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The Dancers Lament

Tue, 14/10/2014

Somewhere out in this deep wide night a dancer is trying to write, having to explain a process begun in aches and bruises on the dance floor and not yet clear. Fluid gesture and impulse collapse and are forced into clunky words and lines. If the dancer was a writer, this might be time well spent. But the dancer moves, finds magic in the articulation of the body, in the whispering logic of muscle and sinew, blood pumping intuition and sense alive. These impulses work before the mind engages and transforms their hunches into thought, then word and finally the written form. How much is lost in this translation? As babies, we learn to move first, then later talk and eventually, after years of systematic learning, we read and write paragraphs, essays, arguments. Some of us find expression in that form and of course we all, mostly, learn how to… But for many, for most, it’s not their first impulse. The dancer struggles on their a path to the stage, the way to navigate a material world and find a livelihood. They learn to do it and if they want to do it for themselves they learn to write it. Our funding systems dictate that the dancer, the artist, must write to get support to pay people to play. This is about art. The dancer so lithe and fluid, learns slowly awkwardly to write this art. There is a distinction between the art and entertainment in dance, where different principles drive the form. The written form, the pitch or application, catches onto tired phrases and well-worn arts-speak to push the idea through this sieve. Perhaps this makes the bureaucrats happy, or the academics happy (ish)? The dancer is struggling. The audience who might eventually see these words made manifest, hopefully magic, mostly don’t come for the words or care about them, except perhaps as an afterthought. Do these words matter? Do clumsy phases impact on the instinct and the form? Yes and yes. Do they constrain and inhibit or enrich and inhabit? Sometimes the movement mirrors the words and at other times the bodies dance away, utterly disconnected from the page instead finding a mute gestured reality. Should someone good with words make this petition, and if so, how do they understand the fury of the rhythm, tension tested in each moment, the suspended pose, the leap of faith and release of breath? How, in this context, can a dancer walk their talk or transform the text when the physical leads their philosophy? Why can't we trust the poetic body, allow a diversity of languages to argue the toss. Is this effort on the screen, the tapping that replaces languid lines and loops on paper (writing at least has physical grace) worth all? Words, words, words when someone has the effort to act. Is this a kind of madness?