It’s mental week now, doing the costume shopping, organising lots of little things that sprout up like an Oxalis frenzy. After the shopping fun at Liuxingqianxian yesterday, and an impromptu hour of not-much-to-do-but-take-a-nap-laah! we started on 貍貓換太子, the much-loved Cantonese opera full of deceit, intrigue, death and supernatural scary ghost women with long blue tongues.
Much of what I’m doing in 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD comes from hell, but I’m trying to not recreate what I did there, re-stage something that belongs elsewhere. I think one of the main interests for me in choreographing is not making steps, which is both easy and mostly meaningless, anyone can string together a bunch of moves, an endless concatenation that in itself means nothing and is the choreographic equivalent of gibberish. What caught my fascination when I was doing all the computer-generated choreography up until late 2003 was coding instructions that once complied would be coherent within themselves (or to force needlessly a coding analogy: debugged), yet every time the instruction set was run would produce different results.
So my thinking continued onto the idea of re-staging a performance, which is a somewhat common occurrence. Mostly when transferring an existing work to a new company or group of dancers, the learning is done from a video of the performance, and once mostly recovered, some ‘cleaning’ is done by someone, the choreographer or an original dancer. Seeing a couple of my pieces get the re-staging treatment, I was privately dismayed by the loss of detail, by how something that once was as sensible as lines of code became decorative and with no understanding of what was being done and where it came from.
Besides this choreographic limbo, remounting a work in this way always leads to degradation of movement itself, things are not clear on video, perspective is distorted, approximations are made. Against this is the phantasmic perfection of both the original piece in itself and what is seen on the video-captured copy. For me this means there is really no original in any useful sense, nor is there much point in re-staging a work this way. The result has the appearance of something, but in fact empty.
The real time-consuming aspect of making a new performance is in the writing and debugging of the instructions. More interesting for me then, and for the performers also would be to receive a full instruction-set and execute these, apparently making a new work, but actually only running code. For 岭南启示录 Apocalypse PRD this means a pile of videos, some music, some old artworks, a couple of texts, and certain methods of devouring these which can be written in procedural, human-readable language. All this could be given to the dancers in a neat package, for them to be let loose on for a couple of weeks, followed by the ‘cleaning’ period. Time-wise this would be no different from a normal remount, but in terms of making a new and living performance which was not a copy of anything – even the first, ‘original’ being merely one iteration of the instructions – a performance in which the danger, chaotic-ness, possible-disasters were not recycled mimicry, this for me both as a choreographer and dancer is far more engaging.