A live work-in-progress music and dance performance is presented as a basis for discussion on artistic research. It is a co-operative performance process bringing together musicians and dancers. The work is initiated by open tasks involving perception and movement qualities. It enhances behavioral culture and roles in a performing situation and gives means for movement initiated improvisation in music. The research is a continuation to Salosaari’s doctoral research on ballet (2001), which has shown how perceptual strategies and varying movement qualities have supported the dancer’s interpretational choices and co-authoring in dance making projects.
Multiple Embodiment in Dance
The aim of this research project is to support a performing artist’s agency in a co-authored performance process through enhancing body awareness with open use of movement qualities and concepts of performance analysis. The research is an application of the Multiple Embodiment theory created in the context of teaching classical ballet. In it the traditional ballet vocabulary is understood as a qualitatively open form, which the dancer can embody in multiple ways. By directing perception and using movement imagery as means for intending and experiencing the dance the dancer finds new performance solutions that “ring true” in his or her experience. The tradition becomes a rich source of available information that may surprise the performing person. (Salosaari 2001, 89.) Because the choices are connected to the performer’s values and past experiences of the tradition and are accompanied by “a feeling of truth”, the performer becomes an agent suggesting perhaps new performance ideas while communicating them in his or her emerging performance.
The tools used for movement analysis were initiated by Rudolf Laban. The particular analysis used here stems from the work of Preston-Dunlop & Sanchez-Colberg, who have continued Laban’s work in performing arts (Preston-Dunlop and Sanchez-Colberg 2002.). My initial exploration of performance possibilities in the studio have since developed into ballet improvisation and co-authored choreographic work based on ballet (Salosaari 2009; Salosaari 2007.).
Applying Multiple Embodiment to Music Performance
Other art forms apart from dance are also embodied. In music the sound is initiated by the musician’s bodily movements. Recently I have become interested in if and how the same Multiple Embodiment tools might enhance playing an instrument and how performance analysis might initiate questions in and challenge the cultural codes and roles in a performing situation, as they can do in ballet.
The demo performances evolved in workshops with a dancer, a cellist and myself. In the particular performance in the CARPA Colloquium the image of movement flow in its different forms was the starting point for improvisation with dance movements and movements creating sound from musical instruments (cello or symbals) or sometimes body percussion. In addition a Russian folk tune was introduced as a basis for improvisation. Listening to each other moving or playing was practiced in workshops by taking turns of performing without looking at each other. This turn taking, which sometimes overlapped, was taken over also to the actual performance.
Rethinking the Performer – Spectator Relationship
Discussions with spectators in the early performance situations had led to questioning the relationship of performers and audience. In an earlier demo, a member of the audience had expressed the wish (which she was not realizing during performance) to sit next to the cellist touching her back and feeling the sound through her body. Thinking of this wish, I decided to rearrange the audience seats in the dance studio, placing them here and there facing or back-to-back, side-by-side alone or together with other seats in the centre of the studio. The audience approached the seats with some caution and I invited them in and assured them of “no danger”. The performers started from three different directions with their back towards the centre of the room where the seats were placed and the spectators were sitting facing different directions. The audience was not able to see all performers at once in the beginning. That was meant to emphasize partiality of perception also for the spectators as it was for the performers.
A performative act can be seen as a historical and tradition bound activity. That is very clear in my original research context, ballet, but also in musical performances. Tradition gives guidelines to performances and helps the audience “to understand”. Perhaps that is why I am fascinated by Victor Turner’s ideas of experience as a time process in which the person is living through a chain of events – as in a ritual, life experience or an artistic process. Experience to Turner means risky experimentation, trial, being exposed to danger. (Turner 1992.) In an artistic experience process this danger is often described as a leap into the unknown. Creativity means not knowing in advance, but seeing something that is exposed as a new possibility in the process.
When initiating the early work in ballet, embodying the dance in the studio was enough for me. Performing for an outside audience was not necessary, or perhaps felt too scary. However, Turner suggests that performance is a natural part of the process. That is how art communicates with the spectators and the artistic community and sometimes renews its cultural codes. For Turner, the process is incomplete unless it is, in some instances, tied to a performance, a creative retrospection in which activities and pieces of experience are given meanings. At the moment of performance the experiencing person, while living through the present, also looks back and anticipates the future. Cultural memories and new insights opened up by perception meet in the performer. While the process continues, the situation is again opened to new possibilities, which the next performance fixes and communicates.
I have been fortunate in having very experienced and explorative artists to question with. I want to thank Professor Leena Rouhiainen and cellist Joanna Rinne for their inspiring presence in rehearsals and demos. Together we questioned in the process with an open mind and shared experiences in demo performances. We performed in and out of our “comfort zones” changing the roles of dancer and musician, even singer. We risked and enjoyed meeting the audience at close range. I am grateful to the audiences for all comments and questions that further our work in forthcoming performances.
Doctor of Arts, Paula Salosaari, is a dance teacher at the Savonia University of Applied Scinces, Kuopio Finland. She is a visiting researcher at The Theatre Academy, Helsinki. Her present artistic research aims at supporting performing artists’ agency in co-authored performance processes through enhancing body awareness and open use of movement qualities.
Preston-Dunlop, Valerie and Sanchez-Colberg, Ana 2002. Dance and the Performative, A Choreological Perspective – Laban and Beyond. Los Angeles: Verve Publishing.
Salosaari, Paula 2009. Lecture Demonstration at Ballet in Crossroads International Seminar: Practical tools to creation in ballet & co-authored performance TSU. Private DVD.
— 2007. “Repercussions on a Dance-Making Project.” In Leena Rouhiainen (ed.) Ways of Knowing in Dance and Art. Acta Scenica 19. Helsinki: Theatre Academy, Helsinki. pp 41–55.
— 2001. Multiple Embodiment in Classical Ballet, Educating the Dancer as an Agent of Change in the Cultural Evolution of Ballet. Acta Scenica 8. Helsinki: Theatre Academy, Helsinki.
Turner, Victor 1992 (1982). From Ritual to Theatre. The Human Seriousness of Play. New York: PAJ Publications.