Last weekend I had the chance to join Rob Hayden’s three days long dance workshop titled “The awakened Body” at tanznetz in Freiburg. Rob is a US born dancer who worked with the dance group Ultima Vez (Wim Vandekeybus) for a few years and is currently based in Brussels. I wanted to join the workshop, because I had studied some of Ultima Vez productions (video material) at the dance archive in Leipzig. To give you an idea of what the work is all about watch the trailer of the production “What the Body does not remember.”
It’s always difficult to describe a movement workshop with a few sentences, but I hope to better remember what I learned by trying to describe some of it and perhaps it inspires others to join workshops like this. For me the workshop was about dealing with risk in dance and as a performer.
We started with a series of coordination games and physical exercises and then we moved on to tasks that focus on strength and responsibility – e.g. carrying other bodies in various ways. I really enjoyed games that focused on concentration and speed like throwing and catching tea towels or shoes while dancing. The more objects are in the game, the more difficult it is for the group of course to be active and not to drop things. The idea behind it all is that at least two people are responsible for an artistic process (in this case the thrower and the catcher – eye contact), if not the whole group (and sometimes even the audience). If an object dropped to the floor and was not picked up by someone else in three seconds we all had to do twenty sit-ups. We tried fall and catch exercises, we danced our “last dance” and died in the hands of our partner (often) and we made hand stands and invented stories. Fifteen adults playing like children – you can imagine that we had a lot of fun. I should also mention an exercise where we imagined to be wolfs and tried to find out in the game who is an adult wolf and who is a puppy. Somehow this task activates (animalistic) instincts and we talked afterwards about the question what “feeds” us on stage as performers. I liked Robs image to think about the stage as a fertilize field – which brings you to the question what are you looking for on stage.
What are you hungry for? You make a decision as a performer, you try to play with an idea and afterwards you reflect on whether or not your experiment sated you. Instant composition is an exhausting methode. There is a big difference between instant composition and (directed) reproduced acting. What makes an action an action? How to distinguish between (e)motion and action? Clearly an inside emotion that is reflected on your face changes your walk and so on and so forth. You have to be present all the time and try to focus on your thoughts. If you perform something an audience will instantly ask: “What is he/she doing? Do I believe him/her?” There is a “true seed inside” of the performer and then he/she has to take a bit of risk and fallow the idea. In that way Rob tries to encourage performers to go into the unknown and play. Besides he asked four mayor questions and we played around with the answers:
Why are you here?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest joy?
What is your earliest memory?
The days went by quickly as we tried out to sing, to speed date, to fall in love with, to seduce and to insult our changing partners. Sometimes I felt like the atmosphere became a bit aggressive in some of the games and I was wondering how to better balance this within a group, because after all we are still just playing a (performing arts) game…but then the game sometimes feels so real and that is an important moment too: to realize that you get lost and driven by emotions instead of motion / artistic motivation. I hope I can transfer some of the experiences into my every day life. What a long Birthday weekend – I also went out dancing Saturday night in a club called Karma Public Livingroom (just in case you visit Freiburg in the future – this is the place to go!). Now I am 35 years old and will dance on like I mean it!