemporary dancer) training my concern is the cultivation of human connection. My research to date has framed this connection within the idea of phenomenological intersubjectivity; but big words aside, what really matters in training to me is a way to get at the fleshy, immediate, shared, open experience of our human-ness.
I wanted to make a short accessible contribution to this blog and so the thoughts that follow are excerpts from my PhD in dance (http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/8042/1/PhDNunesTucker.pdf) if anyone would like to consult it for further contextualisation.
Orthodox technical training for contemporary dancers encourages the development of a performance persona adopted by the individual dancer in order to achieve the ideal of the ‘Noble Dancer’. This is seen in ballet where for example, the training of technique is deliberately honed to support the ‘Noble Dancer’ performance persona. Royal Ballet performer turned contemporary dance choreographer Jonathan Burrows talks about contemporary dancers cultivating a “cool body” (22 July 2004 [workshop]). To dance with a ‘cool body’ adopts a performance persona of confident nonchalance. Banes similarly mentions a description of a “cool stance” where there is an “apparent lack of expressiveness…a sign of repression” (1994:239). The dancer undergoing this sort of traditional technical training will be forced through incessant striving towards aesthetic technical ideal and begin also to alter their subjective perception as a result of superficially ignoring their mind-body unity.
What this means is, because the procedures in contemporary dance technical training work initially to separate mind and body, performance personas are allowed to build up. This is problematic because the innate person is constructing barriers to intersubjective connections and potentially missing opportunities for immediate, meaningful human interconnected-ness. “Rather than simply splitting the body from the mind, there is an active obsession with the body as an objective, mechanical entity. As a result we are often numbed to the awareness of internal body messages and the power of our connected selves” (Green, J. 1999:82). Eastern philosopher Yuasa writes further, “At the beginner’s stage, whether in a theatrical performance, dance or sport, the student tries to move his or her body first by thinking, as it were, through the head. In other words, the student intellectually understands and calculates the teacher’s instruction, according to which he or she then tries to control the body. Nevertheless, the body does not move as one’s mind wishes. Here, mind and body are lived dualistically” (1993:26).
Training which values and fosters the non-duality of body-mind enables a performer to open themselves to another human being in a way that is both meaningful and immediate. Types of training of this sort include (and this list is not exhaustive):
1. Somatic practices (including the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Pilates and yoga);
2. Martial arts (including Aikido, Qigong, Tai Chi)
3. Movement and contact improvisation;
4. Skinner Releasing Technique;
5. Authentic Movement and
6. Dance Movement Therapy
7. Meditation, mindfulness practices
Looking to these types of trainings works the sensitivity of the performer. Sylvie Fortin says, “Our different processes of integration of somatics and dance is characterised by a common challenge, which is to counterbalance the dualism that pervades our Western society” (2003:9). So this posting is an advocation to train the whole self for performance, loosening the tight grip on the ego and enjoying our inter-relatedness as human beings.
Banes, S. (1994). Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England
Burrows, J. (2006, February 22). Process to Product (Informal lecture given to BA Dance students) London: Roehampton University
Green, J. (1999). Somatic Authority and the Myth of the Ideal Body in Dance Education. Dance Research Journal, 31(2), 80-100.
Yuasa, Y. (1993). The Body, Self-Cultivation and Ki-Energy (translated by Nagatomo, S. and Hull, M.) New York: State University of New York Press