DANSCROSS 2009 » Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog Dancing in a shaking world Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:31:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Wang Mei interview http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-10-11-later/669 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-10-11-later/669#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2009 17:49:39 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=669 Interview with Wang Mei August 7th

Translator: Xu Rui.

Interviewer: Emilyn (transcribed September 2nd)

Xu Rui’s presence as the translator was integral to the interview process. However, I have edited the text to reflect a direct dialogue between Wang Mei and myself.

Emilyn: I am fascinated in your process and I would like to know more about your work. I would like to ask about your concerns in this piece. Perhaps we [...]]]> Interview with Wang Mei August 7th

Translator: Xu Rui.

Interviewer: Emilyn (transcribed September 2nd)

Xu Rui’s presence as the translator was integral to the interview process. However, I have edited the text to reflect a direct dialogue between Wang Mei and myself.

Emilyn: I am fascinated in your process and I would like to know more about your work. I would like to ask about your concerns in this piece. Perhaps we could start with the wider context of your work?

Wang Mei: What I am concerned with most is my current personal feeling, about life, the reality of living — people.

Rather than the codified dance?


Does that thread through all your work?

Yes. I would like to say I do not like dancing at all. (We laugh).

Yes I can appreciate that. We have choreographers in the UK who are concerned to find the real pedestrian body in the performance rather than the codified body…

So, what about this piece? What are your particular concerns for this piece?

Concerning this piece, there should be two layers, one is about myself, my own feelings about life and reality. Another layer is about the theme of The Shaking World, the theme of this project. About this theme –we have quite a lot of international communication and exchange. Many Chinese artists, when they have the chance to exchange with foreign culture, they have a kind of feeling they are not as good as the foreign artists. This is to do with cultural difference, and Chinese artists are not very confident. I think this is not good, that before you begin to do something you feel you are not as good as foreign artists.

I imagine this has gone on for a long time, this sense of hierarchy. Have you felt it here during this two weeks?

It is not a question about right or wrong, it is nothing personal, it is the history. We have this feeling, passed down. For example, During the Qing Dynasty, China was very strong and everybody would learn Chinese.  Now we have a strong influence from the Western world and we speak English. It is like a standard and we pay attention to the Western ways.

Yes, I see it on the subway here, there are little TV screens, portraying Western faces, and the worst of American advertising, and I want to say, no, no, don’t go there, don’t go there! In a project like this, I would like see how we can begin to unravel this unevenness — I am not sure if that is happening?

I was in France several years ago for the international competition and the foreign artists I met were very kind. Facing them I never felt uneven or unequal. That is why I think it is not the foreign people’s problem but a problem of ourselves, how we look at our tradition. As a consequence, sometimes Chinese artists will focus on our own tradition a lot,  so people can see it is Chinese, what is really Chinese. I do not think that is right thing to do. That is why I decided not to do Chinese dance in this project, but to focus on my own ideas.

As I observe the work next door and the work in here, I notice a big difference. If I was to compare the pieces I would say that Kerry’s movement cuts the space while your movement absorbs the space. It is not that one is better or worse, just different. So I am curious about the idea of emptiness rather than fullness in your work. I am wondering if that is part of your process?

I think the issue of space is the biggest issue for a choreographer. You mentioned fullness and emptiness, this is very important. If you have the right quality you will have the big space, but if you do not have the quality you have just a small space.

I am reminded here how every small movement is magnified because it is given time and space… Is there anything more you would like to say about the piece?

The original idea comes from a little event in my teaching last year. I was teaching the graduate class majoring in modern dance. And we were going to make a full length ballet together, all the students of this class. Then the students had a discussion to decide whether they wanted to do this or not. But only a few students wanted to do this, so the four dancers you see in this piece are the students who said yes. They have graduated now. I really wanted to put my personal feelings into this piece, the relationships between people. There is something not serious but playful about it. The starting point was an ancient Chinese poem that is hard to translate. A feeling that in the middle of your life, after a lot of experiences of life, you have a kind of understanding. You want to say something but you cant say it in words. I chose this subtle feeling about life as a starting point.

I am picking up on you telling me that only 4 dancers wanted to do this piece — so where is your place in Beijing as an artist?  Is your work supported? Or do all the dancers want to do technical spectacle? Is there support in Beijing for your work?

It is nothing about the piece itself. It is a personal understanding about life or art. My life or my world is different from yours, but I cant require you to follow me.

But the performance by Yabin last night was very different. So I am wondering how your work is placed in Beijing? The language is different.

Oh yea.  There is a big problem about the attitude. China is changing very fast, Beijing city is changing every day. You go to some area, say the eastern area, and you go there the next day and it is changed. In this very fast rhythm of life, people are rushing, they don’t want to stop, they don’t want to concentrate on something.

So in your work you are slowing down. How do you want the performers to perform, what is you concern with performing presence?

Of course there are a lot of details and requirements about the technique and the movement. Yet there is a basic concept about the performing and presentation. I ask each dancer to be ‘human’ not a ‘dancer’. Because there are dance performers who create a big distance between the audience and the performers and I want to close that gap, to be human. 


]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-10-11-later/669/feed 2
Day 9 Issues emerging http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-issues-emerging/554 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-issues-emerging/554#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2009 01:33:06 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=554 Issues emerging – welcome discussion and expansion.

The different uses of time and space by the two choreographers. The aesthetics of the different movement languages, classical, fragmented, hybrid, pedestrian. Generic histories of movement languages. Embodying language, outside in and/or inside out. Questions of performing presence — when the dancing stops. Translation and how meaning shifts [...]]]>
Issues emerging – welcome discussion and expansion.

  • The different uses of time and space by the two choreographers.
  • The aesthetics of the different movement languages,  classical, fragmented, hybrid, pedestrian.
  • Generic histories of  movement languages.
  • Embodying language, outside in and/or inside out.
  • Questions of performing presence — when the dancing stops.
  • Translation and how meaning shifts between languages.
  • Communication of ideas verbally and bodily.
  • Devising processes:  hierarchical, directorial, collaborative, collective.
  • Writing processes – writing in the present, past and future.
  • Appropriations, expectations, myths, generalizations and ignorances that inform our current knowledge of Chinese/European dance cultures.

Unfortunately I have to leave Beijing before the final day’s showings.  

Although I missed the final day, I saw a full run of both pieces at the end of the previous day. I have these on film, and hope to find a way to upload them.

I was most surprised by Wang mei’s piece. Most rehearsals I had watched over the previous days were spent discussing small details,  and I saw only fragments of the whole. Now I see the piece complete I am  amazed by its tight fit to the music. The movement follows the phrasing and qualities of the Bach music exactly. Choreographically this is clever,  I am drawn to the exactness and the detail and layering of movement, by the fact that the dancers never stand up, that small pedestrian gestures become stylised. However for me, the movement language, which is unconventional and beautifully minimal, loses some of its power when fitted so tightly to the sound score. The piece becomes more like a musical study and loses some of the emotional power I had seen on previous days.  This tight relationship to the music brings it closer to Kerry’s choreography, where all movement is fitted to the music,  and there is only occasional pause for breath. The challenge for the dancers in Kerry’s piece is to find the human-ness in performing the material, particularly how performers look at each other and support each other.  Also, the fast rhythm tends to influence the size of the movement, which gets smaller, therefore the material no longer looks fast.  The challenge is to expand into space rather than tightening, in order to increase the impression of risk taking speed. 

On Day 9 & 10 Naomi and I decided to interview all the dancers. I also interview Wang mei about her choreography.  These will be added as soon as we have transcribed the material. In between inerviewing I watch Kerry rehearsing the dances. Cleaning the material, fine tuning the phrasing, and counts, looking for the stillness, the held moments, tableaus between dancers. Running the piece again and again, building stamina and confidence. Her assured energy in the directorial role continues to inspire the dancers, to keep them going. Kerry understands the need to find a rhythm in the day’s energy, not to flag, not to lose the momentum, otherwise dancers become exhausted. Dropping energy and then having to find it again is so much harder than staying energized throughout the session.  Liminality of time might offer potential as a creative space for choreographers, but for dancers’ bodies in action it is slow road to collapse.  Teachers know this, choreographers tend to forget. Kerry is also a good teacher!

http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-issues-emerging/554/feed 0
Day 9 Qualities http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-qualities/548 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-qualities/548#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2009 01:12:23 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=548 Walking — what happens when dancing stops and walking begins. Can the dancers break out of dance code to walk from A to B, or will the walk become a codified statement? Does walking constitute a gap in the dancing, a pragmatic move from A to B, or is it a full statement. Is a [...]]]> Walking — what happens when dancing stops and walking begins. Can the dancers break out of dance code to walk from A to B, or will the walk become a codified statement? Does walking constitute a gap in the dancing, a pragmatic move from A to B, or is it a full statement. Is a gap a statement? Kerry is asking for urgency, a presence, in the walk, yet not codified, I wonder how this is being interpreted – as grandly present, or internally focused, in time to the music or just an embodied moment of walking.

Looking — how do the dancers see each other? At present they work in duets with no eye contact, body-to-body, soldier-to-soldier, waiting for the beat to begin, and then bang into the fast partner work — the meetings between them are coldly robotic. What is Random’s aesthetic on looking? Kerry begins to address this, looking for the links into partner work so there is continuity between meeting and dancing. For me, the dancers are mirror bound, they see themselves and each other in the mirror, and I don’t sense they are in contact with each other relationally, as different live bodies.

Endings — allow yourself to breath, settle, allowing you to register the end of the duet, before walking off. How much of this is translated?  Or is the image of pausing before walking off stage copied from Kerry’s demonstration? How does this become assimilated internally? Does it matter? How do you perform pause?

Throughout this creative process, learning has been externally directed, and then internally assimilated.   Mirror learning.  Remembered by image. So the code is transferred. Question — what is the relationship here between semiotic and symbolic language, how does one inform the other on the dancer’s body?

Run through of 1st section.

Links have been made, for Yabin’s solo; this is stronger with Zhibo added.

Links made into Sun rui and Zhibo’s duet at end of section.

Much smoother links into men’s feet and arms phrase.

Kerry has changed Wang lei’s ending. While the others walk upstage, he walks down stage and goes into his initial move at the beginning of the piece.  Bookends, nice. Of course this adds an accessible narrative!

End of the day and Kerry is aware of a ‘larking about’ atmosphere in the studio, like school kids anxious to get out to play.

The quicker we can do these two runs the quicker we can go home.

I like a relaxed atmosphere, but I get a sense when it gets to much fun it gets uncontrollable. Especially when you are tired, if one person laughs, then two people laugh, then it goes crazy. Then you are having a party and I don’t know what is going on.  I need you to focus otherwise I don’t know if my decisions are correct.  So focus for me for another 20 minutes. Also, try not to laugh at each other, be supportive. I know this material is strange.  No we don’t feel strange, it is normal now.  I think you look beautiful I am proud of what you have done…

The dancers tell Kerry that it does not feel strange any longer; the movement language is assimilated into their bodies.  So this brings another question — if the material feels comfortable then is that an achievement — or is it the discomfort, the strangeness, that actually defines the quality of the material?  So — are the dancers’ aiming for comfort in their dancing? Or can Kerry encourage them to continually question and play with the movement to ensure that it retains its strange awkward-ness.  For the awkward fractured quality of Random’s work is its strength.

Run through 200% then home!

http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-9-qualities/548/feed 1
Day 8 Wang mei http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-wang-mei/516 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-wang-mei/516#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2009 05:50:58 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=516 Wang mei rehearsal video

I enter as a discussion is in process about how far to drop their heads as they sit on the floor.

…Time passes, I am watching them all lying on their backs. They are now discussing exactly how Wang mei wants them to initiate arching their necks so that their [...]]]> Wang-Mei's-Rehearsal
Wang mei rehearsal video

I enter as a discussion is in process about how far to drop their heads as they sit on the floor.

…Time passes, I am watching them all lying on their backs. They are now discussing exactly how Wang mei wants them to initiate arching their necks so that their eyes can look back behind. A very slight movement, imperceptible at first, grows out of nothing. They expand the very start of the gesture as their hair slides on the floor. Does it begin with the movement of the eyes, or the shift in the neck? Nothing becomes something.  Something small becomes magnified.

Today I interviewed Wang Mei. Hopefully it can be loaded onto the blog site.  It was informative. However by the time my questions/comments were translated, and Wang mei had responded, and then her words translated back to me, I was left feeling that the response seemed to have moved away from the question to a new place, which took the dialogue in another direction and opened up other questions.  Dare I say it – we seemed to be playing Chinese whispers!

I will see about transcribing the interview or uploading it in iTunes format.

A crucial point I remember – Wang mei is not interested in technical codified dancing, she is interested in working with dancers as people, to explore human-ness, human gesture, rather than dance technique.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-wang-mei/516/feed 0
Day 8 preparing the ending http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-preparing-the-ending/513 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-preparing-the-ending/513#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2009 05:46:52 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=513 day 8 beginning

I spent the morning writing up yesterday’s process.


Kerry is talking to the dancers -

— You know the sextet, the lifting phrase altogether? Well good news, it is scrapped.

Kerry sets new line material, as a possible ending and echoing the earlier line material. Three A dancers and three [...]]]> day 8 beginning

I spent the morning writing up yesterday’s process.


Kerry is talking to the dancers -

 — You know the sextet, the lifting phrase altogether?  Well good news, it is scrapped.

Kerry sets new line material, as a possible ending and echoing the earlier line material. Three A dancers and three B dancers. A’s are in unison, B’s are in unison. Kerry teaches two phrases of 8. This is gestural with arms, elbows and hands featuring. She then works another phrase of 8, new duet material, still in the line. She works fast, without hesitation, phrases constructed before the rehearsal began.  There is no break in the rhythm of her delivery of material.  She continues for the 4th phrase of 8, with a reworking of each dancer’s solo, which they perform together in the line, before walking upstage for 4 counts to end.

It is all in the preparation! To reach the ending within the time available, the preparations need to be thoroughly considered, which I imagine Kerry does before entering the studio. To prepare, Kerry will need to unweave from the final image, back to the first figure, in order to choreograph forward to the final image. E.g. Everybody turns and walks 4 steps upstage with her/his right leg first, which means each preceding solo needs to end with the right leg free, which affects how each solo begins, and how each solo begins depends on each dancer’s placing in the new line material, so this spacing needs to be considered before the line material is choreographed in order that the follow on material can unfold from there. And of course before any of this can happen, Kerry has decided on how many beats and phrases of 8 she requires, so that the final image will meet the end of the music.

At the end of the day I see a run of the last section of the piece.   Bother – the music ends before the material. Somewhere there is an overspill.  Kerry unravels, tightening up a few moments to see if the material will fit.  It does, tight. No gaps, no letting go, no moments of rupture or empty time. No time to breathe out.

I notice as the dancers get tired, their movements tighten, become small and tense, losing grounded-ness, breath and risk. Their gestures hit the space with short punches, rather than extend and thrust into an expanse of space.  When they are tired they work on the surface of their bodies. What they need to do is work deeper as they get tired, finding an economic use of energy that expands from inside out rather than outwards in.

Charlie Balfour has arrived (lighting designer). Just in time to see the first full run today, with 80% energy.

Then another run, 100% energy. No talking on the sides, stay focused for the dancers working in the space.  When it gets fast you need to look at each other, take time to approach each other.  You are a company of 6, not 6 soloists.

The piece is nearly there. A few gaps, a few spacing questions and then the cleaning begins!

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-8-preparing-the-ending/513/feed 0
Day 7 studio 703 real/empty http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-studio-703-realempty/480 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-studio-703-realempty/480#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2009 05:17:35 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=480

wang mei rocking day 7

Wang mei has decided to perform in the work, so now there are 5 performers.

I watch a run of a small section, to music. Dancers are sitting on the floor facing front, swaying slightly, forward and back. I am caught by the concentration, the stillness within the [...]]]> Wang mei with her dancers day 7wang mei day 7

wang mei rocking day 7

Wang mei has decided  to perform in the work, so now there are 5 performers.

I watch a run of a small section, to music. Dancers are sitting on the floor facing front, swaying slightly, forward and back.  I am caught by the concentration, the stillness within the movement, a contained attention to detail, the ability to be empty and full simultaneously.  The minute changes in gesture, for instance one dancer’s change of direction, or an extended rocking that takes a dancer onto his back, becomes magnified, almost a shock.  I am pulled in.

The run through lasts maybe 1 minute.  Then they gather round the video recording, to watch this short section several times, discussing details, shifts in the material.  The attention to detail is astonishing. I am looking at the micro made macro.  I am reminded of that movie about the life of ants, when a blade of grass becomes a tree, and we are looking into a tiny world enlarged.

I sense a collective working together, although Wang mei has the final decisions, different dancers step out to direct material and all the creative discussions and changes are discussed as a group.

I gather that they discussing real and empty.

I am fascinated watching the group work out the subtle differences in a single gesture.  Lifting themselves on their hands, legs straight out in front, they rock sideways in rhythm. The difference between a sharp rocking movement and a swinging rocking movement is discussed at length. The swinging rocking movement is required. They watch each other to perfect this.

Later – after the marathon next door, I come in and slow down.

Five bodies are sitting, facing the mirror, knee tapping and sliding backwards on the floor.

Qier explains to me a little of Wang mei’s working process. For Wang mei, when one dancer is communicating with another, this is reality. If you are working alone you are empty. I interpret this as a play between bein in the world relationally and focusing inwards when alone. Wang mei seeks a co-operation between everybody. Every movement must be comfortable for each person; if one person is uncomfortable then the movement will be changed. Each dancer has a different movement, yet they work together in unison, so each person can see the other do his/her movement. They are working with an inside awareness as well as the outside image, to come into together differently in unison.

I need a deeper understanding of her methods. I arrange to interview Wang mei tomorrow at 5pm.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-studio-703-realempty/480/feed 0
Day 7 30 minute marathon http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-back-changing/477 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-back-changing/477#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2009 04:44:35 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=477 sun rui & weifeng day 7

marathon trio: working it out day 7

Kerry has listed the methods she uses when teaching and transferring knowledge of her movement language to students and dancers. This also represents the qualities that are important to her. I attach an image here.

Task (new material):


sun rui & weifeng day 7

marathon trio: working it out day 7

Kerry's teachings methods day 7

Kerry has listed the methods she uses when teaching and transferring knowledge of her movement language to students and dancers.  This also represents the qualities that are important to her. I attach an image here.

Task (new material):

Insertion into the quartet.

All four dancers working together.

Choose moments of stop in the quartet. Insert a ‘fall’, ‘rotation’, ‘flight’ and ‘catch’.

Then continue with the material.

Three stops, three insertions.

Kerry describes the difference between ‘flight’ and ‘lift’.  In a lift, you stay in contact, in flight you come out of contact, travel through space and then you are caught.

They begin to work, they have 10 minutes, while Kerry shapes Weifeng’s solo and his duet with Sun rui. Yes Weifeng is back so the full cast is present. Kerry choreographs Weifeng to walk in from upstage, Sun rui to catch him in a lift before he stops.

Kerry uses the term exquisite to describe Sun rui’s movement quality. Attempting to explain the term to the translator takes me to the dictionary definition

ex·qui·site adj

1.            very beautiful and delicate or intricate

2.            perfect and delightful

3.            sensitive and capable of detecting subtle differences

4.            felt with a sharp intensity

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999

The atmosphere in the studio is vibrant, active, full of creative input, from Kerry, photographers, observers, dancers and translator.

Kerry returns to the quartet, to see the material.

The task has been misunderstood; they have been working in pairs rather than as a group of four.

Kerry explains again. I should see just one fall, one rotation, on flight, one catch. There is one action and it does not matter who does it, but you work as a group.

That is a lift, not a flight.

Even if I am over there, I am always watching!

Kerry is happy with the atmosphere in the studio, everybody working. I sense it too. This is not just about a discipline and a shared creative focus. When dancers are scattered, working in different pockets of the space like this, highly energized, they simulate the desired structure of the choreography, as different layers of material and focus happening simultaneously.  So the dancers begin to live the style and the process becomes the choreography.


We are going for a marathon. 30 minutes of new material. And Kerry is going to work fast! She begins by talking with the translator, explaining certain terms that she is going to use with the dancers, so the translator is ready to translate fast.

You will say the word after me quickly, and then they respond quickly. So I will say, catch, drag, and fall. I will say: one person is the pencil, and another person is going to draw with them, draw in space. I will say ‘find the sky’, limbs — connect and rotate. I will say the floor, the ceiling, and behind, (which is not about turning their backs, but about being aware of something behind them). I will say up and down, backwards and forwards, ‘move your heart sideways’,  ‘filling ribcage with air’, sternum, elbow, change facing, lift, a lift that changes position in space. I will say point as in point at something with a body part.

I want the dancers to make decisions without talking, I want their bodies to answer, to go immediately, to get quicker at making decisions, I am going to direct them with an instruction, I would like you to instruct back loudly, so it goes: English, Chinese, body, English, Chinese body, English Chinese body’ so they don’t have time for thinking.  We are working with ‘back changing’. I will keep going back to the beginning. Make a phrase, remember it, go back to the beginning, repeat, add on, remember, go back to beginning, repeat, add on, remember and back to the beginning. I would like you to be urgent and focused for 30 minutes.  We need to be really clear so we can direct them. We are going to label each dancer as A, B, C and I shall refer to the dancers by these letters.

The translator asks – what is ‘connect’?

Kerry demonstrates two limbs connecting.

Try to be instinctive, not planned. I will lead, but you be there.

Kerry is riding high, well in control and directing with style.

All of this is then explained to the dancers.

We are not talking; we are solving the task without talking. For 30 minutes, we don’t have water, we don’t look at our phones, we don’t go home, 30 minutes of an urgent energy…

Kerry divides group into two trios, Wang lei, Sun rui, Wang yabin and Weifeng, Wu shuai, Zhao zhibo.  Each trio is given a piece of paper with 6 written numbers.

Label yourself A, B or C in your group.

Have water before we start.

The 30-minute marathon begins.

I find myself carried into the marathon as a writer, attempting to catch what happens, staying in the moment, forgetting to breathe, no pause to think, just writing. And it went something like this (I have included some commentary although this could be extracted to get a better sense of the rhythm of the work):

No more talking.

A have a look at your piece of paper.  Use B as a pencil, quick.  C punctuate a point behind you and change direction.  Go. Draw, not like a rag doll, be clear.  C find a point behind and change direction.

Dancers are somewhat dazed; the process is slowed down because of translation.  Like Kerry has bundled them all into a train and the doors have closed. They are off but they don’t know where they are going.

From the beginning.  Once more. Draw, point behind, change direction.

Now C is going to lift B, to change space.

From beginning, and draw, and lift and change space.

No walking, think of a way to get there.

From the beginning, draw, you lift, change space.

From the beginning. Draw, approach, change space.

All look at 2nd letter.  Draw your 2nd letter with your elbows.

From the beginning.

You draw, approach, lift and take space and elbows.

Once more from the beginning. Quick.

Draw, lift, go, elbow.

B & C lift A and change facing.  Don’t talk, do.  This should be a lift.

From beginning, and elbow and lift, change direction.

Kerry demands faster connections between figures.

From the beginning.

And draw, lift, change space, elbow, approach, lift.

C draws with A.

I feel an excitement rising, as I did yesterday at the Great Wall, crowded up against the stone wall, trying to get through a small gap, with thousands of people behind me pushing, like time is ending, like 9am rush hour at Victoria station, like those dreams where you are running very fast and not getting anywhere!!

And draw, and elbow, and lift, change space, and draw and sternum.

Once more.

C get into the lift quicker.

C fall on A and B, A and B catch C.  Go!

A and B drag C.

The scaffolders are back outside, balancing on the bars, no harnesses, hanging nets.

The dancers are safe with their falling, no risk taken. Do they know how to fall?  No time to teach them, no experience of contact impro. They stay safe, falling back with arms outstretched; to be caught almost before the fall begins.

From the beginning.

Draw, lift, change space, draw elbow, lift two people, change space, draw, fall drag.

From the beginning.

B draw the 4th number, using C.  A move your heart sideways and fill ribcage with air.

Kerry demonstrates nothing, all is verbally transferred.

From the beginning. Weifeng –get out quickly.

Lets go.

Dancers are shocked out of patterns, out of careful placing of arms and legs, jump started into movement as task.

Draw, lift, travel the lift, go go go, draw with the elbow, lift, readdress space, and draw, and fall, drag, rotate, draw.

I need to see you fall first then catch, not just catch.

From the beginning, here we go. Keep with it guys.

Kerry is shouting, dancers are looking dazed! But they are with her.

From here A, B & C, show me something up and down, backwards and forwards. Go.

Nothing happens, dancers seem stilted. Kerry demonstrates, translator joins in.

Let me see it.

Its up, you go down, you go backwards, you go forwards and it’s gone. Fast.

From the beginning.

Draw, lift change space, elbow, into lift and change space and draw and fall, drag and go, draw, up, down, backwards and forwards.

Have a moment to think about it, you can talk for one minute.

From the beginning.

Look at the 5th number. A is going to draw number on floor, B on ceiling, C behind you.

So it goes, up down, back forward, 5th number.

Lets go from the falling.  Fall, drag and draw and up, down, back forward and it draws.

A and C connect limbs and rotate. It can be small, connect, rotate. B find the sky.

Lets go from up, and down, are you ready?

And up, down, back, forwards, draw a number, connect, rotate, find the sky.

Then, as a trio, change places.

From the beginning.

Keep going; keep working on it, no water. Only two more events to go.

A solo — 6th number.

2nd time through, C stops you.

B rests.

B uses C as pencil.

I have a solo, I have a stop, and I have a drawing.

When C uses B, A steps away.

From the beginning.

Draw, lift, travel, travel, big elbow, lift, rotate, draw nice and clean, fall, drag and you draw and you go up, down, you draw.  Connect and rotate, find the sky, change places, solo, duet, and step away.

Lets go from the 6th number.

Last thing – A falls, B & C catch, drag.

From the beginning.

From the beginning.

We have the material!

I see two trios, completely different, yet created from similar instructions — verbal unison, visual difference.

I go next door to Wang mei and calm down!

I come back to a run through of sections 1 & 2.

The order today:

Wan lei entrance and solo.

Wang lei and Weifeng’s duet.

Two duets – quartet adding new material today (drop, rotate, flight, catch)

Men traveling feet phrase.

Women and men feet and arms phrase.

Yabin solo

Weifeng walking into duet with Sun rui + Yabin solo

Wu shuai solo + yabin solo

Sun rui solo

Zhibo and Sun rui’s duet – music slows.

2nd section

Walk down, line.

Kerry’s duets, unison

Sun rui solo

Into marathon trios from today, new material.

Break into weifeng’s solo.

Back to marathon, new material.

Wu shuai & weifeng’s duet.

Pause – gap in material, to be filled.

Men’s floor material with women unison duet.

The material and structure are nearly complete. 5 days to go.

http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-7-back-changing/477/feed 0
Day 6 Pulling together http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-6-pulling-together/449 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-6-pulling-together/449#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2009 08:51:03 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=449 Video clips:

Day 6 Sun rui day 6 Wang yabin day 6 Wu shuai day 6 zhibou 1

Day 6 Pulling together

Wayne’s blog comment reminds me to write what I respect and learn from Kerry as she works. Her tireless driving energy and rhythmic pace [...]]]> Video clips:





Day 6 Sun rui day 6 Wang yabin day 6 Wu shuai day 6 zhibou 1

Day 6 Pulling together

Wayne’s blog comment reminds me to write what I respect and learn from Kerry as she works. Her tireless driving energy and rhythmic pace is an inspiration, as is her thorough preparation of material, her ability to demonstrate and translate the language onto the dancers bodies, her patience and her ability to cut the crap and get on with it.  Yet there is something else very special that I learn to do with how Kerry relates in the studio. She has the ability to surrender to the creative process. I don’t mean a ‘giving up’, but a generosity, a giving of self to the dance that emerges, a giving of self to the relational dialogue. What I mean by this is that the work is not about her, rather the translation of material between them. She leaves her ego elsewhere to be inside the process with the dancers. Her body acts as a conduit, through which the material passes, from its history with Random, through Kerry to the dancers. There is humility here and a lack of self-consciousness. At the same time she directs with authority and drive, there is no room for doubt in the studio. I learn a lot from this quality of delivery: her play between drive and surrender.

(Yes, doubt can be a creative tool as it open up the gaps, but not here, not in a two-week process with a piece to make).

Saturday. We begin at 11am with a warm up class. Five dancers all on time!

Small group, talk the plan for the day:

This is every thing we have done so far. (Kerry shows the dancers her hand written list of numbered items, each one crossed off). There are some things we will be able to forget but I want to see them today and then I can tell you if we can throw them away. We have 25 things, 2 or 3 we can’t do because Wu weifeng is injured. Without him we have 21 and I want to see them with clarity and precision.

Kerry leads a short 2-hour rehearsal, going through all the material so far. After each fragment she cleans up some details before moving on. She demonstrates the material when necessary, indicating where she wants the stops, changes in quality, space directions, unison moments, breaks in the material and emphasizing specific gestures that have got lost. Here are the fragments:

Phrase 1

Phrase 2

I am thinking about plie here, eyes are to the audience, drop out. Sharp elbow.

Phrase 3

Knee clasp with double pirouette. What did we say yesterday about this, travel, moving, I am moving, remember crab, crab?  I am thinking about my ear… Lets try again everybody.

Wang lei solo

Walking in from upstage, shake, and stop. Ooze, pin, scythe, flick.

Men feet phrase.

Knee, up, screw heel, fouette, thigh lift, knee, limp sideways, slide, cut through, skidder. Wu shuai ends the phrase by falling into ‘splits’. Don’t do that Wu shuai or I will put it in! Laughter follows.

Men & women, feet and arms. (Track 2.29)

Can I see the arms on their own please?

Its not small, its about reaching away from you, something is happening here as well, this is sharp, then remember the tortoise, heavy.

Kerry attends to the details of the hands and wrists.

Wu shuai and Wu weifeng duet — can’t do today.

Kerry’s unison duet

Begins with fingers pointing to shoulders and roll down through spine. Includes the partner work, tortoise head movement, head to partner’s stomach, split leg drags, women lifted parallel to floor.

Sun rui solo

Points and lines duets

Do you remember your points and lines solos? Well you don’t need to, you can forget forever. We have the duets with that material.

Duet with Wang lei and Wu weifeng. Cannot do today.

Sun rui and Zhao zhibou duet

Zhibou solo

She is working well, the lines are more defined and clear, she is gathering strength, she seems more weighted.

Yabin solo

Men floor material

Exquisite, sharp, sorting out timing – with laughter.  Playful teasing relationships between Kerry and the men.

Sextet (water) – can’t do without Wu weifeng.

Stopping duets

Kerry wants them close together in space, four bodies of complex material. She sorts out timing, so lifts come together, unison shapes, and canon after the stop.

Sun rui & Wu weifeng. Duet (not today)

The line coming forward.

Wu shuai solo:

I love you Wu shuai! (‘I love you too’ he responds – they tease).

Very clean, very nice.

Visualisation solos

Kerry runs all the material in a constructed order, which is split into two sections.

She then runs the material again, running sections 1 and 2 together.

The piece is beginning to take shape. The weaving and linking from solos to duets and trios and quartets is well paced and Kerry’s meticulous attention to timing has paid off as one fragment slips and overlaps into another.

A good week’s work. How do you feel? Tired. I am very happy at the end of week one.

Tomorrow you sleep, eat chocolate, sleep. Any body want to say anything to me?

Thank you guys.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-6-pulling-together/449/feed 0
Day 5 Working the gaps http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-5-working-in-the-gaps/399 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-5-working-in-the-gaps/399#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2009 07:22:21 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=399 day 5 wang lei solo

day 5 duets

day 5 Wu Shuai

day 5 wang lei 2

Working the Gaps

Kerry looks like she might be riding a slight panic (with positive energy of course). There are 4 dancers in the space. Wu Weifong is injured and will not be back [...]]]>
day 5 wang lei solo

day 5 duets

day 5 Wu Shuai

day 5 wang lei 2

Working the Gaps

Kerry looks like she might be riding a slight panic (with positive energy of course). There are 4 dancers in the space. Wu Weifong is injured and will not be back till Monday. Zhao zhibou is off this morning, and Sun rui will be off this afternoon but zhibou will be back.  Kerry asks the dancers if they will all be there next week. Reassured, she accepts that today and tomorrow will be without full cast. She needs all 6 dancers to work the sextet, the trios and the legs/arms line. As yet, she has had only one day with all 6 dancers present.

She shows me her rehearsal notes, she has structured most of the material now on paper, with the sound score. Now her structure needs to be worked in the space, which is tricky when dancers are not present.  There is no time for re-thinking, the dice is thrown, and there can be no wondering or wandering into the gaps that have appeared. Kerry needs the dancers here, present and full in the space.

She begins rehearsal working with the men’s floor phrase, begun yesterday. Wu shuei, Wang lei, Sun rui.  Cleaning the details, counts, spacing.

I watch the solo for Sun rui.

…Slide through, deliciously pointed foot, shove hip, look, turn, arabesque, perfect, deep on supporting leg, spin, arms over the head, drop hands, stagger, stagger, hands on bum, travel, drop head, leg up, clap hands around knee, slide hand down sternum, hands to ribs, hands to bum, extending those legs, those violently beautiful extensions, slicing in the air. Exquisite, a tall sinewy swan, sharp swift and linear.

I watch the solo for Wu shuei.

…Reach arm back, step forward, parallel rise, stop, drop, jump, thrust hips, circle, smooth, catch, throw arms down, straight legs jump, snake through, pull out, sharp arms down, smooth ripple of back.  Small, tough, cheeky, direct hits and fluid as a butterfly!

Kerry begins to structure material. Wu Shuei’s solo links into the men’s feet phrase. Kerry sorts the spacing, fronts, diagonals, facings, corners. Concentration on the legs.

A gap appears — 4 counts need filling before the repeat of the leg phrase. Kerry pauses, her body hesitates, opening up the gap for a new something that has not yet been figured. She searches for a movement that travels, she knows where she needs to be, how many counts. What will be the movement that emerges? Hold that moment unfixed, just for a moment — then she is off, the movement appears and fills the space — two runs and a skidder — and the gap is filled.

We are in positive space, punctuating points in space, on the beat, movement happens on 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 – even the stops are sharply accentuated. Gestures cut rather than absorbing the space.

And then there is dancers’ remarkable ability to remember material!  We tend to take this for granted, for it is assimilated into daily training from an early age. Memory of movement is a fine skill.

Have some lunch gentlemen.


Studio 703 Wang mei

I have gathered information. The piece is based on a poem. I am given 4 translations. Here is the first (translated by Lin Yutang):

In my young days,

I had tasted only gladness.

But loved to mount the top floor,

But loved to mount the top floor,

To write a song pretending sadness.

And now I’ve tasted sorrow’s flavors, bitter and sour,

And can’t find a word,

And can’t find a word,

But merely say, “What a golden autumn hour!”

The composer is Bach with an overlaying score treated by a Chinese composer names Fan ZongWei.

As expected, the company is sitting on the floor, discussing the fine details of moving forward on their bums. Who moves first, how they move, on what count, the quality of the move, the extent of each lean forward — are discussed through collective wrangling. The timing of the movements reminds me of musical counterpoint.

Wang mei often steps into the piece and one of the dancers takes over the direction.  Her energy matches the dancers, no more, no less. Yet she clearly has the final say. The work looks inwards to its internal functioning, its group rhythms, rhythms composed of 4 parts, 4 layers. Each dancer’s part brings a different counterpoint to the whole, a 4 part score. The question is – how are they reaching decisions – as it seems to take a very long time!  Wang mei seems passionately absorbed in the problematic details of space and time.

I return to studio 702.

Kerry is working with Wang yabin. Here are some of Kerry’s words, caught as she directs.

… Yea, so from here, quite like to see the hands, hands go, hands drop, can this be bigger, exactly, carry on, judder, hit emilyn, travel, carry on, small, small, small, big.  Exactly and carry on. Ah, so could I have this with this shoulder, big, big, exactly, just make sure, stop it, then go, then shoulder, yea, and then yabin, you can do this one on 4, nice, two arms legs in, good yabin, where does your solo finish? Urr, so literally from here I want you to go…  do you need a minute to think?

Yabin does the solo again, this time I try to catch what I see – writing as I watch.

…Still, eyes, mouth smiles, step, leg round, arm air swift, sway, shunt out sideways, criss cross, hand on floor, curve, split legs, turn, swan lake wrists, elbows in, hug self, circle arms, throw above head, head snake, foot up, cramp, elbow, heel, lunge, hips turn, spin, twist arms around, fingers judder, ripple back, whoa, fall to floor, circle hips, tiger walk, skidder on feet, shoulder circle small, small baby, fetus, lengthen out, hips smash, hands flipped, draw along the floor, skidder round on one hand, lie back, shoulder twist, turn, kneel, skim along floor,  stomach tense, head lifted, snake whisper with hair…

We go downstairs to the BDA office, to look at Random videos, to give context to Kerry’s work.

Kerry discusses the rehearsal process and checks out how the dancers are remembering the material and assimilating it into their bodies. She is used to seeing dancers working all the time. These dancers rest while not working and then get up and do the material pretty well remembered. So how do you remember?

Dancers: In middle school this is most important in the training.

Tomorrow is Saturday, we will start at 11am. I want you there with energy, focus, for three hours. I want you there with bright eyes and energy. Good plan?

Dancers happy to begin later tomorrow!

day 5 yabin & zhibou day 5 duets day 5 zhou zhibou & wang lei scaffolding balance, outside the studio window ]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/08/day-5-working-in-the-gaps/399/feed 2
Day 4 Endurance http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-4-endurance/369 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-4-endurance/369#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2009 02:15:37 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=369 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 [...]]]>
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).

sun rui day 4 Zhao Zhibou & Wu shuai Wang lei, Wong yabin day 4 wang lei Wong yabin day 4 duets  day 4

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.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-4-endurance/369/feed 0
Day 3 Strictly floor work http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-strictly-come-floor-work/357 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-strictly-come-floor-work/357#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2009 01:51:24 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=357 In Wang mei’s studio the dancers are on the floor again, this time lying on their stomachs. I have not yet seen these dancers standing up! Wang mei is also on her stomach with her toes turned under so the balls of her feet are on the floor. She is explaining to the dancers how [...]]]> In Wang mei’s studio the dancers are on the floor again, this time lying on their stomachs. I have not yet seen these dancers standing up! Wang mei is also on her stomach with her toes turned under so the balls of her feet are on the floor. She is explaining to the dancers how she wants the feet to move, tiny stutters that move sideways, curving her body.

One body rolls slowly over, while another stutters her feet. Chen maoyuan sits and judders with his toes, they all judder forward on their stomachs, moving on the balls of their feet, hands supporting them, elbows tucked in. Small movements, precise, the focus is on timing and choreographic structure rather than the complexity of dance language.

Now comes a long search for the exact moment in the music for this particular sequence.  Wang mei needs a technician to run the sound for her.

Working for so long on one small detail, I wonder where in the piece this 30 second section might be. I feel as if I am peering into a tiny brush stroke on a painting – the stroke expands to become a whole work – before pulling out to see how miniscule this moment is within the bigger frame.

I notice I am becoming absent, this is not because of the material or the process. Rather because I do not know what is being said – and so much is being spoken.

But even without the language there is something here about how the process is exchanged. Liu mengchen is turning from her front onto her back perfecting the detail of how that is done.  Again and again she tries, each time slightly different, the placing of arms, legs, sharpness of the turn, facial expression.  Eventually Wang mei calls her over to closely watch as she demonstrates the move. As she demonstrates, Wang mei lets out a cry as she turns onto her back, a cry between pain and ecstasy, with her neck slightly arched, yet her arms and legs relaxed and suspended in the air. The dancer watches the sudden anguish of the demonstration and copies. We move on. Every move is given this amount of attention.

Ah – a translator comes to sit with me, Rae.

She is asking the dancers to move more like in daily life, to try not to be like a dancer.

I ask if this is familiar work for these dancers. No, he says, the work is different for them, for Wang mei has very strict requirements. Yes, clearly!

Because of the simplicity of the material, nothing is hidden in this work, all is transparent, and all is revealed. Hence the attention to detail.

Another single moment becomes a search for movement quality. Chen maoyuan is rolling onto his back fast, his legs in the air. We take time here.  What is happening?

He is trying to find the quality of the movement that Wang mei requires. She wants him to throw his body over fast, move his legs up sharply, yet not fix his legs, so his legs continue to move with the weight, yet suspend, yet control, yet without letting people know that. And in time with the music. Controlled freedom, using weight, finding the place between tension and release. Abdominals needed here!

I am aware of the luxury of time here at the Academy. In the independent dance scene in the UK, how many choreographers can afford the time to spend a day working on the minute qualities of one or two movements?

I quote from Jay O’Shea’s blog. The differences between the choreographers’ ways of working is perhaps ‘a matter of culture, but not of national ones… there is no reason to assume that a choreographer will be representative of her or his (national) culture. But there is reason to think that choreographers’ work engages their experience and intersects with the institutional structures, working conditions, and funding opportunities that the work develops out of’ (O’Shea blog May 25th).

I need to find out more.

http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-strictly-come-floor-work/357/feed 0
Day 3 Exhaustion! http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-exhaustion/355 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-exhaustion/355#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2009 01:46:34 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=355 day 3 working it out!


Summary. After a very creative and energized day yesterday, everybody is tired — the dancers are exhausted. So the day does not produce so much material. Even so, what does emerge is ample for a day working at this level of complexity. The day focuses on the relationships between the dancers and Kerry, a playing out of power dynamics, who has control of time and how. [...]]]>
day 3 working it out!

Tiananmon Choreography Sextet construction Wang lei Sextet construction Wu waifeng and Kerry


Summary. After a very creative and energized day yesterday, everybody is tired — the dancers are exhausted. So the day does not produce so much material. Even so, what does emerge is ample for a day working at this level of complexity.  The day focuses on the relationships between the dancers and Kerry, a playing out of power dynamics, who has control of time and how.  There is good rapport; laughter and generosity circulate between them.

I walk into Kerry’s rehearsal near the end of the morning. A Zoë Keating track is playing. Dancers are working on duets.

The task:

Make obstruction duets. Using ‘elbow phrase 1’ from day 1, dancer A attempts to complete the phrase. Dancer B interrupts, intervenes, attempts to stop dancer A from performing the phrase. Roles can change. Compose this material. The terms stop, obstruct, prevent, encourage the quality required – fragmented, broken, jagged, complex yet playful and relational.

The music Kerry is using as texture during her process include: John Adams, Max Richter, Zoë Keating, Deru, together with Wayne’s Random sound tracks.

Kerry does not look happy. We chat. She is very tired from lack of sleep. The dancers also. They arrived this morning unable to move, exhausted. It took over an hour to get them with her.  So she is rethinking her plans for today, in order to allow dancers to rest.  The duet task this morning allows the dancers to talk with each other and this is giving them energy.

Early break for lunch.

Noticing one’s own process as a choreographer and how that affects the dancers — this is part of the relational process for creative contact.  There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’, we are all in this together and how we meet each other requires respect, awareness, enquiry and presence.


Kerry discusses starting points for this afternoon. She shows me a folder with 22 transparencies, 22 diagram drawings of a city. You are the City, Observations, Organisation and Transformation of Urban Settings, (Petra Kampf 2004). Each transparency represents another interpretation. The 22 diagrams are divided into four categories: ‘Cosmological Ground, Legislative agencies; current, Flows and Forces; Nodes, Loops and Connections’ (p.11).

‘Cities are an everyday invention. They are informed and imagined by many people at a time…. Cities are an open stage for complimentary and conflicting encounters, and allow for multiple identities to emerge and evaporate. They are backdrops for dreams and desires, a platform for departures and arrivals. … Cities are impermanent – they are in a constant state of transformation, in which unpredictable changes keep their structural organisation shifting from one state to another’… Cities need to be viewed as transitional entities in which their local is to be found in the idea of moving points, animated by different forces that interact with the urban construct’ (Kampf 2004 p.2).

For Kerry, this notion of the city is the quality she is looking for in the work. For me, the notion of complementary and conflicting parallels the discussion we are having with the dancers on linearity and fragmentation.

She is also playing with a title: ‘Cleave’, suggesting a contradiction between piercing/ cutting and adhering/being faithful.

Kerry explains the transparences to the dancers.

We are looking at one transparency today. Lets take this one.

Working as 6 people, choose one journey; follow any of the lines of movement in the transparencyBut work together.

Without much debate the dancers agree on the line they wish to take.

How are you going to represent those jagged lines?

Where is your audience?

The task:

Work as if you are one person.

There must always be two people in the air being lifted.

When one person comes down another person comes up.

Lifts can be quick, but as soon as one comes down another goes up.

All 6 of you have to working, so join together.

If you are not lifting you are working to change places.

You will find yourselves laughing; I want you to take it seriously, not to miss the possibilities.

Every person needs to be in the air twice.

It should have a watery kind of feeling and it needs momentum.

You can work with flow, impulse — show me Chinese flow.

You are one animal, you move together.

Working as a sextet the dancers begin to work the task – and yes, much laughing begins the process.  Kerry is close by, engaged, anticipating. They begin to get more serious, talking, constructing, and resolving clumsy potential.  I wonder if they have had any contact improvisation?  Possibly not! They construct the lifts looking in the mirror. They play, create, and fall, thump. I am interested to notice how they relate, who is in, who is out, who has the power, who makes decisions. Without understanding what they are saying, they appear equally involved, working things out together.

I wonder about improvisation rather than construction. Yet, in a sense, constructing in this way is new for them. Usually they work with harmony and flow they are very skilled at that. So this awkward sticky playful design is creative conflict – the flow can be added later.

I leave Kerry to go next door to Wang mei.

I come back as Wang lei is performing his solo.  He is dynamic, strong, dark, dramatic, makes bullet points. He is fluid yet weighted, into the ground, sultry.

Kerry works with Wu shuai on his solo material. Kerry crafts, shifting directions, dynamics, changing arms, placing of feet, elaborating the material, directions in space and deciding on eye focus. In contrast to Wang lei, Wu shuai is a light dancer, particular, petite with delicate finesse.

Today Kerry has added two more nuggets to the repertory of material.

14. Obstruction duets.

15. Water sextet (based on the architectural transparency).

Kerry talks through plan for tomorrow.

She is thinking — no new material, but dancers teach each other material, a giving of gifts, teaching and learning, which will bring greater ownership of material.

Giving the movement away brings closer ownership.

Kerry is on the edge of beginning to structure and craft the material. The music is giving her suggestions as to the order of material.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-3-exhaustion/355/feed 0
Between day 2 & 3 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/between-day-2-3/349 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/between-day-2-3/349#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2009 01:40:37 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=349 Getting lost at night, walking for hours, trying to find the subway. I come to a square with hundreds of people milling around. No, they are not milling, they are engaged in different physical pursuits. They are dancing. Over here are the roller skaters, wheeling round and round a central point, which consists of a [...]]]> Getting lost at night, walking for hours, trying to find the subway. I come to a square with hundreds of people milling around. No, they are not milling, they are engaged in different physical pursuits. They are dancing. Over here are the roller skaters, wheeling round and round a central point, which consists of a bicycle, some boxes and a loud speaker with pop music blaring. Over here are disco line dancers. About ten lines deep, 30 people to each line, moving in unison timing, each in his/her own way, young and old. I can’t see a leader, but everybody seems to know what to do when the music changes. I move further around the square, here are lines of women dancing Chinese folk dance, led by two women who perform, smiling, engrossed in their dance. The women follow behind in lines, knowing what to do, old, young, fat, thin, energetic, minimal, many versions of the same material. The music blares out – but strangely drowning the disco happening 10 yards away. I walk on. Next there are the tango couples, with their own space, their own sound system, ignoring the sounds from around. Then lines of men two-stepping, separately but facing the women, a courtly dance, not touching, stiff and upright. Moving on I observe the fan dancers, in lines waving their colorful fans in unison rhythm. A big crowd is clustered round.

between day 2 & 3

between day 2 & 3

I am caught up in the sounds, the closeness of the bodies, each group of dancers’ oblivion of the existence of other formations, yet knowing they are all there together.  Out to socialize, to dance together on a hot summer’s evening – every evening. The mundane ordinariness of the repetitive actions becomes special when performed by large numbers of people, everybody dancing alone, but together.  How are the spaces divided? I wonder, does this depend on how many turn up, or are the territories fixed?  The observers form a wall around each dancing group, acting as a boundary. I wander along the periphery catching glimpses, atmospheres, moods, dancing styles. Skirting the square are walkways and trees, couples resting, kissing, old men lying on their backs on benches working their abdominals, young children roller skating round trees, little children, heads shaved, naked, pissing on the ground.

I slip amongst the crowds, stared at by those closest, otherwise invisible, and drinking in what is an every day activity here.

http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/between-day-2-3/349/feed 0
Day 2 studio 703 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-studio-703/339 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-studio-703/339#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2009 03:23:58 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=339 Studio 703.

Wang mei works at the Academy as a teacher and choreographer. Her background is ballet and Chinese folk dance. She is working with Liu mengchen, Ma linzhi, Chen maoyuan, and Shao junting. These dancers have been working together with Wang mei for a while and the material that they are working on was [...]]]> Studio 703.

Wang mei works at the Academy as a teacher and choreographer. Her background is ballet and Chinese folk dance. She is working with Liu mengchen, Ma linzhi, Chen maoyuan, and Shao junting. These dancers have been working together with Wang mei for a while and the material that they are working on was made previously.

As I walk in to the studio I see four dancers sitting on the floor, tapping the backs of their knees rhythmically on the floor, and then bouncing along the floor on their bums using their arms. Fast taps, then a drawn out lift of the bum, shifting in space, then drop.

Wang mei is looking at detail, spending time with timing. It seems important exactly how many bum bounces it takes before the hands move, the placing of the hands on the floor needs to be precise, who looks at who when and how, needs to be specific. Dancers watch each other and learn from each other.

Music begins. Bach (treated in some way, I will find out details tomorrow). Wang mei stops, starts, stops, starts, seeking the precision in timing that she requires.

Movements are repetitive and require unison of time and space – a challenge when movements are simple.

The interpreter tells me they are playing a game, like children, ‘natural and relaxed’. Yes.

Wang mei is now asking the dancers to keep their feet still, legs straight, and only the bums move in space, so that they move into a circle on the floor, their feet acting as a axle centre.

Now the dancers are squatting on their heels, bouncing in rhythm in rhythm, moving along the floor by twisting the feet and then shifting weight, with hands on the floor. Wang mei demonstrates the detail of how the foot twists. She does this without words. Liu mengchen copies, but is not exact. The dancers take time to observe the detail and assimilate it. Where to place the hands, how many bounces before the hands move forward, which foot moves first – these details are carefully resolved. The dancers try many different variations of a bouncing squat walk, playing with different rhythms of feet, moving forwards, backwards and circling – like a tongue twister, the hands and feet quickly become tangled. They experiment with folk dance steps while squatting! Wang mei works seriously with occasional long bouts of laughter.

Within a short while of watching I become aware of the differences between styles of working. (First impressions obviously).

Wang mei is working with simple repetitive movement and focusing on structures, choreographing shapes in time and space.

Kerry is constructing a complex movement language on the dancers bodies, where the focus on structure has not yet begun.

Wang mei is working closely with the music and the timing and placing of the movement.

Kerry plays music throughout the day to add energy, background atmosphere and attack to the movement tasks. Movement is not fitted to sound.

Wang mei stops the sound immediately she sees something that does not fit. She does not go on until is it correct.

Kerry is not working on perfecting movement to sound, as she does not yet know who will be performing the movement.

Wang mei is working on the complexity of timing with simple movements.

Kerry is working on the complexity of movement with simple timing.

Watching Wang mei work I observe a contained stillness and clarity, an attention to minimal gestural simplicity, no frills, no fuss, no explosive exaggeration or distortion. She is quiet while she thinks about the next movement, goes inwards to focus on herself. The dancers are left on their own to play with the squatting gestures, like a gathering of young playful frogs, trying out their tricks.

Kerry never leaves the dancers alone, even when they are working on tasks; she is in there with them. She arrives prepared with loads of material, holds the energy high all day, talks energetically to her dancers, rarely letting them rest, she is always facing outwards towards the dancers, never inwards to herself, the high speed rhythm of the day rarely breaks, she drives on persistently.

Today Wang mei’s dancers are always sitting down.

Kerry’s dancers are not allowed to sit down!

Wang mei is working slowly, exploding a moment of time into an hour, where less is more.

Kerry works fast, where three hours can become one minute of material and more is less.

These are my day 2 observations, without judgment or criticism. Both studios feel focused, alive, creative and concentrated, with strong relational contact between dancers and choreographers.

I leave Wang mei and the dancers in studio 703 as they continue to resolve details of timing, when to accentuate a movement on which beat in which phrase of music.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-studio-703/339/feed 0
Day 2 for Merce http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-for-merce/337 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-for-merce/337#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2009 03:21:15 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=337 Video clip: day 2 Wang lei & Wang yabin

Day 2

A day for Merce.

So – the dancers are sore in the ‘right’ places, inner thighs, abdominals, lower back and their necks. This is to be expected, and indicates to Kerry that they are working intelligently with the language, as the tension is [...]]]> Video clip: day 2 Wang lei & Wang yabin

CIMG0048_2 CIMG0070_2 CIMG0079_2

Day 2

A day for Merce.

So – the dancers are sore in the ‘right’ places, inner thighs, abdominals, lower back and their necks. This is to be expected, and indicates to Kerry that they are working intelligently with the language, as the tension is not held externally, in their thighs or upper backs.

The style is more familiar to the dancers in class this morning; they execute the size of the material with more confidence. They retain the corrections from yesterday, only needing a gently reminder, so Kerry is able to build from there.

Kerry begins rehearsal with a task:

She teaches a phrase primarily for the legs, followed by a phrase primarily for arm gestures and torso. The task for each dancer is to put the arms and legs phrases together in his/her own way.

The leg phrase travels through space, sharp scissor like cuts and shifts of weight, low lunges contrasting high releve turns. Set to phrases of ‘8’.

Kerry’s persists with speed, driving the dancers onwards, keeping a fast rhythmic attack in the learning that keeps the dancers engaged. She demonstrates and talks – particularly calling out the counts as she demonstrates the movements:

Hip 5, knee 6, push7, heel 8… lunge 1.

Hidden in the leg phrase is a sideways triplet.

Did you see that Emilyn – that is for Merce!

Lets try it up to speed, with music…

The dancers do the phrase. Kerry corrects them:

This is all fine, then here — we need this to be very sharp and precise. This is good here and good here… but here I need you to go lower, stay longer here, and this should feel like a fall. Here, you have just got to move… this leg needs more energy, I didn’t see the energy of that heel, so push that first… these are really sharp, this has resistance, then it drops, it is a different feeling… this is all about this leg, not this leg… I am not interested in jumping, I am interested in long… (She darts across the space). Here I use my stomach and my knee – oh, it is hard work. This is lower, higher, a definite drop, one turn only, break, let me see the heel, then it opens, now you go up, break.

Mandi, Can you ask them if they are ok with the counts?

After the correction dancers do the material again, attempting to incorporate changes although the material. This is a challenge as the speed does not let up.

If by next Tuesday, it is still too fast, I will change it.

Kerry begins the arm phrase.

Arm stretches out to side, comes round to front, other arm comes up and through, quick shoot up above head, open arms out, explosive, throw it away, bring arm closer across body, fingers tickling, twist body with arm, shoulder lifts, two fingers pointing, plant them over head to other side, use focus as well to plant them, shoulder height…

I am going under my armpit, left hand 3,4. Picking up the arm, 5,6.  Right arm comes through sharp, break in elbows 7, 8. This is like taking off a jacket. This is like a tortoise.  This is like boxing – I love that.

The metaphors translated, bring instant recognition and laughter with the dancers.

Now the dancers take over, creating material that brings arms and legs together. They work as a duet and a trio (Sun rui is away today).  Kerry stressed that she doesn’t want to see legs and then arms, but legs and arms working together throughout.

Kerry created these two separate phrases outside the studio. She did not make one phrase and then separate arms from legs. This way there is more chance of the material not making sense, encouraging a discontinuity as the dancers make their own dis/connections.

There is a paradox here – Kerry wants the dancers to work their whole bodies at once, yet not making sense — a non-sensical wholeness.

Dancers are happier with being more weird today!


Studio is alive, music playing, dancers chatting and warming up, changing T-shirts, Kerry working out a new phrase on her own, observers keenly watching. There is alive-ness and creative openness.

The afternoon begins with some exercises from class as a warm up. This is the 2nd day and the dancers have assimilated the exercises into their mind bodies, memory and body becoming one.

Kerry revises the phrases from yesterday -

She shouts above the music as dancers move — whoop, whey, sharp, reach, travel, yes, stop, and go, go… good, lovely, I like it!

New task: the dancers are asked to use inversion to create new solos with the leg/arm phrases. Turn your bodies inside out and upside down: Legs become arms, pelvis becomes head, head become the back and arms become legs. Solve the task in your own way; you can work on the floor. You work on your own. There is no right or wrong answer.

Material is composed and shown in two duets and a solo.  An astoundingly beautiful depth of focused material emerges, fully embodied and assimilated. With the switch from arms to legs, the dancers are often upside down, standing on their arms, working from the floor into the air with distortion, wrangling articulation, twisting torso from legs, arms from shoulders, punching striking, stripping the space.  Different qualities are emerging.

Kerry begins to choreograph two duets, giving material, hard and sharp and without pause…

At this point I go next door to observe Wang mei’s process.

I come back into Kerry’s work in studio 702 at the end of the day.

I missed a task, which was:

Lie on the floor and visualize the duets we have just made. Visualize both parts, imagine both parts. (3 minutes). Now stand up and show me your version of the duet – stay inside your visualization. Fix that visualization.

We are going to recap everything for 20 minutes, and then you can go home. The dancers are exhausted, but they are with Kerry. She holds them with her positive high energy, determination and no nonsense approach to the work.

We have 13 pieces. Recap.

  1. Elbow phrase 1
  2. Arm hip phrase 2
  3. Point and line solos
  4. Sun rui and Zhao zhibo conversation duet.
  5. Wu weifeng and Wang lei conversation duet.
  6. My leg phrase in isolation
  7. My gesture phrase in isolation.
  8. Coordination phrase put together, trio and duet.
  9. Ladies Inversion duet.
  10. Men’s inversion duet.
  11. Wang lei inversion solo.
  12. Unison duets.
  13. Visualization solos

Kerry sees each piece twice, working on a few details – they are knackered!

Debrief at the end of the day.

Thank you lets talk.

Your concentration in the task exercises was brilliant today. Yesterday was good but I can see the difference today. Did you feel the difference?

More productive today!

Do you feel you have worked your brain and your body?

More in the body.

For me there was more honesty today in attempting to do the task.

Any differences from yesterday in what you feel?

The way you approach your work feels more familiar.

How does your body feel? Other than tired.

I give speed because I think you can do it. I don’t give it because I want you to sink; I give it because I want you to do fly. I trust you; I will keep pushing because I believe in you.

Don’t push too much!

Are there any new differences?

The use of weight, the power, the attack to start. Our training before, in Chinese classical dance, is about lines of movement, following the patterns, following the lines. While your work interrupts the line with points.

What are you saying about the point and line?

The discussion that follows unpacks the difference between the linearity of classical forms and fragmentation of linearity in contemporary dance forms today. In classical Chinese dance there are no attack points, only smooth phrasing. Kerry’s work goes directly from point to point without climactic phrasing. Suspension itself is another point. Rather than a pull back breath of longing in order to go forward, there is simply the necessity for suspension for making the point. (I can get academic about this when I have time!) For now, it is exciting that the dancers are experiencing in their bodies these differences between convention and displacement. The theory is in the practice.

As I observe the material, I think again of Cunningham and see movements derived from his vocabulary embedded in Kerry’s work. I am thinking how a movement travels, like an epidemic, catches hold, is adopted, fostered, manipulated, transferred, handled, engineered, sold, borrowed, stolen, discovered by a thousand different choreographers and still manages to slip away to find a new inauguration elsewhere. And there is a Goat Island quote to insert here via Bergson & Deleuze –  but I don’t have time to find it, I must get going on day 3.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-2-for-merce/337/feed 0
Day 1 a diamond in the heart http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-1-a-diamond-in-the-heart/320 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-1-a-diamond-in-the-heart/320#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2009 01:34:13 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=320 Day 1

A diamond in the heart.

Summary: a rich, full and fast day. Kerry introduces her movement language, through class exercises, taught phrases and task based methodologies. The movement language and style of working is challenging and new for the dancers. The day was positive and energised, with the different qualities of the dancers becoming evident. I am including the notes of the first day (below) as they begin to indicate the source of a depth of knowledge, history and cultural [...]]]> Kerry in action Morning class from left front going anti clockwise:  Wu shuai,Wang yabin, Zhao zhibo, ,Wang lei, Wu weifeng, ( missing: Sun rui) introducing Wang Lei day 1 Kerry and Mandi (translator) day 1 introducing Wu Weifeng day 1 introducing Sun Rui & Zhao Zhibo  day 1 Wang lei and Wu Weifeng 'points' solos come a duet day 1 introducing Wu Shuai day 1 Wu Weifeng later day 1 Introducing Wang yabin day 1

Day 1

A diamond in the heart.

Summary: a rich, full and fast day. Kerry introduces her movement language, through class exercises, taught phrases and task based methodologies. The movement language and style of working is challenging and new for the dancers. The day was positive and energised, with the different qualities of the dancers becoming evident.  I am including the notes of the first day  (below) as they begin to indicate the source of a depth of knowledge, history and cultural difference that is within the movement and the transference/translation of  movement between bodies. The notes include fragments of Kerry’s spoken words (in italics), descriptions of what happened, descriptions of process, issues of translation and some emerging questions.


Beginning in the studio

An atmosphere of curiosity, with introductions, people meeting in small groups in studio 702 — one of many identical dance studios in the building. This is a large square space, with a wall of mirrors, no different to any other dance studio the world over. We do not really notice the site, it is familiar, neutral within the context of dance training..

Kerry is excited, energized, going fast. She talks with Mandi, the interpreter, discussing how they might work together.

I can go fast, if you don’t understand, please stop me.

A group of 6 dancers, sit together on the floor, stretching legs and backs.

Eyes are eager, waiting, looking at Kerry.  Kerry introduces herself and identifies each dancer by name.

Lets make a start.

The dancers immediately stand up, spread out facing the mirrors, with equal space between each body – the universally understood protocol for the beginning of a contemporary dance class.

Kerry demonstrates and talks simultaneously.

Stretch up, arms overhead, curve down, hang down, weight of the head pulls you to floor. Just hang there. Take big breath in, exhale, push back onto heels. Breathe, slowly rolling up the length of spine working.

A familiar beginning to a Limon based class. Kerry works for Wayne McGregor at Random Dance Company. She is here in Beijing as choreographer and in her role as Co-Director of Creative Learning, which also promotes Wayne’s work through her manipulation of his methodologies. The phrases and tasks she constructs are her own composition, yet drawn from Wayne’s style and movement language.

Falling to the side, arm comes up above head, hand flat, arm stretches in front of body, back arches away from arm… Bring arms come up like an eagle.

Plie, slow, four to stretch, using arms to help us up.

As Kerry demonstrates the dancers pick up the exercise through seeing and copying, a learning from outside to in, not through the words that are spoken. Kerry turns to ask Mandi to interpret ‘eagle’. The difference is immediate, the dancers fully embody that particular movement on hearing the word, the metaphor.

Mandi and Kerry now find a way to work together. Mandi stays right inside the action and translates as Kerry speaks.

What is ‘suspension’ in Chinese?  We need the feeling of suspension a lot in this work.

This is discussed, and again there is an ‘aha’ moment, as the shared term brings deeper understanding.

Here is my hug, here my arms are really expansive, here is my fall, throw this arm over the top and my spine reaches over.  My body is trying to stay leaning forward, like superman, I land onto my left, right, low on the floor – lovely.  In my parallel, push this leg, cut underneath, then just walk 7,8. Mandi do you know ‘rebound’ in Chinese? No OK – so don’t lose momentum. Suspend, suspend, same thing here, then fall.  Good lovely.

I watch a dancer as his leg goes up effortlessly high to the side. He hardly notices his own hyper extended leg. High legs are currency amongst these dancers, a necessity for a successful career. Yet, there seems to be little awareness of the extension.  Perhaps because these dances were trained so young to achieve this extension, through a regime of stretching, that it is difficult now for the dancers to consciously own their extensions. I wonder if that they have dissociated from the pain, therefore dissociated from conscious placing and effort.  The same leg finds it hard to take a normal step forward. Two contradictory qualities are at play, the hyper articulated and the pedestrian.

… 5,6,7,8, ear, ear, arm behind, don’t forget low, high,  I am in curve, arch curve, like a tiger, my arms come with m… I should still be here on releve, step back on 4… my arms take me, in the air on 5, we run we run back, right leg, left, right, close.  Suspend and fall, Attitude retire, my arms go swimming, my arms push the space away, step, bring foot to ankle… then we do left side.

I see you do arms and legs and not the spine.  I am interested in what the back is doing

The short but strenuous class allows dancers to meet Kerry, the atmosphere is eased through the familiar universal structure.

Kerry notices how the dancers are exhausted. Then remembers that this is new material for them, new ways of moving, new uses of the body – of course they are exhausted.

Kerry talks to the dancers about the work. We sit in a small circle on the floor.

For me, the work has got to have attack.

For two weeks, you may get tired, because the energy is like this (punches her fists in the air), but you are fantastic dancers and I want to show you off…

You have to meet me and be alert when we come in the studio.

For me ugly is good.  I don’t want you to look in the mirror and making a pretty shape, it is more a sensation, more about the feeling than what it looks like. A lot of my language is distorted, and so quite extreme.  Your bodies are trained, and I want to see how far we can take them.  You may get sore in the lower back.  So stretch when you can. I will sometimes give material, a lot of the time I give tasks for you to find the answers. This is interesting for me as well, as a choreographer, you can push me in another direction as well.  So I feel it is a sharing of ideas rather than me leading.  We are a company, I am in the company and I am learning from you as well.  When I set a task and you are solving it, how you solve it is important to me, the process of how you get to the answer is sometimes more interesting than the answer. Remember! Till I say, this one is in the bin, remember everything. Wayne always says his dancers are his computer software, so you are my memory. I am going to be pushing your brains as well as your bodies. This will feel weird, but go with it.

Kerry teaches the dancers her 1st phrase.

She takes a deep lunge to the side, elbow jutting forward, arm at right angles. She circles her elbow outwards. Her chest moves against the circle, arching back, avoiding the arm. Now she has got two elbows jutting forward, circling without dropping…

You are a little bit polite and small, make it big, scary, I want it scary.

Her elbows break again like wings behind her back, she suspends, throws her arms forward, falls, her body curves over, her arms come down fast, then head, sharp sharp. Broken birds. She shunts, hips through, body pulled back distorted, all weight on the back foot.

Do you have a lighthouse in China, by the sea with a light shining all the way round? Mandi looks puzzled. Probably not.  So this movement is broken at the hip, back straight, eyes looking, focus all round as you turn.

She transfers two phrases onto the dancers bodies, called part 1 & part 2.

I observe the process of learning, picking up the material, connecting mind and body,  watching as the dancers try to keep their weight low, co-ordinate arms and legs in different directions, use their backs, remember complex sequences – all this seems new to the dancers,  breaking habitual patterns of movement.  As the material is performed faster and faster there is no chance for them to hold onto conventional aesthetics.

Kerry’s words as are often metaphorical in describing the movement.  What is being translated is not what she does but what she says. The dancers pick up the shape of the movement from watching. The quality of the movement they learn from the translations of the language, from one metaphor to another.

The dancers do not know what Kerry is saying while she is moving, so she is being observed from 6 different perspectives. Kerry might be speaking about what her arm is doing, but the rest of her body is also moving. So the dancers, who do not understand what she is saying, might be focusing on something else that catches their eye.

Does dance transfer solely through the body?

Do words allow a deeper understanding in the body?

Is copying movement enough?

Movements are unpredictable, always catching a surprise, playing with dynamics, texture, speed, drop, turn, curve, circle, jump, arc, smooth, low, effort, hard, soft, sticky, silky, long, dragged, punctuated, staccato, one gesture at a time, with very fast changes.  This is contemporary dance post Forsythe – fragmented, non hierarchical, continuous,  multiple directions, movement that defies conventions of beauty, yet creates the beauty of distortion in its place.

Lets do: 1st group part one, part two, go away, 2nd group: part one, part two, go away, 1st group, part one, part two, go away, 2nd group, part one part two – lunch!

The work is in the task of learning and translating the surface of movement into a deeper place in the body. The work is in about becoming familiar or comfortable with the material. With so much extreme effort, I notice chaos, and I feel empty of centre, like a shell.  The idea is to move so fast that the body is intuitively caught up in the movement, not perfecting or understanding at this stage. At this stage Kerry wants to jump their bodies out of complacency, out of smooth risk-less perfection. For her, working at speed is vital.


Kerry introduces a task-based methodology for creating material.

Today’s task evolved from Laban’s shape and effort, to Forsythe, to Wayne McGregor to Kerry Nicholls.

For now, lets call it ‘The point solo’.

Kerry instructs the dancers:

  • List 1 – 10 on a sheet of paper.
  • Think of a body part to write at the side of each of these numbers. Try to choose small parts of the body, e.g. not the whole arm.  You need to know where on your body are the parts you have chosen! Ear – elbow, back of the knee.
  • At the bottom of the page write your mobile phone number. Take the ‘1’ off.  You should have ten digits.
  • Bring your paper into the space. Imagine yourself in a cube. Number the corners and spaces of the box. One to ten.
  • Use your mobile number to navigate your way round the cube. Match your mobile numbers to the body parts and create 10 movements in the sequence of your mobile phone number.  Strange and weird is good.

The dancers create solo phrases.

This requires concentration, detail, and precision, thinking into movement.  Focus goes to the different body parts in juxtaposition with each other. When awareness is with one body articulation, intelligence is moving in other directions. No part of the body is sleeping. This requires direct attention and precise memory to a multiplicity of directions.

Next task

Make duets with your solos, you are in the same cube together. Stay really close. Work through the material without crashing.  I want it look like a conversation. Be aware of what the other person is doing, give attention to each other, and weave with each other without losing individual precision.

The dancers are tending to look in the mirror rather than relate to each other. They tend to make it look ‘right’ as a duet, rather than going for the discomfort and strangeness.  There is a desire for confluence rather than conflict.

Keep going, the task is never done.

5 interventions are inserted into the duet.

  • Look for a question and an answer.  One person asks a question in movement, and the other person answers, then carry on.
  • Look for a moment of stillness. Both of you are completely still, then either leave together or one goes and the other follows.
  • Find two points of touch.
  • Find two points of dependent touch or lifts — when one of you really needs the other.
  • Use each other to travel to take you somewhere else in space.

Try to be investigative, keep going back to work it again.

I don’t want to see anyone sitting down; I want you up and in full energy all the time. You need to be up and creating without stop for 10 minutes, in a place of presence.

Kerry works closely on one duet, she looks at the material, pausing the dancers when she wishes to intervene. Adding, editing, creating the conversation, changing the timing, playing with dynamic, altering speed, looking for moments of contact, moments of risk, points of stillness, sharp stops, looking for changes in height, weight, sharpening, making rhythm, sorting eye focus, looking where and when, filling moments of dullness. She is directing and crafting the material. The dancers giggle, the energy high, there are accidental bumps and punches of knees and elbows. Kerry is inside their material as they dance, detailing exactness.

What are you looking for Kerry?

Looking for things that attract me, the extreme of physicality.

By bringing in a detail of my style, I can see how to get in and out of that moment. The detail tells me if I need the movement that follows. If it is too organic, I give them something to change that direction, diverts the pathway.

We have a debriefing process at the end of the day.

How do you feel?

Many things are new.

What is new?

The style and energy.

This is a good new style for everybody.

After two weeks with me it will feel like home.

We discover that the dancers have known each other for 10 years at the Academy.

Three dancers worked with Shobana.  One worked with John Utans.

Three trained in Chinese classical dance, three in Chinese folk dance. None have had ballet as a first training.

What is the main difference between Chinese dance and this work?

Chinese dance is soft and circular. There are not the angular, sharp straight lines of this work. Chinese dance is like a ball of energy in the heart.

While this work is more like a jagged diamond in the heart.

Video clip:  day 1 Wey fong & Wang lei

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/day-1-a-diamond-in-the-heart/320/feed 0
The day before. Emilyn http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/315/315 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/315/315#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2009 05:53:25 +0000 Emilyn Claid http://rescen.net/blog/?p=315 Getting There.

So – I enter a liminal space that begins at the airport, when everything I am doing ceases to be and everything I am about to do has not begun. The moment of traveling. The moment of being in between places that is simultaneously a moment of here and now. There is nowhere [...]]]> Getting There.

So – I enter a liminal space that begins at the airport, when everything I am doing ceases to be and everything I am about to do has not begun. The moment of traveling. The moment of being in between places that is simultaneously a moment of here and now. There is nowhere else to be although I am in no place.

I am upgraded to business class – yea! Upgraded liminality – sublime!

Jet lag, reeling, floating. Take a map from the hotel foyer, begin wandering. For a while, maybe an hour, I relish being lost, in the moment, not knowing where I am going, not knowing where I want to go. Concrete blocks of buildings, functional, living and business spaces. Down town, highways, cross at your peril, even though there is a ‘green man’ traffic comes from all directions. Better to cross by the footbridges. No, I want to cross the road. I will mingle with this Chinese family and weave with them, they seem quite confident to meander through the multiple flows of traffic. Watermelons and peaches sold off the back of a donkey and cart, bicycles on by-lanes next to the motorways. I walk in straight lines down straight streets, a straight lost. Then I have to find a mark, yes, in order to acclimatize, re-orientate myself I search out the Beijing Dance Academy, (was I looking for that along, did I already have a focus? Was I really lost?) I stand outside looking up at a functional building, dedicated to dance. I breathe the dancer’s breath and gather my linearity. An institution for dance, a factory for constructing dancers. For me right now, a familiar home, from where the map suddenly makes sense. Ah, I was holding it upside down, no wonder I got lost.

Small restaurant, I sit outside, under the trees, hot grey sultry evening. Rice, veg and some kind of steamed meat — pork? Chop sticks practice. I think about tomorrow.  Dialogue with Kerry, she is here with her son. Go with the flow and a pretty fast flow it is. Perhaps approach the writing from four initial angles: Kerry’s communication with dancers and translator; description of developing process; description of what I see and the questions that emerge. Lets see what happens tomorrow.

I come prepared, with Proust, Cixous, Goat Islands’ Small Acts of Repair and a Thesaurus.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/07/315/315/feed 2