The Curtain Goes Up

After several months I’m returning to the blog. We’ve been interrupted by my traveling for work and returning to California only to leave and return again. Nikki’s time has been additionally impacted by her father’s being diagnosed with cancer.

Even so, earlier in the year, we met to experiment with poetry and dance. The question we wanted to answer was: Is it possible to set dance to poetry? Or further: Is it possible to take the unadorned rhythms of contemporary poetry and use them as the basis for movement without the aid of music?

I have to say it was with some uneasiness that I approached these questions.

Nikki and I met at her studio space at Seven Dials in London. It’s an open space surrounded by the business of people coming and going, antique and junk dealers, clothes merchants. People rent time. The space we used is a largish room full of old brocade upholstered couches, lace curtains, antique lighting fixtures. There are no doors and the walls are partitions, so noise seeps in from every surrounding stall.

We began by my reading the short poem posted early on the site: the colour of tourmaline. I read the poem several times, slowly, so that I could assess the emphases in the language as well as the duration of words. Figuring that out was more difficult than I thought it would be because the changes are subtler than we expect when we schematicise poetry into metrics.

We worked line by line. Nikki working out the patterns of rhythm not only in her body but also in the emphasis of her feet against the floor. The floor was definitely a member of the dance team. Once she had worked out a combination for the poem, we tried some improvisational work. First, with her changing the steps while keeping the basic structure of the combination; second with her keeping the combination while I made small changes in the way I read the poem. Both of us kept the reading and the dancing slow, while developing and memorising the roles of dance and poetry.