On a whim in May, because it landed in my maiming lists inbox, I decided to send temperance to Cinedans, promptly forgetting all about it in the whirl between then and a month or so ago. Then I find out it’s been accepted into the Festival and promptly forget to blog about it. So: temperance will be at the 2011 Cinedans Festival in Amsterdam from December 1st-4th. I’ll be in Brussels then, and shall try to find one of those €14.50 tickets from there to (the other) there, for a day/weekend of dance film, visiting Lewis if he’s in town, and canals.
With all the adding of video and making newness on francesdath.info, I started looking at the footage of temperance again. It’s been years since then, reading my blogging on the project is a curious reminder of that time, and the process of forgetting, the certitude of thinking one remembers.
I decided then, to do some rough cutting of the film, beautiful 16mm stock that had been sitting in a fridge for decades, wondering if I could work around the limitations of some of my decisions in the filming. A good deal had already been done. Paul had synced the cameras and also done a first cut – though what I have done, while retaining some of this, is far from it, and also conditional, preliminary.
A thought early on, a week or so ago, was what to do about music. For the rehearsals, we’d been using a track from the Boredoms, which fitted well the mood of the rehearsal as well as of that time. It didn’t fit now, or rather it did but didn’t say or add anything I particularly cared about.
In addition to the film, there was also all of Bart’s sound recordings, including boom from the floor – also all synced. I wanted to leave this in place, as the sound of feet, breathing, scraping, knocking the floor, the hum of the cameras, was all things I felt belonged.
So to music. I thought perhaps something Cello or otherwise, but then was listening to Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations and one track, the 15th, somehow suited. Perhaps it is a bit long, perhaps one that was four minutes would have been better, but strangely the rhythm of Bonnie and Gala matches that of the piano.
This then, is a first cut. I am really not a film editor, though I can stumble and thrash my way through Final Cut enough. I decided to stop here as the only real option is to spend weeks on familiarising myself with all the footage, and carefully assembling it, for which I don’t have the luxury of such time, nor do I think I am capable; and I also know if I don’t at least call something ‘finished’ now, it will remain in the darkness of my hard drive forever.
There are a couple of edits I’m a bit cringy about, where the continuity is very off, and other places where more tightening and timetimetime would make me smile more, but there is also much in here I like. The dancing and attentiveness of Bonnie and Gala, the camerawork of Paul, the sound of Bart, the Temperance Hall, those two weeks when we made this.
You can also watch temperance on francesdath.info/video
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.
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.
I was sitting at Cibo around lunchtime, getting ready to visit some sex shops around Hindley St looking for instruction manuals on Shibari, Japanese rope bondage, and to have a chat with Sally at ACArts about the choreography of ballet curtain calls. I got a call from ANAT, also in Hindley St, and responsible for all kinds of art-science fun.
Waah! I’m still bursting out in laughter at inappropriate moments, and completely, completely amazed they and Arts Victoria decided my lunatic proposal on Leibniz, 17th century science, 20th century astrophysics and dance dance dance was worth funding for an amount I have never come close to receiving before. I’m almost embarrassed to think how much.
I can’t even say any more. I’m sitting down but I need a drink. Absinthe!
I love astronomy so much. (I get to hang out at Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing,)
A few months ago I got really excited by the Stereo satellites 3-D photographs and videos of the sun, there’s something colossal, menacing and gothic about what we see as a blinding white-ish disc revealed as a seething monster, scabbed and pockmarked, slowly boiling and fringed with an alien halo. It’s not what we imagine the sun god would look like.
So last night when the sun had properly set and Leigh Warren studios were murky, Gala and I tried to remember how to dance. It’s been eight months since we made temperance in Melbourne with Bonnie and there was a gap in our our duo where she should be sitting. For now it is just us, though maybe two more could arrive sometime, if it gets beyond whatever we do in the next couple of weeks. The genesis of monadologie back in February has remained fairly constant to now – Leibniz and his text, boris and Sunn0))), and of course the Stereo videos.
It’s kind of a conversation between people, like chamber music. It’s also … if science now, to observe the universe on any scale is to be understood, it’s only through layers of intermediaries; Mercury as the messenger of the gods. Three hundred years ago, Newton, Hooke, Leibniz observed the universe through tools that only barely stretched our senses beyond their means, and the tools themselves could be understood or manufactured by a person. I was thinking about this when I was applying for the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics residency, that what bodies moving and choreography can’t do is a literal one-to-one representation of data. A body of data being apprehended through a digital interface, can do this, representing it as audio, or light, or … a body can only ever approximate, and never is each iteration the same as the last.
It was … embarrassing last night to realise after the months passed how quickly our ability to improvise on a formal system vanishes, and that before we can even get to the stage of considering how to assemble movement, we have to relearn how to move. It is really pleasurable though to return to dancing, and to all the Forsythe stuff I seem to have accumulated.
The process then is fairly straightforward, in that systems of improvisation build up movement while videoing, then we cut and paste the good bits and try to learn them. Late last night though, I thought, “yeah but that’s just a bunch of steps, isn’t it? Aren’t I trying to get away from that?”
So the continuation of this is to create a bunch of rules that describe what happens if you find yourself in a particular situation, like if my location is very close to the front of gala, then do this set of instructions or else do these other ones. Because it’s all established with really formal improvisation techniques that can also be used to analyse whatever you’re doing while you’re doing it, there’s clear paths to dismantle whatever existing phrase we happen to be in the middle of.
I also thought that to have a film running, kinda as an external source of input, so say it’s Bladerunner, which could be in its entirety or cut up into a string of short pieces, then every time the blimp floats past advertising off-world living, the ‘blimp phrase’ has to be done. Ultimately it’s removing the act of choreographing one step from the ossification of making and setting steps. Step-making is a clear, well-worn and inescapable path that proceeds both spatially and temporally in a fixed manner. I’m trying to do something like a cascade, where whatever starting point there is, the movement keeps branching and bifurcating, cutting back across itself, slowing and speeding up, like a braided river, any path can be taken.
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.
I’ve taken to walking back through Faulkner Park, between the Domain and, I guess you could say, Prahran, though the suburbs are not so important as the linking of sections of a city, scraps of topology. The meandering backwater paths off the automotive and overheated parallel striations of main roads is where a city becomes, if it is fortunate, human. Melbourne I think is one of the less successful cities for this, constantly dissected by blaring highways that delineate the end of walking.
Back to the park though. Ballet this morning, and after yesterday’s over-excitement of discovering the impending tour of Sunn 0))) and Boris, all I have been listening to is Boris. OK, and Sunn 0))). It was Emile who introduced me to much of what constitutes my current listening repertoire, and plenty of that has turned up in my performances since 2005. As much as going to DanceWEB in 2003 changed what I was doing and resulted in extermination, 4.7 gig of mp3s from Emile had much the same effect on hell.
After temperance last year (of which I have just heard a rumour that it might be getting cut some time soon … ish), I’ve had a work fermenting primarily based on Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, inventor of, among other things, calculus and binary numeral system (those of you who’ve seen me count to 1024 in binary using my fingers will appreciate the high geeky adoration I feel for Leibniz). So I’m currently ploughing through his 1714 text Monadologie, and after half a page comparing the English and German translations, decided to go with the original French version, though I really wish he’d written it in whatever dialect of German is spoken in Vienna instead of being clever and writing it in French, my French sucks at this level.
So while the third part of the extermination-hell-pestilence-?-?? cycle is coming along nicely, I have been thinking about Leibniz … and Boris … and dancing, and I suppose in this context Michel Serres, who made the analogy between a calculator and a dancer in Genèse, that I would really like to quote here, but …
Perhaps what intrigues me here is also what I find fascinating in this era when a new system, that of rationalism and science swallowed whole the previous one which to our eyes looked rife with the abysses of the Dark Ages. Though to remember Isaac Newton was as concerned with alchemy as he was with physics, I think is fertile ground for attempting an understanding the eruptions of religious and spiritual insanity in our culture which is supposed to the the heir of that age.
Insofar as this is so, it underlies both the cycle of five works (that I really need a name for) and this current, other, piece. Perhaps though it can be seen as the opposite, or counterpoint to the cycle. If the five works constitute (in part, and being severely reductionist here) a meditation on the eruption of the supernatural into understanding bodies in the world, then this new piece on Leibniz would be, and I’m struggling to find the right words here … in which the capacity for the mind and human imagination allows for the creation of new worlds, and so sets us free from what we have been, what we already are.
Back to Boris then. I have some fairly defined ideas on how this piece should proceed, and I think one of the interesting things for me right now is dance as endurance, in the transcendental sense that shows up in so many cultures, and also that utter sloughing off of the body that occurs in mountaineering. Another is insanely, almost heart-rendingly complicated choreography that was in part where temperance was going, and listening to Boris while walking in the park, I knew I’d found my music. Oh, another thing is that it’s a solo. For me.
Lucky that almost a gig of photos that Rhys took during the filming on Sunday turned up this morning, or I’d have nothing interesting to blog about.