Saturday, July 4, 2009
"I am more interested in what moves people, than how they move."
the german choreographer & dancer died on tuesday at 68yo. i'd just seen talk to her, the almodavar film. her dance plays a big role in that film, a film i found deeply moving. i hadn't cared for almodavar at all. this film was a different experience.
anyway, dance played a role in my courtship of ann. she is/was a dancer. she remembers choreographing dances in her head & in the privacy of her room when she was four or five years old. on one of our first dates, she & i saw merce cunningham's incomparable group at zellerbach hall. somehow i'd found out she loved cunningham &, tho i didn't know his work well, i did know quite a bit about john cage(his long time companion)& jasper johns & robert rauschenberg(who'd designed many sets for merce's company). i remember after the show her saying, in awe struck admiration, "what a fantastic vocabulary he has!" she doesn't remember saying this & insists it isn't something she'd say but she did. i know this because it opened up a way of thinking for me that hadn't existed. actually, i didn't have any meaningful way of thinking about dance(unless the dancers were strippers)& ann's simple sentence of wonder allowed me, ever so slightly, an access to that world. if we take "vocabulary" to mean "a repetoire of communication" & understand that it constitutes the ground floor of communication upon which different combinations & variations build towards meaningful expression, then each gesture, each jump, each combination is saying something. it is our job as an audience to be watchful & open since we are being addressed. what makes cunningham so rich is the array of gestures & combinations he uses. the fact that the music isn't there to support these gestures makes things more interesting. the fact that the vocabulary has been arrived at by chance operations(like cage's music or burroughs' cut-up novels)only stresses the infinite possibility of communication.
bausch uses music as support, which is fine. that's certainly more traditional but her project is definitely based in modernist expression too. she went through a period where she was accused of being more "theatrical" & less concerned about dance per se. she had no problem w/this criticism, saying that these aspects of dance had to be explored & made sense of to see where dance could then proceed. she came out on the other side of that exploration energized. the dance at the beginning of almodavar's film, where two women w/eyes closed careen around a stage filled w/chairs & tables & a single male runs around pushing things out of the way of their circumnavigations, is a powerful example of her work. so is this take on stravinsky, the great modernist.