Recently I have been dancing with a Go Pro camera on my head. This perhaps sounds rather strange and indeed the appearance of me doing so is… odd. I should add that the camera on my head is sitting atop a horse riding helmet (I purchased on eBay from China) and as with all kinds of hats and helmets, makes me look like a little turtle. Appearances aside, the act of capturing this footage and the footage itself is full of interest.
The choreography I am dancing is a solo, Jamboree for One and takes as its departure point the way inanimate and ordinary objects can transform into animated companions in the life of an isolated or lonely person. Focal is a single chair, this most anthropomorphic of objects offering company for and a mirror of, the solo performer. Other objects I engage include cushions and loaves of white bread. This work is set in a strange but partially identifiable landscape inside of which I excursion with express logic. In a slow and steady unfolding I am working to draw attention to our perceptions of and responses to the mundane or nothing moments of our day-to-day existence.
The nature of Jamboree for One is such that it can be viewed in a traditional sense from beginning to end but also from any point in its duration. Ultimately I am preparing this work to be installed in a gallery. It is proposed that a schedule of live performances during an exhibition is negotiated with the gallery. Between live performances I envisaged that the work will be left as it remains at the completion of a live performance, the objects used during the performance leaving an ‘aura’ of what has been. During select live performances the helmet camera is worn and captures the performance from my perspective. Outside of performance times this rare perspective is projected into the gallery space. In combination with the objects used each performance, this generates the opportunity for audiences to (re) read between the lines, to choreograph the choreography.
Wearing the camera on my head in some recent evening rehearsals in the local church hall has made me aware in ways I did not anticipate. My orientation to choreography and performance is very much influenced by seminal artist Deborah Hay. Between 2006 and 2010, I closely examined those artists practicing in early 1960’s who formed the original Judson Dance Theatre, in particular Deborah Hay. Hay recognizes and addresses the choreographed body with which the choreographer and dancer must work, through continuous development of processes through which to counter-choreograph the existing choreography.
During my evening rehearsals wearing my Go Pro camera I am practicing what she has taught and coached me in – specific verbal provocations as a way of triggering multiple levels of perception at once.
Within the artform we call dance, I experiment with words to disrupt, often violently, conscious and unconscious movement behavior.
My dance practice continues to seek less stable instances of being and I try to identify those capricious moments through the structure of language, working and reworking that language to best describe the learning taking place in my spewing multi-dimensional reconfiguring non-linear embodiment of potential.
(Hay, Deborah. Using the Sky: A Dance. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2016. pp.12 & 1.)
This language continues to evolve. The most recent time I worked with Hay she offered, “What if every cell in my body has the potential to be served by how I see?” Previously there was, “What if, “What if where I am is what I need,” is not an examination of what I need but an examination of the question “what if where I am is what I need?” What if less is more is not less? And “What if my choice to surrender the pattern of fixing on a singularly coherent idea, feeling, or object, when I am dancing – is a way of remembering to see where I am in order to surrender where I am? What if how I see while I am dancing is a means by which movement arises without looking for it?” * But the provocation I have been engaging most in these recent times of practice has been that which I was first introduced to during an intensive at Bundanon in 2010 – “Turn your f***ing head” As I understand it, this provocation came out of the experience Hay had of watching herself on video and noting a fixity in her head, a tendency not move it unless the body changed direction, in which case it would follow along. I take this to mean it was lacking the kind of freedom and independence that is oftentimes supported by the study of Alexander Technique – this is my observation of those whom I have taught as well as in my self. Until now, I have felt that it would be immensely helpful to have a recording of Hay giving her provocations while one practices. It is hard work to rigorously impose these on oneself, in particular “Turn your f***ing head.” But rather interestingly, I have found that wearing a camera on my head cultivates a new awareness of my head’s orientation and a concern about the footage I am capturing. These two things work against each other. I wish for my head to move freely and yet my serious concern about what footage I might be capturing or how this might all appear from the outside fixes my head even more.
Turn your fucking head is a single movement direction used in the practice of my work. It is meant to disrupt beliefs that what you are doing matters, whether or not you are conscious that you have this belief. In the context of my work, what matters is not what you do but how you are choosing to engage in the moment.
The regal head is endemic to dance and theatre practitioners. As artists we need to prove we are serious and responsible citizens of the world, committed to our respective art forms, who know what we are doing and want the audience to know this too. This need to assert our value in society lodges the head like a fortress, unwilling to surrender.
I began to loosen up. Rather than my head turning as a consequence of dancing, I found it more effective to arbitrarily turn my head as if in response to someone calling my name, or a book falling on the floor nearby. Coincidentally with every shift in my visual field when my head did turn, my body experienced a differentiation of physicality.
I turn my fucking head to refresh my body palette…
(Hay, Deborah. Using the Sky: A Dance. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. 103 -104.)
Most dance training assumes that there is a single coherent being who dances. My work succeeds when there is no one “one”, no single moment, or meaning, movement, image, character, emotion, that exists long enough for either the dancer or audience to identify as an “is” that is happening.
(Hay, Deborah. Using the Sky: A Dance. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2016. p.10)
If I’m honest I must say that during my first viewing of my Go Pro footage I was disappointed. It was so bumpy and lopsided. It made me feel quite nauseated. It was not what I had imagined. For some reason I think I had imagined the smooth, coherent footage we are so accustomed to watching of contemporary dance. Oftentimes, the videoing and editing is labored over as much as processes of developing the choreography and performing it.
At this time I continue to practice and to film and to allow what I am capturing make me feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure if more exposure to this ‘messy’ footage will shift my perception of it… but perhaps I will save that for a post further down the track. The head is also a most precarious of places to balance the Go Pro and I have in mind to purchase a harness so I can secure it to my chest and see what kinds of things this throws up. For now, its time to get that helmet on and get stuck into some more practice.