dance for health research lab, august 2017

In august 2017 I was invited to be involved in a movement enquiry with collaborators from dance for health Rotterdam. The previous blog post, introduced the process of arriving at this enquiry and this post will account the content and thoughts that evolved from this two day exploration process with Itamar Serussi, Marc Vlemmix, Rosan Chinnoe, Sara Houston and Nicole Rust (Scapino Ballet).

 

The movement content explored in the two day lab was directed by choreographer Itamar Serussi with methods and tools derived from his making process. Itamar has been working with dancer Marc Vlemmix for a period of around 6 months on and off, and Marc is interested to explore how this process which is collaborative between the two, is having an impact on his movement possibilities as a person with Parkinson's.

 

On day 1, the process was observed and on day 2, we joined the movement process with Marc and Itamar to experience this for ourselves, followed by discussion based on experienced and observed impact. My observations documented below; in particular my analysis looks at two areas of interest in my own research - relationship and equality between dancer and choreographer.

 

Process:

Section 1:

The dance process led by Itamar begins with personal connection led through a guided meditation and scan of the body. This is conducted by lying flat on the floor and includes:

  • Mind/body scan – connections with each body part scanning for spaces and tension
  • Breath – connecting to the breath and finding air and space in the body
  • Touch – self touch and adding weight into the limbs through touch
  • Circling – focus on circling body parts
  • Length and line – finding extension in the body
  • Friction and massage – building energy under the surface of the skin

He uses a somatic approach to engage with an awareness of all surfaces of the body as well as the inner environment. Itamar articulates the tasks verbally for the dancers and also engages in the task himself.

The direction then leads to a more active physical imagery:

"Let the body rest with every exhalation"
"Relax your stomach"
"Try to expand your body surface"
"Send energy from your rib cage to the tips of your fingers"

Lastly this section of the exploration leads to experimenting with physical energy and anatomical connections between body parts. In particular the connection from shoulder blade to fingertips and from pelvis to ends of toes.

Section 2:

Now standing, Itamar directs with further suggestion of movement and physical exploration:

"Find space between your toes"
"Spread the skin on the bottom of your feet across the floor" 
"Bend the knees, try to shift the weight by considering the equal bends in the ankle, knee and hip"
"Change the direction of the feet, knees and hips"
"Change the way the feet, knees and hips move in relation to each other – away, towards, internal or external rotation"
"Consider how the lower body moves, disconnected to the upper body"
"Play with the connection between the shoulder blades and the ends of the fingers"
"Consider the relationship between the back and the legs"
"Carve the space with the hands and feet" – focus shifts out of the body and into the space momentarily
"Think of the spine – find moments of breath in the movements and length in the spine"

We use these provocations to explore movement in our own time. Itamar similarly moves in response to his own suggestions.

Section 3:

Itamar begins to introduce choreographic choices and directions:

"Think about the volume of the movement"
"More with more intensity"
"Vary the dynamics"
"Accelerate"
"Change the level of force"

 

Analysis:

Relationship:

Itamar has already (through longevity of relationship as well as approach) established an ecology of trust in his relationship with Marc. In the workshop between the two of the, he does not lead through demonstration in this experience but he joins in as a participant of the exploration for himself. He uses language to direct but throughout he also uses language that enables ownership of the process for Marc:

“Take your time to set up for yourself – whatever you need.”
“Play with it a little bit.”

Playfulness, and the notion that there is no right or wrong in this exploration sets up an equality in the responses that each dancer shares.

Itamar moves himself in response to his own provocations. His movement also seems to provoke new suggestions for Marc to explore and vice versa. Although this is an individual process for each dancer, they are observing and responding to one another in the moment.

In section 2, there is one moment for Marc in which he directly mirrors the movement Itamar is doing. At this moment there are many layers of new information offered verbally, involving multi-tasking, and time is needed to understand and process the various stages of movement direction.

It is only at this moment n which Marc is copying Itamar that the method of personal internal focus and the use of anatomical connections could be lost due to the nature of copying; which draws the attention to the surface and the shapes made in space and by the body, rather than the journey to get there for the dancer. This is interesting as it highlights the importance of the pace of delivery of task-based exploration.

In discussion, Marc mentions that he has found a comfort zone with Itamar which is interesting for him. The notion that to progress one has to constantly notice the comfort zones and move beyond them is interesting to consider. Perhaps for Marc, the relationship with Itamar and his way of directing is comfortable. Alternatively, with new perspectives on movement possibility, Marc could be self-motivated to continue to push boundaries.

 

Themes emerging:

In researching we start with movement and in this exploration through tasks set by Itamar, the following themes have emerged:

  • Connections
  • Tension and release
  • Weight (Flow)
  • Space (open / close – internal / external)
  • Time

The spine was also a reoccurring inspiration for movement eploration which relates to each of these themes e.g. Space – the space between the vertebrae; Connections – the connection between the spine and the hand or the spine and the foot etc

 

Questions

As with all research, the questions arising for different people are based on their values and practice and what inspires them. For me, the interesting questions and ideas that arose for further investigation are:

  1. The values of the individual dancer (human) in the process of growth and development of an idea
  2. The use of somatic (internally motivated) exploration of movement as a way to provide ownership to the dancer of his / her own movement possibilities and progress of this
  3. The teaching or leading tools used to achieve this
  4. The artistic starting points for task based movement exploration
  5. The equality between dancer and dance artist and the two way learning process taking place between them