Day 4 Endurance


day 4 sun rui

(I am aware that I am not asking questions of the work as I said I would do on day 1.  I am not asking questions of relational aesthetics, ecological practice, devising processes, cultural difference, language translation, and choreographic practice. Nor am I asking questions of the dancers’ relationship with Kerry, how knowledge is transferred, the mirror techniques, the affects and attunements of the process. Nor am I making parallels with theories and philosophies that emerge from the work.  The immediate is too present! I am simply writing what happens in the studio – for now).


Weifou is not here, he is in hospital, with an old back injury.  5 dancers again. Plans are scuppered for this morning.

Kerry begins with Zhao zhibou and Wu shuei, working with the obstruction duet; cleaning, finding stops, extending lines, sorting phrasing, making, breaking. Kerry pulls out moments, signposting points that consequently have a shared consciousness.  With her interventions, she enters into the duet, creates fissures, and cracks in the material. These moments become points of shared awareness, beginnings and ends of phrases, places from which to start, pick up and continue.  Shared ownership.

What began as an obstruction, an interruption to the material, has become a movement. The cut becomes a space, the space becomes a movement.

Kerry works on a new solo for Sun rui, testing their relational contact through the sharing of the material. His long thin legs go up and up.

Men — back to the leg/arm phrase. — with a new front, facing the windows.  Ladies  — facing the back of the space.  Men once through without arms, then ladies join, all do the leg phrase with arms.

Kerry is beginning to layer the material in the space, bodies in space and time.

Afternoon session.

2pm start. But no one is ready. Two dancers are asleep and no one else is here.  2.20 the dancers have arrived but no one has warmed up.  Kerry decides to talk with them, even thought there is no interpreter.

I am getting a little unhappy, this may be a cultural thing, but in UK if class begins at 9.40am then dancers are in the space warmed up and ready to go. Here, you are asleep. If I say rehearsal begins at 2pm, I mean 2pm… I need you with me.

Kerry gets the message across positively and respectfully, yet clearly. She needs the dancers to be with her for the length of the rehearsal.  The dancers tell us that this two weeks is summer holiday time, and they are coming in especially to do the project. Perhaps this contextual information helps to explain their attitude.

I can feel Kerry’s frustration in my body. I know that feeling of expecting to work with dancers and finding them low, tired, with sleepy energy – how difficult it is to lift their energy – I feel myself dropping and with that goes confidence. The relational contact breaks down. I see it happening here with Kerry. Her talk with them helps to catch that feeling early.  She is so ready, so ‘up’, speeding, moving three paces ahead, punching the air, driving the beat, hauling the dancers along with her. If they drag behind it is five times more exhausting for her to keep going at this pace. (Many questions here of ways of devising/directing).

Kerry is crafting, structuring material. The dancers are spaced in a flat horizontal line, coming forward, men in unison, and women in unison. Adding new material as she goes. The line travels down front, with sharp cutting movements, one gesture for each beat, each gesture thrusts in a new direction.   Nothing is smooth; all is fractured; yet the shards create a whole. The solo material coming forward in the line breaks into duet material.

The dancers copy the material beautifully, immediately after Kerry demonstrates. Yet retaining this image in their bodies appears to be more of a challenge. The tendency is to lose not only the shape of the gesture, which inevitably includes a multiplicity of specific directions in space, but also the ability to shift between movements with clarity. Wang lei and Wang yabin have this ability. On the other dancers the material can look mushy, lacking articulation and precision, details are compromised.  If the dancers work a little slower they find the clarity. Working at Kerry’s speed is a new experience for them.  (Again questions here of devising methodologies).

I go next door.

Wang mei is on her stomach demonstrating how the legs scissor and slide. Yes, they are still on the floor, working slowly. Wang mei has a blister on her elbow. I am not surprised!  She is waiting for a plaster.

I leave and go back next door.

Contrast – POW! Kerry is asking the dancers to do the next run full out, so she can see if her answers work. Kerry is going even faster, pumping out her counts. The dancers are straining, staggering, but they are with her.

So, what is the intention here, working fast with movement in a complexity of directions?

This seems to be becoming a challenge of power and endurance — can the performers keep up?  Will Kerry give a break in the marathon?

This is a challenge of technical skill, will power and stamina for the dancers.  Is that the core of the work?

We are inside the engine of a technical dance language, (we are inside the racer that is Wayne McGregor!). And what history do these dancers have of Wayne’s work. Do they know the context in which they are working?   There is a myth that if dancers are not working full out when Wayne enters the studio, he might decide to get on with something else. (A myth, but there is something here about  the need for dancers and choreographer to meet and match creative energy). Kerry carries  this legacy. She has to – she has a piece to make. Yet she does not want to set up a hierarchy of power and fear.  Testing testing. Driving on (edited august 3rd).

Would it be useful for the dancers to learn more of the context, to watch some DVDs of Wayne’s work for instance?

Scaffolding is being erected on the windows outside. Men are walking on single planks and poles, constructing the platforms, 8 floors up, without harnesses attached. Another test of endurance?

Men, do you remember this phrase? Kerry goes through one of the phrases she taught them.

Task: Work a version of that phrase on the floor.

Task for the women:

Take the letters: C L E A V E

Take 6 body parts: left side of the ribcage, sternum, hip, shoulder blade, foot and ear.

Take each letter and each body part and find a movement to describe it on the floor.

Write on the floor as if writing in the sand.

The 6 movements should flow.

How Kerry relates to the dancers influences the material that is made. Her fighting energy brings the attack and drive into the work. Translation of language is not just about the content, or the ‘what’, but the ‘how’, the quality of the translation, the style of contact and transference.

The men play as children, making a compelling piercing phrase.  How can this child like creative enthusiasm be contained? Will the articulation be retained tomorrow? Explosive energy comes in waves, it is unsteady, unpredictable, dazzling. When it is not there we have fuzzy, mushy, unarticulated scratchy, fiddly, sloppy dancing. I am not sure these young dancers know how to sustain and contain energy.

Kerry works with Wang lei for another 15 minutes, extending his solo.

This is perfect, this quality is perfect, this is just what I want.

I agree.

I go next door to Wang mei.

Although continuing to work on the floor the dancers have changed position in space. They are sitting up, facing the window, in a vertical line upstage. They continue to work with the movements of babies, and the contradictions between pedestrian released gestures, precise timing and exact unison, which gives the work a quality of taut simplicity.

They work on the moment of change between the horizontal line and the vertical line, who goes where, and who moves first, to achieve the shift in two beats, 7,8. There is much laughter and discussion, as they try to accomplish this task. It is achieved by using less effort, going there directly without wasting energy.

I am caught up again by the difference.

For Wang mei less is more, movements are stripped to a bare minimalism, requiring concentration on details of placement and timing with a centered stillness and core strength.

For Kerry, energy is pounding outwards, attack is outward, stamina and technical brilliance are always required, in a survival of the fittest.

Wang mei has until November to make the piece.

Kerry has two weeks.

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