Abjection Rehearsals – Brussels

Neither Gala nor Ivo are in Brussels, which makes this decidedly weird being here; eating Piadina alone, sitting on the Metro alone … Hans and Anuschka are here though, and we had an excellent dinner on Thursday, and at least three coffees in three days, and I saw what they’ve done to their studio in Renold Space: wood-fired heating! It’s really, really beautiful, and I’m very envious as well as inspired. And now I depart for the impossible Tilburg. A mere long hundred kilometres away, it still takes 3 hours to get there. But once there, I get to see Daniel for one more time on ADT’s tour (and maybe Emile, fresh off the jet-lag run from down under).

In the meantime, I’ve slipped in a couple of days rehearsing in a secret location which shall remain nameless. More of the same from me. I think my ‘warm-up’ now constitutes much of the actual rehearsing, and it seems to be useful. It’s very methodical, and honestly if I turned up to a class of this, I’d probably hate it (unless it was perhaps Benoît or it was what I expected). I’m still turning up strange, lingering habits from when I mashed my knee last year, something to do on one side with whimpering meniscus not wanting to go into certain positions, so Gluteals don’t work and Psoas takes over, and a straight line between wonky Achilles tendon and Piriformis really not knowing what it’s doing.

The interesting thing is that all of this is quite small and built up from years of habits, but the process of finding these peculiarities and minimising them requires this methodical, patient workflow – spending an hour just working out what happens in my hips when I’m in child pose and would be about to roll from one side to the other.

And it’s never absolute either. What works in one situation at one speed isn’t entirely applicable to another, or even a different rhythm at the same speed, or different initiation of movement or attention. What is possible though is a phase space for particular movements, for example if I’m walking, there’s a variety of possibilities in how the movement happens, and through repetition I can build up a general representation of this, and subsequently which ones tend towards aberrance.

As for what constitutes aberrant movement for me at the moment, I just keep thinking of walking, which is more or less uncomplicated for anyone to do, whereas dancing is complicated, and so keeping in mind the uncomplicated physical feeling or perception of walking (which is not to say walking is simple or easy), I try and find what this is in any dance movement. Which leads me to lie on the floor for an hour analysing whatever is going on when I roll, or endless combinations of arm-swinging, leg-swings, or embarrassingly simple movement patterns.

Mainly I think that if walking is swinging, as in a pendulum movement, then so too must dance be, because it’s done with the same body. What’s come up so far is that it’s applicable across levels of complexity of movement; not just the ‘more things happening at once’ complexity, but the perhaps more interesting edges of movement, the ones where things get weird and awkward and usually get bashed through or otherwise cause horribleness. It also seems to allow for significantly more speed with less effort. All of which is the obsession of contemporary dance, and I don’t really want to contribute to that with some essentialist ‘natural’ movement programme, which is why I’m pointedly not reading or looking at any of the obvious similar techniques, be it release, or Klein, or whatever, even though I can’t escape them because that’s my training history and I can only ever work within what I know, or in reference to what I know.

Maybe to say it’s just me working out how I move, which is curiously something I’ve not done so much of; yes, plenty of thinking about it, but doing has largely been confined to other people’s classes and techniques. So it’s a little like messing around with a musical instrument and teaching myself to play, and it’s really not a technique or a style or a process or any other dressing up of what’s fundamentally me fucking around on my own for hours in a big room.

Which segues into my rehearsals. Which of course was most of my rehearsals. Music! From Abruptum and Gorgoroth and Mayhem to … Pulp! Jarvis Cocker. Oh Jarvis Cocker you are a dirty rocker. And the album is Different Class, which did lead to some useful reconsiderations of what I’m doing with my fingers, and also illuminated how distracting it is to work with popular music. Distracting as in it takes me out of my body, I no longer can feel moving because my ears are too busy. Black metal doesn’t suffer from this so much as it’s pretty incomprehensible and not very melodic. Which then made me think of all the classes I’ve ever done where the teacher puts on their favourite music and we dance to it, and that we’re not really dancing because we’re just doing the equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs drooling response because the music interrupts the physical process of experience of dancing. As nice as it was to dance around to Common People and Sorted for E’s & Wizz, it was unsettling to think that this habit of using music like this actually got in the way of training one’s self in moving.

All of which merits further musing, but I have a train to catch. More rehearsing next week, and quite a bit of going through videos and assembling stuff before then.