DANSCROSS 2009 » Janet OShea 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 Intercultural…? Some speculations on process, institutions, and funding http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/intercultural-some-speculations-on-process-institutions-and-funding/175 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/intercultural-some-speculations-on-process-institutions-and-funding/175#comments Mon, 25 May 2009 03:08:08 +0000 Janet OShea http://rescen.net/blog/?p=175 I read that Dancross is designed to facilitate inter-cultural collaboration and I’m thinking about what that term might mean in this context.

In the US and in Britain, when we speak of ‘intercultural’ dance work, we refer to movement languages, an exchange between the vocabularies (units of movement) and syntaxes (systems of organization) of different [...]]]> I read that Dancross is designed to facilitate inter-cultural collaboration and I’m thinking about what that term might mean in this context.

In the US and in Britain, when we speak of ‘intercultural’ dance work, we refer to movement languages, an exchange between the vocabularies (units of movement) and syntaxes (systems of organization) of different forms. A dialogue between movement languages does seem to be at issue here, especially in the work that Shobana Jeyasingh has done with the BDA company dancers, who are trained in Chinese classical dance and Chinese folk dance.

However, a central issue, at least from what I have seen in rehearsals and heard about in the roundtable discussion, is less movement language than choreographic process. Specifically, it seems like the dancers found unfamiliar Shobana’s task-based approach to working with their own movement vocabulary. The dancers working with Zhang Yun Fang seem more comfortable with his method of teaching completed movement.

This is a matter of culture, but not of national ones. As Mu Yu and Shobana have both pointed out, 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.

The dancers come from a large-scale, nationally funded conservatoire that is geared toward producing excellence in performance. I have seen dozens of classes, in ballet, Chinese classical dance, martial arts, Chinese folk dance, for students of a range of ages, all clad in identical leotards, tights, and ballet shoes, drilling in technique. It’s not hard to see, in this, the link to Russian ballet training – the rigors of training, the emphasis on technical accomplishment, the sense of being part of a system.

The contrast with the working conditions of the dancers in Shobana’s company is evident: project-based work in a small, regularly, but not heftily funded company, developing out of independent dance work or other small company experience.

What is interesting here, I think, is the way in which economic and institutional conditions contribute to expectations around ways of working. Patterns of project creation and of funding facilitate certain working processes. This returns me to the linguistic metaphor: what needs translating in this case is not only the languages, but also how they are spoken.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/intercultural-some-speculations-on-process-institutions-and-funding/175/feed 0
Notes on joining a project midway through http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/thoughts-on-joining-a-project-midway-through/162 http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/thoughts-on-joining-a-project-midway-through/162#comments Sat, 23 May 2009 01:29:13 +0000 Janet OShea http://rescen.net/blog/?p=162 How can I refuse a summons like that? (Paul’s ‘Over to you, Jay’, below)

I arrived in Beijing midway through phase one of the project. I can’t comment with any authority or conviction on the choreographic process, because I entered the studio and saw nearly finished dances being rehearsed.

So I am going to talk [...]]]> How can I refuse a summons like that? (Paul’s ‘Over to you, Jay’, below)

I arrived in Beijing midway through phase one of the project. I can’t comment with any authority or conviction on the choreographic process, because I entered the studio and saw nearly finished dances being rehearsed.

So I am going to talk about the dances, not about their process of being made. I tell my students that looking at movement dynamics is a way in to writing about dance, especially if it is unfamiliar. Here’s a chance to try out my own advice.

I’m also taking this approach because I think movement dynamics is an area of difference between the two dances and, possibly, between the dancers’ experience of working on them.

dscn01141Continuous, sustained movement characterizes Zhang Yunfeng’s piece. A breath rhythm governs the dance. Momentum carries the dancers through from one position to the next. This is not like the ‘moving like the clouds’ material that Paul observed because the movement is rarely light; it is grounded without being rooted. There is also a clear sense of attack that launches each phrase. But this attack throws the dancers into sweeps and spirals (now I’m talking about space, I know; but these things are not easy to separate) that carry forward seemingly until the momentum dissipates. A fall-and-recover principle seems to generate much of the material.
dscn0141

Fast and staccato are the key features in Shobana Jeyasingh’s dance. The phrases are grounded, punctuated by sudden, articulated jumps. There is a clarity to each movement, giving the dance an architectural quality. Changes of level and direction are frequent (space again, I realize); they add to the sharp, clear-edged quality of the material. Momentum is interrupted so that positions emerge in focus. An occasional indirect movement leads almost inevitably into an angular, articulate shape.

I’ve never seen Chinese classical dance but I wonder if some of the principles that Yunfeng uses emerge from that movement vocabulary. This way of moving seems more organic to the BDA dancers than the dynamics of Shobana’s piece.

]]> http://rescen.net/blog/2009/05/thoughts-on-joining-a-project-midway-through/162/feed 0