On ‘Superheroes, Powers & Spellbinding:’ OPENLAB Session on Friday 15 February 2013

I have had for some time now an idea at the back of my head for a series of OPENLAB sessions. However, the idea hadn’t quite taken form.

This kind of seminal idea for a session (without really knowing which tree is going grow out of it) is more rule than exception but although this time I didn’t really know where to start from so I just decided to share with the group and see where would the idea go, how would the group take it, and what would be the reactions to it.

This session was made possible by the presences of Evangelia Kolyra, Martine Painter, Robert Vesty, Flora Wellesley-Wesley as well as myself.

Somehow I didn’t have even a real title for the session, only a series of examples and metaphores, images and comparisons.

I had to summarise it to a sentence first once I started the session; this sentence was something like ‘what if we consider ourselves performers as a group of superheroes?’

So I tried to explain it better but I only could explain things that I have heard and read and experienced recently:

… a quote in Manou Koreman’s MA dissertation draft (I wonder whether she kept that on the final version she submitted) which said something like: “Dance [is] ‘a play of Powers made visible’.”(Langer, 1953, p.44).

… a class I took with Giovanni Feliccione and in which he would invite the students to let the object in front of them to call us to grasp it rather than being ourselves the ones who decided to take it, or would invite us to walk by leaving the space behind rather than approaching the space before us.

… Martine Painter’s entrance to this blog questioning “What is a ‘recognisibly performative state’ ?”

How could I connect all of this?

I didn’t know but here what I did:

1) We practice openform as a warm-up. We focus on dycotomies: focusing (or expanding our awareness if you may prefer) on moving at the same time that we were noticing, focusing on noticing at the same time that we notice ourselves noticing, focusing on noticing ourselves directly through our own corporality at the same time we notice the rest of the world indirectly also trough our own coporality, focusing on inside at the same time we focus on outside, using breath as an anchor for inside and the floor as an anchor for outside, in case we needed one.

We continue with this and then in order to transition to the next part I ask people to utter sounds from the physicalities of breathing.

2) I suggested to practice a closeform (or at least a closer one in realtion to the rest). I ask the people in the session to close themselves from the world by closing their eyes and pluging their ears with their fingers whilst the continue to utter sounds. I aske them to feel what happened, to notice what the notice in theri bodies: the reverberating vibration felt in the body. I asked them to continue moving, never stopping, didn’t matter in which ways they would move, no pressure about in which ways the would move but just moving… I aslo told them to explore the fact that different parts of the body and different types of tissue reverberate and vibrate depending on the qualities of the sound being uttered, their volume, texture, timbre and tone, and the positions the body take, the tension of the muscles, etc.

I also ask them to learn this relationships, to realise that maybe instead of having to think of the qualities of the sound and uttered and of the positions and movements of the body one could actually think of the part of the body one wants to make vibrate and just let the self to make this happen, the sounds and the body will do what they had to do to make those places vibrate.

The task was for us to learn how to control at will and move throughout the body this vibrations, but also accepting what are the physical limitations we have in order to make this happen. Maybe with time and practice we could get better at this but in any case that wasn’t really the poing.

3) The point was that this closeform exercise serves as an example of what a Power could be. The idea of changing the regular way we relate with the world, of changing our habitual and normally logical attitude toward the things that happens. Changing the ideas of ownership and agency, changing our points of view, points of reference.

Moving the vibration throughout the body was the first ‘Power’ we have just learned. Now the question was: how many other powers could we develop? In Feliccioni’s example, the object in front of us was making us move. In that class, we eventually grasp the object not only because our hands are made for grasping but also because the object is made to be grasped, so is it crazy to thing that the appetite for grasping comes from the object instead of from ourselves? In that class, we eventually were moved by the object as it started float up. Our arms started to seemingly efortless follow it… then the head, then everything. And this become true for us, even if we know it isn’t what actually was happening, just because we wanted to accept that this was what was happening. I also pointed out that some things we generally accept (even in a tacit but anofficial way) are sometimes not true. For example for us the landscape in the worlds is rather a fix point and we move around it, but we all have learnt that the world turns and we are moved with it… but we still

I continued by trying to give other examples of possible ways of changing the way we may develope a ‘Power’ but then I realised that it could be also a power the way we may accept we are powerless, or spellbound. For example, what if some other person moves me. That’s my power as a dancer (or performer) but in fact is as though I’m being control, and letting me be controlled by another external power… maybe was another person in the room who controls me?