(…) “we” is always inevitably “us all” where no one of us can be “all” and each one of us can be “all” and each one of us is, in turn (where all our turns are simultaneous as well as successive, in every sense), the other origin of the same world (…)
“The Half” is a research and production trajectory that is emerging from the collaboration between the Argentinean choreographer Diego Gil, Serbian dramaturge Igor Dobricic and Lebanese musician and composer Tarek Atoui.
Our ongoing interests are direct consequence of the previous work that we shared. In “Creating Sense” and “About Falling” certain number of conceptual and performative problems are elaborated. The issues of authenticity (being for oneself) and signification (being for the others), of singularity and community, of reality and “make believe”, of the stage movement as revealing and concealing force, are all processed and in this sense “The Half” is to be considered as a third step of this exploration, the one that should lead to the establishment of a certain working methodology beyond singular production. In this sense “The Half” is more than a production – it is a methodological laboratory that should establish collaborative platform shared by the small network of makers.
While making a previous piece – “About Falling”, we realised that in our joint engagement three of us are sharing a number of preoccupations that, beyond creating a basis for a specific project, are giving us opportunity to imagine long term working alliance. These shared preoccupations, that also form the basis of our new joint work “The Half”, could be summarised in following points:
1.) On a level of a basic working setup three of us – choreographer from Buenos Aires, composer from Beirut and dramaturge from Belgrade – are coming together in Amsterdam to make a work that should have “universal” relevance. This basic working situation is already in itself a radical affirmation of difference as the only possible unifying principle in a globalised world. Our ambition is to develop work starting from difference and from issuing contradictions/complementarities rather than assumed commonalities. We would like to re-imagine collaboration as an open field of ruptures and creative tensions between histories, personalities, disciplines, iconographies and modes of production. In this sense our mutual engagement should operate as an experiment in collaboration conceived as temporary and immediate production of the public sphere – “agonistic space” of an ad-hoc encounter rather than “consensual space” of an a-priori agreement. We believe that if the notion of cultural diversity is to be taken seriously, emerging ontology of difference (and the space that it creates) need to be explored and nurtured in a place of a more conventional ontology (space) of essence/identity.
2.) Furthermore, on a level of working ethics and starting from a proposed premise of difference, we are also sharing certain complex and problematic relation toward the issue of singular authorship. Our work together in this respect will also be an attempt to redefine and re-negotiate the ownership of the work. Not only that we are willing to question this issue in relation to three of us as main collaborators but also in relation to everybody else involved in the work: other performers, light and costume designer etc. We are keen to see the work not as a singular work of “a creative genius” but as a plural, emergent, self-organising phenomena coming out of the complex interaction/negotiation of differences and circumstances inside a collaborating group. We want to test how far, inside the existing system of production, we could go in extending and complicating responsibility for and ownership of the work.
3.) Finally, on a level of content and methodology all three of us are having particular interest in a relation between music and dance. For Tarek, act of performing the music already contain crucial elements of dance. For Diego, to choreograph movement is to discover its embodied yet abstract musicality as it unfolds in the present moment. For Igor, to imagine musical score in relation to a particular dance sequence is opening a possibility of re-organising a fleeting reality of dance dramaturgically. In our collaboration we would like to develop a new methodology of relating dance to music, the one that goes beyond conventional modes, yet re-affirm crucial link between the two phenomena. By doing this we are hoping to reclaim space in between (neo)classical, modern and contemporary dance practice and, instead of “choosing sides” in an ongoing debate about the nature of dance, try to propose and articulate new possible “public” ground that could be shared by different practices and working ethics.
We believe that ontology of difference as a theoretical position coupled with a productive and expansive destabilisation of the authorship can give us opportunity to acknowledge that however good or authentic we think we are, WE are always just the half – in need of the other.
It is our intention to explore potential of this changed perspective inside a performance practice by invoking and triggering performative situations (relationship between music and dance is central to it) in which the notions of incompleteness, imperfection, contamination and indeterminacy are deployed and re-evaluated.
We believe that such a shift from an ideology of singular excellence and essence toward an ideology of compassion, solidarity and mutual dependence, is of strategical political importance in the world we are living in.
If we can contribute to this shift through our own artistic means we would consider our engagement worthwhile.
In our previous work Creating Sense (2007) and About Falling (2008) we develop a peculiar use of three kinds of stage languages: abstract (movement as an interaction of forces) fictional (theatre as a meaning machine) and real (personal expression of the performer). In three steps, the choreographic form moved progressively and sequentially from one language to the other and was the external principle that motivated actions on stage.
In “The Half” we want to re-locate and re-focus choreographic form away from externally imposed conditions, toward inside – into the person(a) of the performer. The external choreographic principle is not any more the one motivating the performers to move. Instead, this principle is coming out of the personal particularity and expressivity of each individual. The formal and sequential use of three stage languages is broken. Instead, the personal performative quality is to be found through the manner in which the performer intimately maneuvers, in any order of actions needed, between all the registers of language (abstract, fictional and real).
What interests us is that starting from the “real” person(a) each performer finds a state of immediate self-production and transformation into multiple fictional characters using the abstract movement of dance to not quite getting fixed in any of them.
We would like to extend/enlarge this moment of intensified concentration/tension suspension and of doubleness where private and public, identity and role playing, “genuine” and “fake”, are overlapping in an alluring and indeterminate way in the body of the performer.
To describe this moment of tension we refer to the notion of “The Half” in Anglo-Saxon theatre context in which it points to the 30 minutes that precedes “curtain up”. It announces the immanent beginning of the spectacle and the “border crossing” passage from one side (reality) to the other (fiction), and back.
For the purpose of exploring this notion of “the half” in practical terms we would like to generate number of ambiguous working situations that would require from the performers/dancers to maintain awareness of their “in between” half position and explore it as an existential “no-man’s land”:
half arriving on stage and half departing from it
half wearing costumes (as characters) and half being dressed (as “themselves”)
half behaving privately and half performing publicly
half dancing on music and half generating music by dancing
half succeeding and half failing.
Between music and dance.
The musical composition of the piece will map the performer’s movement path as she move from one register of language to the other and from one performative state to the other, in a non-linear and non-narrative way.
We want to start by creating a very personal and unique way of dancing to a particular musical piece made just “with” and “for” the performer.
Each of the performers will individually meet the choreographer, dramaturge and musician, bringing her favourite music with her. The goal is that through mutual work, in direct dialogue with the music composer, the music will be scratched, mixed and re-created in order to produce a new extended performance track.
The performer will be asked to dance to her music and create a private dance for it, as if dancing alone at home, just for her own pleasure.
The choreographer and dramaturge will help the dancer to analyse the abstract and affective aspects emanating from his way of moving – the habitual way to organize his movements in terms of repetitions, differences and rhythm. They will pay attention to the meta-structural level of movement organization rather than the external shape of physical postures. This abstract choreography will be then given back to the composer and used as an inspiration to modify the initial structure of the musical track. This working feedback loop will be repeated many times during the process.
The dancer will decide to intensify some sensation felt in his body by sampling and sequencing parts of his choreography. The composer will work in parallel with him following the same procedure with the musical score. The final goal would be to create together a consistent choreographic composition of affects to be seen, felt and heard for an outside viewer.
The solos created following this methodology will form a musical event half a way and always shifting between a private and intimate self-referential dance and an nothing-to-hide live spectacle.
By avoiding to stay in only “abstract” or “personal” way to dance to music we will elaborate for each solo a third in-between position – a “fictional” character. For a purpose of developing it we will start from the private, habitual appearance and gestures of the performer and than amplify them to create an archetypical-fictional atmosphere that emanates from performer’s personality and is getting shaped through the performer’s movement.
Between personal and fictional character.
Central to this examination of a “fictional character” is the relationship between the “authentic” personality of the performer, abstract quality of his movement and the “fictional” persona that he comes to represent on stage.
The “authentic persona” is not consciously performed but it unfolds non-consciously when the performer surrenders his attention purely to the articulation of his body while moving with the music. The performer is not fully aware of how is “representing” himself publicly. While allowing this type of attention to unfold in a performer we will look for a small signs of a possible emergent “fictional persona” that are braking out. The idea is to develop this emergent not so perceptible (micro-(e)motions) into an universal-archetypal (e)motion by giving to the nascent (e)motion enough force of intensity to be externalized as an outwards expression of a “character”.
Each “fictional character” emerging from the private dance of the performer will be amplified to become the archetypal messenger for a certain type of emotion. Some examples of emotions could be: desire, joy, sadness, love, hate, devotion, fear, security, desperation, humility, arrogance, nostalgia, cruelty and ambition.
In the course of the performance we will oscillate between “personal” and “fictional” character without getting quite fixed and safe in just one of them. The goal is not to be truly personal OR fictional but to stay in the process of becoming both. Indeed the manner to change from one register to the other, the mode to stay in between them is what makes performer real and alive in front of audience eyes.
In the same manner that the real quality of the performer exists because it is half shared between her personal and fictional dimension, each individual solo of the performers takes place on stage because it is shared with the other ones.
Between solo and group work
Another way to understand what we want to obtain through a construction of the personal-fictional character is through the metaphor of a musical band. The bandleader is the soloist – performer with main focus on stage. He emphasises his physical intention as if trying to tell us something specific – to sing a song. When his movement gets highly emphatic his emotional tenor reaches a pick limit that almost falls into representation. He almost dance the lyrics of the music track, as if his body is telling us about his personal-fictional story. When not performing their individual solos the other performers will, In a spirit of a band members, accompany, support, provide a space for the solo that is in focus.
Some examples of how to stage group dynamics according to the metaphor of rock concert are:
Support act: one or more persons prepare the entrance of a main-third one.
Accompaniment: one or more persons accompany simultaneously, as a second focus of attention, the main act – in a way in which in drummer and guitarist of a rock band does in relation to the bandleader.
Soloists: the main soli changes quickly like a progression of songs, moving from one performer to the other in a simple sequential order.
Chorus: everyone does the same activity simultaneously, sharing the same status and intensity.
Equanimity: There is a general zero degree of intensity on stage. No one does almost anything. Indeed the attitude is of non-performing. Nothing happens on stage, the performance is over or is never going to start.
As the private music of the dancer will be the starting point, giving birth to a different tracks of music in relation to the possible, emergent personalities, the stage atmosphere will be built to support this constant transformation in the tradition of musical concert and of a theatre of variété.
This atmosphere, unfolding as a progression of smaller stage acts, will be ever changing, according to the different moods and music of the personages. Number of different genres will appear and disappear from one act to the next: suspense, erotic, agitprop, comedy, etc.
Respecting the idea of the half (30 minute before the show) the stage will be divided in asymmetric zones where front and backstage are blurred. Costumes and props (microphones, wigs, dresses, CD players, light board) will stay on stage at any time. In this sense they function as indications that remember and promise actions that already happen or are still to come.
The lights will help to divide (halve up) and diversify the categories of spaces in relation to the type of performative attention invested on them. For instance in one moment the front of stage can receive general illumination with T.L. lights signalling this zone as backstage with the performers waiting or changing clothes, while at the back of the stage we can have a round bright spot following the artists developing his solo emphatically towards the audience. Sometimes the light will illuminate the audience and performers will behave as if the fourth wall has fallen. Sometimes the performers will intensify and overemphasise their roles as in a conventional theatre and the lights will follow accordingly.
The theatre space needs to look bare and simple, with no curtains, ballet floor, or any tape on the floor dividing it. The different performative behaviours, lights and props will be complicating it already enough.
From the beginning each participant of the creative process is thought as a person(a) performing on stage “shoulder to shoulder” with the dancers themselves. This means that the positions of choreographer, dramaturge, composer and light designer will be “played out” and negotiated as a positions on stage. In resume, choreographer, dramaturge, composer and light designer should be ready to perform at any time of the performance besides the dancers. In terms of production it means that we need to expend as much as possible time together on studio. The situation should be different from a classical production in which the dramaturge comes once a week and composer and light designer the last three weeks before premiere. The team is thought about with this idea in mind.
Beside Diego Gil, Igor Dobricic and Tarek Atoui the other participants will be:
Light designer: Pablo Fontdevilla. Recently graduated from SNDO he has combined from the last ten years his offices on both dance and light design in Buenos Aires and Holland. He knows how to stage his presence when doing a technical activity.
Performers: Paz Rojo, Felix Marchand and Norberto Llopis Segarra. All of them are mature active artists in the field of performance art through out Europe. They have a strong and singular point of view on performance art with enough force to enrich the agonistic field of work that this type of creation needs. (See pag.2, point 2 on “ethics of work”. Marchand and Llopis Segarra have taken part in our last work About Falling.
EXTENDED TIME OF CREATION.
Acknowledging the challenge to stage the personal behaviours of pre-production within the produced piece and thinking about the risk it takes to articulate this methodology for the audience, we will need to work longer than two months. Our wish is to work 10 weeks in two different phases. The first phase of 4 weeks will happen at the end of 2009 and the second phase of 6 weeks together with the final presentation is planned for Spring 2010. Dividing the work in two separate phases will give us time to reflect and perfect the way of working for the second meeting.
Next two years will found us extending the methodology of“The Half” towards the inclusion of new collaborators. Visual artists, philosophers, composers, dancers will be invited to collaborate in an extended way. The meeting of the artists will happen not just here in Amsterdam but as well abroad. It is our interest to disseminate our practices and experiences by splitting (Diego, Igor, Tarek) and getting into new relations of half with other individuals and locations. We want to test the knowledge collected among us, separately with new people in order to come back together later, in Amsterdam, with new insights. Developing workshops at dance venues as SNDO (Amsterdam), SEAD (Salzburg), Tanzquartier and ImPulsTanz (Vienna), BITEF Theatre (Belgrade), and IUNA (Buenos Aires) will be one of the methods for dissemination and cross pollination. The product of the meeting with non-Amsterdam artists will nurture future dance productions presented in Amsterdam.
 According to the Hanna Arendt’s definition, public sphere is by default the place of where citizens meet on the basis of their differences. In fact public sphere IS existing exactly because of this differences and distances/gaps that it produce.