Dance & writing at SoloDuo Festival NRW + friends 2022

I announced my workshop at this year’s SoloDuo Festival with the following text:

“Dance is ephemeral, scurries by, is difficult to convert into words and writing. Bodies turn, jump, fall, shake… what more could one say or write about movement? Together we will explore exercises from creative writing for the use of dance descriptions in production processes and as a linguistic, artistic approach to movement.”

I am interested in this, because I have been working as a dance critic and read critics about pieces in which I was part of the team. Since dance science is a rather new discipline and theory only started making its way into dance in the 1990s, it is still the exception that professionals from the field of dance write about it. Performances are often judged by critics, rather then it is tried to describe properly what is going on and what the bodies do. A critic is always only one member of the audience and still personal opinions about witnessed art are often being generalized. As part of a production team I find it always helpful to find as many ways as possible to talk about the things you produce, use language to describe, but also use poetry, language as an artistic tool to find other ways to address what it is, that is moving us.

We met on the second day of the festival in a studio at Barnes Crossing in Cologne, there were eight participants who joined the workshop. One of them was especially interested in the theme, because he has been writing dance critics himself. They all had tried exercises like the first one I did with them. It always makes me nervous to prepare something for SoloDuo, because I never know who will be there and in which stage of their professional career they are. The group this year really wanted to try out things, it was a very good atmosphere.

Here are the exercises we did after a short introduction round:

1st exercise:

5 nouns – write for 1 minute about each noun, without thinking, do not take the pen off the paper, write nonsense, make words up, but write!!! Nouns can be out of your projects, something that you are interested in, do not have to be about dance. Please write in your mother tongue.

One dancer told me afterwards that she had the noun “Ego” and wrote “Ako” (which means “I” in her mother tongue Filipino) for one minute.

2nd exercise:

Talk about movement. 10 minutes. One person moves, one talks. Describe what you see. Do it in your mother tongue. Try to find different ways to talk about the moving body you witness. Change your habits, find several approaches. What else?? What else??

Then change roles for another 10 minutes.

What I have seen witnessing them doing this exercise was, that most talking people decided to follow “their” moving body, they seldomly chose distance. The ones talking sometimes mirrored the ones moving, as if they needed to feel the movement themselves. They quickly grew together as teams of two, although they had not been working together before. They started to own the space – they used things that were there, opened a window, nearly climbed out of it, used their humor, started to play around together. It was fun to watch them.

After the exercise they reflected in teams of two. Then we had a last group talk and what they shared was: As a mover they somehow felt obliged to fulfill what was said about their movements. They thought it was interesting how the movement was influenced by the talking, or sometimes just words that you hear.

In the last reflection round I was asked, how I would continue from this exercise on? I think there are different options to work further after these exercises, it depends on the group. It would be interesting to listen to someone talking, so that only two people do the exercise, and the others listen and then the whole group can reflect on what has been said.

If one is interested in playing with language or sounds, then you could go on with this exercise:

3rd exercise:

Create words/ sounds to movement. One moves and one tries to make or write down sounds that fit to the movement. What does a turn or a jump sound like? Later you take the sounds that you have created, and you create movement to these sounds. The second part will be easier, if you write down immediately while watching the movement in the first part of the exercise, otherwise you will have to record your talking and write it down or use the recording to create new movement.  

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