5.7.2020, 2:41:59   |  Photo: Zuzana Žabková  |   Category: Dramaturgy, Space & context, Interdisciplinarity, Process of making, Education, Art & Society, Other

When the dance fails as a gesture

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The first edition of the Dance Reading Club series When The Dancers Know The Answers took place in the living room of Studio ALTA on Thursday 21st of May 2020 and it hosted two hours long discussion which started with the question When the dance fails as a gesture? Observing how the piece Assemblage by Martina Hajdyla Lacová found its audience in the park due to the pandemic restrictions, sandwiched later with the video excerpts of performances mentioned in the discussed text Writing Laughter / Violent Desire by Jenn Joy brought the discussion back to the core of what is the artistic gesture and why it requires gaps, stumbling and failures. 

Due to the pandemic restriction, program of Studio Alta had to find a way how to rethink the frame of planned shows considering  limited number of the audience members. One of such examples was a performance Assemblage in which the piece made for the black box went out of the box and readapted its scenography and choreography to the park Karlovy sady in front of the building of Invalidovna, where Studio Alta currently resides. The performance became somehow part of the park everyday movement and with its extended choreographic references to walking postmodern movement material created a playful sci-fi girl game with objects and scenography reminding artificial prosthetic nature in the context of urban pseudo nature in the park. Kids and dogs and virus were crying, barking and lingering around. The game with this close to dead nature was though very vivid and brought a certain ecstatic fearless energy into the bright day of invisible cold lack of mutual touch. 

After this performative experience part of the audience moved to the living room of Studio ALTA where we continued with the discussion based on just watched performance in combination with several references video excerpts of performance mentioned in the text Writing Laughter / Violent Desire by Jenn Joy from her book Choreographic. Three video excerpts of performances mention in Joy’s text were projected just before the discussion started: La Ribbot: Laughing Hole, Luciana Achugar: Sublime is us, Didi Dorvillier : “Choreography, a Prologue for the Apocalypse of Understanding, Get Ready!” 

At steak was a gesture as a movement expression used also as a communication tool which bears its historical and semantical predetermination. Referring to the text of Jen Joy we were interested in cases when this meaning oscillates on the abyss of understanding and loses its primal graspability. Observing the strategy of watched performances allowed us to examine when are failure, spasm, stumbling becoming choreographic tools and when these tools form an artistic statement. Before dwelling into the topic of failure and spasm, we had to firstly clarify what the gesture means and signify in contemporary dance and broader socio - political context in order to examine why is it failing.   

Is gesture a simple movement action or a whole performance which acts as artistic action? Is gesture a body which appears and disappears? How gesture abandons its context and enters another realm? What language speaks gesture? 

In the performance Laughing Hole by La Ribbot laughter becomes a gesture a moment of language’s failure. Laughter sucks spectator’s attention, awakens her sensibility and affects her body state. Gesture of laughing dissolves the meaning, because the laughter is detached from its source - the reason, the meaning of laughing and it acts as a gesture itself. This stumbling nonsense dizziness creates another meaning of the gesture as we know it and reveals impact on the spectator in its physicality. The gesture is then determined by conditions in which it acts, by its context which it reflects. Jen Joy in her text refers also to Andrew Hewitt who describes gesture as a transmitter of socio political force which by creating a moment of spasm implies a mode of resistance.

How do we read a movement as a gesture? What is to think gesture in the choreographic way? If we take failing as a transformation as an opening is it a gesture that fails or is it us who fail to understand the gesture?


Author: Zuzana Žabková

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