Matthew’s chocolate reindeer are festive but also inspirational for the trio of men who have been working in Dancehouse, with Bernadette’s concentrated energy emanating from her creative corner. I didn’t manage to move the movement outside. Instead outside came in to the studio: the dogs who played ball daily in the park below, the rubbish bags piled against the wall, the winter light that united in unexpected beauty the collection of new buildings, old stories, neglect and construction – all these influenced the direction of the work in the studio and are directing it towards a realisation that could be witnessed as part of the cityscape.
Yearly Archives: 2007
Xiao Ke’s blog reminded me that Dancehouse, where I generally work before going out into the public spaces of Dublin, is itself part of that urban space. As soon as I remember that I recognise that our building makes concrete a complex interaction of political, social and artistic forces: the work and aspiration of dance artists, the regeneration of a under-resourced area of Dublin, a public-private partnership in construction that comes from a particular moment of Ireland’s economic history…. It’s good to be reminded that these are the concretised stories our bodies are rubbing up against each day.
Xiao Ke’s blog is http://blog.sina.com.cn/zhaozhaokklee
This past week, Xiao Ke and I have worked together, mostly in the studio in DanceHouse but also crossing the city to give her an idea of its geography and human colour. I learnt a great deal from our collaboration but I’m only beginning to understand what that learning is.
The large windows of Studio 4 in Dancehouse overlook the Eileen McLoughlin Park and the new apartment developments that hope to regenerate, reform and reorient the inner-city communities that have lived in the area. Xiao Ke was amazed at the number of Chinese people who now walk along Foley St with the other recently arrived and long settled, the young, the strung out, the pyjama-clad and well-heeled.
In the bleaching autumn light, the tarmac space that opens between the undressing trees and the peeping tower blocks suggested itself as a place to settle our developing dance. The crows share the space and people mark its perimeter.
Maybe it was the last time for Bernadette and I to experience our connection through the Cosán Dearg material but if it was, it was a joyful and creative valediction. The performance in Xiamen happened in the studios of local artist (and police commissioner), ???. The space, an old cigar factory, covers a vast area, much of it full of ??? work – large sculptures and installations that suggest something of a sci-fi movie set. But there is still plenty of space to move in.
Lu Ming, the curator and organiser in Xiamen, had asked the participating artists to perform simultanaeously around the space. Bernadette and I chose, as we had in Hangzhou, to allow the work to travel around the space repeating our encounters over three hours, performing our solos when we lost each other, always knowing that we would meet again. This process allowed us to explore the work with an audience in the way we have always done in the studio and the way we imagined we could at the end of each single performance at the beginning of this journey in Project Arts Centre.
I was moved when I would discover Bernadette around a corner, focused, in her mind and in her body – dancing.
It is only gradually that I have discovered that the reason that we had so much free time in the very beautiful Hangzhou. The original local partner of the festival was refused official permission to host the festival. The reason for this late cancellation seems to have been Shu Yang’s performance in Beijing in which he referred to Myanmar/Burma. As a result, there was a scramble to find us another venue in Hangzhou. Most of the western artists knew nothing of this at the time but the Dock 47 space was a great last minute choice: another post-industrial art space in the 798 mould.
The audience that assembled was engaged and curious and asked many questions after Bernadette and I performed. Having moderated my energy to allow for the explosiveness of Bernadette’s energy in Macau, I allowed myself to meet her strength in this space and we had fun with the resulting fusion and friction.
One of the audience members said she enjoyed the performance because she could feel that there was conflict and cooperation. I said I was happy that she saw this because the trust between Bernadette and me in this encounter allows us to experience the conflict and cooperation. She said we were like children in this freedom we had to express ourselves. Perhaps but we are, but if we are children we are children who have lived a lot and so this ‘childlikeness’ is no accident of age but a choice or maybe just an aspiration.
Another perspective on the Dadao Live Art festival in Beijing
One of the most flattering observations made about our performance is that it looked as if we always lived in the Oxwarehouse with its funny drainage troughs and sloping floors. For some of the Performance artists, the immediacy of response to an environment is an important way of distinguishing themselves from the rehearsed performance of choreography.
However with Bernadette and me, the relationship to the space and to the particular building comes not from making a work that ‘translates’ the building into movement: instead it comes from bringing a developed physicality that is robust enough to be open to the energy of the space and doesn’t need to ignore it to maintain the integrity of the dance. It makes the work a truly live art that interacts with its specific environment because of the strong preparation the choreography entails.
The growing sense that dance and, by extension, my work isn’t entirely welcome in this Live Art context has made it harder for me to be open in performing. I’ve been aware for a while that some of the artists were uncomfortable with having dance in the programme. However, no one has really asked me why I am here and what I think my work is trying to do here. There is no question but that what I do comes from and relies on a dance tradition – it is the discipline I follow. But that discipline is a means to an end or, more precisely, a means to a process of discovery that takes place in relation to the environment and the new context in to which I bring the work. I don’t hide a message in the work for an audience to decode. Instead, I see the work as an opportunity to learn something and I try to create an environment where others can participate in that discovery. I’ve seen a number of works that have inspired me in this touring festival, some from artists with a dance background, some with visual arts or theatre training. It’s the work and its impact that matters to me and not the tradition from which it derives or the manifesto to which it adheres.
In the beautiful Oxwarehouse space in Macau, I carried the shadow of this sense of being unwelcome until a Chinese woman, Echo, stepped into the space as I was warming up and began to copy my movements. Before we spoke, she established a connection between us that made me feel welcome and through her, I found a positive focus for my last articulation of the Cosán Dearg solo. Thanks to Elena’s filming, Echo sits in the middle of the frame, making this a duet that prepares for Bernadette’s arrival. The glitz of Macau’s casinos is an odd contrast to the pastoral environment of the Oxwarehouse space.
Shenzhen is a city which didn’t exist, except as a small fishing village, 20 years ago. It’s now a young city full of young people from all over China. It’s a city full of new high rises, some already abandoned and derelict. New seems to be easier than repair and recycling.
I’m staying in a luxury business hotel and feeling both refreshed by the comfort and a little guilty about the comparative expense. I reassure myself that this luxury, and the Chinese business men who enjoy it, are as much part of the Chinese experience as the artists with whom I’m working.
In Shenzhen, our hosts are the Shenzhen Free Arts Zone (www.szarts.cn). They run the top floor of the factory building in the picture above and have converted it into very basic artist live-work spaces. A central corridor and shared office/common room provide a gallery space where the artists’ work is on view and in which we performed. It has been a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk with these artists who are keen to engage and learn a little of our work.
The solo found a new expression in this long corridor where I set up a line of fire-extinguishers to remind myself of my long red journey. I danced near a set of naked statues whose presence in the space reminded me that I was somehow preceded in my path.
Elena Giannotti who dances Michael Klein’s Einem on this tour, is pictured above and she artfully filmed my performance.
The video contains nudity (again)
I was mesmerised by how Hong Kong’s Filipina maids appropriate the city’s public space for their day off. On roads and squares they set up encampments for the day where they sleep, eat, socialise, play cards, dance, access union counselling etc. It reminds me of a festival but I suppose there is a sense where this temporary occupation of public space, this ingenious use of resources, is born of necessity rather than choice.