elegant distortion and markets

October 23, 2009
Elegant distortions and markets
Only a short time in Tiechun’s room today. The problem is in this job of observing and blogging, one’s heart and attention is always divided because I have to move from one dance-making session to the next and they are happening simultaneously. Further complications: Jonathan has an interpreter assigned him no matter what, so the interpretation there is guaranteed and I am not totally lost in my own intuitive translation. But with Tiechun, who is always commenting directly to the dancers before, during, after, the dancing, even when the Mozart’s Mass in C minor is blasting decibels beyond our hearing capacity. I cannot understand his comments and need an interpreter, but it seems their times and hours are loosely defined. Luckily my student/friend, Min Zhu from the University of Washington is able to help too. I am very interested in what a choreographer critiques and how they say it and amend it as they watch their dancers deal with the text/meaning and stream it into their bodies and movement. When you teach dance technique, you never know if your exact correction or encouragement will really hit home and work for a student’s physical performance and focus, and their creativity.

Jonathan and Carolyn
Today is a short day with only the morning in the studio, but with new material, and new instructions. This is just fragment from Cao Yu’s play Beijing Ren (Beijing Man), but now reduced to one sentence and a longer response by one character. The instructions are 1) to have their own physical encounter with the text and avoid “meaning making” 2) (they drew names so they have one person in their group as their secret person) to have this encounter as the other person. So you have to become as much like that person, thinking of how you really know them inside out. You know their movement choices and how they move. Jonathan includes that this should not be to make fun of them in any way.
The dancers move to the floor and start working. A note on the text: It is one character’s short explanation of Tea culture, “Yes, talking about tea, …whenever he drinks tea, he has to first rinse his mouth, light incense, and meditate. …tea is only a way to satisfy our thirst, but to him, it is a philosophy, to do with taste and discernment.”
He just starts coupling these and we go to lunch to get “costumes” from the market and the mall. This is another whole adventure, strange, just looking for pants and t-shirts can be an encounter with material consumption.
Tiechun’s Twisting Bodies continue
After a long interview with him yesterday, I ended yesterday seeing their bent over from the waist crisscross walk from folk tradition (now upside down). Then he was have them put their hands or fists on the ground and literally stomp with their hands like the hoofs of a horse, or something like that but it was twisted and percussive. They practiced it over and over and over and over again finding rhythm in the percussive jabbing thuds of their feet and feet.
Today I return and they are doing the figure 8 turned in a near slow motion, still bent over from the waist but now the arms float up like the curving oppositional arms of the walk. Are they elegant ostriches? They remind me of egrets too or blue herons whose long long legs make them totally elegant in their picking and dipping for bugs and small sea creatures off the surface of the water or land.
Elegant yet he is asking them to bend their legs more, keep the knees in, float the arms up, and twist to one side until you can no longer go that direction, then start the spiral back the other way. Twist all the way, go further and it is becomes distorted and elegant. Tiechun finds these lovely contradictions. He amplified the cracks and pops in the old but beautiful phonograph record. Perhaps folk patterns are so deeply imbedded in our muscles and minds, we can only twist them, contort them, but not loose or destroy them?
Min notices how the dancers in both rooms use the front facing so much. Is this the use of the mirror now or is it from proscenium-based presentational dances that demand this frontal facing?

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