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WHAT IS CHOREOGRAPHY PART 2
– Raimund Hoghe – Nikolaus Müller-Schöll – Yasmine Hugonnet –
William Forsythe once called choreographing the ‘scratching of resources'. He compares it with the actions of a disk jockey who scratches with records. Comparable with a HipHop DJ who turns the running record on the turntable back and forth with his hand, so that it plays distorted but rhythmical noises instead of the imprinted melody, the choreographer submits his resources to an improvising but technically skilled treatment. The DJ's rotating vinyl disk in the choreography is mirrored by the bodies' movements through space and time. Due to the uncommon use of this material, another kind of music or dance is created instead of a harmonical composition. At first, this seems dissonant for our eyes and ears. But if the recipient takes leave of old hearing and viewing customs, he/she can recognise them as something innately consistent: the DJ produces an acoustic rhythm, the choreographer a scenic situation.
Yesterday at the Hamburg railway station a sculpture looked at me and asked: "What do you think?"
The sculpture was a man of my age, he wore baggy trousers and shell-rimmed glasses like myself. Had we met over a latte macchiato, I wouldn't have been at a loss for an astute reply. But the man was choreographed by Tino Sehgal.
I stood at the entrance to a white room. Below I had paid 10 Euros to see pieces of art: Things with inscriptions or wit or beauty before which I stand in order to think about them. – Now suddenly there were things standing in front of me and thinking about me. And they were more in number than I was. In the room, five more adolescent philosophers lounged in supple clothing. A parlour without table and samovar, I thought while they were continuing their conversation about signs and zeitgeist. The aesthetes accompanied this with slow, very slow movements, except when one of them had to laugh. You can't laugh slowly.
Instead of answering something re signs and zeitgeist, I wanted to ask: Why are you moving so slowly? – And find out whether it was against the rules to ask the ruled spiel for its rules. But I didn't dare that.
Being slow wasn't the actual choreography here. Nor that whenever someone new put his head into the room all six of them sang: "Wwwwelcome to this situation!" followed by going backwards a few metres.
No, the choreography was what every additional person in the room did: Some stayed at the door and whispered "Theatre!" because they felt the pretentious diction to be stilted, others swiftly went out through the other door like one runs out of a lecture hall to receive a telephone call. When one of the circle of elegant philosophers asked: "Can you unlearn how to do something?", a toddler lumbered through the door as if on cue – and was hurriedly dragged back by its parents so as not to disturb.
For the strikingly uncomfortable thing in this room was immediately felt by everyone: Art watched us watching here. As if we weren't masters of what we'd paid 10 Euros entrance fee. As if we had to vindicate ourselves in the face of these works of art for being a work of art ourselves.
Only when I was back outside on Invalidenstrasse, I felt safe from that again. I looked around for authentic gestures on the pavement and thought: Thank God – Choreography, too, is everything I explain about it.
Everybody can choreograph, whenever, however, and how often he wants, I choreographed when I couldn't even walk nor dance, sometimes I'm choreographing along thinking how pleasant it would be to show what I just did to someone, sometimes I hope that no one's seen it, sometimes I don't see it myself but just hear it, then I'm amazed and wondering, for as is generally known, art creates itself, one just wants to give it the right framework, even if it is a thin one made of white dance floor, for choreographing is the possibility of making a something out of nothing, sometimes synchronous and loud, then you're especially alert, but you also get bored quickly, I hardly think about it then because synchronicity always works, I prefer thinking about the possibility of hiding something indecent in the space, which anyway is gone again immediately but you still have to think about the indecency, for choreography are pictures rising in the aftermath because you don't understand them beforehand or because it simply is badly or not at all choreographed, that's why there's choreographers who take care of many movements not getting lost, lost hunters of a treasure which is our body, for something is always hunted, mostly movement which is extinguished as soon as you find it, but anyway nothing is eternal, least of all choreography, even if it's only the dancers who scram at some point in time, and with them the choreography ...
What have the new media done to us?
It's easy to say that everything is dance, but probably it really is like that and I think that choreography is the conscious appreciation of this phenomenon.
The artificiality of a (stage) dance can only arise from the choreography of everyday life.
Dance begins where logic says good-bye.
Think of "Playtime" by Jacques Tati. The film doesn't tell a linear story, but rather is a choreography of charakters and architectural elements. Tati constructed an ultra-modern Paris with movable houses which allowed ever new camera perspectives. The film was based on the observation of everyday things and their combination in a new form. This artificial satellite town with façades of glass and mirrors which showed life like in a display window he called Tativille.
But, similar to Anime films, choreography may also simply be a series of images which change just a little from one image to the next, not necessarily with a linear narrative on one time level.
In this context, I find the works of the US American artist Matthew Barney interesting, too. In his metaphorical cycles like The Cremaster Cycle, he builds closed systems in which one event causes the other, and everything in his aesthetic universe is related.
Actually, we can learn a lot from graphic art and its practical approach to body contexts.
Regarded this way, choreography is the playing field, the mould, a grid to make the process visible. It allows us to mediate our theme alternately by movement, image, space, voice, etc. and to change the narrative structure as needed.
Choreography means concentration on the ultimate and translation of the impossible, it is glorification of the artificial but holds high its love for the natural.
Thus, choreography always is absurd.
The involvement with the dancing person and the task of scratching artistically essential things out of this performing being, that is choreography.
So the choreographer is the charwoman, the street sweeper, the goldsmith, the soothsayer, the therapist, the gardener among the performing artists.
Choreographing is vivisecting. Detaching of single segments, disassembling into single parts and separation of the various parameters making a personality.
An approach I like to use is recording, saving and artificially playing back the (sometimes alienated) isolated voice in order thereafter to experience anew corporeal perception in connection with synchronisation techniques. Preferably also to sharpen one's view (and hearing) of the body and to change it if needed – and simultaneously to question its relation to a world pervaded by modern technology again and again.
Goodman's opinion is that we are confined to ways of description with everything that is described. Our universe as it were consists of these ways rather than a world or worlds. This would finally bring us to a point where we could assume that all worlds are variants of the one essential world. I find the corporeal discourse most interesting in connection with virtual worlds. For if the human body is thought as a future interface between real and virtual states choreographic discourse, too, will reach a new level.
If corporeal presence really gets replaced by visual, acoustic or motoric representations, we will have to question basic theatrical constellations anyway. In this, choreography can be a mediator and will mainly have to deal with the task of creating the relation with the body in telematic works.
However, a possible corporeal absence then should not mediate emptiness but – like a pause in music – serve as a moment of remembrance and reflection.
The thing about it is letting the choreography come into being in the head of the observer, the listener.
I see this as a challenge which I would like to meet, even if I myself am far from this goal as a choreographer.
In any case it will be hard leaving the body behind us.
"I hate reality but It's still the best place to get a good steak." (Woody Allen)
There are numerous dance pieces which are made by choreographers, but in the credits to their pieces one still only finds terms like "director" or "concept". Or "Artistic Director". Or just – "by". Obviously, choreographers do not have to choreograph in order to elaborate a dance piece. However, this doesn't mean that they don't dance – or even exclusively dance – in those pieces. It seems that dance can do without choreography, but rarely without choreographers.
"What is choreography today?" According to the encyclopaedia, it is not a notation of movements in writing, but inscribing into the body. But if movements are understood in a purely conceptual manner, or when non-dancers perform on the stage, or the choreographers are non-dancers – will the process of inscribing into the body still take place? Is the process of inscribing into the body needed to develop a choreography?
I think that choreography is the result of a process which has dealt with questions of movement or the body in space and time, and reached a conclusive language of its own. Choreography takes up a position regarding movement or the body. It can do without inscribing into the body and even can take place in the absence of a body. Choreography is created by researchers and opens "new" views of the condition of the body (in movement).
Choreography for me is writing with the body.
I understand choreography as one of several variants of the attempt to find a movement script – since choreography, if you only take the Greek words of which the term is composed, originally means nothing else but writing down movement. It is near dance without being included in it, provides an idea or a structure – which, however, if you take the relation to script seriously, needs supplementary action in order to appear. And because, as script, in time and space it needs the performer whose movements potentially are different from itself, choreography also has to be understood as a constantly elusive rule which the dancer (resp. any kind of actor who has to perform it) never can follow to the letter, thus feeding his experience of freedom, his thinking in movement in the state of dancing or acting. In every choreography, its scripting quality has to be thought as that which evades formalisation. And the state of dancing then would be the experience of just that border of formalisation.
Choreography does not only construct sequences of movements but indeed it articulates an inner and outer structure within and in between bodies. It invests a way of inhabiting the space and the self, with a particular presence. Each choreographic piece invents or re-constitutes a BODY and a GAZE.
Choreography is composing a dance within a spectator's perception. It suggests a movement of thoughts, sliding and bouncing between body, image, sensation, sign, action, and emotion … A reflexive and sensitive discourse that dances.
"A single choreography has several choreographers, some animate, some inanimate …" (Astad Deboo, 2001). I read this sentence a month ago and it kept moving in my head. Choreography does not emerge only out of one mind and body. Choreography results from a net of relationships and experiences. It is alive and independent; it has a part of heredity and a part of magic.