Body in Space
Pam Woods led the Monday session, leading the group in developing a movement vocabulary that relates well to the Bauhaus work.
Pam began by discussing principles for ‘non-literal approaches to dance-making’ suggested by Marjorie Turner, in her 1971 book, New Dance: Non-Literal Approaches to Choreography (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press).
Following this, she introduced Laban’s conception of the kinesphere, or the ‘space which can be reached by easily extended limbs’ (1966:10). The group experimented with movements into the different spaces of the kinesphere, combining these, crossing the body, and working on different levels. Pam used music which gave the exercises rhythm and focus.
Students developed sets of movements and shared them in pairs, then demonstrated these together.
I was impressed by the group’s concentration and facility in responding to these exercises, and they were very reminiscent of Schlemmer’s work, even though he does not seem to have been directly influenced by Laban (he was certainly aware of him, and knew him to some degree, but makes only a couple of references to him in letters).
Pam also developed sitting gestures that began to suggest characters, again teaming up with others to present these in groups of first two and then four.
Finally, an improvisation brought all these elements together.
We also had a look at my mask in action. It looks good, though it’s horribly uncomfortable.
On Friday, we built on Pam’s work by extending the movements with sticks and extending the sitting movements with vocal sounds, moving towards the stick dance and the gestures dance. I have to say I did not think this was very successful, and discussing it with Pam afterwards, wondered whether another step was needed in between, to facilitate skill with sticks and voice before bringing these elements together.
What we discovered, I think, was the need to preserve formal rigour and an element of abstraction, even when the figures moved towards some kind of characterisation. Our early experiments with the teacups in relation to hoops and umbrellas were much better in preserving a basis in the key formal elements, rather than dissolving totally into clown improvisation.