siwic day 13 – sex inspires wanking in choreography

So we ran the dog last night. Maybe should have taken it outside and introduced it to a shotgun. The dog was hot, sweaty occasionally foaming at the mouth and 2 1/2 hours long. Surgery was the only option. Highlights of the revolting mess were four naked bodies (one more excited than the others) Anna-Maria getting possessed by the same demon which got Regan spinning her head and puking satanic snot, something about “this is my space…” which kept only two people amused, and who should really be separated if the show is to go on, and the beer drunk after washing down the day’s gossip.

I had the infinite joy of making two more death metal pieces to compliment the one already scaring the natives. It’s all blurring into one, but Tim got in touch with his inner metalhead (it was a bloody great pop-eyed Maori with spinning tongue), and Anna-Maria did something unspeakable, then Jens, Tom and Mathieu in diamantéhot pants and eyeball choreography … let’s just say dancers screaming “Go have sex with Jesus Christ you faggot” is a sure way to peddle influence.

There was week-long chatter about going to a gay bar after, but my subtle despotism and control-freakery meant we only got as far as the river again before I refused to move unless it was in the direction of the bar. Much muttering and queenieness from the resident fags over the percentage of breeders ensued, but when I am surrounded by dancers who say, “I love you, Frances” on-stage (“this is my space, and it’s embarrassing me”) and the frottage quotient is high, I’m as happy as a pig in muck.

siwic day 12 – “once i was afraid”

Martin said this was the last day. There are no more tasks, no more games of torture to play at 11am in Studio 6, no more wondering which of the 23 dancers are going to be doing weird things (or in my case killing or fucking each other). It’s all about the product now. And there is product in quantity.

There was one last task, a grand finale of presidential inauguration size, but with only 15 minutes each to slap it together. The door revolved, the choreographers went in or out – or if they were Hans, just stood there, tall, bronzed in powder blue speedos flexing his stomach muscles and completely unaware to the effect he just had on the whole room.

My turn came around just before lunch, when everyone was looking slightly hysterical. Naturally I had to organise an orgy and cradled it in rings of Buddhist demi-gods flashing the ‘Satan-I-salute-you’ mudrah, while the smut paraded and rolled on, oblivious. Herbie Hancock blows the signature tune from Blow-Up and the whole thing slides into a languorous opium dream, sense-crazed and narcotised.

The afternoon was all about Nigel. I dunno what black magic or how many goats suffered and perished for him to manage to stitch every little piece of ours that made the cut into one (currently very) long and fairly coherent whole. It also went smoothly and gave noone an excuse for indulging in psychopathic moments of high-drama stress. Shame. Martin and I have reached the trouble stage, and any sensible person would separate us to opposite sides of the room. There was noone sensible present, so now we are selling blow-up sex dolls of ourselves, have perfected an imitation of Caroline (“Once I was afraid…”), and are only funny to ourselves.

The sky is no longer low and grey with winter, so lunch is a time to sit outside, there is more skin than clothing and the end of the day drifts into hazy night along the river banks, the cameras out in a feeding frenzy, and the water clogged with dancers bodies. Love is in the air. Oh, it’s so beautiful.

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siwic day 11 – all the people i can remember sleeping with and the drugs i took

It’s the last full day of tasks. Tomorrow we start trying to resuscitate one and an half weeks of self-indulgent dross in hopes someone will like it on the weekend. This also means Nigel has had a week to get a fairly good handle on each of us and in fine psychiatric style start pushing our buttons a bit. Today’s task: you’ve each got your own little piece of hell to quit avoiding. For me it was ‘grief and loss, oh and no music or watching films’. Nice one, ya bastard.

The morning got pretty heavy, Anna, Tim and the young and disgustingly talented Fillip went there every time, but I had that too familiar air-sucked-out-of-the-room feeling of digging a hole best left filled. Over lunch the realisation of the complete absence of black humour and self-deprecation got me back after lunch as sprightly as a young raindeer in the sights of a gun.

So, what exactly did I do? On the weekend, Nigel and I had a long rambling conversation that included a history on my most recent relationship, and it’s glorious demise. Nigel seemed to think today it was a vibrant source of theatre; I suggested he was something I won’t repeat here. We drank rosehip tea. Lucky I had my computer, where the detritus of that relationship litters the harddrive in so many molecular pockmarks.

This is certainly the most personal and probably self-indulgent piece I’ve made, and I can’t call it shit or even have an opinion, in the same way you can’t be sure it’s an elephant when you’ve got your head buried up it’s ass. Either way, it began with Tim and Fillip masturbating convincingly to their favourite fantasies while Anna read a page-long list of ‘everyone I can remember sleeping with and the drugs I took’. That in itself was for me embarrassing, humiliating and left a pervasive feeling of uselessness, in no small part because of all the names I’ve forgotten, and even entire people and times, all lost. To get Tim then to read the email from my last relationship, the dumping, it’s over email, while Anna and Fillip did a bang-up job of fucking was possibly not going far enough, or possibly the most inane, art-therapy piece of shit ever to pop its degenerate and malformed head out into the first sunlight in Zurich in a week. I was cringing. Noone was laughing. They finished by all lying on the floor and getting themselves off. The icing on this awful cake was them whispering, “I love you, Frances”, which brought the house down in around four seconds.

I still have no idea if it was shit or a step into a bigger world, but the response was unnerving, as it seemed to deeply affect alot of people. Or perhaps they were being polite in the face of watching a car crash in slow motion. I needed a stiff drink.

Yes, it was sunny, the sky was that European iridescent blue, the jet planes left contrails like fluffy cotton wool across the stratosphere, we sat, twenty dancers in the rich evening light, beside the river on the long steps of the cafédrinking, talking until midnight. I’ve got that DanceWEB feeling again, I never want to leave, I never want it to end.

siwic day 10 – you can sleep when you’re dead

I’m not gonna say much about Saturday night now that various :cough: choreographers from SiWiC – who shall remain unnamed – have discovered my odious abuse of the English language here, and are quoting it back at me over coffee before class. The bitter end was not at 5am when I fell into bed loaded on cheap Swiss beer. The rumours are all defamatory and wholly scurrilous (which is not to contest their veracity). I was not as loaded as some dancers though, who do not need the embarrassment of the photos I am in possession of, so today shall remain all words and no content.

There is something about Martha Graham which is like suckling the withered tits of a geriatric hag. It’s not something most people are prone to engage in by choice, though there is no accounting for taste. After two years of failing in the angst-and-contractions field at VCA I need a shot of Seconal if I unwittingly find myself grimacing on the floor with my stomach rupturing, which is precisely where I found myself yesterday morning. It was only the brave humour of 25 dancers and a quick exit while everyone’s heads were buried up their rigid arses that saved me from certain permanent disfigurement.

The day was ruined though, or at least that’s my excuse. More likely is three days of getting trashed every night was subtly reminding me of my own mortality. Today’s Tasks: a holocaust of conflicting emotions which can be reduced with no loss of comprehension to ‘sex and death’. Yes, everybody’s favourite themes and mine, replete with boundless possibilities for getting roomfuls of dancers naked and slobbering over each other. Shame I was inhabiting the room for talentless hacks, and could barely raise my still quivering and spasming arse off the slightly cool floor.

The dancers did slobber and shed their apparel, laugh politely at my poor humour, and thoroughly enjoy watching Peter Jackson’s ode to splattering brains, Bad Taste and Jesus Franco’s ‘Supernatural Sexual Thriller’ Venus in Furs. Some days are best spent not trying to fight the pitiless thrall of inertia.

Martin watched Pulp Fiction on Sunday. Which meant Erik and Camillia thought they were in the Gimp Scene pounding the ass of Tom, while Camillia, who is sweetness and light recited the story of the first time she has her period, and how happy she was. Tom was also very happy naked and taped up tight in the chair. Very, very happy.

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siwic day 9 – ow it stingsss…

We’ve been working nine days straight, it’s been a scream, lots of dancing, lots of fun stuff, lots of excellent food every lunch time, lots of beautiful dancers I could easily fall in love with, or just give a job to in my fantasy dance company, not lots of sleep, not lots of time to think, plenty of laughing our asses off, one truly awful movie, a couple of moments I’m really pleased with, and one unwavering feeling:

I want to stay here. Fuck Australia, I’ve had it with the parochial, small, timid, safe, boring, same same same dross that passes for dance and culture there. It’s a mining town at the end of the world. Fuck China, I can’t stand summer in Guangzhou, come on, seriously can the weather be any worse? And where is the culture? Oh, that’s right you obliterated it along with the sparrows, fucking good one.

The sense I’ve had of belonging here – in Europe, maybe in Zurich, maybe somewhere else – is so utterly convincing, I’m a little worried about how down I might get when I have to go back, like going back to jail or something. The people – dancers, artists – here are cool, intelligent, educated, and lucky beyond belief to live in a place where art is regarded as a necessity, like the busses running, or water coming out of a tap. Most importantly, I’m happy. I don’t feel the ever-present unreality I feel in Melbourne, the need to leave, the restlessness, the dissatisfaction. It all goes.

We improvised today. Three dancers, plenty of good old 9-point geometric stuff, lots of blabbing about complexity theory, fractals, momentum, stuff… Yorkie, Vanessa and Matthieu look divine, I could have watched them all week. My only issue now – and it’s a big one, is what the fuck does this highly formal analysis of movement have in common with the grotesque theatrics of my other stuff? Buggered if I know…

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siwic day 8 – happy birthday martin

That’s right. Boy wonder, debonaire fashion styliste, over-acheiver, and too fucking young. Martin turned 27 today, so naturally I had to kill someone for him.

Also had to eat alot of birthday cake. burp…

So in a wildly veering moment of dance madness, with everyone feeling a little brain-dead and spastically quoting War of the Worlds, Nigel decided today we should choreograph dance. And not just any dance. High-energy, full of the joy of life, not ironic, and in my case to Shirley Bassey singing Diamonds are Forever, or something. The dancers entered a world of pain, and I am terribly sorry.

While everyone else created three minute masterpieces of Musical joy, I decided in my slightly retarded state to give them a horribly fast and difficult phrase then make three duets, one trio, a quartet and innumerable other rubbish. Any remaining coherence was lost once Camillia, Eugene, Tim, and Maria were loaded with yet another all-you-can-eat Swiss buffet. Mostly the kind of food likely to induce cholesterol poisoning in the quantities dancers can eat. We all entered a post-lunch food-digesting coma.

Despite that, they had some moments which were fucking glorious to watch. Tim and Camillia partnering each other in a frenzy of chaotic mess, barely holding it together and constantly destroying any semblance of serenity and control. Camillia dancing alone, looking like someone who could tear the air apart, Eugene pulling balance and eerie stillness out of hysterical momentum.

Then to drink and celebrate Martin’s special day. All six of us lounged beside the river drinking, smoking, talking, laughing until stomach cramps set in, and finally staggering home, not too late, but certainly trashed.

siwic day 7 – war of the worlds

After yesterday’s frustrating ‘work with someone else’ circus which underlined what a megalomaniac attention-seeker I am, today was hours of sheer fucking pleasure. Today’s tasks: you have one hour to make three 15 second solos, and another hour to make a duo, then we’ll go see Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.

First hour, three dancers, three solos and trying to be clever. Especially from the preparations for extermination last year, I have scores of tasks and ideas which never got beyond paper, or where ditched soon after, or got cut for whatever practical reasons. So, the first solo was just what I’d done before. More death metal to Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Unsatisfying.

I’ve still got a stack of DVDs from my last China visit which I haven’t watched, and spent a bare couple of minutes chapter surfing Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein in hopes of something coming up. Something did, I managed to do something new, the irony is not lost on me. I’m still on this recreate-scenes-from-movies trip, and think I’ll stick with it until something better comes up.

The second solo, 15 seconds, Jens reclining on the floor, hand around cock, voiceover of Wittgenstein’s high society artist friend (dressed in voluptuous deep crimson ball gown) saying, “How much did you get paid for your last book?”. Another scene, in counterpoint, Bertrand Russell tells Ludwig, “There is nothing like the warmth of a sated body”.

Third solo, Kristina sitting on a chair telling me why that scene in the movie on the limits of language affected her so much.

It’s not that any of this is necessarily new, but the fundamental point is after four days of being constantly clever and inventive, going through my repertoire of tricks, things were starting to get thin. The pressure of having to come up with something, in ever shorter time caused a few things to fall over today.

Nigel talked about how he sometimes uses just what the dancers do in unconscious, first responses to a task, or the endless fucking around which characterises most of any rehearsals. Both the latter two solos and the duo were just that. A kind of ‘fuck off, I don’t want to do anything clever, or invent anything, and what you just did was everything I wanted to say anyway.

The duo with Jens and Anna-Maria was just that. Firstly, I wanted to continue the Wittgenstein stuff, then I wanted to make something exceptionally dancey, then I fell asleep for a bit and woke up not wanting to move too much, so I thought maybe they could just sit in chairs and do lots of arm-partnering. So I thought, sitting with them both, I’d find some music, and put on Prince, Purple Rain as a bit of background noise in the meantime. Somehow, I don’t remember they were standing doing ballet curtain calls. That became seven minutes of the most beautiful Fontaine and Nureyev curtain calls, over and over and over.

Yeah, it’s been done before so many times. But I wasn’t being ironic or contemptuous of ballet. The best outcome would have been everyone watching going with it and yelling screaming… and it happened, and I had this moment of, “Oh! you love me! You understand me!”. And everyone was well pleased to see Jens show a bit of cock too.

Higlights of today: Hans started going weird finally, a Marlene Dietrich moment in rubber gloves and insect-repelling veil, Anna-Maria again growling like a deranged old bag-lady, very strange. The absolute awfulness of War of the Worlds. How bad is Tom Cruise? How impossibly amateur is Spielburg’s directing? How completely incomprehensible, flimsy, tatty is the script? Was this a national draft propaganda film from the army to sign up more grunts to take a bullet for Uncle Sam? Tawdry, offensive, xenophobic, vile waste of a couple of hundred million dollars.

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siwic day 6 – frostbite

This was a day I didn’t enjoy. A task that sucked, having to work with another choreographer, many additional requirements pegged on, a pervasive miasma of dissatisfaction and feeling like being back in student land. Still, I managed to keep up a good quota of killing dancers, this time with coal-black frostbite creeping through the their flesh, rendering the complex cellular architecture into mush. The dancers are awesome, and the evening was spent getting drunk and wandering around the town, which made a big change from my current Zurich life of sleep-bus-dance-bus-sleep.

Also had the joy of seeing a meticulously constructed solo from one of the dancers who lives in town. He’d choreographed the whole thing in Photoshop and After-Effects, then printed each frame to acetate before exposing each cell onto 16mm film, some 14,000 of them over two days. The resulting projection, over the top of the dancer was simple, elegant, and a fine expression of one idea taken all the way.

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siwic day 5 – lesbian vampires on smack

I had this idea I wanted to recreate the rape scene from Irreversible. Then I watched it. It’s not often I am reduced to tears and have to stop watching something, but this scene did it to me. Is it because Monica Bellucci does beauty and female so well, and dressed so exquisitely she has her face pounded into the concrete over and over? Is it that representation of femaleness that is responded to, is it her, herself, is it the careful single shot, framed in crimsons and soft golden light? Is it the simple unrelenting barbarity the camera never wavers from? Whatever the reason, there was no way I could work with that today. Just lucky I also brought in a copy of Jess Franco’s Vampiros Lesbos.

I had three dancers for the day, all female, which brought up some questions about what I did with them. There’s a scene in the film where one of the lesbian vampires is performing in a club, and the drugged up sacrificial chick just stands there naked getting writhed all over and slowly dressed in black, lacy lingerie, the music going into a stoned, sitar groove until lying on the floor she has her throat ripped out. My kind of performance.

Again it was remaking a scene from a film, which is my present interest, which is a process of losing your own identity to become the unconscious performance of the actor. The end result was 6 minutes of graphic pelvic grinding and slutty frottage which I have a strong feeling is going to make an appearance in hell.

Two hours for vampire lesbians, lunch, then two hours on a task I professed no love for at all. I’ve never been interested in voice-work, and to have such a specific task from Nigel, saying places, times, yes no, swearing, and “I think I’m falling in love with you,” “It’s not your heart, it’s your cock”, just left me dead.

Lucky I also had a DVD of Rammstein and Agoraphobic Nosebleed making 19 seconds of careful and elaborate noise. Yes, there was headbanging, yes, it was loud, yes it was very short, and it filled the criteria of the task exactly. Once when I was a student, I made a whole head-banging piece to AC/DC Back in Black. The panel refused to mark it. There are more enlightened places than Melbourne.

Watch everyone dance, Martin is still doing strange stuff. Eat, talk, eat, go to the river, drink, talk, laugh, laugh some more, the sky is getting dark, it’s 10pm, go home, sleep.

siwic day 4 – killing dancers is fun

It started for real today. No more lazy 11am rolling into the studio feeling kinda lazy, no early finishes, and not just the six of us who have now successfully bonded. 10am and Nigel was ready to make 23 or something dancers jump around the studio like manics. He does a good class, not seriously technical, and somehow it seems short or that we don’t do a hell of a lot, but fucking oath do we break a sweat. Just when I was thinking i need to do more of that throw yourself at the floor gear and go a bit mental.

The task today was simple, and the structure of the day also plain; something to get used to for the weeks coming. Nigel laid out seven CDs, each with a different 2-3 minute track on it and we got to pick one at random. No proscriptions, other than the music will be played at some time in the showing of the day’s work. We can listen to it, or not, choreograph to it, or not. I gotta say I was pretty happy with my two minutes, Elvis singing Wooden Heart in German with an oom-pah band accompanyment. And I got six dancers, too. Pleased as punch.

I had this idea for a day or two that I’d in some way recreate the murder scene from I think, Hitchcock’s Notorious. It’s the scene where the hero and the evil spy’s glamourous moll get caught in the cabin by the henchman. Somehow they disarm him, there’s plenty of silent sturggling, and finally in agonising slowness, they drag him headfirst into the gas oven and proceed to do just that.

In a way I think it’s kinda derivative of everything I’ve done in the past couple of years, but at the same time, it’s stuff that still interests me. It’s not so much simply the hyper-stylised murder scenes, or unhealthy obsession with desecration. It’s more a nagging curiosity with taking quite dramatic scenes that are to a large degree improvised and recreating the minutia, the unconscious, unthought-of movements with such clarity, precision, accuracy, it becomes totally subsuming, an inexorable procession, an obliteration of self. It’s like if you imitate something with enough microscopic accuracy, you’ll become it, or cease to be anything else, and forcefully construct the fate and destiny of the persons you are imitating on yourself. It’s quite a cynical and deliberate attack on identity and I’m not sure where it’s going.

Anyway, the dancers were awesome and quite happy to be repeatedly strangled all afternoon, even on monstrously bloated stomachs from the orgy of lunch. Come five thirty, we got to see what we all got up to, and also for most of us get some idea of each others’ aesthetics and styles. Martin, whose work I haven’t seen since DanceWEB was the one I was waiting for, and he’s certainly got a weirdness that keeps me watching that hasn’t lessened in the last two years. Desolate and hopeless.

The day ended with a longish debriefing, discussion of the rehearsals with Nigel and the rest of SiWiC. It’s strange to have a person comment on my choreographic aproach, not so much what I make, but how I go about it. It’s usually dancers, or occasionally friends or designers discussing the work, but not how I go about making work. So, talking science-fiction movies, seeing old friends… wondering what else I can make, can i find some paradigm shift in my work before I start hell, do I need one, even?