The work has been very quick, and Bob has put together quite a lot of material for the younger company than either he (and certainly I!) anticipated. The dancers have been excellent, nimble of thought and body, and attentive to Bob and to the older company members, who have led them into the work and its process. What has been interesting to observe is not only the cognitive challenge of the circuits of memory, transmission, learning and again memory that run between them, but also the depth of thinking ‘at the nerve ends’* that Bob has invited them to address. Bob watches the performers carefully, and his reading of their movement is acute, in terms of both their aesthetic and formal approaches to the choreography, and in his uncanny ability to pinpoint how to activate particular levels of awareness of their own movement in space. There’s nothing mystical in this essentially, but it is extraordinary, and the dancers have responded accordingly.
This is something Bob has spoken about from early on in the thinking of this project, but it is clear that his concern with the choreography is less with the steps, hold and so on (although clearly he has a fine sense of what he wants in that respect) than it is with the sensation of what one is doing in space. How does each dancer access a sense of not only what entails in the physics needed to suspend a leg, or shift down to come up into a leap, but also in the matter of how to distribute weight, thought, and attention such that (in his words) the sensation is ‘visible’. What does it take to make the shift from simply doing the moves to charging them with an energy ‘so that the audience can’t take their eyes off you’.** What I’ve found interesting, seated just behind Bob’s shoulder, is that, whilst there is something of a medium-size industry offering all kinds of solutions to this question of energetic attraction, employing all manner of mystical insights from psychoanalysis to shamanism, Bob’s directions are of the body itself, the only thing which, in the instant of performance, one could really profess to know in any case. His directions are subtle, and concerned with the transfer of weight, leading edge, the application of pressure in particular ways relative to the body’s own ordering against the floor and gravity.
*this is an expression borrowed slightly out of context from the American theatre scholar Herbert Blau
**Bob to Hannah