the sensational presentation of the body suspended in space

Strands

Dear Meryem,

Rough and Smooth. Messiness and falling. Geometrical instability. Verticality and Horizontality. Visibility-invisibility.  If I cover my eyes I can still see (sense) you.

Aerial is a technique that often worships the vertical, a thirst for height, the sensational presentation of the body suspended in space.

Even though it appears to be a vertically orientated practice from an explicit view, for me it has always felt way more  horizontal and related to floor work than an uber mastering of verticality.  For me it is a subversion of vertical-ness, a reclaiming of an ancient way of sensing our world that traversed much more dynamic environments than our current state of built urbaneness.

For me the practice works on leaning and listening, on that ever slant, or being in a (collaborative) place of resistance.  This is how I have always worked with the form….never having any interests in tugging my audience along on artificially constructed (yet incredible real in possibility) feats of strength or death. I am incredibly drawn to this much older, much more multi-dimensional way of organizing our body to move through space: climbing, swinging, hands and feet, arms and legs democratically equal in terms of availability for motion and support.   Something ancestral in its quality.

Work in the air relies on so many different landing pads, resting places, yielding, adjusting qualities of tonicity to slide through space giving unrestricted organizational priority to hands, feet, hip folds, crooks of elbows, backs of knees, back of the neck, under the arms.

I remember being confused by stage directions in my younger years: quarters, halves, up and down.  I always wondered why we organized ourselves in set space or why we took the space as a reference and not our own bodies.  That is the beauty of working in the air for me: space multiplies and manifests… there is no front, no fixed and perceived right viewing point…. Mostly because there is un predictability about which direction you may end up facing.  So for me in the incredible constructed space of a theatre that has a verticalness or a hierarchy about how or best practices to should/could organize things for our audiences gets subverted  through creating in the un used, often un noticed upper spaces in the hanging sphere.

Today I worked with soft and smooth surfaces, organized and disorganized, functional and non-functional.  I alternated between a walking practice and a climbing practice examining them as evolutionary chapters in the physicality of the body.  I worked with sight and no sight to alternate sensing.   I seem to oscillate between these evolving practices in this process.

  1. Walking
  2. Morphing
  3. Climbing
  4. Writing
  5. Sitting

When I sense you in rehearsal it is like a vibration very specifically in my bone marrow.  As I move through my day I get flashes of images of what the piece might be, just small snippets.  They come on unexpectedly and without warning, just a flash.  So thrilling and strange.

Organized body, disorganized body

gandhari

Dear Meryem,

Today I played with messiness, or at least with not obsessing about clean, clear lines flowing through to the impossible end…..ok, actually I have never been that interested in clean, clear lines, I like messiness, unfinished-ness, movement  resolving itself by being unresolved, I guess essentially, by morphing.

Organized body, disorganized body.

It is all from where you are looking, a view point, a curiosity, a filter on where one stands in organized/disorganized spectrum?  I remember working with dancers years ago, in the most naive way, thinking I could easily share the techniques I had been practicing for years in India with them in a very short time simply because they were dancers.  Clearly it did not work, the reaction was full effort and enthusiasm with an aura of strangeness, a why-ness, a this does not make sense-ness about the inquiry.  So I decided to look underneath the forms I was training in. See what was below the lines and places, how they organized the body and space (or disorganized them) to articulate something different that was not dependent on the repetition of a strictly defined technique but could offer a way of questioning, a way of seeking, a way of experiencing.

I am interested in how things self organize: I rarely ask my body to yield to some outer form, or a form pre imagined or strived for….not that I have never chased those dreams or followed those practices.  They are important, they make a base of grammar for the body, an evolving language; physical and energetic. But to be honest I have had more fun allowing those forms and rules to fall away over the years only to discover that they are still there, strong and resonate when needed and soft and messy when not.

Today’s rehearsal: Walking practice. Morphing Practice. Climbing Practice. Climbing with a jacket over my head (I am pretty into changing senses and body architecture in these past few rehearsals).

Here is some automatic writing from rehearsal

Walking Practice

Measuring space with my body. Space measuring my body. Advancing, retreating. Something that seems so linear but actually pours sand through my body. Subtle weight shifts. A ricochet of oblique-ness. A present-ness. A worshiping of simplicity. An easy sway. Warm tissues.

Morphing Practice

Big toes up.  Lines through the center, radiating.  Like a toy on its collapsing base; somehow always able to pull back up but the whole physical mirage just does not support ideas of fixedness, of strengthening through fixing or placing, but rather softening.   Hands, palms, weight, pressure, energy, expanding out into space, following the memory of a movement.

Climbing Practice

Something old about this way of moving. Hands and feet make the ends of a constantly shifting spine.  A falling upward. Palms of hands. Souls of feet. Spaces of toes. Easy breath. Changing view. No view, no direct sight. Body sight. Breathe sight. Absolute sensation and no context of ground or air. The hotness of a head covered and the challenge of breathing.  Leaning and resting, working with function and not an idea or aesthetic. Finding support by leaning, by being in places of slant, a state of resistance that can be challenging but cooperative, collaborative in a way that I will not fall (again from Stumbling dance).  Subverting verticality.

Also ps. I was totally sick yesterday………

xo

b

Different relationships to Effort and Mobility

Dear Meryem,

I have been working with verticality and horizontality, with messiness, and with virtuosity.  I have been exploring Mallakhamb, a style of Indian aerial rope that I had a brief period of engagement with in 2010 but have never gone back to.  It does multidimensionality and virtuosity and depends entirely on the grip of the big toes to support you, which is so delicate but is meant to hook into a deep internal line of power in the body….it actually is quite painful at the start but there is something beautifully simple about it and it moves in such opposite ways to most other styles of aerial work that is it great to have an interruption to the way I approach movement.

I am continuing to unpack from your last writings, taking those notions into rehearsal. Wondering about colonized bodies, about settlers bodies, about nomadic bodies. I am interested in the idea of the giving up of verticality , the question of what happens when one gives up the privilege of the vertical and enters into a different relationship to effort and mobility. (from Stumbling dance: William L’s crawls)

Here is some automatic writing after rehearsal. (3min practice)

The big toe line.  Gently lifting my big toes, allowing my feet to round and cup, feeling the pull up through my bodies centre, some deep energetic line of the body, like a magnetic pole, a pulling , and organizing, a subtle but deep internal support.

Climbing a rope, propelled by my toes, this line active.  The lift of my big toes does something that lifts my body, propelling it upwards, strength, delicacy, horizontal engagement for verticle propulsion, upward, sideways and around.  The soles of my feet remembering the palms of my hands, my head remembering the space of my pelvis as the body inverts and changes position orientating itself around memory spaces.

mallakhamb

Clearly this is not what I am doing but there is something about using verticality in a subversive way that brings in the different relationship to effort and mobility. xo b

Porous Identity

Hi Brandy,

Writing from home, 2 days after rehearsal in the studio at collective space. Yesterday was Guru Purnima. We had a special event at the meditation centre with lots of meditation. Unfortunately I had to leave the event early… I’ve been sick.

I’ve been thinking more about morphing and shifting identity. Porous identity.

Automatic writing

Porous identity – allowing memories to shift and create a vivid experience in the present, like sand flowing from one hand to to the other shifting constantly, pouring, pourous – not holding its, flowing, fleeting in the past, morphing to the future, never arriving. Who am I? Is there a need to know who I am as a separate identity? This identity that closes itself from the rest, from the walls of heavy materialism, the matter…

The obsession to create an identity to be understood, recognized, seen. Is this branding?

Is identity about being seen? About being remembered? Morphing identity confuses the expectation. Does a morphing identity erase the “I”?

Porous permeable to outside influences

Aren’t we all and everything?

Here is what I practiced

Bruce’s walk

Continue morphing through movement

Morphing through voicing

Verticality – Horizontality

Dear Brandy,

The morphology on the piece of paper – telepathy?

I read this: ‘If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art.’ – Bruce Nauman in conversation with Ian Wallace and Russell Keziere, Vanguard, Vol. 8 #1, 1979

A simple natural act transformed, so as to reevaluate it – like walking. I’ll play with that in the studio next.

On Monday, I got in the collective space for the first time to work on our Psychic Choreography. I associate this space with you, so I felt I was entering your world from being there. Becoming acquainted with the new space, with its history, the smells and traces of your absent presence, and all the bodies that occupy or have occupied that space.

I was paying attention to the silence within the studio, the verticality of the space, and the light. The light spreading on the walls and surfaces on the floor.

Interruptions…

I’m continuing to read ‘Exhausting Dance’, now on stumbling dance.

Messiness, falling, temporal and geometrical instability. Verticality and horizontality.

William Pope.L performing crawls, “disturbing proper functioning”. There is a lot in this!

Seismological ground, not stable, not flat.

I used that for some time in the space, in my body, then I started thinking about presence and visibility. What shows in our bodies? What is visible, what can be seen, and what is not seen even if it is present? Am I a colonized body?

visibility – invisibility

concealing – revealing

organized body – disorganized body

western – eastern

what if organization was different? Logic and intellect are associated with organization. What about organization in chaos? Is there organization in devotion?

Then I did a short ballet-centre barre and spent a good chunk of time playing with high legs, flexibility, traveling through space, attempting to embody ahtleticism, using the history of the space as a guide, or to frame it better, my perception of the history of the space as a guiding element. Is there a link between athleticism and organization? And with efficiency? With perfectionism and ideality?

To go back to “morphology”: the word ‘morphologie’ in French is used very often to refer to the general physical constitution of the person, and I heard it a lot when growing up in Morocco in my family circles among women to refer to their shape… with which they were often unhappy with…

– meryem

morphologie

Transformation is Performed

Dear Meryem,

Morph: undergo or cause to undergo a gradual process of transformation

Metamorphoses: a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completey different one, by natural or supernatural means

Morphology: the study of the forms of things

in particular

Biology: the branch of biology that deals with the form of living organisms, and with relationships between their structures

and

Linguistics: the study of the forms of words

Ology: a subject of study, a branch of knowledge

Morphing, metamorphoses, morphology, ology. Such an interesting proposition to study morphing by not allowing things to come to a completion but allow them to continually become, arise, shift.  A deep listening.  I realize throughout rehearsal I do not actually know when things end or complete…..its amplification shifts, diverts, re invents itself.  My mind softens, nothing necessarily ends, it changes, renews, dissolves, speeds up, slows down, interrupts, frustrates, seduces……

I feel my body morph, pulled by magnetic lines of energy re organizing shifting forms.  I time travel through my histories; a dancing body in India engaged in a never ending plie/chaulk/dharn….bare feet on a dry mud studio, outdoors. A martial body, covered in oil and mud morphing from lion, elephant, horse, peacock, wild boar, fish and serpent.  Hands morphing from gestures, functionality, holding weapons, feeding myself, climbing ropes, climbing trees, mudras, hastas….listening to the pull.

I am never sure when I have arrived or completed a gesture or a position.

Performing transformation, or rather transformation is performed.

Maybe this is what your audience felt?

Is it psychic?  Is it a way of watching?  Is it both?

I watch everything with my full body and full senses.  Sometimes I close my eyes and feel the energy emanating off the stage/space.  I drop into other frequencies. Sometimes I stretch my body across the auditorium and try to merge with the performers, see the work from their eyes, be with them in their bodies.   When I am moving/performing I work from a place of “the body becomes all eyes”….a saying popular in kalarippayattu,  a great movement mantra for me: inner eyes, outer eyes, remembrances of past spaces, future spaces, eyes that shift through time, third eyes, eyes on the palms of my hands, the souls of my feet.

I continue the walking practice, a morphing practice, a reading practice (Exhausting Dance), a sitting meditation practice, a writing practice. I leave you with a short video of a Theyyam I attended 2 years ago in Kerala.  It catches a moment of trance that is transformation performed, possession and morphing. xxo b

https://vimeo.com/134785952 IMG_2114