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The figures and the signs of night

21st January 2017, BPS22 Charleroi, Belgium

On the creation of the dance

On the creation of the dance

Created for the closing 'Night of Radiant Darkness' of Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert's Metamorphic Earth exhibition; the choreography was conceived in direct response to the immersive environment conjured by the video projections at BPS22. The overwhelming impression of the main exhibition hall, the walls and floor of which were painted dark grey, was of a vast cave whose walls and ground were alive with rippling, pulsing movement.

The challenge was to dance with the subversive, sorcerous images and ideas of Bouschet and Hilbert's Metamorphic Earth, without losing the body in the dark flux of the space. I was inspired by the cave as a space animated by ritual performance; where in the flickering light thrown by torches dance, music and voice combine with the movement of animals across expanses of living rock. The importance of shadows, with their unpredictable dance of light and dark, to both the creation and appreciation of parietal art in the paleolithic, was critical to finding the dance that would fuse with the projections and music.

I embraced the role of chance in the interplay of images and sound against the dancing body, subjecting it to random distortions and occultations, to heighten impressions of deformation and transformation; and trace a line from the present to the pre/shamanic sorcery of the paleolithic.

To further bind the video projections, music and body, I looked to the geometric signs of European Upper Paleolithic rock art, elucidated by James B. Harrod as ‘gesture-movement-forms.’ He has interpreted these signs as descriptions of things and processes within the environment, as well as dance forms; his thesis that they reveal a coherent underlying metaphysics. I understand this metaphysics as existing equally in the present moment as in the deep past, being grounded in the elemental substrate of luminosity, sonority and terrestriality; the 'raw being' from which life – and art – emerges.

Videos   Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert
Music   Kevin Muhlen (guitar and electronics) and Angelo Mangini (hurdy-gurdy)
Costume   Katie Pollard
Photograph   Burning Moon

The sorceress

The sorceress

When I arrived at the venue a couple of days before the performance was to take place, I had the structure of a choreography, and certain images, movements and gestures I had developed working with the music and the theme of metamorphosis: the creation and dissolution of forms in the great womb; the palintropic return to origins, again and again. I divided the choreography into two movements – Towards Life and Towards Death – to make explicit the processual nature of becomings and endings, and to foreground the struggle of being in all its permutations.

But in my preparations I still had not found the animating spirit that would possess the forms and transform them. Only after the first dress rehearsal, at a certain point in the second, I felt her in me, moving me. I call her 'the sorceress.' In truth, she is so far from 'me' that to name her, to understand her, is impossible. I felt her in my flesh, in my blood, as hunger and ecstasy. 

I believe she came, not only because I had prepared my body, but because the combined spell of movement, music and space had awakened something buried deep in embodied memory; the collective effort of all the artists involved evoked an unknown, unknowable presence.

"When I dance, there are two persons in me, living together: one in trance, that no longer controls itself, and the other observing the first with lucidity. Sometimes, these two 'I' coincide and give birth to a sort of white madness, close to ecstasy." – Carlotta Ikeda