Photo © 2009. Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

looking at the world and challenging our assumptions, definitions and creation of it through the lense of the body, movement, the arts and science.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sandra Abouav's "A bouche que veux tu?" at L'Etoile du Nord, Paris


Photo © Patrick André.

Okay, I confess: I set out in search of escape. While the world collapses in the face of human greed and violence, the often-bloated self-importance of artists has grated on my nerves. Sandra Abouav’s À bouche que veux-tu, a study of yawning and its metamorphoses, sounded like a pleasant diversion...

Abouav comes forward to teach us how to cut a(n imaginary) pear, on a plate that slips out of mind into suspended, yawning moments of mental wandering, like Salvador Dali’s melting clocks. It is a delightful immersion in the surreal, and it is, indeed, absurd. Words stretch out-of-phrase so far they no longer mean anything. They’re just sounds unfolding around and through you. This section is my favorite.

“To cut a pear in two” (couper la poire en deux) is a French expression for reaching a compromise. While Abouav talks, the group yawns themselves into sleep, first politely melting into one another, and then, eventually, completely entwined with bottoms and arms, necks and feet fitting together in a ridiculously improper merging of body parts..."

To read the full Impression, published by The Dance Enthusiast, click here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New Directions in Dance: Cybernetic Epistemology, Social Choreography, the Choreography of Humans...

© Ann Moradian. January 2017

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
(Mario Savio as quoted in RSOD program materials)

The RICEAN School of Dance (RSOD) is a program of RICE on Hydra, which is focused on "the choreography of humans". It describes itself as a "self-actuated" school without teachers, with a "curriculum" that is "neither led nor taught". I expected to be challenged -- and I was. The 10-day experience was extraordinary and I will certainly never see choreography in quite the same way again. It is unfortunate that it was upstaged by its "satellite project" which was, frankly, unhealthy. It has taken over two months to find a way to write about it that I believe is honest, fair and constructive.


The rocky shores of Hydra, August 2016

You get to the island by crossing the, often churning, Aegean Sea from Athens. From the shores of Hydra, the central vortex through which you enter the RICE experience -- and the frame that contains it -- is a 10-day 'choreography' that I have dubbed The Scroll of Propositions. It begins with a giant roll of kraft paper stretched out across a studio floor. Everything is optional. We are, however, strongly encouraged to attend dinner. The location of our evening's meal is found clearly marked on the lower left side of the scroll. On Day One, the other propositions, fastened with pieces of bright blue electric tape, do little to clarify just what we might be up to over the coming days:

- Parliament / we could do this again this year if there is interest / talk with Michael
- Day Out of Time / meeting Sunday 2pm to prepare / Vito

After a series of intense, inspiring discussions at dinner the night before, I stood there, groggy-eyed, staring at this scroll with my head abuzz: What is Parliament? Who is Michael? Day Out of Time?? Well, Sunday 2pm. Ok. At least I know who Vito is… What day is today again?

At a traditional school or conference, this Scroll would be called the "Schedule". Here, our program was in constant flux, with new activities added at any time by those who dare. (I was told by someone who "knew what was going on" that only those who "knew what was going on" should really post, so I certainly did not dare…) The organizers seemed to disappear beneath a cloak of invisibility, disowning authority and letting the structures and clues set in place take on a life of their own. Clearly, the intention was to wake us from the kind of complacency that a rigid schedule encourages. No problem. We were game for it.


Valerie Lytle, Day Out of Time, RSOD August 2016

The Greek isle of Hydra* is a lot like a computer Game landscape come to life. Rugged stone pathways carve out narrow corridors up, down and through the town. These turn into open dirt trails as they lead out to vistas overlooking the sea, or plunge down rocky stairs into the deep, warm turquoise water that thrusts itself up against the island's shores.

The beauty of The Scroll of Propositions is that it creates more questions than answers, and sent us in search of one another for information, clarification, verification: Where have you been? What have I missed? What is Parliament? When is the Rice Circle? Has anything changed? and, most importantly, How do you get to Anita's for dinner? Over time our desperation to connect as we passed each other on the streets became a comfortable sense of camaraderie, knowing that we could rely on each other to find a way through what felt a lot like chaos. I think it is fair to say that a framework that sets the conditions for us to work together as a community is a beautiful thing.

RICE stands for Radical Institute of Cybernetic Epistemology (among a number of other things), which I had never heard of. Cybernetics most often refers to the study of computerized control systems but is also sometimes used as a synonym for "systems thinking", which focuses on the complex inter-relationships that create and define both living and non-living systems. Its Greek root, kybernesis, means steering, navigation, and governance. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Putting these two words together points to the study of how systems and frameworks steer or govern. Personally, I think it is best described as the study of how we grow our world.

The 60 of us who attended RSOD this year are adventurous souls who take risks willingly, question deeply, and live along (or are frequent visitors to) that borderline where the known and unknown meet. I have been dancing here cheek-to-cheek for over 15 years, and even I was surprised at how seriously disorienting this set up was. We all migrated gratefully toward the only proposition, other than dinner, that clearly stated where, when, who and what.


Donkey Shit Lane, Hydra 2016

This was altogether different from the other proposals, and was described as a "satellite project" at a "satellite site". It held a steady position on The Scroll in the lower right corner and was to be an "excavation site" for "institution building". The space it was held in was far more welcoming than the main school, with chilled lemon-water to counter the blazing heat, and and a smiling, gregarious host to help us feel at home. Hansel and Gretel must have felt the same kind of relief when they came upon the witch's gingerbread house in their treacherous German woods.

Powerful contradictions were at work here. Regimented controls like when to enter, where to sit, and even how to behave were at odds with the stated aims and modes of operation I had read about and been led to expect from the program materials we had received weeks before arrival. Our self-designated 'King' selected those he deemed worthy to speak, present or perform, which set us in competition with each other, vying for validation and approval from the powers that be. It was disappointing how easily most of us slid back into the deeply grooved patterns of the old system we were here to challenge.

Essentially, this was an experiential excursion into what Gregory Bateson described as a "double bind" -- a situation with two or more conflicting messages, with one negating the other. "A successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa)."** If, for example, we rebelled, then we were excluded, shamed, avoided, or punished. If we cooperated, we might win power or prestige, but also sacrificed our dignity, our integrity and our role as active participants in shaping our world. In this kind of setup, no matter how you respond, you lose. Confusion was used, as it often is in a double bind, to deflect resistance and deter response. I had never heard of a double bind before. Unfamiliar with cybernetics, epistemology, or any of the other big words and concepts being swished about flamboyantly like cloaks hiding Superhero wannabes, I watched as we either fit ourselves to the demands of the hierarchical power structure we were confronted with, or rebelled quietly, refusing to participate. There was no confrontation and no open discussion about what was going on. As rebels go, we were all very polite.


Rice Field, RSOD August 2016

The ethical dilemma here is that none of us signed on to be guinea pigs in a 10-day experiment that was neither framed nor informed in a way that it could be anything by psychologically destructive. Double binds are known to be the root cause of schizophrenia. This "satellite" world was a deeply disturbing experiment in social behavior, and it appears to be continuing with the creation of a real-world institution that replicates, once again, that "survival of the fittest" mentality I thought we were trying to get away from. If this was all intentional (and that could be debated), then the responsible and humane thing would have been to expose the experiment and its framework before we left the island at the end of our stay in order to learn something from it. That was not done.

In writing this, I feel as if I am throwing my body into Mario Savio's machine to make it stop. Someone has to care enough. I guess that would be me. And I care because other parts of RSOD were amazing: like Parliament, a movement score by Michael Kliën. About 30 of us ventured up to the school at the top of the hill at 11pm one night to begin a 3-hour immersion into "thinking body, moving mind". Our directions included: "Do not have ideas". It took me at least an hour to figure out how that might be possible! I would have loved to have had another two hours at it, since things were just beginning to get moving at 2am when we called it a night. The score of this social choreography set in place just enough "constraints that it enable(d)"*** us to be present together, no matter how uncomfortable that might be, no matter how scary we might seem to each other, no matter how deeply we might be moved, or how bored we might become.


'Parliament', RSOD August 2016, score by Michael Kliën

There was so much that was worthwhile, including discussions led by Erin Manning and Brian Masumi around the question of what an institution for the 21st century might look like, and how to archive experiences that do not lend themselves to traditional documentation -- like this one. My very favorite moments, though, were the many unscheduled exchanges that appeared out of nowhere on a bench between activities, or over a cup of tea in pajamas.

Dancers, movement artists and choreographers have much to contribute to the burgeoning subject of "Social Choreography", and I am glad to see this conversation being broached within the dance community by experienced movers. The question about how we steer the creation of our world is potent and timely. Social experiments can be enlightening, even revelatory, but they can also end up being outright damaging. It is not enough to be unflinchingly true to the ideas and ideals at work, we must also be true to the heart of the matter, and that, in this instance, is: What kind of world are we creating together? When we lose sight of this, we end up with a nightmare that looks a lot like Lord of the Flies or the white supremacists movement of Eugenics in the 1930s. We can do better than this.


Freedom Dance Night, RICE on Hydra, August 2016

"A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it." (Rabindranath Tagore)



_____
* The isle of Hydra is not, I was told, related to the multi-headed monster of Greek mythology! That, apparently, is the Lernaean Hydra)

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bind

*** Erin Manning


LINKS:
Mario Savio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Savio
Lernaean Hydra: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lernaean_Hydra
Hansel and Gretel: http://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/hansel_and_gretel
Gregory Bateson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Bateson
Double bind: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bind
Erin Manning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erin_Manning_(theorist)
Brian Masumi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Massumi
Lord of the Flies: https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/flies/
Eugenics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

IMPRESSION: Blanca Li in Paris at Theatre des Champs Elysées


Photo © Vincent Pontet

Blanca Li has put a solid and powerful structure in place for her work Déesses et démones (Goddesses and Demonesses). The lighting, by Caty Olive, and sets, by Pierre Attrait, speak with a simplicity that borders on brilliance. The designer swaths of flowing fabric are undeniably beautiful. Charles Carcopino's video projections carry the vision of the work forward magnificently. Both performers, Blanca Li and Maria Alexandrova (a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet), are excellent dancers. It is unfortunate that the work is hampered by the choreography that seeks to support it.

Déesses et démones begins with thin lines of light bridging the vast expanse between the stage floor and rafter sky. A deep, velvet sea of darkness cradles the glowing columns with a tenderness that gives them form — a great start to any tale that speaks of gods and demons or, more precisely, goddesses and demonesses.

A giant venetian window blind at the back of the stage snaps open... more


Photo © Vincent Pontet

--
For The Dance Enthusiast, by Ann Moradian:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A quick postcard from Paris

Dear Christine,

I have been trying to find the words to share with you what it is to be in Paris just now, after Friday night's terror attack… The 'dance', at the moment, is one of the heart -- twisting and roiling. And still pumping, for many of us. Still pumping. A group of us had been just blocks away from the slaughter earlier in the day, at an improvisation workshop by Jurij Konjar (which I will share with you all another day), oblivious of what was to come. Most of us had moved on by nightfall to other things, other places…

I think for me silence is the best I can do to keep my heart strong and clear and bright. Information continues to emerge. Reactions collide inside of each of us like an old pinball machine. Silence gives a little space for the expansion of the heart, when it might otherwise contract too strong, too hard.



But a friend of my son's shared this beautiful piece of writing by a young woman named Isabel Bowdery, who was in the Bataclan. This is worth sharing with you. I think she expresses beautifully what it is to stay human in this moment… I copy it in text below, as well as this link more directly to her post: https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893">https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893">https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893

"you never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless.. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't. The people who had been there for the exact same reasons as I - to have a fun friday night were innocent. This world is cruel. And acts like this are suppose to highlight the depravity of humans and the images of those men circuling us like vultures will haunt me for the rest of my life. The way they meticoulsy aimed at shot people around the standing area i was in the centre of without any consideration for human life. It didn't feel real. i expected any moment for someone to say it was just a nightmare. But being a survivor of this horror lets me able to shed light on the heroes. To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst i whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy i loved was dead, to the injured man who i had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so i wouldnt have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support - you make me believe this world has the potential to be better. to never let this happen again. but most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren't as lucky, who didnt get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through. I am so sorry. There's nothing that will fix the pain. I feel priviledged to be there for their last breaths. And truly beliving that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved. As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep belieivng in the good in people. to not let those men win. Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Conscious Body IV – Mouvement et Conscience

Samedi 20 juin 14h-19h
Un dispositif interactif à la rencontre de
la neuroscience, la danse et la philosophie

La Briqueterie
CDC du Val-de-Marne
17, rue Robert Degert Vitry-sur-Seine

À partir de la fin du XIXème siècle, les théories de la conscience s'orientent vers l'idée que les phénomènes psychologiques (perceptions, émotions, volontés) relèvent de la motricité. Ainsi la perception, non seulement requiert un grand nombre de mouvements conscients (faire le tour de l'objet) ou inconscients (saccades oculaires, circulation électrique dans les neurones), mais doit elle-même être comprise comme une activité motrice par laquelle nous nous insérons dans le monde. Prolongeant cette intuition, la théorie sensori-motrice (en sciences cognitives), mais aussi les philosophies du corps au XXème siècle (Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Foucault) ont cherché à interroger cette relation de la conscience et du mouvement, dont les pratiques contemporaines de la danse s'emparent plus que jamais.

À l'occasion de cette rencontre The Conscious Body [TCB] IV, nous avons invité quinze participants provenant du monde de la recherche scientifique, des sciences humaines et des arts à se réunir pendant six jours pour une série d'expérimentations autour de cette relation conscience/mouvement. TCB se présente ainsi comme un cadre dans lequel scientifiques, théoriciens du mouvement ou de l'art et praticiens créent ensemble des dispositifs artistiques et expérimentaux destinés à être vécus de l'intérieur par le public de la Briqueterie.

Samedi 20 juin à 14h, TCB ouvre donc ses portes au public, afin qu'il puisse participer, non comme regard extérieur, mais comme sujet actif, aux expérimentations conçues par le groupe durant la résidence. Ce dispositif a pour vocation de permettre au public de vivre de l'intérieur la création de ces expériences sensorielles et en mouvement.

L'organisation de la journée:

14:00-14:30 Monologue d'introduction
Présentation de TCB IV et de Labodanse

14:30-15:30 Un dialogue danse/philosophie
{Erin Manning rencontre Catherine Contour} La conscience comme mouvement

15:30-18:00 Polylogue
Expérimentations en circulation libre dans la Briqueterie

18:00-19:00 Métalogue
Retour sur expériences, discussions avec le public

Nous aurons le plaisir d’accueillir :

pour les praticiens : Noëlle Simonet (notation Laban) ; Benoît Lesage (danse-thérapie) ; Angela Loureiro (Laban-Bartenieff) ; Ann Moradian (yoga et kinomichi) ; Hervé Baunard (rolfing) et Catherine Contour (chorégraphe, hypnose)

pour les scientifiques : Isadora Olivé (physiologie de la perception et de l'action) ; Pierre Pouget (neurophysiologie de la perception) ; Chlöé Farrer (neurophysiologie de l'attention) ; Sergiu T. Popescu (psychologie de la perception) et Pauline Hilt (plasticité sensorimotrice)

pour les philosophes : Damien Schoevaert (morphologiste et biomathématicien) ; Frédéric Pouillaude(philosophie de la danse) ; Geisha Fontaine (philosophie de la danse) ; Nicole Harbonnier-Topin (explicitation et analyse du mouvement) ; Erin Manning (chorégraphe, plasticienne, philosophe du mouvement)

La participation est gratuite mais la réservation par e-mail (reservation@alabriqueterie.com) ou par téléphone (briqueterie: 01 46 86 17 61) est fortement conseillée.
Un bar sera à la disposition des participants tout au long de l'après-midi.

Ce projet est soutenu par le labex ARTS H2H, le PSL et la Briqueterie.

https://www.facebook.com/events/378681962331624/


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

CREATING YOUR OWN PRACTICE

A Workshop for Yoga practitioners wishing to continue their practice over the summer, at home or on vacation. We will go through the basics of what is needed for a well-balanced practice, with plenty of examples and ‘hands-on” experimentation. Each student will develop their own home practice, designed to suit their individual needs, abilities and interests, while working with the reality of their time and other constraints. Pre-registration is necessary for this workshop.


Photo © Alex Vanagas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
19h00 – 21h30 (55€)
YogaYoga Paris
6 passage de la Vierge
Paris 75007

Open to students of all levels, and practicing any form of Yoga. It includes a mandatory pre-workshop telephone conference to discuss expectations, needs and limitations.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

IMPRESSION: Compagnie Silenda (Laura Simi & Damiano Foa)

Festival signes de printemps (Signs of Spring Festival)
at Studio Le Regard du Cygne, Paris
April 17, 2015


Both works on this program, Titre Inachevé (Unfinished Title) choreographed by Damiano Foa and Shut up!, a collaboration between choreographer Laura Simi and composer Jean­-Noël Françoise, tap into how light, sound, and movement can work together to create pockets of enhanced visceral experience. (To read the rest, click here…)


Photo copyright Sebastien Laurent.