Michel Serres

More than Deleuze (with or without Guattari), more than Foucault, somewhat more than Derrida, so different to Butler, but like her someone I returned to again and again, for the quiet care and poetry, for the love of movement, one of that first group of philosophers I got introduced to by the same person at a moment in my life where they resonated, and — like only Butler from those names — continue to, 25 years on. I knew it was coming, likely sooner, but still, I lost my breath for an instant, I stopped.

The more I dance, the more I am naked, absent, a calculation and a number. Dance is to the body proper what exercise of thought is to the subject known as I. The more I dance, the less I am me. If I dance something, I am that something or I signify it. When I dance, I am only the blank body of the sign.


To dance is only to step aside and make room, to think is only to step aside and make room, give up one’s place.
To leave at last the page blank.


Laughter is that little noise, uttered in blank ecstasy.

Two Experiments at ImPulsTanz

For the last day of our Yoga & Shibari workshop in ImPulsTanz we are having an informal open last hour:

1. Informal Try out Shibari/Yoga workshop at Arsenal, Vienna
Friday Aug 15th, 19-20 uhr
Arsenal F

Japanese Bondage meets dance! The last hour of this workshop people are invited to watch us. How can restriction inspire movement or stillness? How adventures and inventive can we be with our bodies?

On Saturday, we will be taking part in expressions ’14

2. ‘Shibari Express Extra Hot’
Saturday Aug 16 4 pm
Arsenal 1

Reading: Steven Spier (ed.) — William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography: It Comes from any Point

I am sitting here, in Berlin, looking across the Uferhallen and south, the Panke canal, through trees not yet budding in an unseasonably early spring, entirely because of William Forsythe. Of course, not entirely, the details and meanderings can be said to be my own, yet the impetus, the first shove, or — to use it knowing also its religious connotations — the revelation, was sitting in a theatre watching The Frankfurt Ballett, having no idea what it was I was seeing, but knowing that was exactly what I wanted to do.

An origin story always gets remade to emphasise the desired narrative over what actually happened, so to tell it like this is knowingly to omit to the point of lying. Nonetheless, it was seeing The Frankfurt Ballett, leaving the theatre thrilled and shaking, seeing and hearing and feeling what was roiled inside of me without recourse to language to make itself conscious; it was this moment that gave clarity and understanding to me. Perhaps even it was the moment itself, that time then, and to see it a few years later or earlier would not have caused this immediate, complete change of direction. Well, yes, perhaps. Perhaps is not so interesting nor knowable. So: I’m sitting here, writing this, because of William Forsythe.

I enjoy writings on Forsythe, The Forsythe Company, Frankfurt Ballet because the work lends itself so easily to serious critical and philosophical thoughts. When Forsythe talks about deconstruction, he really is using the word in a Derridean sense, and not some vacuous, lazy synonym for dismantling. There are conversations you can have with the former that are not possible with the latter not merely because there is neither deconstruction nor dismantling taking place; it is these conversations that interest me, which I think are pertinent, even imperative to dance.

So I come to editor Steven Spier’s William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography: It Comes from any Point, which I forget where I first saw, published in 2011. It’s a collection of essays, some short, some long, some easy to read and addressing a general dance audience, others assuming at least a familiarity with post-’68 philosophy, music theory, architecture … most of it (approaching half-way in the reading) I find very interesting and stimulating, while a couple of parts I feel a weight of disappointment. More or less typical for an essay collection.

One in particular irritated me, no coincidence I suppose it was the one heavy on Foucault: Gerald Siegmund’s Of Monsters and Puppets. The fixation on the word, ‘monster’, dancers’ bodies as monsters or monstrous, uttered over and over until it became like a nervous tick or fetish, the direct line to Foucault (who turns up more than once in this book), irrespective of the validity of this line of writing (either as a critical interpretation or coming directly from Forsythe’s references to Foucault) is all a bit too easy, predictable. It anticipates as well a queer colonialism wherein Queer claims dancers’ bodies as its own because all that is monstrous is Queer. It’s not. Queer doesn’t get to claim all bodies that fall outside of the normative as queer, nor are these bodies necessarily monstrous.

An opposition to this is Michel Serres writing on bodies that move, bodies that dance. The dancer’s body as the possible, the unknown; the body that thinks and is subject through moving; a body that is not reducible to a duality, separate from mind (or thinking, or consciousness) because of this; a body that resists a ‘holistic’ integration or synthesis of the two by being already somewhere else.

Certainly also it’s not a strict opposition. There is at play here in the monstrous and queer what Baudrillard calls, “an increasingly racist definition of the ‘normal human.’” yet that is not all there is, nor is it necessarily a coherent path of discourse to describe what is categorised as not normal in the language that does this categorisation. If nothing else, it means we agree a priori the designation is correct and we’re just arguing over the details. There’s also something dishonest in naming bodies monstrous and yet not admitting there’s something sexy and cool in such an appellation, perhaps even better than the non-monstrous.

Perhaps all of this is to say, yes, even if Forsythe names Foucault as an influence, it doesn’t follow that all analysis of his work has to be the standard turning of the lights labeled Foucault, Lacan, Marx, and others on it and performing a kind of paint by numbers theorising. Who else is there? Serres, obviously. Judith Butler was and is writing concurrently with Forsythe’s work. Mainly I find it a little uninteresting to remain so narrow and predictable in the choice of philosophers and tropes with which to regard the world.

Besides all that, which was only one or two of the essays I’ve so far read – and even these are well-written whatever I might think of their arguments – this is one of the best collections of essays I’ve read on Forsythe, and it’s a joy to read about dance like this.

ImPulsTanz — Yoga & Shibari Workshop

It’s fairly usual for me to write about workshops, rehearsal periods and so on if not daily, at least with some regularity during their course. supernaut wasn’t around when I first went to ImPulsTanz in 2003 (though I was blogging of a sort, but in a completely frustrating way, not conducive to actual blogging), and I always wondered what it would be like to read back over those weeks; I suppose I could scour my emails but I think I have a fairly good idea after the last week here: I doubt I’d have had time to blog during DanceWEB.

In addition to teaching with Dasniya for 3 hours every day, which in reality became close to four, we were both doing two other workshops. For me, I spent two and a quarter hours each morning loosening my tongue with Benoît Lachambre, then a break for a bit before an couple more hours with Libby Farr doing ballet. Evenings tended to be seeing performances or other social activities including our hilarious debut as DJs at the Lounge. All of which left scant time for sleep, let alone blog.

This then is perhaps a memory for myself of things that happened so there is at least a trace of those days.

We found ourselves in Studio F, all the way at the back of Arsenal, and as with all studios, massive, a wall of glass, light and airy, and also wonderfully calm and still — far from the chaos of classes at the other end of the site. The ImPulsTanz people had slung eight wire lines over the roof beam some eight meters above in a close line, giving us the best swing we’ve ever had. Also plentiful supplies of rope, rings, carabiners, yoga mats and other necessities.

Originally we were offered either to teach a weekend intensive — two whole days — or five days in the week of 3 hours. Spending more time in Vienna for the festival was an obvious personal choice, (I mean, come on, Vienna, summer, ImPulsTanz, more is obviously “Yes!”) as well as the fact this material is better ingested over a few days rather than gorged on at once and then forgotten. 3 hours though was a pretty short length of time to do both yoga and shibari, when yoga on a Wednesday can often go for close to 2 hours.

Good we were at the end of the day then, so even allowing for some slippage as everyone meandered into the workspace, we had a bit of leeway at the other end. Which we took full advantage of, and besides the one night where we had to scamper away to be DJs, remaining at least until 8:30 was normal. Anyway, unpacking and packing all our junk is a project unto itself at the best of times.

Sixteen people had signed up, though delayed flights from Ethiopia and other vicissitudes meant the final number changed from day to day. Some dropped out, some joined late, others possibly never showed in the first place, still others turned up for only one day (even on Thursday we were having drop ins). So altogether there were around 20 people who passed by.

This was somewhat unusual for us, given we normally know who is coming, or have had at least an email conversation, and there isn’t the first day “Do I want to be here or not?” unclarity. Anyway, by the second day we’d worked out who the core was, and we had much fun.

Having come off the back of the Brussels/Charleroi Danses workshop, Dasniya and I had talked a lot in the last week about this one. It seemed a good idea to take the yoga further into shibari, that is to say, to use ropes more, as in Iyengar, though perhaps specifically how we use ropes. This led to various self-tied chest harnesses, messes of rope around feet, ankle harnesses, binding folded legs or arms and other infiltrations of rope into yoga.

This actually works pretty well, and significantly changes how an asana is dealt with. Even if I’m flexible enough to wrap hands around feet in a forward bend, to make rope an intermediary and simultaneously push with feet and pull with hands (arms, shoulders, back) gives an utterly different and somehow more voluminous apprehension of my body. It also seems to evade the tendency to linearity in postures (i.e. hands go to feet, more and further is better, like train on rails).

This also slyly introduces people to ropework and shibari without the panic and anxiety of ‘learning figures’. Which is really handy; when I was first learning I used to get so anxious about getting a figure and uuhh yeah, better to devise ways not making it such a big deal than to struggle and be miserable.

So yes, yoga. In a circle in a workspace you could stack several smallish planes in.

When we did Jute Disintegration, I began with some improvisation tasks which have turned up a few times since. The ideas behind each came from various sources, but perhaps to say the intent was to derail and exhaust habits, to train spatial awareness in less convenient ways, to … mmm perhaps gently bludgeon creativity into existence, that is to say it seems like fun but that fun overlays some pretty involved and serious things.

30 second responsible/unhelpful and vectors both seem to have attained ‘repertoire’ status. I think especially the latter one could go further, or rather be useful in another task that I haven’t tried yet. Yeah, it’s not a little poignant to think these ideas came to me from Nigel Charnock … several years on and I’m still pilfering his influence on me.

We did a lot of more traditional shibari also. There’s such a tendency in people who are new to it to go straight for suspension and yeah it’s fucking amazing to hang and sway in the air like being on a great sailing ship. I made my own self-suspension on Friday (the figure now has a name, Ophelia), and this combination of almost brute force — there really isn’t a lot of delicacy sometimes when you need to get your arse up and lock off a suspension line with one hand, not to mention the intensity of being held by the ropes — and total calm … it’s unbelievably good. So obviously there were quite a few who wanted to get straight to this. And others who wanted to do the messy, anarchic, unshibari. Ah yes, all in 3 hours a day.

And learning the basics, learning just enough to be able to comprehend either the traditional or un- shibari, to learn even just how to handle rope so that it doesn’t mock you, let alone with a living person on the other end; there’s so much to consider in just the act of picking up a rope for this purpose and anyone who thinks otherwise is either really naïve or really not someone you should let near when they’re messing around with said rope. And yet, if you approach rope with even the slightest curiosity, creativity, playfulness, sense of adventure … it’s amazing what people who are completely new to this bring and conjure up.

So we got through the basic knot, suspension line, slipped in masses of things in the yoga rope work, got onto the hip harness and variations on all of this, and moved onto the Arisue chest harness. We’re doing a lot of floor semi-suspensions these days, which are really useful for teaching all the mechanics and movements of doing a suspension, but without the anxiety of having to deal with fully suspending someone 1 1/2 meters off the floor, and without the accompanying risk either. It tends to engender a lot of confidence in the person tying, and for the one being tied also is a good, calm introduction to suspension, play, floor work … all round a good way to begin this very involved subject.

And when we got to full suspensions, Wednesday, I think — I was off teaching hip harnesses and floor suspensions while Dasniya was hoisting people up, oh much fun and excitement.

We’d introduced some of the ideas of unshibari across the week, but it was really only on Friday we paid a lot of attention to it, defined somewhat its phase space. A bit of a pity we didn’t have more time for this, as it’s really what we’re doing at the moment. We tried a little experiment, where we both had someone to work with and tied them in out similar yet different styles, and talked about what we were doing, how it works, the aesthetics and so on … somehow it worked pretty well. We should probably write a book on this.

I wonder if I’ve said enough, or rather, what important things I’ve missed or not yet got to?

Being aware I haven’t said much about the actual participants, some DanceWEBbers, Judith who has come to workshops both in Berlin and Brussels, others who are dancers or otherwise involved in movement, some who are not doing anything dance-ish … perhaps to say a fairly typical group in terms of diversity of backgrounds, and who were also oh such a joy to work with. Yeah, really nice. We could easily spend another week doing all that. And it’s really satisfying to see people get it — both the yoga and shibari — and over the week change and … mmm … elaborate themselves. And smiling.

The last day, the last thing, a kind of play session, to try various things, to concentrate perhaps on one thing, who wants to do what and with whom? I’d planned to take photos but was far too otherwise occupied hanging myself up, so there’s none. Some worked in a group, which was really nice, as I think this is where there is an interest for me (I mean after process/unprocess last year with Gala and Lewis), some did suspensions, others talked. A row of us under all those rings. The sky grew dimmer until there was scant enough light to see.

I talked a bit with Nik about shiatsu and dance and … the effects of suspension I have an idea would be good to document, perhaps with head in MRT, or with EEG, or with blood tests before and after (during?). There seems to be something quite profound and rapid going on, and at least for myself I find it … well, we were talking about emotions and how sometimes a hug and, “there, there” along with cup of tea can be sufficient, but sometimes it’s as though gentleness and caring doesn’t quite untwist the situation. There’s this intensity in suspension that for me anyway seems to accomplish this. Yoga also, to a certain extent, though over longer time periods and it’s not so absolute, and it’s not the same. It’s not simply endorphins or post-endurance (i.e. after running). It’s like the shove that overcomes inertia.

So we packed and walked the long corridor for the last time, to the outdoor café and pool and people lounging in the evening, again too soon to finish but we had a dinner to get to. We also missed the evening in the Dojo … hmm, yes, seemed to not get to quite a few things in the week, so obviously have to go back.

n+2 video at Yoga+Shibari

I shall watch it with eyes averted. Or, perhaps glimpse it every so often. Nonetheless, tomorrow night I won’t exit the room as I did on saturday at Bains. Still not quite ready to see the whole thing, and enjoying actively not thinking about the last two weeks (which is to say the intensity of those weeks is being busily devoured somewhere in my unconscious, so I can get on with such things as eating).

So, all the information is here: the n+2 dimensional space for n>1/ Yoga & Shibari Berlin Dezember

And here is the other pertinent stuff for the rest of the month:

1) Screening

Tomorrow we will be showing the video of the Performance ‘n+2 dimensional space for n >1’ after the ‘Yoga & Shibari’ Workshop. Frances and I have been in residence at Bains Connective, in Brussels. We have been trying to question conventional Shibari/Bondage tying and performance methods, in terms of constellation, technique and dynamic handling of ropes. Text

We would be very happy to see you, and talk after the screening. Tea and sweets will be there : )

Frances & Dasniya

When: Wednesday December 14th, appr. 22.30 h, after the workshop
Where: Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt, Alte Kantine, Teatris, Uferstr. 8-11, 13357 Berlin, U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr, Map

2) Wednesdays ‘Yoga & Shibari’ in December:

December 14th and 21st from 19 -23 h in Wedding.

The workshop combines Yoga and Japanese rope Bondage… Class description

3) Shibari Technique Workshop

Sunday, December 18th, 14-20 h.

For every one who longs for rope inspiration before christmas, or enjoys a cosy Shibari Sunday. More information and registration: workshops@dasniyasommer.de, costs: 40 euro

4) *Christmas Gift*:

Present a three hour workshop voucher to a friend, to get introduced to the art of tying, or present a rope session to yourself with Dasniya Sommer. More information: email@dasniyasommer.de


the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — beginning aftermath

… Where was I?

Brussels. It took longer to get from Schönefeld airport to home than from Brussels to Berlin. Monday was a day to pass without the hectic routine of the previous weeks. No rising in a stupor, no walking the route to and from Bains, no rehearsals on green dance floor, no baguettes and coffee for lunch, nor cooking in the kitchen.

Some organising of suitcases and luggage which results in meeting the weight allowance for what goes beneath in the hold, and transferring the excess to carry-on. Hence, carry-on weighs more than suitcase.

I meet Gala in Parvais/Vorplein around lunch. We begin with a coffee, continue with another, and talk for hours. One of the results of that is she is off to PAF Riems in a week, and we have plans perhaps to be there in late January. So it seems I’ll be passing through Brussels again soon.

We amble up to the commune for the market, and I discover the delights of Piadina. That it is made with pig lard only adds to the oral splendour. Dasniya joins us after a morning finding her way through an old cemetery south of Parc Dudin.

And then to finish packing, to airport, to sleep on the flight, to arrive.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 10 & 11

It’s already over. We performed last night and today is Saturday, the residency finished. In-between now and Thursday morning, we spent most of our time in the studio, walking to and from, or asleep.

To Thursday then. A day for technical sortings out, with Silvano calmly attending to our needs, and the mess we had been accruing getting shifted to one side to be replaced with lights and other equipment. We worked out a couple more sections before, after, around this, and got through most of the list piled up before ‘tech run’.

After six o’clock, on our own, we prepared for our own run, which fell apart right where I begin tying Dasniya. This messy tying breeds uncertainty. Will the ropes hold or slip? Cinch in a bad place or begin sliding apart until all previous efforts are rendered null? It’s so unpredictable for me and the anxiety of it was making it impossible to even consider why I might be doing this, to concentrate on performing and directorial issues.

To make a performance in which the audience sees suffering or experiences it personally is one thing, and a thing which I’ve always had an attraction for. Against that, the last thing I want to do is cause the performers I work with to suffer, for the performance to be an unpleasant endurance. It’s easy enough when one is outside and observing something not working and causing pain to stop it, take a pause, try it in another way. When I’m inside it myself though, this ability vanishes. And so I became quite overwrought because of lengths of recalcitrant rope.

After much experimenting, failing, trying other approaches, we had something that worked, and commenced the run again. Alas what worked for me did not for Dasniya, and sliding the ropes off thwarted her.

Thursday finished around eleven in the evening, and Friday began twelve hours later.

Warming up three times, rehearsing some parts, getting through a dress run with Silvano, taking pauses, rummaging through the checklist, it starts, we wait, Jolivet begins, Ligeti, we progress through the scenes (five or seven depending on how you count), and it becomes over.

We have the videos, and some time next week photos from Silvano, so these shall make it here and elsewhere in due course. Today and Sunday we are still at Bains with a Yoga and Shibari workshop (which fortuitously has led to some China and South-East Asia connections), and Monday afternoon the flight (would that it were the train) t0 Berlin.

Some thank yous:

Bains Connective have made these two weeks possible and a joy in many ways. Dasniya and I would like to thank both Lilia and Diana for inviting us and our ropes. A particular mention must be for Silvano, for numerous things, not the least for operating sound, lights, filming with two cameras, taking photos, drilling suspension points, and keeping everything running smoothly. Also to Gala, who came in on Tuesday, watched through our first attempt at a run, gave an hour of of very appreciated notes, and cooked us dinner.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 9

The last proper day of rehearsal, where we have the entire time to ourselves. Tomorrow we find our way through a couple of tech runs, make something of light and sound, and have an approximation of a dress rehearsal. Friday is dealing with the detritus of that and fixing whatever remains for the evening showing.

I spent some time on my own, working my way through Gala’s notes, trying to change things into something I can feel comfortable with, analysing each scene to define the changing relationship to the ropes, getting stuck once more on the only scene without ropes. It wasn’t until around 2 o’clock, schedules for the coming days written up, all the impedimenta between us and Friday evening accounted for, that we began rehearsing.

Yesterday in the last time before our first run-through, we played through a scene of tying each other together, which ends on the floor and somehow became tormenting each other, savaging nipples, lips, nostrils with pinching toes. We worked through this again, from my self-bondage (for some reason I think of Ophelia and Gertrude, or more precisely of what I imagine Daniel Schlusser’s recent performance looked like), to paired humiliation (which is really not the right work, it’s more of causing discomfort with rope), and through this scene of shame.

I’d found a video of Osada Steve tying Madame Butterfly, and this roughness, along with some videos we’ve watched a while ago of Japanese Shibari masters grunting and muttering as they tie fell into this scene today. It’s a little rough, also painful, and has sometimes for me a disturbing air about it.

Dasniya and I swapped roles in the final scene in darkness. Now she ties part of the room into an installation while I am outside untying the remaining ropes. She thought this scene should go for around half an hour or more, depending on the first half.

I find myself spending much time disentangling nests of ropes that are the leftovers from each scene and run-through, coiling, laying them in order … We began a run-through around 6 o’clock, this time taking 45 minutes. I’m not sure if we were much slower, or if all the scenes together now last that long, or if yesterday we were just fast with nerves. It’s a lot for only a few days rehearsing.

Questions of music remain. We’re using André Jolivet at the beginning, and some Ligeti also – both wind chamber music compositions. Throbbing Gristle also make an appearance. This is, along with lights, something for tomorrow to sort out. I find it difficult being on the inside to hear the music; it’s not like we are counting to it, so it rapidly leaves my attention. Everything is reducing to technical questions, transitions, where to go when so it works with what comes later, all the usual arrangements of objects in space over time. What it looks like by this time tomorrow is probably mostly what it will be for Friday.

the n+2 dimensional space for n>1 — day 8

… which was yesterday and last night.

A day of running through what we have up till now and making it all slightly more coherent, also finding one more idea come clear just before dinner, and assembling something of an order. So we have around half an hour of stuff at the moment, which will condense once we’ve sorted out how to get through it and added/subtracted things.

Gala came in around 1930 to watch this, us on green dance floor, lit through the glass back door from outside, and we tried to work our way through everything. Fairly obvious what needs attention, but nothing felt from the inside that it needed to be excised. An hour or so pre-dinner conversation between us three after going through the piece scene by scene, has given us plenty to work on.

We have a skeleton now, and what needs to be given attention today and tomorrow in the small time we have is clarifying what we’re doing, and how this shapes differences across each scene.

Dasniya thought the last scene in almost darkness should continue for half an hour or so, which could be beautiful depending on what happens before. Not for this week though, but hopefully we’ll have time to see where that might go once we find our way to Guangzhou.

It’s already morning and past time when we would be warming up.