Working on the choreography for “Passing Moments” was particularly difficult while Jaime was in the US. She sent me recordings of herself reading the poems, but I was finding it difficult to settle in to moving in the spaces without looking like I was simply miming the words. I was not interested in doing this as I was looking to interact with, not repeat, the poem in movement.
I suggested opening up the reading by giving a lot more time to the spaces between phrases. Happily, Jaime was very amenable to playing with the presentation. The next recording I received from her was not only expanded in this way but also spoke against a backdrop of recorded birdsong, chimes and even a little piano. This changed everything. Suddenly there was not just space but invitation to dance. Motifs became apparent and I began to work on identifying them to create a matrix as a basic structure.
The second challenge was that we were programmed to perform on grass! All my work so far on creating rhythmic responses to Jaime’s poetry would be unusable where no rhythm would be discerned. Yet I was still determined to avoid mime on one hand and abstraction on the other. I took what I had been doing with rhythm (ie using small motifs) and applying that to upper body work, so that there would be visual mapping of the poetry in my body. By this point, Jaime’s recordings had been finalised and the original work had re-settled into a meditative stillness of delicately crystallised imagery.
Jaime & Nikki in rehearsal
Jaime had previously uncovered some very brief lines about the city that I’d written for the Twitter platform which she set as interstitial pieces to hers. This new element required staging and we agreed on using a park bench for the transition: as dancer I sat down there at the end of a piece and when I rose it was to speak the urban lines. By contrast, Jaime – having recorded her work – was able to free-wheel around the performance space, becoming a visual element in her own poetry. Her words were central to the piece and her body acted as counterpoint to the performance.
Ultimately, the weather was against us and we performed in the beautiful Great Hall at Dartington. The sandstone walls, with the wood floor combined with the muted light of dusk to wrap us in as close to a natural setting as an indoor staging might be. Live and recorded voice; movement and stillness; city and country; indoors and outside, we wove them together but hopefully in a way that each element had space to layer and play not obscure each other.
After attending “Let the Body Speak”, a performance/ lecture by Bob Holman and the Alonzo King Lines Ballet, I realized that hula is one of the few dance forms in which text and dance are necessarily entwined. The hula is always accompanied by chant, and often the dancer sings the chant before performing the dance, which is accompanied by percussionist and chanter. Throughout the dance, the dancer may call out, sing, or reply to the chanter.
Rather than following the rhythmic flow of the words, the dancer uses their body as a kind of abstract mime. The hands trace out stylized representations of the words’ meaning, while the body follows a more formal pattern.
Hula and its chants have been a nexus for the retrieval of the Hawaiian language and culture, which had nearly disappeared under colonizing influences during the twentieth century.
Here is the link to a dance from the most prestigious hula competition on the islands. Miss Aloha competition 2015
Bibliographic excerpts from an article by W.S Condon and L.W. Sander: “Neonate movement is synchronised with adult speech: Interactional participation and language acquisition”
“As early as the first day of life, the human neonate moves in precise and sustained segments of movement that are synchronous with the articulated structure of adult speech. These observations suggest a view of development of the infant as a participant at the outset in multiple forms of interactional organization, rather than as an isolate. … In contrast, microanalysis of pathological behavior – for instance, that of subjects with aphaic, autistic, and schizophrenic conditions – reveals marked self-asychronies. Delayed auditory feedback also markedly disturbs this self-sychrony. … For example, as the adult emits the KK of ‘come’, which lasts for 0.07 second, the infant’s head moves right very slightly (Rvs), the left elbow extends slightly (Es), the right shoulder rotates outward slightly (ROs) the right hip rotates outward fast (ROf), the left hip extends slightly (Es), and the big toe of the left foot abducts (AD). These body parts sustain these directions and speeds of movement together for this 0.07-second interval. This forms a ‘unit’ composed of the sustained relation of these movements of the body. … This 2-day-old infant displayed segments of movement synchronous with the adult’s speech during the entire 89-word sequence. In other words, this is a sustained and precise occurrence. Another 2-day-old infant sustained similarly synchronous movement throughout a series of 125 words of tape-recorded female speech. … This study reveals a complex interaction system in which the organization of the neonate’s motor behavior in entrained by and synchronized with the organized speech behavior of adults in his environment. If the infant, from the beginning, moves in precise, shared rhythm with the organization of the speech structure of his culture, then he participates developmentally through complex, sociobiological entrainment processes in millions of repetitions of linguistic forms long before he later uses them in speaking and communicating. By the time he begins to speak, he may have already laid down within himself the form and structure of the language system of his culture. This would encompass as multiplicity of interlocking aspects: rhythmic and syntactic ‘hierarchies’, suprasegmental features, and paralinguistic nuances, not to mention body motion styles and rhythms. This may provide an empirical basis for a new approach to language acquisition.” (Condon, W.S. & Sander, L.W. (1974) Neonate movement is synchronized with adult speech: interactional participation and language acquisition. Science 183: pp. 99-101)