While I was a student in Munich I discovered Pina Bausch many years ago, it was a summer festival in the English garden and I had tickets for several days to watch experimental dance. It was like a revolution in the 1980s. I was thrilled to see her choreography and compositions. I would love to learn more about contemporary artists that are working in this field today.
Viewpoints, composition are explained although they are “timeless”, “natural principals of movement”, language for performances, points of awareness experienced in time and space.
Viewpoints is determined a philosophy that becomes a technique for training, movement development and ensemble building. Physical viewpoints are explained.
Viewpoints of time are: 1) tempo, 2) duration, 3) kinesthetic response, 4) repetition.
Tempo: movement speed.
Duration: extent of movement or sequence before a change occurs.
Kinesthetic response: spontaneous reaction to motion – response to external events of movement or sound. An impulsive movement because of sensory stimulation.
Repetition: recurrence of onstage movement.
Internal repetition – repeating movement within own body.
External repetition – repeating shape, tempo, gesture outside of body.
Viewpoints of space are: 5) shape, 6) gesture, which delineates into behavioural gesture and expressive gesture.
Vocal Viewpoints, pertaining to sound are discussed in another chapter. Physical and Vocal Viewpoints are said to overlap, change in “relative value” depending on the user / style of production.
Shape: contour or outline a body or bodies makes in space.
Shapes are composed of lines, curves or a combination of curves and lines. They are round or angular, stationary or moving through space.
Gesture: considered a movement of part or parts of the body, also forms a shape. May or may not be motivated consciously, with or without intention.
For me, the most important part of this conversation is when Keith Johnstone reveals that he asks the actors not to do their best and explains why and this makes so much sense.
A recognised authority of improvisation, Johnstone’s techniques were developed to foster spontaneity and narrative skills. He demonstrated techniques to colleges and through a performance company called the Theatre Machine. Books authored to explain improvisation techniques are complemented by his master classes.
Johnstone explained that his work has been modified over time by dealing with fear. He said, “it (fear) ruins everybody”. He was not convinced teaching processes had changed, but because he was required to be accountable, his fear of responsibility impacted how he worked.
He explained that achieving the best result from a pupil was to encourage them to be “average”, rather than encouraging them to be the best they can.
Johnson described that value from an audience being their feedback, only possible when the audience is comprised of strangers. Friends or colleagues ‘overcheer’ and give a false feedback. This is definitely the same in all mediums of art.
Postdramatic Theatre by Hans-Thies Lehmann
I have no experience at all with performance and besides Pina Bausch’s work I hardly have any knowledge or experience when it comes to performance art. In my video which I produced for my MFA, however, I have started to experiment with my body. I wanted to use it as a tool of investigation to reactivate memory. My voice recites text by Nietzsche, Foucault and my own writings, included as a voice-over to the imagery. My hand is captured working on a painting. I pour tar onto the canvas and rub it into the surface. In one scene, I walk on train tracks. I project my grandfather's portrait onto my body.
Postdramatic theatre theatrical staging levels involves signifying elements that connect and interweave to form a “whole” that can be viewed and although consequential significance of individual parts that contribute meaning. Performance text are texts divided into categories: “linguistic text, text of staging and mise en scene and performance texts (concept)” are relational to each other and to the spectator. All text elements and their relation to each other, performers, staging, concept etc. are reducible, expandable, changeable. Place (location), time (duration) are elements that signify, are signs that structurally change the theatre experience. The experience becomes a “presence”. This experience is recognised as the theatre of possibility, fearsome, akin to the sublime.
Actors thwart their ability to interpret, manifesting a new humanity. Bodies are mediums, processes occur between bodies. Bodies are mediums to articulate pure emotion rather than respond to an idea with emotion or act emotional.
Dancers are cited to explain how the performer articulates discontinuity, through “tera incognita” or being a stranger to the self. Costumes are used ironically, only. Slow motion is recognised as an omnipresent sign of this “Gestalt” where members take precedence over the totality of the body.
“New” dance articulates energy rather than meaning, actions rather than illustrations of ideas. Dancers expose what is extreme to the body. It is not entirely clear of the “members” refers to body parts, the “whole” is one person’s body or the members are members of the company, and individual dancers together are the “whole.”
A Choreographer’s handbook
The text is a very good exploration into how to prepare for a performance. There is always the thought about the audience and how the work might be perceived. This is very different from painting work or my work in general. I would not be able to paint if I thought about what someone else might think about my work. My process is disconnected from the viewer or an audience, the process of the creating completely belongs to me. I step back and make changes only because I want the composition to work not with the thought of a possible audience. In my recent work the work was not even about composition. It was about the mere process of interacting with the surface. Is it so important for the performer how the work will be perceived? It seems like it is one of the main elements of the work.
Jonathan Burrows poses questions to show how to question is a model for creation, choreography specifically. He demonstrates how orientation to point of view (place) is useful and problematic. What an artist / choreographer needs might result in unexpected options or, “Maybe what you need is everything?”
Discussion of what makes what is being done “work” begins with the role of the creator and the audience, both subjective viewpoints. He explains the role of an objective opinion (friend), time – space between creation and critical analysis.
Burrows explains that minimal changes can be effective and recording of the changes is useful to avoid confusion, keep track of attempted alterations, changes in amended work.
He discusses role of “showings”, the readiness for feedback through the showings (performances). He counters this discussion with about a solo work he made with 2 versions, one improvised and one choreographed. The improvisation was deemed more visceral, the choreography an “immaculate doily” meaning perfection can be ornamental, overly decorative and without meaning. In this case, the feedback was from a friend. However, the position taken regarding this feedback was the next step in the process would be to visualise possibilities rendered from the overt criticism.
The role of relations with the audience, with the self are articulated. The reason for performing, how a performer is also an audience member, the process of relating to a performance is discussed. Communication with the audience includes multiple physical options, Burrows shows, but best is to allow gentle consciousness of purpose of the work. This is a circular reciprocity between artist and audience, a contract, an invitation and act to “suspend doubt” to create “magic.”