Abjection Rehearsal 8

I’d planned to return to rehearsing a lot earlier than this, but laziness, other work, got in the way. So, return. A different studio this time. I’m still in Theaterhaus Mitte, which means a meandering bike ride there and back, attempting on the latter to find streets and ways I haven’t passed before; surprisingly easy.

Today and tomorrow are easy rehearsals, five hours of working methodically through ideas that have come up in the previous month, no bashing out and going crazy when my body is not used to it. And I haven’t been cycling either, the past month, so I’m pretty slovenly and slothful. Four hours then, of bits of yoga, Klein, Pilates, working on movement, watching it snow, generally just keeping going somehow for those hours; the last hour reserved for something new.

I saw Isabelle perform Der Bau last week (and Das Helmi’s Magnet der Affen), a very intense solo, and from that seem to have found a way to think about the rope work in abjection. After the last rehearsal, I was starting to think that the piece was going to become something very different from what i’d been working on (working on for far too long), but now perhaps I think I know what’s going on again.

And other excitement for abjection and me, Valquire – whom I choreographed for a music video he was filming last year – and I are going to see what might become of those ten minutes or so of movement which has been the subject of rehearsals ’til now. In the meantime, back there tomorrow for more gentleness and lack of terror (should probably listen to a Black Sabbath ballad or something).


abjection rehearsal 7

The last rehearsal last year of abjection then, with the thought of a Sichuan food frenzy with Dasniya at Peking Ente (or 太和饭殿 as it’s also known) afterwards distracting me, I managed nonetheless some usefulness. Possibly the ten minutes where I worked out what I was doing, which curiously has thrown the rest of the piece into doubt.

Back to rehearsing next week.

abjection rehearsal 6

The first of split rehearsals, a bit like the old punk split EPs, A side B side from different bands on 12″ 45rpm vinyl. Melanie Lane are sharing rehearsal time to work both on our own projects, and together on something wherein I choreograph on her — a strange terminology of language that hmm, doesn’t quite grasp it.

In the big upstairs studio while there was sun (vast orb in sky fusing hydrogen, not band with additional ‘n’), and then in my current favourite room on the first floor, doing … well, I decided some time between the night before and arriving that working on a piece from my list of hypothetical works was a good idea, and seeing that Daniel Jaber has more-or-less claimed one of them and the other is one I want to leave for the moment, that left my attention going towards what will probably become a category here in its own right, and exists on my other site, and is unsurprisingly named black metal.

Yesterday we interpreted baroque floor plan notation for a sarabande, and then slapped steps on top; actual choreographing in the traditional sense. Today I have other plans, but it was at least a good place to start and one I’ll return to once I know what, or rather, how I’m doing. Michel Serres plays a role in this, for one enduring and one current reason. The former being he remains to my knowledge the only philosopher of the 20th century (a qualification here: of the european or continental or French type, as well as any of the big names from the UK or North America) who wrote lucidly on dance — actually in all my reading I never came across a philosopher who wrote on dance in anything other than uninformed asides, if at all; art, cinema, literature, yes, but dance? better to wait for the inevitable demise of the stars than such a fantastic occurrence. The latter reason then, being I’ve recently tried to go back to reading Arendt and Derrida, and find the language and obsession with fucking Plato and Aristotle so infuriating, as if there was never another person who had a thought in the last two thousand years than this pair, and so am left staring at China Miéville’s Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law as my next reading ingestion (ha! me, Marx? “I’ve got a bad feeling about this …”), and Serres, while also drawn into the vortex those delightful two, far more often is a poetic outlier of Deleuze and the other minor philosophers. What he wrote on dance I still find the most beautiful work of philosophy from a person who is no mere audience to the task.

abjection, then. Some working out of things, some repetition of movements that eventually will sometimes be fast, and need now to be apprehended slowly, methodically, repetitively; what goes on here, what are the mechanics, can it be done as if floating despite seeming dragged down by gravity? It is coming together, it, if yet no more than an overture that is, and I’ll stay with this until it becomes as walking or breathing.


abjection — Rehearsal 5

There was a rehearsal yesterday, but it was rubbish, so I left early. Best let that one die miserably. Today though, was rather good. Sometimes rehearsing alone just feels like a very long self-indulgent body maintenance programme. Some floor yoga, some pseudo-Klein, kinesiology stuff, lots of merciless, slow pliés, improvisation scraped from various people in the past — Forsythe, Greco, Lachambre — so far from the roots that it’s probably only me who thinks it bears any resemblance to what they taught, occasional pauses to eat fruit … trying various things to see what’s possible with knee and achilles …

Whatever it is I’m trying to do, it seems that certain things generate a corporeality that suits this, that somehow generates an intensity in muscles, limbs, joints that if I don’t do these ‘warmup’ things, doesn’t appear. Tonight was five hours of this. Alone is surprisingly uncomplicated; it takes around two hours to get through all the ‘warmup’ stuff — somewhere during that it turns from warming up to actually working, but I’m not really sure what is what, probably some time after the plié barrage. There’s moments of “What am I doing, for fuck’s sake?” but usually just a change of music solves that.

And tonight’s music was: Abruptum, Bolt Thrower, a little Burzum but it felt too Nazi-ish and that line isn’t one I want to go down in this work yet, Deathspell Omega, Gorgoroth and Mayhem of course, and finally Sun O))), (who are playing in Berlin soon!). Getting the music right is a lot of it. I was thinking about mosh pits and other sublime moments of punk gigs, and that there’s something in this of a mosh pit, or one where there is only one person, or the expression of hysteria of a metal gig, a little of headbanging, though the more I work on this stuff the clearer it is that the way one dances to the music — mosh pit for punk, headbanging for metal, something entirely other yet from the same world for black metal and doom — describes the music. It is the expression of worship, or of sublimation.

Tonight it seems I’ve finally made sense of a bit of this, I know what goes on, what I have to hang on to in order to last the ride. I also know a bit of what isn’t there, that too, the absence of the future of what it is beyond where I’ve got to. It’s potentially longer than I expected, which raises a question of what is the actual music for this, given that what I’m rehearsing to isn’t what I’d intended on using.

Another small realisation came about when I tried using Wolves in the Throne Room and reflexively slapped on Antichrist. There’s a genre of black metal, and separately a philosophy (Black Metal Theory) that touches on this genre, which takes the particular musical elements and aesthetics — the drums, guitars, voices and turns them from darkness to transcendentality, which yes, this can be serviceable for, but not here. (As well, I’m not so interested in a lot of North American metal, it’s a bit too full of bros swinging their dicks, or to put it another way, the cultural landscape in which black metal exists is a reflection of that culture, and in this instance, the US is synonymous with obnoxious.) abjection goes … well, I think into the abyss. It’s not satanic exactly, though uses those tropes, but it’s more of an extreme atheism, possibly not even philosophy. It might be a nihilism that seeks its own oblivion through the the act of destroying everything else. In this you could say it’s pretty negative.

So it’s starting to make sense, which I think is going to help a lot with the other parts. The next two weeks I’m rehearsing a bit more, also splitting my time with Melanie Lane on something I have not a clue about yet, except it might be called dust will not account for everything, and perhaps is influenced a little by Derrida’s essay in Writing and Difference: The Theatre of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation.

As for the video, it’s just a sketch of some ideas I’m dredging up, as well as a dialogue with my knee and achilles tendons — it’s peculiar to dance constantly paying attention to localised regions of catastrophe.

abjection — Rehearsal 3

Music this afternoon was: Gorgoroth, Antichrist; Mayhem, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas; plus bits of Horn’s Jahreszeiten, and Sunn O)))’s The Grimm Robe Demos and Black One. Also horrible, horrible jazz trombone/trumpet noodling filtering down from the rehearsal room upstairs. I played Mayhem very loudly then, and worked on my voice.

My voice, which goes from tubercular emptying of mastodon lungs up to “I’ve just sucked on helium!” in a series of arbitrary steps. There’s a huge gap in my register from high to helium, and above that very occasionally I can hit “tinnitus”, but none of these noises are connected. There’s also some “hypothetical notes” I know I can manifest in my throat if I can just twist my thinking a bit.

I was working a bit of some text which comes from Julia Kristeva’s The Powers of Horror, and oh dear she is a melodramatic writer, it’s all poetico-freudian. Possibly it’s the translation but I had quite a few moments of high embarrassment trying to turn bits of this into a script. A task for a lazy Sunday and a hatchet.

Five hours of solitary excitement today. There’s nothing much else to do but keep hacking away at whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing, and I don’t actually think I know. As usual, I spent most of the time working on movement — getting myself moving without suffering, and I’m really physically far from dancerly at the moment, as well as actually ‘dancing’, looking all old and arthritic compared to what I was doing last year.

And a bit of realisation I’ve reached the point of remaking the wheel, where last year I got some ideas fairly coherent and there’s not a lot of point in improvising for three hours solid trying to come up with ideas when they already exist. Though new stuff is also sprouting. I think I need to cut some of this in Final Cut and make sense of it (I video most of my messings around), try and recreate a single stream of performance, rather than bash away blindly at the same thing over and over from different sides. I have three days of rehearsal next week, so shall apply myself to this then.

The good news for my knee is that arthroscopy is no longer really likely, as it seems to have recovered mostly and the standard test don’t elicit a yipe from me, though I can’t imagine myself being able to do the stuff I was doing last year in any way in the near future.

So, abjection trolleys along. I definitely have the need to vanish into a studio for six weeks and really crawl into the bowel of this piece; there’s too much stuff that requires an intensity that doing it only a couple of times a week isn’t going to prepare me for.

In the meantime, there’s jute disintegration with Dasniya this weekend, things with Melanie Lane in December and possibly oh yes possible something with Daniel Jaber also. Excitement? Yes!

abjection — Rehearsal 2

A night rehearsal yesterday, only because it’s dark at 4 o’clock. It was very nice to be back again so soon, instead of once a week, and with five hours to churn through, which passed surprisingly quick.

I’m definitely out of dance shape, which I accept like having a horrid cough which won’t depart; contra that, the past months of early morning cyclocross has given me a disturbing level of endurance. What used to leave me gasping last year, this time around I just keep going until I run out of ideas (usually around the 6 minute mark). Very convenient.

Music was difficult. I tried Bathory, Abruptum, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, and a few others, and couldn’t find something that really suited. Also I was in the upstairs studio — it has a dance floor, i.e. Tarkett, but not really sprung, just on the wooden floor, as opposed to the first floor studio which has a raised wooden floor of a few centimetres, no Tarkett and is decidedly cushy — much better for knees and ankles, and also somehow visually and acoustically better.

If I was to assign any meaning to my corporeal ditherings, I might say it’s a long exercise in first principles. I’m spending a bit over an hour ‘warming up’ (floor yoga, pseudo-Klein stuff, bits of Lechambre, Greco, Forsythe limb-noodling), which tends to descend directly into ‘improvising’, where I worry at a particular task like rodent upon morsel while videoing it. This is probably the important thing: watching myself looking like I’m trying to learn to dance, and the disjuncture between feeling like I have found the coherent movement path, momentum and so on and looking that. It doesn’t help that the laptop camera records at around 19 frames per second and tends to compensate for anything too energetic by skipping over that part, giving me the appearance of five limbs flailing over there while head is unmoving over elsewhere there. It doesn’t help either that somehow I am dancing with five limbs and immobile head.

Which leads into just head. Six minutes of it, crack, critch, crick, crack, grrrnch, I wonder if I’ve done much with my head in the past while other than use it to point my eyes screen-ward? It’s like an expensive bike with no oil on the chain. Then I notice my everything-below-hips is suffering from a similar malaise, stumbling around as though the idea of ‘ground’ is a suggestion to be ignored.

So I do a bit of headbanging (slow, concentrating on the hair), and other channelling of the goat. I really don’t know what I’m doing.

There are a lot of ideas, and a sense of what it should be and where it should go, which at some point collide up against what I’m capable of, and this dealing with one aspect at a time, first principles, what is a head, how does it move, what happens to my feet when it does (where the fuck has the ground gone?), becoming familiar with destabilisation, so that looking at the world from all possible angles and velocities feels as normal as regarding it front and centre, seems like a good place to start. From this to that though …

I think there is also, to use some controversial words, an authenticity, believability, naturalness, or to use less uncritically regarded words, a coherency in movement that comes from repetition. This is the rehearsal process; it, the movement becomes so, becomes almost inevitable upon watching it in performance as a result of this repetition. But it’s not repetition for the sake of it. There’s something very analytic, almost cold in approaching movement so that it can attain this appearance of transcendence (that is to say, the inevitability implies something ‘more than human’, outside the sphere of the normal).

I really have no idea how to get to that from where it is now, and hoping a little that it will just happen as a result of what I’m doing, somehow coalesce out of the mess.

abjection — rehearsal 1

It turns out getting me into a studio and rehearsing is as easy as booking the studio. Lucky for me that Theaterhaus Mitte have studios with dance floors and sun and a mirror and available by the hour and for €3 an hour. Yup, half a day rehearsing for the cost of lunch.

Well, to backtrack. This time last year I was banging around in exactly the same place, but on slightly better equipped right knee and ankles. The ankles’ achilles tendons decided to give out, I’m pretty sure because of my relentless jumping on the same floor minus the dance overlay, and while trying to do something that didn’t piss them off immensely (yoga), managed to ruin my meniscus. So, no rehearsing for quite a while, as I relearnt things. Not that I’m claiming to have relearnt successfully, just that I have a slightly different attitude to my body, and bashing about thoughtlessly is a thing of the past largely because I’m psychologically traumatised.

Not to say either I am healed and ready for jumps and floor rolls. I’ve only been able to get bum to heel in the last weeks, and completely unsure whether decrease in pain is because of things getting better, or because of ripping the painful bits completely loose. All rather boring really, and requiring orthopaedics who in Berlin tend to be mostly useless.

Rehearsing, then. Sunlight! uuuhh! Warming up in the sun. Weak, low-in-the-sky Berlin winter sun, but sun nonetheless, and a mirror also. Unlike last year when night rehearsals were the last word in excitement, today I had a good two hours of sun before the cloak dropped.

I’m being very gentle to start. I physically don’t really remember what I did last year, and I’m avoiding too much watching the videos partly because me thrashing on my knee makes me wince. I didn’t even know where to start besides where I’d finished, so back to black metal it was.

Music today was Gorgoroth and Mayhem. Anyone looking through the window would have seen a very sad, solitary headbanger. Gently headbanging. Having just read of Slayer’s Tom Araya of Slayer having his cervical vertebrae fused from excessive thrashing, gentle is a good start. Mostly I just stood in one spot and threw my arms around.

I messed around with another scene, but felt that eating my own earwax and snot was somehow at odds with the rehearsal space. Some things I think really need a dedicated couple of weeks locked away somewhere … somewhere rural so I can bury my clothes for a while to achieve the desirable stench.

Back there again tomorrow for a night rehearsal. I’m not sure I have the inspiration for five hours, but I’ll just force myself to stay there and work.


“Indeed, cousine, I should rather you were a since…

“Indeed, cousine, I should rather you were a sincere Satanist than a pretend one; for the former recognizes God’s majesty, and may be reformed, while the latter is an atheist, and doomed to the Lake of Fire.”

The Confusion, Volume Two of The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson