Can choreography be another way of thinking in terms of political actions. Can thoughts be activism and how does choreography persue us to think. Is dance practices a antithesis of the values of modern-day capitalism, or is it itself instrumental in maintaining capitalism.What is the image of society that choreography produces now and what is the role of the choreographer.
To begin with I would like to assign this text as a choreographic work.
At the moment I am living in Madrid where I study a Master in Performance and Visual Culture. When people here, who don’t know me, ask me what I did before I came here, depending on the day and the person I often choose between three following answers:
Answer 1: I used to do art.
Answer 2: I used to dance.
Answer 3: I used to do political activism.
And I almost always end up with: and now I mostly work with choreography.
Then the next question they ask me is: what is choreography?
This morning I woke up with messages on my phone, telling me that the spanish police had performed a mass arrest of 28 innocent people in their houses, accused of being terrorists or belonging to terrorist groups.
“This morning since 6:00am the police has carried out an operation that has resulted in the arrest of fourteen people in Spain, which police accused of alleged membership of a criminal organization with terrorist aims. These arrests add another 14 by resistance during the conduct of searches carried out in 17 points in Madrid, Barcelona, Palencia and Granada. According to the note by the police, detained for belonging to a terrorist organization were members of Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados (GAC). They were also accused of “committing criminal offenses of sabotage and placing explosive and incendiary devices”.”
I decided not go to the demonstration that was organized this evening against the arrest, as I stayed home writing this text.
Therefore this text is a choreography dedicated to the arrested anarchists.
The physical remonstrance and choreography as a protest form
Protesting could be seen as an inherent thing in modern dance. The dancers initiated the form in the 19th century to break away from classical techniques. According to Andrew Hewitt, author of Social Choreography, it was an activist stance against anti-authoritarianism, rejecting set formulations in dance, resisting the “authority” of written notations of dance, without compromising on aesthetics.
According to Foucault the body is understood as means for expression of individual freedom. Dance embodies freedom, because an individual can express themselves through movements. To move is to move away from or against something. The urge to move. Dance becomes more real than other expressions. Can we aligning with the spirit of the field consider choreography as a catalyst for critical thinking, dialogue and community engagement for the betterment of society and social change? On this matter I am not referring to social projects using dance as a catalyzer for integrating marginalized groups in our society, I have a huge respect for this kind of work, but this is not my interest in this context.
As a choreographer with an artistic education in radical activism more than in the dance world, my choreographic approaches could be seen as a kind of poetic riot, a form of choreographic activism. I believe that any activity generates potential. The motivation of my work has always been within the possibility of creating awareness of a specific theme or situation. Often conducted via bodily expressions.
With my background I have had a tendency to think that in order for a choreography or a piece of performance work to have any effect on people it had to have a direct political goal in mind in order to make the people aware of what I wanted to express.
I soon realized that most dance pieces or performances which announced as being “political aware” was directed for a specific audience: people who were already interested in these themes and issues, while the “other people” stayed at home, waiting for a more poetic and maybe more easy way for them to be entertained. Most people don’t go in the theater (or in the streets) to think about politics, they want to be entertained. And this is exactly why I find it interesting and not at least important to work with activism within this field.
So the new question for me suddenly became how to create poetry (choreography) that had a political goal in mind without being aware of it itself (or at least pretend as if it is not). To do anything to avoid talking about politics, in order to ultimately create more responsivity for other ways of thinking in general, and the possibility of thinking choreography as a kind of protest against its own form.
What is a protest?
According to the encyclopedia a protest can either be:
1: something said or done that shows disagreement with or disapproval of something
2: an event at which people gather together to show strong disapproval about something
A protest (also called a remonstrance or a remonstration) is an expression of objection by words or by actions to particular events, policies, or situations. Protests can take many different forms; from individual statements to mass demonstrations.
Is, or could choreography be included as one of these forms?
Could choreography, movement and gesture be seen not as peripheral but central to the politics of protest? Protest, like performance, carefully chooses its stage and its repertoire of movements, which has an impact on audience perception. Can an attention to choreography improve to frame the protests so we can see the aim more visibly.
((The connection between: > riots > dance > protest > choreography > physicality > thoughts > writing > physicality > performance > the performer > capitalism > activism > choreography > ))
Why this text is a choreography.
To begin with for me there is no limits: it is to say everything can be choreography.
Its just about fragments of text.
Instead of looking at choreography as a movement based practice I see it as a studio practice.
A way to practice the studio is to take the practice out of the studio.
The capacity to make any activity generate potential.
I am not a dancer or a choreographer I just activate choreography.
The thinking starts when you interrupt the body.
The written protest and the conflict of capitalism in choreography
Even though the word is slower than the body, which within itself should be a reason for working with physicality rather than text or speech, according to the present and constantly demanding need for faster production and profit, it seems like the choreographers (including myself) nowadays have another way to interpret the use of the dance studio. Maybe it is not so strange if we look back at the origin of the concept “choreography”. As defined by André Lepecki orchesographie was the first term to define the concept of choreography, closely linked to writing (-graphie). The modern body revealed as a linguistic entity culminating in the baroque ballet, with the institutionalization of Louis XIV. The priority was to show a disciplined body, an “early postmodern tecnobody”.
In André Lepeckis definicion the disciplined body of the dancer becomes the words or the writing of the choreographer. Their instrument. Almost as if today’s choreographer returns to the origin of the word, they often doesn’t need the dancer to perform their work anymore. At many occasions the dancer is a non-trained body, a random person passing by or even materials replaces the dancing body on stage (or where the performance takes place). As an example, there is no trained bodies (with exception of the body writing) involved in this text (which I claim as a choreography).
Even though I just said that the modern choreographer don’t spend time dancing in the studio anymore, however there still exist many physical choreographies with real trained physical dancers.
On one hand we could conclude that in the dance studio nobody is rich or poor. Some would say that physical dance in its pure form can be a antithesis of the values of modern-day capitalism. There is no product to buy or sell. Once a dance is over, it is gone. It cannot be effectively captured or purchased. The act of producing dance defies capitalism’s emphasis on efficiency, using time and resources for an end result that is transitory and impermanent.
But what happens when dance or choreography becomes professional, and what does professional mean. According to the encyclopedia, the term describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role of that profession. Thus, as people became more and more specialized in their trade they began to perform their trade to the highest known standard. Hence we can conclude that when something (in this context dance) becomes professional inherent in it lays capitalism. The circumstance of something being somehow more respected or seen as a real work: As more you are getting paid as more professional you are.
Nowadays many choreographies are being referred to as performances, and many dancers defines themselves as performers. According to Ana Vujanović and Bojana Cjevic, authors of Public Sphere by Performance, performance is prescripted; its success is in its failure, in breaking or betraying the rules such as competence, procedure, completeness and intentions. They also claim performance as stimulated by capitalism. It becomes apparent in the original significance of the word performance which is to complete, to finish or to perfect a technique, an improvement or to archive a result. It emerges from a drive to show that someone or something can always archive more and better. In this way capitalism entails performance ‒ from competence to competition, from productivity to efficiency. The performance of the individual’s competence, the hiding of its ideology and as an instrumental performance. Performance can therefore be seen as motivated by capitalism. And the performer as a person, which is trained as a machine for capitalism. With capitalism, society and control in the base of the body.
Sit comfortable in a uncomfortable pose for a moment
I once sad next to a businessman in the airplane and we started to talk about our occupations, and for some reason the conversation ended up being about how to contribute to social change within our work. He had studied economy and was now working in a big multinational company, and he told me how he was trying to change things from the inside by being part of this great capitalist machine that he was working for. According to him actively participating in capitalism can be an activist stance and a catalyst for social change.
To fight something you must know your enemy. And is there any better way to know your enemy than being a part of it. Participating in their actions, to master where their motivations come from in order to understand how this could possibly change.
I will not assert that one protest is more useful or valid than others, but I would state that there is a need for protests in more forms in order to create a platform for equal dialogue and exchange. I believe that through dialogue and shifted awareness, choreography can be one of more potentials to transform the individual. Above all if we make the audience a part of this questioning. To challenges the passivity of spectators and activate their engagement with the work in question.