Why performing arts?


10/05/2005

Acknowledgements

A heartfelt thank to my performers Mark Carberry, Christina Jensen, Anna Moscatelli and John Slade. Your collaboration, commitment and energy allowed this work to grow towards a very special realm.

Thank you as well to the people that helped me, Rafael Hortala-Vallve with whom I could share my thoughts and ideas, Vincent Campanella and Gregory Hall for the filming and recording.

And a very special thanks to my beloved mother, who always supported me, and to whom this work is dedicated.

 

Introduction

Why? Why did I chose to do performance art?

Although I did acrobatics and gymnastics since the age of three, and then dance training in ballet, jazz and contemporary since age eleven, it was only at the age of seventeen that I decided to become a performance artist. What happened then? Although I enjoyed moving and dancing since when I was little, it was then that I discovered the potential power of performance art, on a personal, social and global level –by global I mean on an inter cultural level. It was through doing workshops in contemporary dance and improvisation, through being in a contemporary dance group and through discovering choreographers, dancers and performance artists that I discovered something new in dance. Especially after experiencing a performance by Ultima Vez, ‘In spite of wishing and wanting’, choreographed by Wim Vandekeybus. What happened then? I felt understood. I experienced on stage what I was feeling or searching inside. It was like a philosophy lived on stage, but not rational. It expressed real wisdom of life. It was the whole energy of the piece, the strong physical and expressive presence of the performers. It was a real affirmation of life, with all its diversities, and an expression of the human potential. I went to see this choreography in the context of dance, but it was the fact that it was no classified dance piece, that it was not about any style or genre, but an open medium including movement, sound, speech, film, etc, that made it so special for me. It created a whole world on its own. I realized that I could bring all my interests into what I do, and embody it. “The definition of performance art is open-ended. […] it encompasses literature, poetry, theatre, music, dance, architecture, and painting, as well as video, film, photography, slides, and text, and any combination of these” (Goldberg, 1998, p.12).

This is already an answer to why I studied contemporary dance, which in itself is already a very broad and open platform, often more concerned with movement then dance. I am specially interested in and prefer to refer to performance art, which includes contemporary dance, but encompasses the whole range of human expression. On the other hand though, coming from a dance background, and so from a body art, I am primarily interested in exploring human bodily expression, including movement, sound and speech. Thus I am looking more into the human performance than into the use of different technological and electronic devices. In this written work, and in the practical research and performance it accompanies it, I am especially looking at what I consider so powerful in performance art, going to the essence of what performance art means to me and the state that allows such powerful art. In this search I am looking at, and opening myself to certain people and their philosophies, especially Action Theater founder Ruth Zaporah, Martial artist, actor, director and philosopher Bruce Lee and scientist and thinker David Bohm, which highly influence me and make me discover new ways of thinking, being and acting, and so also open up my approach to life and performing arts. The path I approach with this independent project is an ongoing life process, something that doesn’t just exist on paper or can be understood in words, but which will slowly and organically be understood in an embodied way and express itself in daily life and practice. I am not trying to approach a conclusion with this work, but move to a deeper understanding, which in turn will lead to a deeper approach in my practice of performance art, as a performer, creator and teacher.

Thus I decided to do a practical research with four colleagues, whom I already consider as strong performers, and with whom I have been working with since September 2004, improvising and working with movement, sound and speech. Although I was guiding and leading the rehearsals, my interest was more into creating an open, sharing and supportive environment we all could learn from, rather than defining me as a director or creator. In this accompanying written work I first look closer at the performer, the human being, and especially at the state of mind or being that allows such powerful work, leading me up to universal energy. In the second part I come back to the body and performance art in general, referring to the practical research I have undertaken with my performers. Finally the third part concludes and will reflect on our practical work and performance.

 

From Action Theater to universal energy

In the practical and written work I have been highly interested in Ruth Zaporah and her Action Theater training, using movement, sound and speech. The training is comprised of exercises and ideas that expand awareness, quiet the mind, stimulate imagination, ask for a willingness to leap into the unknown, strengthen the capacity for feeling, and develop skills of expression by an integrated body and mind. It is especially a training that considers the performer as a whole and invites him/her to use all he/she has got:

Our vocabulary:

Sensations: What we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and kinetically experience

Feeling: States of mind and body that can’t be named but are familiar

Thought: Analytical, judgemental, conceptual, reasoning, reflective, or planning mental activity

Emotion: Thought inspired, identifiable states of mind

Memory: Images, thoughts, feeling retained from past “real” life experiences

Imagination: The formal of mental or physical images of what is not present. Creating new images from the combination of any of the above.

Action: Behaviour (Zaporah, 1995, p.155).

It is through this wholeness that we enter wider realms of self-expression and ourselves.

In the introduction of her book Ruth writes that the exercises “ invite us to inhabit our bodies, deconstruct our normal behaviour and, then, notice the details of what we have got. This process frees us from habitual perceptions and behaviours. We become more conscious of our moment to moment thoughts, sensations, emotions, feelings, and fantasies, in addition to the outer world we inhabit” (Zaporah, 1995, p.xxi).

Action Theater though is no technique, but an improvisation training, the improvisation of presence, for “techniques bear limited fruit. At some point, we must look inward for our education. We must notice what inhibits our freedom, be willing to give up all preconceptions, be truthful, and relax in order to act from lively emptiness” (Zaporah, 1995, p. xxii).

It is about us, the human being, the performer, and not about any style or technique. As Bruce Lee said: “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any style”(Little, 1996, p. xxvii).

David Bohm (1996, p. 32) says as well that “certain kinds of things can be achieved by techniques and formulae, but originality and creativity are not among these”.

Now what is creativity and originality? It is a way of perceiving things freshly, and not imposing prejudices, beliefs or judgements. It is openness to learning something new. “Creativity […] is always founded on the sensitive perception of what is new and different from what is inferred from previous knowledge”(Bohm, 1996, p. 7).

It is the ability to see something original. It is not being limited by a mediocre and mechanical mind. It is no confusions, conflicts, falling asleep, ignoring or blindness. It is not being afraid to do mistakes, and so letting go of maintaining the image of self or ego as perfect. As David Bohm (1996) writes:

A creative mind […] is, first of all, one whose interest in what is being done is wholehearted and total, like that of a young child. With this spirit, it is always open to learning what is new, to perceiving new differences and new similarities, leading to new orders and structures, rather than always tending to impose familiar orders and structures in the field of what is seen. This kind of action of the creative state of mind is impossible if one is limited by narrow and petty aims. (p. 21)

So creativity first of all requires a creative state of mind, an openness and an ability to learn something new. It is above all a state of being; being more of who you are and an ability of quieting down, letting go and allowing, of being fully in the moment, with heightened attention and awareness, and the ability of real perception. This state of mind/being is the core, the spirit of Action Theater and of our rehearsals.

The exercises in this training may seem to lead to opposite directions. On the one hand, we talk about floating, letting go of ourselves and relaxing into direct experience. On the other, we practice techniques of control, awareness, composition, form. Yes and yes, to both. The latter develops craft and the former expands the possibilities of what we experience directly. (Zaporah, 1995, p.105)

We will further look into the notions of letting go, allowing and accepting.

In order to control myself, I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature. (Little, 1996, p.47)

Letting go, accepting and allowing are very difficult to understand and to realize, especially in our modern western society. Not only do we cling on to material staff, we especially hold on to our mind, thoughts, beliefs, judgements and prejudices. We tend to constantly project expectations onto the future, our life and others. We have these fixed ideas of what is good and bad, right or wrong, of who we want to be, what our lives should be like. We often create an image in our mind of how we want to be, look and live. We try to define ourselves by limiting ourselves, and often limiting others, categorizing and classifying things and people. We also limit our understanding and experience of ourselves and the world, not really perceiving and allowing things as they are and come. This is to a great extend due to our over rational society, which tries to explain, dissect and analyze life and the universe mainly with the mind, creating rational knowledge. It even led our society to separate itself from nature and the body. Philosophers even doubt existence and create a body/mind split. It led to an over dominance of man and his mind, and the desire for control and power over everything. We do not accept life and nature as it flows but hold instead to past notions and future plans. Not only do we tend to dissect from our bodies, but we also seem not to be able of being in the present, in the now, in the moment-to-moment experience of life. We even go so far as not to accept age and death, which is in some kind none acceptance of the real nature of life, as our lives are made up of time. A big step in letting go then is freeing ourselves of the holding of the mind, of the ego and of excessive self-consciousness. One of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes is:

Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water.

When you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup;

When you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle;

When you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.

Now water can flow – or it can crash.

Be water, my friend.

(Little, 1996, p.43)

So letting go is liberating yourself from what it is that binds you. It is by allowing and accepting that we might experience freedom. “Freedom arises in allowing, in an unconflicted, pre-reflective participatory understanding of the nature of your situation […] Allowing is the condition of true freedom and at the heart of any truly creative endeavour” (Maitland, 1995, p.112). Whatever comes up moment by moment is accepted, including nonacceptance. On the search of the expression of the true self, Bruce Lee goes on to refer to no-mindedness. A certain ‘spiritual loosening’ is required, and this can be obtained only when one masters the principle of what the Chinese call wu-hsin (the Japanese, mushin), literally ‘no-mind’, or the deregulation of self-consciousness.

He further explains:

Although quietude and calmness are necessary, it is the ‘nongraspingness’ of the mind that mainly constitutes the principle of ‘no-mindedness’. A gung fu man employs his mind as a mirror – it grasps nothing, yet it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep. As Alan Watts put it, no-mindedness is a ‘state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club’. What he means is to let the mind think what it likes without the interference by the separate thinker or ego within oneself. So long as it thinks what it wants, there is absolutely no effort in letting go, and the disappearance of the effort to let go is precisely the disappearance of the separate thinker.  (Little, 1996, p. 53)

Ultimately one should be ‘purposeless’. By purposeless is not meant the mere absence of things where vacant nothingness prevails. The object is not to be stuck with thought process. The spirit is by nature formless, and no ‘objects’ are to be stuck in it. When anything is stuck there, your psychic energy loses its balance, its native activity becomes cramped and no longer flows with the stream. But when there prevails a state of purposelessness (which is also a state of fluidity, empty-mindedness, or simply the everyday mind), the spirit harbours nothing in it, nor is it tipped in any one direction; it transcends both subject and object; it responds empty-mindedly to environmental changes and leaves no track. (Little, 1996 p.55)

From an understanding of this state, we might get to understand and be more able for heightened awareness and concentration, for concentration should not have the usual sense of restricting the attention to a single sense object; rather it is simply a quiet awareness of whatever happens to be here and now. Here we can refer again to Ruth Zaporah (1995): “Awareness comes with a quiet mind and body. Only a quiet mind listens. Only a quiet mind is free from impediments such as personal agendas, preferences, criticisms, ideas, opinions and thinking ahead. Just as a quiet mind listens, listening quiets the mind “ (p.36). If we stick to exactly what comes into our awareness, and not embellish it with meaning, we’re more likely to experience a fresh perception of constantly changing events. One of Action Theater’s objectives is to detail perception by expanding awareness. Real perception requires that one be attentive, alert, aware, and sensitive, from moment to moment.

We step into the unknown with awareness. We build survival skills with this awareness. Eventually, judgement vanishes and only inquisitiveness remains. We don’t need protection when there is no fear. Awareness itself is the protection. (Zaporah, 1995, p. 60

This awareness requires being in the here and now, and so fully experiencing moment to moment. We so might encounter the experience as it is, always fresh, and not blind ourselves with previous thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and expectations.

Thinking is too slow. When we’re thinking about the future moment, we’re thinking about what’s next. ‘Next’ is a thought. Whatever we think up lacks freshness. When we’re thinking – as opposed to listening to ourselves with less attachment and staying with each moment- we never get beyond ourselves and the familiar. (Zaporah, 1995, p.24)

This of course does not mean that we try not to think, as we human beings are constantly thinking. There is nothing bad about thought in itself. What we try in Action Theater, as in meditation, is to let thoughts pass, to accept them, but to not hold on them and so not to let them block us or blind us from what is actually happening, as for example in an improvisation.

We also will become more aware of ourselves in relation to our experience, realizing that experiences are to be experienced, they are not us, they simply pass through us.

Clearly, we are not our experience. We are the consciousness that witnesses that process. We are not our feelings. Feelings, emotions, and thoughts pass through us. When we laugh, we are not laughter, we are experiencing laughter; we are aware of it: we hear it and feel it. Once we become aware of ourselves laughing, we notice a space between our awareness and the laughter – between the one who is doing and the action that is being done. It is from this perspective that we are able to play with the sound of laughter, and even the feel off it. (Zaporah, 1995, p.18)

We learn with Action Theater to engage in the moment-to-moment sensations of experience, and are more open and receptive to experience all kinds of sensations, feelings and emotions:

All emotions are in all of us. For some, if these emotions are never owned, explored, or played with, they erupt in devious ways, unconsciously and maybe even destructively. If one tours one’s own inner landscape with awareness, inhabiting all experiences as they arise, then one discovers that what was feared is not fearful. A fully embodied experience is quite different from the projected experience. Emotions are not ‘things’ in themselves. They can never be known or presumed. They don’t themselves carry inherent threat. They are configurations of our energy brought on by a certain environment. […] We are not them, nor they us. (Zaporah, 1995, p.142)

Therefore it is by allowing oneself to fully experience all kinds of experiences, that we will explore the limitlessness of different experiences to us, and so also the limitlessness of ourselves:

We’re exploding the boundaries between infancy and adulthood, lucidity and lunacy, humanity and bestiality, banal and sacred states. The experience of entering and surviving these states grants permission to explore even further, continually expanding the limits of the conceivable and the expressible. Our frame expands to include all universal experience as equal and the same, within awareness. (Zaporah, 1995, p.203)

So by letting go of limiting thoughts and self-notions, and just opening with awareness to experience, we will enter the field of universal experience and expression. We so will access the fullness of life. Life is made up of moment-to-moment experience. Now, to understand life is to fully experience. The purpose of dancing is to dance, the purpose of life is to live – which is simply another way of stating that it is an experimental process. The point to be drawn from all of this is that you should not get so caught up in analyzing the world around you and searching for hidden cause-and-effect relationships that you end up standing apart from it for the purpose of analysis. People do not live conceptually or scientifically defined lives, for the essential quality of living life lies simply in the living.

This sounds very simple but again is very alien to most of us. Our society is beset with worries and problems, which to a big part are due to our inability to see the nature and wholeness of the universe and ourselves. The meaning of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced:

Life lives; and in the living flow –no questions are raised. The reason is that life is a living NOW! Completeness, the now, is an absence of the conscious mind to strive to divide that which is indivisible. For once the completeness of thing is taken apart, it is no longer complete. All the pieces of a car that has been taken apart may be there, but it is no longer a car in its original nature, which is its function or life. So in order to live life wholeheartedly, the answer is life simply IS. (Little, 1996. p.29)

Thus, rather than making life easy for living by living in accord with life, Western philosophy complicates it by replacing the world’s tranquillity with the restlessness of problems.

Western philosophy, then, is for the most part not really concerned with the issue of living qua living but rather in the construction of an activity concerning theoretical knowledge. Most Western philosophers are not as interested in living – in its purest sense – as they are in trying to theorize about living. This inclination is not conducive to either enjoying or experiencing the ultimate reality of life, but rather to an austere and detached contemplation of it. As Lee once observed: To contemplate a thing implies maintaining oneself OUTSIDE it, resolved to keep a distance between it and ourselves. […] This is not what our world view should be if happiness and true comprehension of the ways of the world are to be our goals. We must not dissect and hyperanalyze. We must simply open ourselves to experience and, by so doing, serve as a conduit through which the reality of living is made manifest in our every move, thought, action, and experience of the moment. (Little, 1996, p.30)

So living is going with the flow of life, it is a constant movement, and so is our understanding of the universe and of ourselves an ongoing process. As Bruce Lee says:” to change with the change is the changeless state” (Little, 1996, p.20).

It is a condition of ‘changeless change’ that is the true state of our bodies internal environment. Lee’s aphorism serves to underscore the principle of Yin/Yang, or the interdependency of apparent opposites, as the sine qua non for the survival of our bodies. Our bodies, however are simply reflections in miniature of the natural laws that regulate the ebb and flow of the cosmic universe of which they are part. This being the case, it becomes possible for us to learn to understand the way of the world without by taking a look at the way of the world within.

To this end, Lao-tzu (circa 600 B.C.), the legendary founder of Taoism, made this observation:

One may know the world without going out of doors.

One may see the way of Heaven without looking through the windows.

(Little, 1996, p.20)

So the purpose or meaning of one’s life can come from within, from a process of introspection and self-understanding. Through a process of getting to know all there is about the real you, physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and the constant flux within all this.

[…] there is an art of self-knowledge, which each person has to develop for himself. This art must lead one to be sensitive of how his basically false approach to life is always tending to generate conflict and confusion. The role of art here is therefore not to provide a symbolism, but rather to teach the artistic spirit of sensitive perception of the individual and particular phenomena of one’s own psyche. […] Such an approach is not possible, however unless one also has the spirit that meets life wholly and totally. […] It would seem, then, that in some ways the modern person must manage to create a total approach to life, which accomplishes what was done in earlier days by science, art, and religion, but in a new way that is appropriate to modern conditions of life. (Bohm, 1996, p.37-38)

On this path of sincere self-knowledge, the further I go in, the more I feel I am related to everything out there. It is seeing the relationship between me, you, and the world. It is seeing the universe as one inseparable, interrelated field.

The earth is one household. It is all one. […] everything enfolds everything. […] everybody not merely depends on everybody, but actually everybody is everybody in a deeper sense. We are the earth, because all our substance comes from the earth and goes back to it. It is a mistake to say it is an environment just surrounding us, because that would be like the brain regarding the rest of the body as part of its environment. (Bohm, 1996, p. 135)

If the universe can be compared to a vast ocean, we – as human beings – can be likened to the individual waves that come into and pass out of existence on its surface. Each of the waves are distinct from the others and yet still interconnected to the ocean itself.

The world is seen as an inseparable interrelated field, no part of which can actually be separated from the other (there would be no bright stars without dim stars, and without the surrounding darkness, no stars at all). Oppositions have become mutually cooperative instead of mutually exclusive, and there is no longer any conflict between the individual man and nature. (Little, 1996, p.31)

It is through understanding the oneness of the universe and us as part of it, and in realizing the constant flow of life that we get to understand that the basic building blocks of existence are not matter – in the traditional sense of the term – but rather probabilities, dynamic yet interrelated patterns of energy. Our universe is a dynamic web of interrelated events. Energy then can be seen as the life force. The Chinese call it chi; the Japanese, ki; the Indians, prana. As the Chinese sage Lao-tzu, the author of the Tao te ching, stated:

Tao is that from which all things in the universe are created. The process by which all things are created is produced by this energy or Ch’i, which originates from Tao. This energy is divided into two aspects: Yin and Yang. All things in the universe have Yin energy and Yang energy. When Yin and Yang energies merge together, they produce a state of harmony.  (Little, 1996, p.xiii).

Now I suggest that the essence of life is the movement of organizing energy, and so do not think of a special ‘soul substance’ that would produce or carry this energy:

the root of the word ‘organiza’ is related to the Greek ‘ergon’, which is based on a verb meaning ‘to work’, and […] this verb is also the root of the word ‘energy’, which thus means literally ‘to work within’. If we think of the movement of life as an ‘organizing energy’ that is ‘working within’ the movements in the organs, in the cells, and, indeed, even in the atoms and elementary particles and thus ultimately merging with the universal field movement, this would perhaps help further in what it means to take movement as primary. (Bohm, 1996, p.97-98)

This life energy is where we can tap into as human beings and as performers. This life energy, or universal energy, is within us, within our bodies, and is the source of life and thus also of performance art. So performance art can be an expression of this energy. It can be an art of freedom, a liberation from our sometimes too rational minds into the realms of our mystic existence, into universal energy. By letting go and allowing the attention and awareness to be in the moment, and so to fully experience every moment-to-moment, we might be more perceptive to what is going on. We might be more able to listen to ourselves and to what is happening around us, and thus to experience and express life energy to its fullest extent.

 

From the body to performance art

The human body creates the form of our existence. It also creates the limitations of the form of our existence, and so the possibilities within these limitations. As Jeffrey Maitland (1995) puts it: “The boundaries of my body are not the limits at which I stop being. They are the limitations at which I begin being” (p.29). The lived-body is the space we are, the space we live; it is the lived space from which we orient toward our world. We are not imprisoned in our bodies; rather, our bodies are the condition of our existence. We can’t separate ourselves from our bodies, as we are our bodies. Though our existence doesn’t stop being at the surface of our skin. We are in a constant exchange with the outside world and so we shouldn’t separate us from our environment. We are part of it, by a constant exchange of air and nourishment. Our bodies are in constant movement, as life and the universe are. Our whole existence is based on the constant movement of our breath, lungs, cells, without us even having to think about it or control it. Life simply is within us. And so we do not just move with our bodies, but we are movement. We are, and we are bodily. There is no other place to find freedom than right here where you always and already are, which means within our bodies.

That which we are in search of is always and already here and now: it is never other than what is already present. (Maitland, 1995, p.28)

The secular world is the sacred, the forms and structures of human life and the body [are] the very space through which the sacred manifests.  (Maitland, 1995, p.15)

The realization of finding the sacred in the here and now is a further expression of freedom within our bodies, of our bodies being part of the universal energy and being the space we can tap into this universal energy.

Our bodies are so the space from which we can express ourselves, express our existence and celebrate this universal energy. Our bodies are to be accepted, celebrated and explored. It is through the body that we can discover our human potentials and that we can access self-knowledge.

Body performance art can so be a space of self-discovery, of investigating this energy, of investigating all there is about us.

All the reasoning above relates to my practical research because I have tried to focus in the performers as a whole. Using their movement, sound and speech. Even Laban “as far back as 1913 [envisioned] a dance-theatre which would employ the use of sound, dance and speech and which he regarded as ‘the final heightening of the opportunity for human expression’” (Sánchez-Collberg, 1996, p.46).

As dancers we are used to move, but not forcedly to find freedom or self-expression within movement. An over importance to technique can cause too high self-consciousness and tension.

The first part of our process consisted of improvisations, mainly from Action Theater – with the vocabulary stated above -, and led us to open up and discover our bodies and movements outside technique or set fixed movements. It was a loosening and playful process and led us to new and unpredictable places. They worked individually, in solos, or in groups of two, three or all four together. So next to discovering their own energies, they built up a special feeling for group energy as well. The improvisations developed as well a higher awareness and attentiveness towards the self and the others, towards what was happening as a whole.

A big part of the process consisted as well in using our voice, in using sound and language. We started focusing on breath. We initiated movements from the breath, creating different dynamics and rhythms, and often leading to a greater flow in the movements and a release of tension.

Constantly, we practice a subtle sound and movement exercise by breathing. Our lungs expand with each inhalation, rib cages widen, bellies round, shoulder girdles float a little higher. If we listen, we hear a tiny wind enter. As it exits with a different sound, everything settles. We often forget this vital connection between sound and movement.  (Zaporah, 1995, p.15)

The use of sound also led to a fuller embodiment. Their movements and especially their presence changed when I would ask them to use their voice, to sound the movements. Although in some way more tiring because they needed a stronger breath, it often led to a higher release of energy, movements often became more visceral and less controlled. Once again they experienced a release of tension which often led to different kinds of movements. It was very interesting to use movement and sound in group improvisations, because they then would relate to each other through the sound as well, which led the improvisation and their ways of interacting through movements become more like music. It then was more about energy and dynamics then about making sense with their actions or creating a story. Their focus would change as well when using their voice. When concentrating and listening to each other in an improvisation, their focus tends to go down. As soon as I ask them to sound the movements, they would project more up and out.

The use of speech though was often a bit more blocking, as it then tended to become more mind dominated. We are generally used to use language in a way of creating sense, and it is difficult to use words as a way of creating sounds, or to give speech free flow, without controlling it and just verbalizing thoughts without blockages. This of course is also very difficult because it is very personal and self-revealing, but it can be very liberating. We further used speech but in a way that we did not get stuck in the meaning. We considered words just as some form of energy.

The rehearsals encouraged them to discover more of who they are, and so express themselves more wholly and through various ways. We learned a lot about ourselves and about the others, and rehearsals often led to talks. Next to talking about what we observed in rehearsals and in improvisations, and to giving feedback, we tended to talk a lot about relationships: relationships to ourselves, to others and to the world. As Bruce Lee says:

Life is a constant process of relating. (Little, 1996, p. xxvii)

Our relationship towards ourselves affects our relationships towards others and the world, and I believe that dance, movement and other forms of expression – physical, vocal and verbal expression as in our rehearsal – can encourage a deeper, healthier and more harmonious relationship towards ourselves.

At a micro level within ourselves and a macro level within our universe, we are always dealing with complex patterns of relationship – and those relationships are constantly changing. (Hackney, 2002, p.15)

Here we touch again upon the body-world interplay, our personal body relationship is connected to our relationship to the global world. I believe that training in for example Action Theater, as in Bartenieff Fundamentals, facilitates “ a lively interplay of inner connectivity with outer expressivity” (Hackney, 2002, p.34).

The reason why I did this research with four people and not on my own was to share it and learn from each other. Next to the personal benefits in performance training, as for example trough movement, sound and speech, and so widening our expression skills and our presence as a performer, I consider performance art as a platform for sharing and exchanging ideas, experiences and knowledge. It is a space where people from different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures can come together and create together. Communication and dialogue can happen, where it is not about defending your opinions or position, about being right or wrong, but about opening yourself, about learning something new and maybe coming to a common understanding.

What is needed is a dialogue in the real sense of the word ‘dialogue’, which means ‘flowing through’, amongst people, rather than an exchange like a game of ping-pong. […] The first thing is that we must perceive all the meaning of everybody together, without having to make any decisions or saying who’s right and who’s wrong. It is more important that we all see the same thing. That will create a new frame of mind in which there is a common consciousness. […] With the common consciousness we then have something new – a new kind of intelligence.  (Bohm, 1996, p144-145)

Discussion is the precursor to understanding and spiritual growth.  (Little, 1996, p.16)

I believe in collaborating and creating together, between different people and different mediums. It is a way of constantly learning from each other, thus developing understanding and ultimately reaching an expression of peace.

Peace should be a powerful, creative way of life through which people cooperate to solve their problems and realize their potentialities. (Halprin, 1986, p.54).

People ought to be creating and witnessing music, art and drama that portray the challenges and opportunities of attaining peace. (Halprin, 1986, p.55)

I further believe that the peace we create within ourselves as performers and as a collaborating group can have an impact on a wider level on participants, audiences and students. By creating a performance, one creates a worldview in some way, without having to make any political or social statements, but by releasing, organizing and expressing energy in a certain way. “Theory”, as “theatre”, comes from the Greek word “theoria” which means “to view”. Performance art can make people perceive more sensitive and make them look different at themselves, others and the world. It especially can give them a lived experience and so maybe an experience of wholeness, peace and freedom. Performance art can create a space where boundaries can be crossed, and where the differences of life and the world can be celebrated. It can be an affirmation of life in its wholeness. There is nothing better than moving every possible way and seeing the world from a million different perspectives. There is nothing better than moving every possible way and seeing the world from a million different perspectives.

 

A practical conclusion

It was with this philosophical, theoretical background, or state of mind that I approached our rehearsals, and this written work and the practical work influenced each other. We started rehearsing with exercises from Action Theater, opening up and getting into a playful state as well as widening awareness and perception. I took notes and we had talks afterwards. I also made them talk about what they considered powerful about performance art, what stroke them and what it meant to them to be a performer. I made them talk autobiographically, which somehow brought us to why we do dance or performance art. As I already said in the introduction, my aim was not to define myself as a choreographer, but I saw myself more as a guide, creating a specific environment for them. I am in this project more interested in the performer and the interplay between the performers, in a certain state of mind/being, and so in what they create in certain exercises and situations, then in setting a choreography, a specific style or movement vocabulary. I though wanted the rehearsal process to lead to a performance, as it is about performance art. Initially I planned to do a film, as it is a medium I am very interested in and that gives the freedom in the use of time, space and angle. The problem I encountered is that it brought a lot of technical concerns and difficulties, which risked weakening the performance and my performers. Therefore I decided to keep the scenes we developed for the film, and to play with live performance, film and live projection, and also with the use of the whole theatre environment. The ideas I had for the film came mainly out of rehearsals, improvisations, and from there I developed the story. As we were talking a lot about relationships, creativity and freedom during the rehearsals, these were main guides for the different scenes. In “That was a great show”, our work, the audience follows a performance cabaret group from the stage, to the changing rooms, to a club dancing scene, into conflicting duets and ecstatic self confronting solos up until the sunrise in the green. We follow them through different stages of their being as performers and their relationships to themselves, others and the world, which leads them to different states in a cycle of creativity and freedom.

 

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Goldberg, R.L. (1998). Performance: Live art since the 60s. Singapore: C.S. Graphics.

Hackney, P. (1998). Making connections: Total body integration through Bartenieff fundamentals. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach.

Halprin, Anna 1986. Circle The Earth: Peace Dance. Contact Quarterly, Vol. 11:1, Winter.

Little, J. (1996). The Warrior Within: The philosophies of Bruce Lee to better understand the world around you and achieve a rewarding life. USA: Contemporary Books.

Maitland, J. (1995). Spacious Bodies: Explorations in Somatic Ontology. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

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