MAP references


As the MAP Symposium unfolded, RealTime charted some responses on audio and videotape. Here are some samples.

Rachel Fensham It’s really about the question of the will to know, which seems to me to be split between those who are choreographers now (Chrissie Parrott and Gideon Obarzanek) and those who are dancers. It’s the question of knowing through seeing, and the extension of seeing through the camera. Whereas what Trevor Patrick, and to some extent Duncan Fairfax (though he’s not a dancer), was saying was about the will to know being developed through the multi-sensorial body. Now I don’t want to dismiss the will to know through the technos but for those people to deny the multi-sensorial in relation to the technology when it’s in their own histories as dancers working in companies is a great loss. When Gideon was talking about watching someone’s tensile movement, his excitement suddenly came into play. Now he’s trying to use that through the technos but it is actually about the knowing of bodies in relation rather than just bodies through the eye.

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Rachel Fensham What Libby Dempster said was that we have a white, foreign, illegitimate dance history in ballet. I think she’s absolutely right. It is about the colonial heritage and our inferiority in relation to the rest of the world. But if you take that on board, the flipside is that you might want to celebrate it. Sometimes the benchmark might be going to see the Australian Ballet and watching it as a complete parody of what our culture might be. Concomitant with that there is imperialism, power, exploitation, degradation of the land, denial of the existence of Aboriginal people. Can we really just celebrate that? Or does that version of our dance history imply some other kinds of questions. … It’s interesting that for all the problems with the Bangarra liaison [the Australian Ballet-Bangarra Rites of Spring] in a way it is the Australian Ballet that creates the first mainstream cross-over.

Keith Gallasch When ballet was addressed it was always about the Australian Ballet, not for example William Forsythe’s engagement with postmodernity. Here’s a choreographer who reads Deleuze and Guattari and Derrida and works with new media artists, and who has an architectonic view.

Rachel Fensham The point about ballet re-inventing itself is almost the more interesting one, the ways that ballet can change.

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William McClure Silence is not what I was advocating but a sense of silence that comes between phrases which is the question of what is going to come next. There’s an ambivalence, an equivocal sense of how you’re going to get to the next phrase…where you might think, there is no natural necessity which is pushing me on to make the next decision. It’s ungrounded.

Rosalind Crisp It’s grounded by certain choices that you make and the elimination of others. I don’t think there is a state of nothingness. It’s more a state of listening and, depending on the sensitivity and awareness you have in your body, you might make certain choices of movement over others. When I come to craft a work, I’m making choices about certain parameters.

Richard Allen In the moment of nothing is the moment of meditation. I remember when I was working on a piece called The Frightening of Angels, I had this sense of an incredible dark cloud within me and my necessity was to move that dark cloud out of me and into the space, into the light. If there was a sense of nothing, I wouldn’t have done it.

William McClure It’s not an intellectual process I’m talking about. It’s a way of confronting what is happening in a way that doesn’t come with criteria, background, tradition. It’s an existential position.

Rosalind Crisp I find accidents the best creative moments. I’m working in the studio and someone drops by and interrupts me. I keep working while I’m talking to them and suddenly I realise I’m doing something more interesting, more connected. I think it’s a dialogue between pathways that are established in your body and a space where there isn’t anything pre-coded. If I direct myself to feel a part of my body so I’m more aware of it, it might make me do something (HER ARM SHOOTS UPWARDS) within a certain sort of parameter. It doesn’t feel like nothing. But there has to be a space.

William McClure What I’m saying is that the “nothing” is pregnant with sensation. It’s ambivalent, it’s equivocal, it doesn’t give itself away. So whatever representation you lay on top of that sensation or nothingness is then endless possibilities.

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Peter Eckersall Companies like Zen Zen Zo in Brisbane are directly appropriating a post Dairakuda-kan style—shaved heads, white body paint. Some members have also worked with Tadashi Suzuki, so there’s a crossover. They have a very particular idea about Japanese performance which I find a bit rigid. It’s very homogeneous, essentialised. Obviously within the company are different opinions but some seem fixed on this idea that, you know, this mysterious, spooky oriental form allows us to discover ourselves as performers. Butoh doesn’t exist in order for late 20th Century Australian artists to discover themselves. Maybe it exists in order for us to discover our own problematic culture or identity as a nation.

Virginia Baxter There is Butoh and Suzuki-inspired work in Australia in which the Japanese form has been so deeply absorbed into the practice that it no longer looks like Butoh or Suzuki, as in the work of artists like Deborah Leiser, Mémé Thorne or Nikki Heywood in Sydney

Peter Eckersall Deborah Leiser’s work is very much about identity. The Japanese influence in her work is not obvious, it’s not worn on the surface. It’s been absorbed through a series of processes. If you’re going to engage in an experience of another performance culture the trick is then to locate it in the context of your own.

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Yumi Umiumare [Classical ballet] is probably still inside my body. It’s a centredness or a direction. I think it’s very important for technique. I had to get rid of certain kinds of steps, certain rhythms. I had to chuck it out to learn Butoh. It takes a while. I was often told by Butoh teachers, you’re useless because you step. You are good at movement. But in Butoh you shouldn’t “move.” In ballet you need the technique to achieve more quick movement. You have to slow down in Butoh.

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Peter Eckersall The idea of an Asian body needs to be dismissed very quickly. Does somebody who works in the rice fields in the north of Japan have the same body as a Balinese shamanistic trance dancer for example? Where this gets very ideological is in Japan where there’s a debate within Butoh about a Japanese body, with some Butoh artists who’ve achieved semi-guru status saying, this is the Japanese body. It’s essentialising the Japanese body, saying we are all one. It’s not acknowledging the pluralities, the minority cultures within that culture.

RealTime issue #27 Oct-Nov 1998 pg. 10

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1 October 1998

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