TO ACTIVATE AND BE ACTIVATED
It came to me the other night after several hours of frustrating work that maybe I am working in a wrong format. It feels like I have very much I would like to say about my work, but it is hard to get it on paper. I don’t know where to start. Working with art is hard to put in a straight narrative or to put in to strict chapters. I need to find the right format to be able to do this reflection work. I need this text to reflect my work. To reflect the complexity of working process-based. It is hard to say what came first, second, third and so on. A working process is not linear and sometimes decisions are made without a reason. I just know I need to do something, change something or make something. And this is the beauty of working with art. It is just there when it is there, but it takes time and it takes a lot of work.
For a very long time I have been thinking that I would at some point try to do a self-interview, and maybe now is the time to do so. I will not only do one, I will do as many as it takes to get it all out. To let out what I need to get out there. For a long time, I have had the desire to find ways of register and share my process. I am quite good in registration, in sharing, not so experienced. But I will do my best.
What I have learned the most during the time as a student is to always try to be the bravest version of myself. I have practiced to insist on what I need and desired to do. I am doing my best to stick to the working frames, but I have a tendency to brake them. I cheat, but this is a way of making it more exiting for myself. I am done at being a good girl. I do what I need.
I have made the interviews within the timeframe of the soundtrack to my two dance pieces. I almost always work within a set timeframe, it is a satisfying way for me to work. And because text is not as ephemeral as dance, I have given myself permission to edit a little bit.
“I like to hear the sound of form, and I like to hear the sound of it breaking.”
Frederick Seidel (Jonathan Burrows)
bentealice: Bente, the student
bente: Bente the interviewer
bentealice is in the hospital with her younger one. She is trying to find a way to get through this writing without panicking. Her mom is watching her child and she is sitting in the cafeteria trying to eat and drink a bit. And to work.
bente: Ok, I am not quite sure where to start. This is a situation you often find yourself in, how do you deal with that, how do you manage to start even when you don’t know what you are going to start with?
bentealice: That is a very good question. I think I always try to think that it is not such a big deal. I just have to start with something and then something will happen. I am very bad at predict what will happen in the future, and if I do so, it always turns out bad. I always get disappointed. So, I think my strategy is to analyse what is already there. What is the situation I am in right now? What in this situation can trig me?
Now for instance, I am sitting in the hospital where I gave birth to my first child. Right in front of me there is a couple with a totally new baby. This make me think of when I gave birth for the first time, six years ago. And this is really something to talk about. This is really linked to my artistic practice, I think.
bente: I didn’t see that coming, but ok! Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
bentealice: Yes, I can! I love to talk about this experience! It was so life changing for me. Giving birth is the hardest thing I have ever done. Mmmm, how should I proceed…well, maybe I should skip the details, but after six years this experience is still something I go back to over and over again.
The thing was, I had a really easy birth. Nothing went wrong, it was not too long and the baby was healthy and beautiful. But the thing was, that during the birth, in the last moments, when the body is totally taking over everything I got super afraid of dying. It was such a massive experience. I had no control, and I had no other choice than to just be in it until it was over. This is quite powerful I think.
bente: Yes, of course. But how do you link this to your artistic practice?
bentealice: I will try to explain. I have found that my practice has a lot to do with being in something. How can I trick myself to stay in something over a period of time and how can I trick myself to not think that I want it to be over even if I am tired, struggling or not motivated to work? And also, to trick myself not to wish for the work to be something different or better than what it already is. How can I just notice what is already there?
bente: So, this is a way of thinking when you are doing?
bentealice: Yes, it is. If I can trick myself to stay in something over time, something will always happen. Everything that´s happening isn’t super interesting, or something that I would want to go further with. But it gives me new information to work on.
bente: What do you do with this new information then?
bentealice: Sometimes I write it down, sometimes I just notice it and never think about it again. It depends. Sometimes I register it somewhere in my body and it comes back to me when the time is right. And also, when I experience that something is not working, I can make a change until the next time. The change can be very little, maybe just change how I start or how I relate to what I experience.
You see, my practice has a lot to do with having something known to go back to. I need to do the same over and over again. In this way, it will develop without me forcing it to do so. And this is very important. To not force something out. How can I put up a situation for me to let things come because I am doing and not because I want something very particular?
bente: So, time and repetition is important for your work?
bentealice: Time is my best friend and enemy. I need a lot of time in my work. Not a lot of time every time, I am really bad at working on one thing for a long time at a time. I need to work over many days, with few hours every time. And when I allow myself to do so, it feels like I am not producing. The work just comes into being. This sounds really easy, it is not, but when I allow myself to take time, it is not so crucial that something has to happen every time I am working.
bente: You said that time is also your enemy. Why is that?
bentealice: I don’t work well when I am stressed. I have a lot of capacity for working, but I am bad with deadlines. But when I have a long period of time, and when I then work concentrated over a long period of time, I have learned that the work will be there in time.
Like with this reflection text…Not a good way for me to work. It is a very short amount of time to do this. But then, I try to change the frames of working. How can I trick myself to produce without feeling that I have to produce? How can I be in the work, and trust that it will be something in the end?
bente: You are using the phrase trick yourself a lot? Why do you think you have to trick yourself to work?
bentealice: Hahaha! Well, it sounds like I don’t like to work. But, it is quite the opposite. I love to work. But there is so much fear in me. Fear of failing, fear of not beeing good enough, fear of being boring etc. And this fear has earlier taken over and disabled me to work.
I can use my birth as an example here to. When the contraction towards the end of labour was starting, I was sure I was going to die. The only thing I could feel was the fear of dying. This made everything very much more difficult than it had to be. I got through it, but I couldn’t focus on the things that really was important: that I was actually giving life to someone! If I had managed to focus on this, the experience from the birth would have been different. The fear took over and I couldn’t be in it, I was unable to work. But then, giving birth to my second child, I had this information so I could change the way I was thinking. I made up tools and practiced these during the pregnancy to help me stay away from the fear. I wouldn’t let the fear be the most important thing this time.
bente: But, if it is so scary, why do you keep on working?
bentealice: Because it feels good to be able to do something that I don’t think I am able to do.
bente: The soundtrack is over. We have to take a break now. Great talking to you!
bentealice: Great! I will let you know when I am ready again.
bente: Ok, now we have had I little brake. Are you ready for one more go?
bentealice: Yes. I think so!
bente: I got a bit curious about what you said in the introduction; that you have thought for a long time that you wanted to do a self-interview. Why is that?
bentealice: Well, I think it is easier to be in a dialogue than just writing to myself. I like to get immediate feedback. In a dialogue, you get that. To put out some material and then someone is there to catch it and do something with it. Or, that the material is meeting another material and then something new can appear. There is more potential when things are meeting.
bente: Is this something you have been working with during the process in your master´s project?
bentealice: Yes, quite much I think.
bente: In what way?
bentealice: Hmmm…I thought I was ready to talk about this. But I struggle a bit now to find out how I will start this.
I can talk a little bit about my book maybe. My book consists of 230 questions. The questions were not meant to be the book. It was more a tool for me to stay active in my process. I noticed that I had very many questions about my work and at a point in the process I was reading Jonathan Burrows book A choreographer’s handbook. He proposes a task where you could write down 10 questions a day for a week.
Ask yourself ten questions a day for a week.
Write them down and don´t answer them.
The one you need will do its job anyway, whether you look at them again or not.
Within the limitless possibilities of the question which you have asked, accept the answer
that you get. (p.50, Burrows, 2010)
Anyway, I started to do this. And a bit earlier in the process I had started to send small texts to Janne-Camilla, one of my supervisors. I had struggled a bit to get into my work. One day, when we were supposed to have a meeting, she found me sleeping in the studio. That day I found out that I really needed to change my working situation. I had a lot of studio time, but I didn’t know what to fill the time with. We then agreed on that I was going to start writing again and send something to her every day. We agreed that it was not necessary for her to answer, but just a way for me to keep active. And, even if she didn’t respond much, it felt like being in a dialogue. I was putting something out there and I had promised someone I would send something every day. And then I had to do that. And it became a part of my daily work.
bente: But then, what about the questions, did you send them as well?
bentealice: Yes, I did.
bente: I have a feeling that dialogue is something that is included very much in other aspects of your work. Am I right?
bentealice: Yes, you are right. But I am not sure if I want to talk about that now.
bente: Why is that?
bentealice: In my writing practice for this reflection I have been writing a lot about this and it feels like I should start to work on other topics.
bente: Is there something in particular you want to talk about then?
bentealice is starring out in the air. She is thinking. Her eyes are searching. As if she is searching for something to stick to, or something that can make her going again. She has a chewing gum in her mouth and she is drinking sparkled water with the taste of raspberry and lemon. She looks a bit serious now. I think she is listening to the music. Maybe she is trying to find something there. I am just waiting, giving her time to find something she wants to talk about.
I am still waiting, trying not to stress her. Giving her the time and space I think she needs. I am getting a bit impatience. I really wanted to get somewhere with this interview. Too much expectations I guess.
bentealice: Maybe I can say something about music?
bente: Yes, why not! What about the music?
bentealice: I am not sure. But now Justin Beiber came on and I feel a bit lighter. It is a nice version of What do you mean. It makes me a bit happy.
bente: Yes… is that all you want to say? Maybe you can say something about why you have chosen the music you have chosen?
bentealice: No, I think I will talk about something else. I will talk about what I do when it feels like everything is falling apart. Something is happening to me right now. I am bailing out. Now, I am getting scared that this method of writing this reflection is not working. I am spacing out, I am doubting myself. I am afraid that the reader is bored to death and that I am not doing what I am supposed to do as a student. Now I am really working hard to not close the computer and do something else. But I have made a commitment to myself that I would write until the soundtrack is over. I will insist on doing that. No matter what comes out.
bente: Why is this so important for you?
bentealice: Because, I like discipline. I like to push myself and it is in this insisting that I can be brave. It is in this condition I can do things I might not dare to do. It is in this condition I really have to work. And this produces potential for the material to grow and develop.
bente: But isn’t there a chance that nothing comes out? That you cannot use it for anything?
bentealice: Of, course. But then I have tried something and if it doesn’t work, I know that from experience. I have to do to know. I need to experience it. I need to experience it through my body.
And now, when I say this, I realize that this is something I can talk about. I need to experience the material through my own body. This is related to a topic regarding being a choreographer from the outside.
bente: What do you mean; from the outside?
bentealice: In Stars in a piece with no name, this was the first time ever I was going to work with professional dancers without dancing myself. This was my first time where it was my job alone to activate other dancers. Earlier I have been working in collaborations with others and then I have worked as a dance maker.
I could predict that it was quite something else to not be dancing myself, but I really didn’t know it would be so hard to think and talk without making the information go through my own body. This made me cry. A lot. I was so frustrated and I had promised myself that I was not going do dance in this project. I really needed that experience.
But after talking to Mårten Spångberg, I decided that I would go in and dance myself. It was more important that I was able to work than do what I had decided beforehand. I found out that I needed to do something that felt fun and light. So, I started dancing with the group.
bente: Aha, did it feel better?
bentealice: Yes, it became immediately more fun! And suddenly I was able to talk better about my work and it was as if I could see a bit clearer. It became easier to be in dialogue with the dancers when we were at the same “level”. I don’t like the word level, but I think you understand what I mean.
bente: I think I do. But you didn’t dance in the performance. What happened later?
bentealice: In the last phase of the process, when all the elements were going to be put together I got the need to see it from the outside. I needed to get an overview. The dance material was almost ready, now it was time to get it situated in the right way. Situating I can do from the outside.
bente: I see. The soundtrack is fading out. This run-through is over. Have a break and go to the sick one. We will talk later tonight.
Now, it is eight o´ clock in the evening. We are back at school. And it is time for a new run-through. The music is on. bentealice is sitting at her desk in the office. 46 minutes left in the soundtrack.
bente: How are you?
bentealice: I am ok, a little bit tired, but I am happy I have decided to try to finish this paper until Friday. That feels good.
bente: Earlier today we were talking about your practice and a little bit about your writing. I would really like to hear a little bit more on what your practice consists of. A little bit more concrete maybe. I have a sense of your thinking in it, but what is it that you do when you are doing what you do?
bentealice: As I mentioned before, timeframes are important to me. It gives me some kind of discipline and a commitment to what I am doing…and maybe I should go a little bit back talking about this dialogue.
Last year, in January/February I was working on a project about Yvonne Rainer. I wanted to be in dialogue with her work. So, in addition to reading about her, I started to do a dance practice out of her Trio A. I didn’t know so much about her work when I started this practice, but what I immediately got caught up in, was this continuum of unique movement. That really spoke to me. I watched her dance several times and then I tried to dance in the same way as she was doing. Not the same movement, but just moving continuously. It was exhausting. I started with a timeframe of 45 minutes. It was impossible! I had to take it down to 10 minutes in the beginning.
bente: Why do you think it was exhausting?
bentealice: Because I could never rest. I had to move all the time, and at the same time deal with all of the judgement I had regarding my own dancing. And also, even if the movement isn’t very extraordinary, it is hard for the body to continue for a long time. But this is something that quite easily can be trained. But, the hardest was to get over these negative thoughts about my movement. Is this good enough? Can I really move like this? How does it look? And so on. To get over this, demands practice. And also, doing something new is hard. It is a bit frightening to enter unknown territory.
bente: How did you manage to get pass this?
bentealice: Practice. Doing over and over again. And always go back to the starting point. Before every practice, I watched the movie and sometimes I noticed something new. And also, I was learning a bit more about her work and could also relate to that and lean into it. More information gives more to work on.
bente: But what has this to do with dialogue?
bentealice: Aha! Yes, well I didn’t want to do Trio A. I wanted to meet Trio A and mix it with my own dance material. Or, maybe more, what happens when Yvonnes and Bentes material meets? Can something new appear? And can I make this my own?
bente: What happened?
bentealice: I started to be more confident. I could lean into her material. And I felt a kind of distance to the material. Trio A became an outer activator for my movement. Everything didn’t come from me. If I didn’t like what I was going in to, I could blame Yvonne. The hole responsibility wasn’t on my shoulders.
And another thing that caught my attention was her way of working with the body as an object. The body is already enough just being a body. It doesn’t need to express, for instance, emotions. It is just a body moving. This was really liberating for me, to find a way to distance myself from the dancing. Dancing is for me very personal and emotional and this makes it very hard and complicated, but when I started to think about the body as an object that needs to be activated by something outside itself, it became easier.
“The object can only symbolize those polarities, it cannot be motivated, only activated. Yet, oddly, the body can become object like, the human being can be treated as an object, dealt with as an entity without feeling or desire. “(p. 176, Lambert-Beatty,2008)
bente: If I understand correctly, this Trio A – practice has been some kind of starting point in both your pieces. How was it to invite other people in to your practice?
bentealice: It was challenging! For a very long time I had been alone with this practice. It had just been me and Yvonne. I had done a couple presentations of it for other students, but now I really had to try to articulate what I was doing and how I was relating to it. I also had to figure out how I wanted them to relate to it, and my performers are really intelligent people with a lot of dance and choreography experience. I think they were a bit critical and they asked a lot of questions. Which was good, but I was not prepared and that scared me.
But this is also the great thing about being in a dialogue. You cannot predict what is coming out of it. You can never know how another person is relating to the same thing as you are. And this is really great about working together with other people. Scary, yes. Useful, yes.
bente: But how did you come over these challenges? Or did you?
bentealice: Practice and dialogue. In the beginning, or after a short while, I took away Trio A. I got scared. I was afraid there wasn’t anything there to work on. I started instead of working with making scores.
bente: Yes, another way of activating from the outside?
bentealice: Yes, we made scores for each other. But we did this for two times, I think. I really would love to work with scores later, but then I would need more time to dive into that. So, I took away the scores and got back to Trio A. I needed to insist on this. And I needed to insist on that something would happen with it, if we just practiced it. I think it was a bit challenging for the dancers to be in something they didn’t know what was and we didn’t know how I was going to situate it. We were just dancing and I think I expected quite much from the performers. I wanted them to embrace my practice, which I had a hard time to articulate, and that also demands patience and courage, I think.
bente: In what way does this demand courage?
bentealice: Well, I think we all have a tendency to want to know what we are working on and what it is going to be in the end. We are kind of waiting for the premiere day. Sorry, I guess I can only speak for myself. But it is challenging to be in a process where kind of everything is possible. It is hard to navigate in a very open landscape. And people function differently. I like to take my time, I enjoy to just be in it and not have to decide for the future. Not everyone is like that.
bente: The music is gone. This is very interesting, lets talk more later!
The sick one is out of the hospital and at home with her grandmother. bentealice haven’t slept much during these last days. She looks a bit tired but are determined to continue. We just have to keep to the frames we have set up. Then it gets manageable, just be in it for 47 minutes and 44 seconds and then it is over and a lot of work is done.
bente: You haven’t said so much about how your practice have developed into performances. How can we start to talk about that?
bentealice:In the book Being Watched, Yvonne Rainer and the 1960s, by Carrie Lambert-Beatty I found this quote by Yvonne Rainer: ”Dance is hard to see” (p.2, Lambert-Beatty, 2008) The author explains this further like this: “as a temporal art, disappearing even as it comes into being, dance resist vision.” (p.2, Lambert-Beatty, 2008) I found this very interesting and Rainer proposes two different ways of working with this in a performance. One is to make a performance less ephemeral through repetition. In this way, the audience is invited to see the same thing from different perspectives, like looking at all the sides of an object (The Bells). The second propose it to exaggerate the problem of the disappearance through continuum of unique movement (Trio A).
When I read about her first proposal I started to think of all the theatrical elements as independent objects. How can I work with all the separate elements as separate entities that is not going to be affected by each other? For instance, the dance is the same dance with or without music. And the dance is not going to dance the music. Music and dance exists in the same room, but they do not react to each other, they are just there.
This was something that I started to experiment with when I watched Trio A. I looked at the movie and I put on different kinds of music in the background and what struck me was that all kinds of music worked! It kind of corresponded. The dance was the same, but I got a feeling that it changed by changing the music. And then came the question, how can I work with this in a live setting? And parallel to this, I worked with the dancing of Trio A and then came the questions: How can I train myself to not get affected by the music, by other or by the situation I am in when I dance?
bente: I see. But what about, say, costumes? Were they also objects to you?
bentealice: In the beginning, I had this idea that I wanted to make costumes that reminded more about objects than clothes. This idea came to me when we had a costume course during the fall 2016. And in this relation, I also wanted to put an object on the body and also work with the idea that the dance wouldn’t change. I am not sure why I gave up this idea, but I think it had a little bit to do with economy and time with the costume designer. But also, because I was afraid I wouldn’t get time to work with the dancing. At some point this didn’t feel important anymore. And since I used almost all my money on the dancers, I decided that I wanted to use what was in the costume department. But in the future, I would like to do a work with objects on the body.
Together with the costume designer we came to the conclusion that the costumes could be quite simple. It could look like general clothes, but with a hint of being a costume. And also, I wanted colours in to the space. I needed it to be light and bright.
bente: I have a feeling that you really have a need to keep things clean and a bit simple. Why is that do you think?
bentealice: I think this is a way for me to be able to work in a complex way. But, I am not sure if I agree with you about this simplicity. Well, I can agree that the scenography, costumes and music are kind of simple. And the dancing looks quite light and simple, but it is not. And this is also something that I am interested in, contradictions. The dancing looks light, we have a distant to the material, but to do this material it takes a lot of discipline and alertness!
And I think that if I go for complex things right away I will not be able make the complexity happen. The complexity can only grow through doing, trying, collecting and analysing information. It is a process and this can only happen when you spend time with it. Going back and forward to the same thing over and over again. Well, for me in this moment, it is like that.
Or I am not totally sure about this. But anyway, if I have five simple objects, I can still compose with them in a complex way. And I think that if all the elements are really complex in themselves it is hard to make space for the ones who are experiencing it. And I really think it is interesting to try to make gaps between the objects, and it is in this gap that the imagination in the watcher can grow.
bente: Maybe you can try to say something about how you want the audience to experience the performances?
bentealice: Want and want…I had this idea that I wanted the audience to experience something similar to what I experience and work with in my practice. How can I trick them into just being there? When I see performances, I really enjoy when the performance is giving me a lot of space to imagine. When I am invited into a space where something is produced in me because there is a dialogue between me and the piece, then I really enjoy to be an audience in a performance situation. I don’t like when people tells me what to think or feel. I get really childish and angry and wants to leave.
I am trying to produce gaps for people to enter. How can I get the audience to feel that they are a part of the performance, without them being a part of it? It always comes back to this dialogue, it feels like. To let people be in dialogue with themselves. And the piece is some kind of channel to make this happen. This sounds a bit pompous, but I think I mean it.
bente: I think it sounds quite generous. But do you think that the audience have a lot of responsibility themselves to get into this kind of state?
bentealice: I am not sure, but I think it is my job to trick them a bit. I don’t want to force them to anything, but as a person that composes, I know a little bit about what kind of effect different ways of using time, energy and space has on people. Or at least I know how this affects me and I try to share my experience with the audience.
Ah! But also, I had an idea about activating the audience. How can I activate them? I am not sure how it worked, but I really don’t like to put the audience far away and in the dark. And I have noticed that when I see performances where I get activated/engaged I sit a bit tall and on the edge of the chair. So, I thought I would help the audience to get this feeling. With a regular chair, you can sit back and relax. But this is a quite passive way of placing the body. With these stools, you have to concentrate more on how you are holding your body. You cannot collapse, then you will fall off the chair. So, I guess this is also a little trick from my sleeve.
bente: The music is fading out. See you later! This was really fun!
It is evening again. bentealice have been taking care of her children and had rehearsals for a performance. Back in the office. Her two best colleagues during the time in school are also sitting there. The three of them are back into the good times of working together, or not together, but in the same room at the same time.
bente: You still haven’t said so much about how you developed the material in both the solo and the group piece. It seems like you are avoiding this. Would you like to go into this?
bentealice: I really feel like I should say something about this, but I find it a bit hard. It seems like I will then start with some kind of narrative of the process, and that bores me a bit…
bente: Why is this?
bentealice: I don’t know. Maybe it is because I then have to start trying to remember stuff and I don’t like that. It feels to complex and too easy at the same time.
bente: You don’t like working with resistance?
bentealice: No, I don’t! But the thing is also, that if I just start doing this it will probably come. Again, it is hard to start.
But ok, I will try. I´ll start with the solo piece, Albireo.
I had two different, or a bit similar practices. It was Trio A as I already have talked about and then I had another that I call stop-movement-stop-movement-thing. I really wish I could find a better name for it! But it has to do with the relation stillness and movement and how to stay in one thing until it produces something else. Stop and moving are quite the opposite of continuous movement.
In the beginning, I shifted between these two, but after a while I started to mix them together. I let them feed off each other. I took in elements from Trio A in this other practice and the other way around. And quite early I started to practice them for a longer and longer stretch. After every run-through, I got more and more information about how it was and how it could develop. It was a quite intuitive process. And I had people in watching quite often. I got feedback from others and myself.
bente: Was it the same with the group piece?
bentealice: No, it was a little bit more different. In this process, we were working more divided with the material. We had five-six different parts of material that we practiced separated from each other. From early on I had this idea that I wanted to split the material in the last part of the process. I wanted the different parts to be different objects that was not supposed to change or interfere each other. So, I needed them to be something in themselves first. And then we tried to put them in different orders and see what it became. But, I wanted the Trio A to be present in the hole piece. I didn’t want to give the feeling of different parts. That one thing leads to another. So, in the end we started to practice to split everything and the performers got the responsibility, or the chance, to make their own dramaturgy. And through practice we developed common rules for the composition.
bente: What kind of rules?
bentealice: For instance, that the space could never be empty, that they should go in and out (well this was something I wanted from the beginning. It seems like there is a trend now that all the performers are on stage all the time, and I wanted to do something different), there were two places in the performance where they should meet as a group and we had a musical que, to start a new material you have to go out first etc. And I also think that the dancers made up rules that I wasn’t a part of when they were behind the carpet.
bente: Do you think it is ok that the dancers do so?
bentealice: Yes! I love it! I think it is great that they take responsibility and that they find ways to do it better for themselves to be in it. This is very much the work, I think.
bente: But are there material you made, that isn’t a part of the performance?
bentealice: Yes, it is. I think it was about midways in the process, then I made the stools become objects that was supposed to be a part of the performance. We made a dance that was about the chairs, making them in to sculptures, moveable sculptures, ever changing sculptures. I thought this was really nice, but the performance became about chairs. I didn’t want that.
bente: How did you come to this conclusion?
bentealice: I got that feedback during a tutorial. And then we tried to take them away, and I didn’t miss them!
And yes, I almost forgot. We made material out of the chairs as well. We made something that we called stool-dance. But the movement material is still there, but without the chairs. And also, the hand-dance was made on the stools, but we replaced the stools with the knee.
bente: That reminds me: Where did you get the hand-dance from?
bentealice: I have loaned it from Yvonne Rainers Hand Movie. I love that movie. Lambert-Beatty writes: “The hand may not speak to us, but we cannot help but speak to it. A body may become an object, but does so oddly.” (p.177, Lambert-Beatty) It is just a hand moving, but by just moving and not try to express or tell us something it creates something in the gap between us. The gap is filled with something that wouldn’t have been produced without each other. And this is something I try to do with all of my material. But of course, it gets very different when the whole body is present. We then had to work a lot on how we would relate to the hand. How should we use the gaze, what is the rest of the body doing? How can the hand be an object attached to a subject?
bente: Do you find it problematic to have borrowed material from someone?
bentealice: Yes, maybe it is a bit problematic. But don’t we steal or loan from each other all the time? I don’t know if I want to go into this discussion. I am not sure if it is relevant or maybe I am afraid I have done something I shouldn’t have done. I don’t need to try to be original, I just use what is already there and make it into my own material by reworking it a bit and put it in to a new context.
bente: Ok, I don’t either know if this is relevant to talk about here. But since we are a bit into using others material, could you say something about your choice of music?
bentealice: Oh, yes, I can! That is a little bit more fun!
I have gotten a few questions about this earlier. Why pop music? I like pop music. I like to dance to pop music. Pop music makes life a little bit easier and fun. I have also found that I like that it gives a lot of space for the listener to enter. The text can be sad, but the beat can be happy and vice versa. This gives me as a listener freedom to choose where I would put my focus. How do I want the song to affect me, or what do I need from the song right now? And also, I like that the texts are not so complex. When I listen to pop-music I often choose one or two lines in the texts, and I give them a lot of space in me. It could be a sentence, for instance break my body, hold my bones. It is really beautiful I think and in different contexts it will have different meaning. This goes for everything in life, of course. And when I compose it with other elements the song can be really powerful, or even more powerful than it already is. Or weaker. I don’t mean to value it, maybe different is the right word.
bente: It seems like this is quite much linked to emotions? Am I right?
bentealice: Yes, I think you are right. I remember at some point in the process I noticed that this dry dance material became very emotional to watch when the music was emotional. And I started to think much about this. As I said earlier, dancing for me is very emotional but this doesn’t mean that I want to express emotions just through my body. Ah! I remember a conversation with Loan, my other supervisor. We talked about that I was afraid that the material looked to dry and she said something like “you are not carrying the performance alone. You have other elements as well that will help you.” I really wanted to insist on this dryness in the material, but was afraid it would be boring, but I trusted what Loan said, and I think it worked. The totality wasn’t dry, on the contrary…I think!
bente: One thing I noticed during your performances was that people often smiled when certain songs were played. It looked like people enjoyed to experience music they know from other contexts into this.
bentealice: Yes, maybe that was the thing, or maybe they also just like the music! But I will admit something. It is not that I love all the songs in the soundtrack. Well, now I do, after I have made these pieces. But it has also a little bit to do with composition and what I thought the piece needed. I don’t listen to We found love a lot at home, it is not my favourite song!
bente: But how did you end up with these songs?
bentealice: During the process, I think it was while I was working in the studio with my solo. A cover of some song I liked came to my playing list. I thought; this is nice. It is funny to take one thing and put it in to a new context. To take the lyrics and put it in to a new genre, it can make the lyrics communicate something very different. And I think this is linked to my fascination of situating material into choreography. The material can be whatever, and when I situate it becomes something else.
When I started with the group piece I wasn’t sure how we were going to work with music or what kind of music I wanted to use. But then we made this list of cover songs and original songs in Spotify. I didn’t specify the genre, so we had a lot of material to choose from! And during rehearsals we just played music random from the list and I started to fall for a few of them. The soundtrack consists of both cover songs, remixes and originals.
bente: Was it you that made the soundtrack?
bentealice: Me and Hugo Hedberg. He has some skills as a Dj and he is an artist as well. I then chose some songs that I really wanted to be in the piece and then we did some elimination and thought of how it could work dramaturgically. I said that I wanted music for about 45 minutes and then this became the timeframe we practiced the performance with.
bente: Why did you choose to use the same soundtrack in both pieces?
bentealice: Good question, boring answer! Well, it had a little bit to do with the fact that Hugo didn’t have time to make two soundtracks. And I liked the idea of doing the same thing in two different formats. This idea was already there with my practice. But it became a bit clearer for me, that it was exciting to try that. And then I didn’t have to choose how long my solo was going to be, it was already set! You know, I like it when things come easy!
bente: But isn’t it slightly different, the soundtracks?
bentealice: Yes, a little bit. I had a secret helper that remixed three songs and I saved these ones for the group piece. I thought it would be nice for the people who saw both pieces.
This is perfect timing! I can hear the music fading out. Can we stop?
bente: Yes. Thank you.
Within 24 hours this text is going to be sent in. We are back in the office. It has been a great day with the work. We feel confident and happy that we are almost there. What is the worst thing that can happen? That is that we have to do this all over again, breaking the rules and the fact that we don’t know if we have gotten all the information out there.
bentealice: Ok, this is the final interview. What do you want to know? Is there something I have forgotten?
bente: Hmm…Yes, I have thought a little bit about Deborah Hay during this process of interviewing. I know from earlier that you have been quite inspired by her. Could you say something about that?
bentealice: Yes, that has been in my mind as well. Last June we had a workshop with her and I fell a little bit in love with her and her work during that week. When I met her, I had been to school for almost a year and I had tried to find and articulate my dance practice. And then I met her and suddenly I got all of these new tools to work with when I was dancing. The first period after the workshop I was practicing very much her practice, but after a while I felt the need to go back to my own with Trio A. And it was perfect! I suddenly had some new tools to apply to my own practice.
And there was something with Deborah and Yvonne that I found quite similar. They both work a lot with the gaze. Yvonne with this neutral face and in Trio A she intentionally is not looking at the audience, but she is looking everywhere else and often detached from the direction of the movement. And with Deborah and her sentences turn your fucking head and to reorganize my seeing in order to reorganize my dancing (near, midrange, far). It was a perfect timing to get all this new information. And yes, no hesitation, no reconsideration and here and gone for this continuous movement.
But back to the gaze. In this my stop-movement-stop- movement- thing I had worked quite a lot with closed eyes to not think from the outside (meaning to try not to judge how things look like and then try to feel the movement more from the inside). I started to notice that after a while with the closed eyes, I felt the need to open them. It was like the closing of the eyes helped me to feel my body better and when I opened my eyes, everything felt clearer. And at some point, I think it was during a practice together with Karen, I started to blink my eyes while moving. I kind of just made this shifts between having them closed and open happen faster. In this moment, I realized that a performance material doesn’t have to be something else than what I practice in the studio. How can my practice be staged? Is it enough to just work in front of an audience? Is it ok to have a desire to not want to express something in particular?
bente: Wow! This was a long one!
bentealice: I have waited for the moment when I could get this out! And I come to think about the first day in the workshop with Deborah, she asked us to articulate where we were in our process as a performer. And I remember I said something that I had spent the whole year to try to find a way to activate myself in the studio and to activate myself as a performer again. This was a crucial moment for me. And during that week I felt like a performer again. And I knew that the only thing I could do was to continue to practice to be in the situation of dancing.
bente: This feels serious! And important for you!
bentealice: It was this one thing that really caught my attention and it was this turn your fucking head. This has kind of become my mantra in life and art. If I am stuck I should just turn my head a little bit, and then something will happen. It doesn’t have to be much, but a little tilt in my neck or maybe a bigger movement; to look behind myself instead of looking in front of me. As a mental picture or as an action. So much can happen.
Deborah says: It doesn’t matter what you do, but how you do it. And I think this is my practice. To find new or just a slightly different way of thinking and moving and that can make all the difference. This also correspond to my idea that everything can be a valuable material if you situate in a certain way.
bente: I feel a bit done now. I am not sure what to ask you. Justin Bieber is on again. I have noticed that a lot of the text from the soundtrack is corresponding with the things you have talked about during these interviews. I don’t want to go into that, but is this something to think about for the reader, maybe?
bentealice: Hahaha! I don’t think this is something intended! But it is great if you find this connection! And no, don’t think about that.
bente: We haven’t talked about the scenography and the light design. I think maybe we should say something about that as well.
bentealice: I agree. Let’s see…I have for a long time had this desire to cover up stage 5. But I wanted to change the room a bit. And I knew that the school had some carpets. I didn’t have money for scenography either. The way the carped is placed was decided together with the light designer. I am not sure how we came up with this idea, but we talked a lot and we had a day where we tried out what we had planned and it kind of worked. I had this feeling that the roof was too high and then the light designer said that we could lower the roof with lights. I don’t know, the dialogue between us went very smooth. I had some wishes and we tried it, he had some ideas and we tried it. It just worked. Sometimes these things happen.
bente: Yes, sometimes we are just blessed to meet people we are able to work with. Now we are in the final two songs, is there something you would like to add?
bentealice: When we started this interview, we had this idea that this was the final one. I am not so sure about that anymore. It just doesn’t feel that it is quite over yet. I am not sure right now what is missing, but I don’t think we are able to end this within the timeframe we have left.
This make me think about the premiere of Stars in a piece with no name. It is like when we have decided that this is it. It makes everything so serious. It is now or never. And then it is kind of doomed to not be the best version. We are then trying too hard and then we are not able to really be in the situation working. It feels a bit like that now. It feels like I should come up with a really good end and then I get paralyzed. But this is important to notice and then I can do it differently next time, I can turn my fucking head.
bente: But how can you avoid this to happen?
bentealice: I remember Deborah saying to me that every time you practice you should do it as if it is a performance. Every day in the studio is equally important. This doesn’t mean that I should go in to the practice with the nervousness that might come in a performance situation, but to work in a way where there is no room for nerves. I really like this way of thinking. The practice is the performance, the performance is the practice.
bente: I think that this was a good ending. But I agree, we should do one more take.
We were supposed to be finished by now, but a lot of unpredictable tings didn’t make this happen. It has been some days now since we last talked. We are sitting in a bar. There is a quiz going on here. We are not a part of it, but we do this as a practice of not being affected, we just do what we do. bentealice haven’t slept mush this last night’s either. After traveling and working she went home crying. This apparently happens a lot in her processes. Crying and processing during the night. There are so many things that is hard to put in to words and there are so many things that has to be left out from this reflection. We would like to write a book about this and also how life interferes in a working process. A working process is never an isolated happening. We are thinking about the future. What will happen after this? And what is stuck as information to keep working on in the future?
bente: This might be it. How do you feel about that?
bentealice: I am not sure. It feels a bit strange to go back to this writing after some days with a break. This has never left my mind, but I am a bit out of focus. I ask myself the question all the time: how to proceed?
bente: But this is maybe a good place to start? How do you think you will proceed with your work after school?
bentealice: I have thought a little bit about that. I am trying not to stress, but people have said that they are looking forward to see what I will do after this. This stress me a bit. It seems like there is an expectation that I will do something bright new. But where I am now, I have come to some kind of conclusion that the next step for me would be to practice doing the performances I have already made.
It feels like it is a very long time since I did my solo and I am very curious how it will feel like to do it again. What do I remember, what do I have to do to get into it again and how can I accept that it won’t be the same to do it again?
bente: It seems like you are a bit occupied with expectations? What is your own expectations for the future?
bentealice: OMG! That is a very big question! I guess it might be important to ask that question, but wow! I think my strategy is to not have so many expectations. I really need to take some time and just process everything I have been through.
bente: But what have you learned from this?
bentealice: Is that really an important question?
bente: But isn’t it a part of the reflection work to think this through?
bentealice: I guess so…But I have a feeling that I will notice this when I am in a new situation of working. How can I know now? I think maybe that it is in the choice-making that it becomes obvious what you have experienced before. I think this has to do with being aware during the process. How can I notice and register what is going on during the whole process and when I recognize things I can make similar choices or totally the opposite? Or, of course something in between.
As I said in the introduction; to insist on what I do is very important for me. To not try to please anybody else than myself. Expectations has something to do with the future, I really enjoy to stick with the present. The future will always come anyway. I can only know what is there now. Looking back is nothing to rely on either. I can always change the history by thinking of it or telling about it in different ways.
bente: Maybe I should rephrase the question…what in your experience is something you would like to do in a similar way?
bentealice: Aha! Now we are into something! The first thing that comes to mind is the way I worked as a performer and a choreographer in Stars in a piece with no name. I will stop having complexes about not being able to work from the outside as a choreographer. I think I will do the same next time, I will be in the process from a performers perspective. Here is where the information really is emerging and developing. I really need to spend time with myself in a studio. I need to dance to think. This is something that I have learned throughout the time in school. I really need to be careful about my time and really insist on going in to the studio. I cannot think good enough in front of the computer. To think in front of the computer is also great, but there is a different flow of information when I move. And not only moving, but dancing. I really like to do yoga, but I need to dance. Dance is what I am working with.
bente: I am thinking a little bit on post-dance now. Bojana Cvejic said that your work was very much related to this. What do you think about this?
bentealice: I really don’t know why you are asking me this! You know I haven’t read so much about this! You are really making this difficult for me!
bente: Well, I thought it would be interesting to try to find out where you stand in this?
bentealice: Ok. It took me some time to understand what this post-dance term meant and I am not sure that I understand now either. But how I see it, it is about celebrating dancing and to really put dancing into value again. I am not very articulated when it comes to dance history, but I kind of link it a lot to so-called post-modern dance. I might be on really thin ice here, but it is this thing of not put so much meaning into the dance. It is just there and still it can affect us tremendously! It is not about production of meaning, but maybe the meaning of dancing.
I remember when I read 18 Paragraphs for a Metaphysics of Movement* by Mårten Spångberg. Dance is an object just like some other random object. It is there and it is real. And by acknowledging this, something can happen. If I don’t expect much of it, just accepting that is there, it can be really powerful. I like dance because there is nothing to understand. It is very much about just noticing what is there and be in it. Movement creates so much emotions and thoughts. I like when the dance is not trying to be anything else that it already is. Maybe, I think that it is not about…fuck! I lost it! Yes, I remember! Maybe we don’t need to try to produce original movements but the new can, if we want to, be in the way we situate it.
bente: I am really looking forward to read this post-dance book. Are you going to read it?
bentealice: yes, I hope so. I started reading a self-interview by Ana Wujanović and then I got this idea about this form of writing. I have read some of them earlier, but this reminded me again. I don’t remember what she was talking about, and it doesn’t matter. And! This reminds me that I haven’t said anything about my reading. I will put a literature list in the end of this text. And really, I haven’t read all of them throughout. I like to have texts there as an outer activator. Very often I stop reading when something that trigs me comes up. And if this is not happening, I mostly fall asleep. Reading is not my thing but I really wish it was!
bente: Why do you wish this?
bentealice: Because it seems like I should and I think it would be a nice activity to do. To sit somewhere and drink coffee with a book is a very romantic picture. I just don’t have the patience. I need to move with my body to get my mind moving. And I think this is my last words.
bente: I think so too. The music is already gone.
Rainer, Yvonne. (2006) Feelings are facts A life. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Carrie Lambert-Beatty. (2008) Beeing Watched, Yvonne Rainer and the 1960s. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Deborah Hay. (2016) Using the sky, a dance. Routledge
Jonathan Burrows. (2010) A Choreographer´s Handbook. Routledge
Articles I have read during the process:
Jonathan Burrows. Rebelling against limit
Eleanor Bauer. METHOD MONSTER
Chrysa Parkinson. REFLECTING, On practice
Mårten Spångberg. Paragraphs for a Metaphysics of Movement*
Mårten Spångberg, Post-dance, an Advocacy, 2017