Review on Philosophising Dance Improvisation

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Review on Philosophising Dance Improvisation, 28/02/2016

On Sunday the 28th of February 2016, I had the pleasure of witnessing a very exciting project which I feel necessary to tell our dance community about. The project was a collaboration between Marie Hallager Andersen (Improvisation Exchange Leeds), Rachel Dean (Improvisation Exchange Leeds), Jade Fletcher (Philosophy, Leeds), Aaron Meskin (Philosophy, Leeds), Daliah Touré (Improvisation Exchange, Leeds).

At the sharing I was spectator to an insightful exploration of ideas through verbal and physical conversations. The texts and exercises which the group had been working with, was reflected upon, and discussed within the group.  

Critique vs inspiration – deeper insight vs letting go.

One thing I took from their experience of the process, was the difference in ways of approaching text. As a philosopher, the first thing you do when reading a text, is looking at it from a critical perspective. This is an incentive to dig deeper, and develop knowledge and understanding, through movement of thought. Contrarily, the typical reaction which dancers have when they approach a text, is a source of inspiration. Using reaction and sensations to reach understanding and think through movement.  I found this observation rather endearing and relatable. I fully acknowledge that the balance between letting yourself become inspired and being able to ask questions can be hard to find stability in. Resistance should always go together with a little bit of attraction in order to find a solid stance.

At one point Daliah Touré was expressing a frustration with Aaron Meskin’s reflections on dance improvisation. He was interpreting dancing as a space of pleasure and freedom from knowledge. He did not seem to believe that it could be anything deeper than relief from structural and physical norms. Or that it could be something which offered more than those meaningless experiences. It was clear that the dancers had gone into this project in hope to discover a deeper insight to their work. They all came across as deeply involved with their work. So their expression of resistance against those ideas, seemed perfectly logical.

For me this was one of the most interesting developments of the platform. Often it can feel like dancers are required to defend their practices and prove to their surroundings that they are intelligent and serious about their work. It can seem necessary to use generally accepted intellectual methods to demonstrate the value and validity of what they do. In fact, I would argue that the proof of the value of dancing, lies in the innocence and the freedom from proof and knowledge. Dancing is creation of pleasure in the moment, without concern for past or future. Does this really need more justification? In a world where we are used to use our head before our feet, I wold recommend to make sure that both poles of the body have their time and space, as well as understanding the point of connection which they share.

Dancer, Rachel Dean, articulated the collective circumstance, that we are all thinking and moving beings. A statement which I found describes the core of this project. Both movement and thought are strong fundaments in being human. But being able to articulate your sensations through physical expression, or to verbalize your trail of thought, takes skill. A skill which I think the group shared through genuine concern and care.

I was very impressed by the feeling of care within the group. Being aware of one and other and giving everyone the support or the space they needed. It was beautiful to experience how the element of breath was so important in keeping a calm and supportive feeling amongst the participants.

The feeling of support came through everyone’s genuine engagement with and respect for the conversation. In this work it was very clear to see how much breath was used to connect with one and other. If a situation occurred where someone felt lost, the group would give the person the space to re-find their breath. Sometimes lost in words, sometimes stuck within a body, this was overcome by the level of attentiveness and response from all partakers.

At one point Rachel was describing how the most important part of improvisation is attention. Having attention to every impression or detail around you, opening up your senses in order to react. I found this to be very true in the focus within the group. Dancers and philosophers where incredibly engaged and ready to respond or listen, or offer a new input in a disappearing line. Shifting focus shifts to the physical and the intellectual world. This made it is possible to let senses and impulses become sharper, and to find a softer impression of the rational and analytical world.

A very engaging and thought provoking project. Exploring the diversity and inseparability of the body and the brain. This new project have great potential, and I strongly recommend keeping an eye out for developments.