goat snake witch dance theatre blackness

The last couple of days I’ve been working on a side-project, cleaning up my dance/performance/choreography website, francesdath.info. I decided a while ago I wanted to move it into WordPress, change the font to Anonymous Pro, and try and make everything I would do by hand-coding possible through the WordPress browser editor.

Success! (Mostly). The design hasn’t changed, except it’s been cleaned up a bit, and a more structured layout used. The video took the longest and was a rather intense learning process, which is going to fall over into some other projects I’m working on at the moment. The words I edited a bit, but mostly left alone. Some time I’ll clean that up also.

As for ‘goat snake witch dance theatre blackness’, I couldn’t decide which word I liked the least and somehow they all sit together quite nicely, like an excess of baroque.

finishing

This week I made a decision I’ve been thinking about on and off for years, and always delayed because somehow I would be seduced back to what has been my love and life since I saw Ballett Frankfurt perform all those years ago. It has taken me all around the world and led me to meet some wonderful and beautiful people who are very dear friends, but in all of this there has been… but…

I decided with what savings I had to jump on a plane and come to Europe, to Berlin or Brussels and find somewhere that gave me something in life as well as in dance. I ended up here in Berlin, and yes, it is a city to fall in love with. But there remained that qualifier, and like running around in circles I could see no new way to continue.

So I decided to give up dance. I don’t want to insecurity, precariousness, lack of work, uncertainty, and most of all the bitterness trying to have a career in something I love very much has brought me. After eight years since graduating, I have nothing to show in terms of a career or progress, I’m largely where I was then, applying for the same funding, trying to make small projects happen, begging for work, and long periods of nothing. And perhaps most importantly, broke.

It seems pointless and futile, and for me personally a waste of my ability. Not just as a dancer or choreographer, but that I could be doing something else that maybe I don’t feel so passionately for but am actually able to do something worthwhile with.

What I wanted was a small group of like-minded people, in an old building made just habitable enough to enter, and to make art together, no touring, no festivals, nothing of this conveyorbelt that it seems is compulsory to run along, and this was far too much to ask for. Maybe then some chances to make work at other companies, or dance in some projects, or have enough regular funding to perhaps plan beyond the next month, but this also seems too much to ask. And the thing is now, I’ve lost interest. I don’t care for this and not sure if I was suddenly given this tomorrow I’d even want it.

I’ve done far too many projects for little or no money, or worse that have cost me both money and health to put on. I’ve spent weeks and months at a time writing and preparing funding applications, grants, residencies, all this, all without pay, or in fact paying to do it as the time spent doing this was time I could have been working and having an income. I’ve been and remain completely baffled by the whole industry of performing arts, the funding, festivals, producers, administrators… I still have no idea after all this time how I am supposed to proceed, what I should do to have some semblance of a career. I thought it was to do with talent, but far too much of what I’ve seen has to do with playing favourites, politics, obscure agendas that have nothing to do with art, and at worst something I can only think of as nepotism.

And I’m also bored with dance. With what I see, with the safety, conservatism, meaninglessness, vapidity, staggering lack of creativity or inspiration, lazy and mediocre ideas, their research and production, and seeing so many dancers completely underutilised. And seeing so many dancers treated as dispensable, as children, as problems that have to be dealt with, as the utter bottom of an industry that keeps everyone above them well-paid and secure in their careers even while they are leaving the dancers without work because ‘we didn’t get the funding’. The same dancers who are the entire reason for everyone having a purpose for being there at all, and who should be regarded as the centre of their universe.

Since I began training in Melbourne, and through all my travels I have seen these same things over and over, and also seem such little positive change, scant progression, and quite a bit of things getting worse or just stagnating. And so now here in Berlin, contemplating more years of struggle that maybe will also come to nothing, I no longer want to chase this across cities and continents and hemispheres. I don’t want to pay a couple of hundred euro to go to an audition in another city, I don’t want either to be constantly traveling around, I don’t want to be applying for things that if they even happen won’t be for another six months, I don’t want to live in a life that is for an imagined future that likely will never arrive.

These last mornings, going to ballet, I’ve enjoyed dancing more than I have in a long time. It’s no longer for this imagined future, staying in shape for some possible audition, or keeping myself around in the scene, doing it because I am a dancer. I am no longer a dancer. I am also no longer a choreographer. I do class because I love moving, I love the difficulty and exertion, the familiarity, I love the special world of dancers who do these incredible things with their bodies, it is truly a magical place.

But I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be insecure, to worry how I might pay rent or look after myself. I don’t want to compromise my life and myself and other dreams I might have for something that gives too little in return. I don’t want to be bitter either, and exhausted, worried, upset. I’ve tried to find different ways to do it, moving to Adelaide was certainly this, but it feels like it is just me without any support shouting into emptiness.

I would say to friends who were thinking of quitting it’s better to make that decision when you have work to find out if actually dancing is what you no longer care for or just the endless grind of lack of work and the daily exhaustion of trying to have a career in this. And also I would say that I didn’t want to give up and then when I am fifty or sixty regret this, to leave before I have seen out the possibilities. So perhaps now what I have reached is that I don’t want to stay and regret later not having explored all the other possibilities in my life, that there are certain tangible, real things that will not happen soon or at all for me if I stay in dance, and I know I will regret this if not more then at least as much as not trying to make real my desires in dance. And that perhaps giving up a career that does not exist is not so difficult.

I will miss playing in the studio with friends, making what we feel has worth, trying to imagine something new and then bring it into the world, and miss also the moment of inevitability, unavoidable like a train rushing at you standing on the tracks, just before going on stage. I have no idea what the next couple of months will bring, how to just survive for one, and then whether any of my ideas for what I might like to do next can be made possible. And while crying a bit at this ending, I also feel relief that it’s over.

Gallery

crush – late arriving photos

Certain craziness afoot in my world at the moment that I will neglect to elaborate on now, beyond suggesting airports are involved. Naturally that this post is about Crush … I’ll leave you to fanciful guessing, no?

Amanda emailed me a couple of days ago, saying, “You know I do not blog …” nonetheless, here are a bunch of photos from the performance taken by Rhian Daniels. Being self-centred, I’ve just stuck up the ones from my 27 minutes of cultural rape, but once I get some time to myself (that is to say have nothing to do but blog) I’ll post some more because they are quite beautiful as you can see on Amanda’s blog.

the symbolism of cultural rape

Even though it came out a while ago, and I read it by accident when flipping through the pages of my first RealTime in years, I’ve been a bit leery about blogging the review of Crush, mostly because I think despite being a ‘good review’, she didn’t understand what she was seeing, nor pay attention to what was said. Viz. the line, “symbolic of cultural rape”, that could be a fair interpretation of the action if interpretation is your idea of how to deal with art, but not if immediately after the action Lisa quite explicitly described what was going on. Or maybe my perception of the truth and yours are two completely divergent things. Nonetheless, as every artist has to have a bunch of well-rounded media quotes to perch on, I’ll be adding “the symbolism of cultural rape” to “troubling and pornographic” and “deep, primal violation and unconcerned superficiality” from extermination. Anyhow without further reviewing of reviews, here’s the … erm … review.

Moving from the melancholic to the erotic and exploring the fragility and innate cruelty of social experience, Crush is original contemporary dance performed with commitment and passion. The demands on the dancers are considerable, encompassing routines that are sensuous and languid, fast-paced and highly synchronised. Whether gently discovering each other or clawing furiously, the dancers sustain their personas in a dark and dangerous yet familiar circumstances, in the end with enough energy and sense of hope to survive a mad, crushing world.

— RealTime

crush – lisa griffiths, isabella trigatti, amanda phillips
crush – lisa griffiths, isabella trigatti, amanda phillips

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Gallery

crush – some time later

All over the place, disappointment in me for not blogging every day about crush like I have done with every performance and rehearsal since SiWiC last year. I think part of it was the lack of clarity for me in what I was doing, that didn’t iron itself out until mid- the second week, or about 3/4 of the way through the rehearsal period. Then I was worried about the deal of having to make half of a forty to fifty minute work in three hours a day, so over-compensated and churned out 29 minutes of self-indulgent, sex, drugs, death metal, strangling and five minutes of proper dance.

I did say I’d subsequently write about it, so this is maybe some notes from the distance of a week (and a mere hour after an hilarious parallel reality audition at Oz Opera). When I was in Zürich, two things forced me into new territory. The first was simply having exhausted my tricks, the things I know I can do, the wide variety of methods for generating scenes, be it recreating parts of films, or even using various computer or other tools to make straight dance. The second coming for this pressure of exhaustion, was the endless demand to make things from widely divergent tasks, sometimes in fifteen minutes, every fifteen minutes for a couple of hours. No experimentation, just something finished, now.

Out of that came the germ of something I’ve been plotting since, I kind of autobiography, a solo that has several dancers. The trick is in recreating what was violently fresh and also personally very confronting, embarrassing, and a bit upsetting, I was also doing exactly what it was not; relying on my tricks, doing what I know.

Again though, the heart of the work was a couple of hours on a Saturday when I had the dancers give me a couple or several tasks, objects, things (photos, songs, a poem, a jar of pickles), something about love and grief, an to make something of it, this rather obvious conglomeration of meaningless things in fifteen minutes. It’s more that the pressure and the response germinated something new that made sense with what came from Zürich, and in that made the piece coherent.

Some of this past weekend, I spent buffing the sound on the video of my 29 minutes of crush, and while not watching it as either audience, or in its entirety, there is a particular flow or progression wherein I can imagine how it could be. And I really don’t want to sound more conceited than I already do, but it was eerie to see Wittgenstein resurface yet again, as though I am in a long eccentric orbit around Ludwig.

Here then are some photos from the theatre taken by the beautiful 郭芳伶 Guo Fangling, from TNUA in Taipei, who came over for one mad week and is a transcendental dancer.

leaving adelaide

Another 5am trip to the airport and now I am back in Melbourne after almost a month in Adelaide choreographing and performing crush. Unlike every project since SiWiC mid-last year, I didn’t write a daily account of the project, though I kept a lot of notes and certainly it consumed the previous four weeks. I’m intending on blogging a bit about it in the coming week as there are a bunch of photos to show off and really many special things to write about.

After two crazy shows, the first of which more of the complete start-to-finish dress rehearsal we never had, I spent yesterday hanging out with Gala driving through vineyards of McLaren Vale, eating chocolate, drinking wine and eating eating eating at Coriole Vineyard, cheese, bread, olive oil, smoked kangaroo in the gently undulating concave lens of the vale, then stung by the fresh wind and salt along Noarlunga beach. The evening we – Gala, Lisa, Adam, Alison, 芳伶 Fangling, Amanda and myself, the group of crush – continued the eating (mostly chocolate) and drinking until a very short sleep overtook me.

As we were driving through the vale, I was thinking about how lucky I am to make dance, to dance, to be with people who simply amaze and astound me; the bright glare of life I can’t easily find words to describe but against the varied backdrops hoisted like interwoven cycloramas of so many cities and landscapes are these people who I cannot imagine life without.

silence

I’ve been living in the theatre the last week, out in Golden Grove Arts Centre, somewhere I think in North-East Adelaide. Crush opens tonight and I’m off for a last rehearsal-slash-something like a dress rehearsal. More info on Fringe Benefits because I can’t find a link to I Hear Motion which we are performing as part of. I’ll be back maybe tomorrow morning or on Sunday when I get back to Melbourne.

Gallery

crush – shots against the wall

The first Friday of rehearsal, when we’d only been together for a couple of days we all had a bunch of headshots taken and some other photos which make us all look pretty glamorous. Here’s some of them.

crush – something about adelaide

We are rehearsing in a quite splendid Art Deco building, formerly a cinema now a black-box theatre somewhere on the east side of Adelaide. We are three dancers from Leigh Warren and Dancers, Gala Moody, Lisa Griffiths, and Adam Synnott, and another Adelaide dancer, Alison Currie, and Adelaide choreographer Amanda Phillips. We are also other connections and entanglings. I choreographed pirn for Chunky Move in which Lisa danced. Gala has already been in extermination, hell, and two weeks ago temperance, and Amanda, well we have shadowed each other across the world, Taipei, Guangzhou, Vienna, Zürich since 2002 when Gypsy Wood emailed us and said we should email each other.

Adelaide also is something of a city that was not unknown upon my arrival. Walking along Gudger St there is the second-hand clothes shop that once belonged to Gypsy’s mother. Nearby is the old Australian Dance Theatre buildings where Meryl Tankard, the one choreographer in the Southern hemisphere I used to want to work for had a balcony outside the studios. There is something of the feeling of familiarity that came with Zürich and Vienna from friends who had been to DanceWeb or SiWiC, and also something of the dreamy unreality that stories of days and night of life colour a place with.

So together we are making a performance over the next three weeks. I’m still unsure of how the overall conceptual structure is going to be made apparent through whatever little things I do, and whether the work sits alone as a single, separate entity or whether it’s something like an agglomeration of recent previous works, new unmade works, and a swarm of other stuff that is preoccupying me now. Nonetheless all the usual stuff I do will be leeched out and into the studio in the coming days.

Once again I’ll be trying to write most days about the process, partly so you can live vicariously through the blogging of a facetious artist, but mostly so I can try and consciously define what I am trying to do this time, and accompany that with photos of us eating and eating and eating. And Adelaide is so very very good for food.

more airports

I’m going to Adelaide for the weekend, as I mentioned a couple of days ago. Blogging is unlikely, and might resume on Monday depending on my lazy arse.

My lazy arse. Two and a half years and it’s all about me and whatever I happened to be reading, thinking, caring about. Global Voices Online linked to this old post. I really feel like I used to care more then, like it wasn’t all something to be endured, to cringe away from until it passes.