Dancing the Building: Movements Between Bodies and Built Structures
by Sela Kiek, BA, Grad Dip, MPhil
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Deakin University May 2011
I am greatly indebted to the twelve dancers and my musical collaborator, Victor Renolds, for their contribution and commitment to the studio process. Sincere thanks to my supervisors, Dr Kim Vincs, Dr Sally Gardner and Dr Mirjana Lozanovska, for their expert advice, detailed observations and encouragement. Thank you to my husband, Michael Callan, for his support and design work for the performances, and to Julia Boros and Barbara Kiek for their excellent work on the costumes. Thank you to Jordan Beth Vincent and Rollo Kiek for help in proof reading the chapters of this exegesis. Finally I’d like to thank my son, Ewan KiekCallan, whose life began at the onset of this study, and whose joy and wonder is a daily inspiration.
The built environment is often regarded as a fixed set of objects but can also be considered as ‘lived’ and composed by human occupation; our actions and perceptions create and give it meaning. The apprehension of the built environment is a two way process, where we both read and understand built structures in terms of our own bodily schema and at the same time built environments inform and compose bodily states. This practice based doctoral study examines dancers’ bodily apprehension and use of architecture in order to discover how we understand and attune to the built environment on a kinesthetic and sensual level. A process has been developed to elaborate these layers of perceptions through movement in the studio. The research is twofold: it uses the sensory and affective experience of a place to identify and articulate a range of movement factors and combinations of these factors, and uses them to develop a shared group compositional language; and, in distilling the aspects of experience that often remain invisible or unrecognised, it reveals a level of bodily discourse and engagement with the built environment that opens up new questions for architectural imagination. This study has also considered how the studio and theatre environments have informed the development of our shared compositional language, and this has revealed new levels of engagement with the performance space.
Chapter One Introduction and Methodology 1.0 Introduction 1.1. A new approach to site specific work 1.2. Summary of methodology 1.3. Participants involved 1.4. Exegesis structure
9 10 18 19 20
Chapter Two Living Architecture, our affective entanglement with the world 2.0 Living architecture 22 2.1 The built environment and movement 23 2.11 Consideration of the sensuous, temporal and moving body in relation to the maps and plans of architecture 23 2.12 Incorporation of the senses, affect and time into architectural design processes 26 2.13 The primacy of the body in experiencing architecture 29 2.14 Orienting in built space and architecture that articulates an awareness of this 33 2.15 Light, architecture and movement 27 2.16 Inside and outside: the melding of architecture and bodies in action 36 2.2 Rhythm, weight and intensity 39 2.21 Rhythm 39 2.22 Weight 42 2.23 Intensity 44
Chapter Three Methodology 3.0 Introduction 48 3.1 What a dancer’s experience of the built environment can reveal 48 3.2 Laban’s tensions 50 3.3 Dancers’ articulation of inner, proximal and extended tensions in space 53 3.4 Laban’s space, effort, time affinities 44 3.5 Foregrounding spatial tensions of the body and site for an audience 55
3.6 What dancers can contribute to and learn from a study of rhythm and architecture 57 3.7 What dancers can contribute to and learn from a study of weight and architecture 58 3.8 What dancers can contribute to and learn from a study of intensity and architecture 59 3.9 New movement states and working processes 62 3.91 Creating an original process 63
Chapter Four Musical articulations: an overview of processes and outcomes 4.0 Introduction to the studio processes 69 4.1 The studio process 70 4.2 In the studio 71 4.21 Overview of main discoveries 73 4.22 Overlapping qualities 75 4.23 Modes of orienting: perspectival and proprioceptive orienting 77 4.24 Indentifying and accentuating and accentuating 79 4.25 Scale and density of walls 81 4.26 Underfoot rhythms and trace forms 83 4.27 Intensity, the skin and stillness 85 4.28 Breath, weight and balance 87 4.29 Laban’s affinities 89 4.3 Building the overall plan of the piece 91 4.4 The studio environment 93 4.5 Assessment of the creative process in the studio 94
Chapter Five Dance and theatre architecture 5.0 Introduction 96 5.1 Planes of action and perspectival orientation 97 5.2 Bodily apprehension of theatre architecture: scale and spatial energies 100 5.3 Dance and theatre/ studio architecture: inner and outer spatial Tensions 106 5.4 Rhythm and weight in theatre/ studio architecture 108 5.5 Reassessing the performance studio 110 5.6 Findings in relation to the theatre/studio architecture and dance 5.61 Perspectival orientation in the theatre/ studio 113 5.62 Planes of action and the unique architecture of the theatre/ studio 114
5.63 Bodily apprehension of the theatre architecture: scale, sound and spatial energies
5.64 Lighting, spatial tensions and intensity in architecture
5.65 Balance, weight and space-rhythm tensions
5.7 Creating the plan of the dance in the theatre environment
Chapter Six Conclusions 6.0 The final performance 6.1 Findings and questions 6.11 Music 6.12 Lighting 6.2 Composing as a dancer
123 124 124 126 127
Appendix 1.1 Instructions for musical articulation of the campus
CHAPTER ONE Introduction and Methodology
1.0 Introduction This project set out to link the dance studio and the built environment of the University as specifically architectural sites of dance making. It questioned how dancers and architecture might be mutually informing. The relationship between architecture and bodies was investigated through a process of dance creation and a process of writing, both of which drew on literature from architecture and on experiments within theatre architecture. The built environment is often regarded as a fixed set of objects but can also be considered as ‘lived’ and composed by human occupation; our actions and perceptions create and give it meaning. For instance we appreciate the dimensions of a building in relation to our own human scale, we feel distances in relation to the time and effort it takes for us to walk them, we apprehend surfaces by how we know they feel to touch and distinguish the densities of materials by how they receive our body’s weight or weigh on us. The apprehension of the built environment is a two way process in which we both read and understand built structures in terms of our own bodily schema and at the same time built environments inform and compose bodily states. We may feel excited and weightless when we walk through a narrow opening to a wide vista, or constricted and anxious by a tight, winding staircase. We may perceive the patterning and structure of the windows, paths and pillars we walk past in the built environment as even or uneven. Such perceptions are informed by our understanding of even or uneven ‘balance’ of forces within the body, hence our bodily schema and the elements of the site itself overlap in perception. We use and are used by the built environment. Dancers’ bodies can also be considered themselves a ‘site’ from which we build perception, one informed by our movement histories, and social and cultural context. Our dancing body is taken everywhere and informs our
reception and use of the built environment, including the dance studio and theatre. As a dance artist, I am drawn to work that is created for and in response to specific ‘sites’ as I often feel constrained by the dance studio and the codified movement vocabularies I associate with it. In working beyond the dance or theatre space I find myself able to consider my own physical experiences differently to the way I usually do in the studio. It is not a geometric sense of the site that attracts me to these places, but rather my sense of these sites’ felt energies. Places can be considered not as bounded entities but as locations that have their own spatial energies. In attuning to such energies new qualities of attention and new perceptions of qualitative changes can emerge that can inform our movement practices in the studio. Within the wider field of ‘site specific’ performance creation this project provides a detailed, practice-based investigation of dancers’ kinesthetic, sensual and affective apprehension of the built environment, and a specific iteration of how a dance practice might be created from this experience of architecture. In this project the research is twofold: it uses the sensory and affective experience of a place to identify and articulate a range of movement factors and combinations of these factors, and uses them to develop a shared group compositional language.
1.1 A new approach to the concept of ‘site specific’ work My own practical work and research into ‘site specific’ dance through a Master’s research project titled ‘The Perception of Place and its Relationship to Site Specific Dance’ (2003), has provided me with insight in relation to the aims and issues faced by choreographers creating ‘site specific’ work. In my Master’s research I defined ‘site specific’ work as performance in which the choreographer took the site itself as the primary creative focus, and created and performed in that site. When dance artists have investigated a specific non-theatre site as their primary creative focus, their concerns have often pertained to the meanings and/ or movement repertoire these sites involve, including the
aesthetic, historical, political, social or cultural values and associations people have with the site and the codes of behaviour the sites might suggest to viewers or performers. My Master’s study revealed that ‘site specific’ work in the United Kingdom and the United States has encouraged people to attend to the environment in new ways by challenging social, historical and cultural ‘norms’ of the site (Kiek, 2003). Challenging these perceived ‘norms’ in my own work has enabled me to develop my dance practice, highlight the responsibilities implicit in sharing these sites with others, and draw attention to our habitual use and perceptions of a site. I aimed to challenge the gender associations of a historic council chamber site in Stories of Subsidence (2000) by having the dancers perform ‘domestic’ activities such as sleeping and playing physical games in this recognizably ‘public’ domain which is traditionally associated with the mind and masculinity in the West. While examination of the social, cultural and historical aspects of sites is important and interesting, there is still another level at which sites might be investigated: namely the sensuous and affective aspects of sites and bodies. My Master’s work was based on one of many definitions of ‘site specific’ work used by artists. Choreographers often use the term ‘site specific’ loosely and it has come to encompass all manner of non-theatre dance, from works created in a studio and performed outdoors, to pieces that respond to a place but can be adapted to similar sites, such as Stephan Kopolowitz’s Grand Step Project (2004) which can be reworked for any large staircase.1 There have also been political events that have fallen under the banner of ‘site specific’ dance, for example the ‘Happenings’ of 1960’s New York. In these ‘Happenings’ Alan Kaprow invited audience members to participate in task-based activities in specific locations in order to make a social and political statement. These politically motivated ‘site specific’ events may have inspired more recent activists such as the group ‘Improv Everywhere’ in the United States, who also create politically driven ‘site specific’ work. This group facilitates performances from pedestrians in the midst of everyday activities as a statement
Kopolowitz has defined four different kinds of ‘site-specific’ work (in Kloetzel and Pavik, 2004).
against Western consumerism. Visual artists have created installations that they term ‘site specific’. These works include the land art of Andy Goldsworthy and that of artist Christo. The latter’s wrapping of natural features and man-made objects in a variety of fabrics are, like Goldsworthy’s art, ephemeral. Dancers have often collaborated with visual artists to create site specific installations for performance. These choreographers include Rosemary Butcher (UK), whose work I discuss in chapter five. Because the relationship between sites and bodies is forceful, temporal and dynamic, I propose a different approach to ‘site specific’ work that expands on the approaches used previously by artists. All dance work is significantly shaped by and in turn recreates the site in which it is performed, including dance work performed in a theatre or studio. We are constantly responding to and creating our environment as we use it. As such, all dance work can be considered ‘site-specific’ above and beyond the artist’s explicit intention. My approach to ‘site specific’ work is sensuous and affective and relates to multiple sites. The few artists who have addressed the sensual and kinetic responses of dancers within specific sites include Trisha Brown (USA), Rosemary Butcher (UK), Leah Stein (USA), Otto Ramstead (USA) and Olive Bieringa (USA). These choreographers have used their own and their dancers’ perceptions as only one of several stimuli driving their work. American dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown has considered the studio environment in her ‘site specific’ work Inside (1978), a piece in which she read the walls of the studio as a movement score, but this study differs from her approach in that I investigated how a range of movement states were informed differently by both the studio and theatre environments. Brown, like the aforementioned artists, crafted work specifically for performance in one chosen site. This study extends on this and my own previous work, by examining in detail a group of dancers’ affective and sensory perceptions of the built environment as the main focus of creative investigation, and how these experiences can be elaborated in relationship with more than one specific site.
My exploration of our kinaesthetic, sensory and affective perception of architecture is also motivated by the general neglect of these realms of experience within mainstream architecture. In the field of architecture, examination of bodies and sites remains primarily scientific, such as Lynch (1960) and Hillier’s (1984) cognitive mapping and studies of urban and domestic movement paths. As I explain in chapter two, architectural processes tend to ignore temporality and present the built environment as removed from human occupation. When attention has been paid to the body and movement by architects there has been a tendency to view measurements and movements of the body as standardized and universal, with little acknowledgement of sensuality (Frank and Lepori, 2007, 25). I argue throughout this project that when we experience architecture we are immediately aware of varied rhythms and levels of affect. Through this project I question how sites can be considered as realms full of energy forces that are in dynamic relationship with our bodily forces. I have utilized the dancers as finely tuned resources to offer insight into this relationship. I devised a process by which the dancers could articulate their journeys through the built environment using a creative ‘musical’ system. I devised a musical code to enable them to describe their perceptions of weight, rhythm and intensity while moving around the Deakin University campus at Burwood. This process of musically articulating their perceptions of the campus was used in order to tease out the modulations and layers of awareness during the dancers’ journey through a range of buildings. Daniel Stern’s(1990) Diary of a Baby offers an example of how we might write imaginatively about these experiences. He proposes that the baby’s encounters with the world can be considered a weatherscape that is not distinctly located inside or outside the baby’s body, for the baby ‘the distinction between inside and outside is still vague: both seem to be a part of a single continuous space’. The weatherscape Stern describes ‘has duration like a chord or several notes or even a musical phrase’ (1990, 14). Stern’s writing informed the development of a process whereby dancers recorded their affective and sensory responses to the built environment of the University campus.
We then played with and elaborated these fine layers of perception as movement states, or particular combinations of qualities and modes of attention to internal and external relationships. The elaboration of movement states required the use of an environment specifically designed for dance, a space that has facilitated exploration of these movement states to a level of dynamic and structural complexity not possible in the sites where they were perceived. For this reason the dancers’ perceptions of the University campus were elaborated through movement within a dance studio. The studio process I developed to achieve this extended my interest in how the studio both informed and was reconfigured by our use of it. All dance is responsive to its site; the studio textures, temperature, walls, floor and other features inform what we do whether we realize it or not. Perhaps the most noticeable example of this for dancers is the texture of the floor and its degree of rebound: our dancing can feel and look quite different on different floor surfaces. As Martin (1965) suggests, our perceptions involve actions, even if at a micro level. The practices of dancers also ‘build’ the environment of the dance studio as much as the doorways, pillars and walls do. In order to further understand how movement is informed by and recreates the studio or performance environment I developed another stage to this study. This second stage of the process investigated how the theatre environment could inform and be recreated by the movement states solicited through the first phase of the creative process, as explained in the previous paragraph. Another concept that has helped me frame and understand what is at stake in an investigation of how movement states are informed by the site of performance is the notion of ‘tactics’ and ‘strategies’ as defined by De Certeau (1984). De Certeau’s notions are discussed by Fiona Wilkie (2002). Wilkie argues that we can define the repertoire of a site as a set of movement possibilities that are forged from cultural, social, personal and historical influences. She investigates how the signs and written information provided about a site guides users’ experience and informs the repertoire of a place, in addition to the paths, barriers, structures and
objects within the site.2 The directions of trail guides or the physical barriers or paths constructed by architects might be described as ‘strategies’ by De Certeau (1984), as opposed to the activities of pedestrians on the ground which can be described as ‘tactics’ within a space. ‘Tactics’ produce surprise, variety and creativity, and are actions that can have political force, as in the work of the group ‘Improv Everywhere’ whose ‘tactical’ actions seek to disrupt consumerist ‘strategies’. In the act of passing through the urban environment pedestrians transform spatial signifiers into something else, actualizing some of the possibilities fixed by the spatial order as well as increasing the number of ‘possibilities and prohibitions’ through making ‘tactical’ detours, shortcuts, and by jay-walking and wandering. For De Certeau ‘tactics’ or user operations are distinct from ‘strategies’ that are enacted by the controllers of spaces to maintain power. The ‘strategies’ of some theatre architects have been examined in this study. As explained in chapter five, at times choreographers ‘tactics’ work against the ‘strategies’ of the designers of the theatres they use. My own consideration and use of the theatre as a realm of spatial forces enabled me to disrupt the architectural ‘strategies’ of the theatre in my own work. I aimed to move away from the idea of the body as a fundamentally stable entity contained within a site, a view which positions a site as a background or frame that is bounded and separate from us. Within this study I consider that perception of the built environment involves a blurring between the built structures that compose and inform our movement, and what we bring to the site, including our bodily schema. In discussing site and performance Turner proposes that the space of play between the performance and place implicates each with the other, allowing each to be seen through their juxtaposition (2004, 374). What we bring to a site, including our ‘tactics’ in performance, and what is ‘of’ the site, such as its spatial signifiers and codes of behaviour, are co For example, Wilkie proposes that a trail guide might suggest which paths can be walked, which
aspects of the site should be visited and the physical positions from which the site should be viewed according to the guide book’s authors. This information composes the movement repertoire of users, in addition to the physical barriers and features that ‘govern movement around them and control the available points of entry and exit’ (Wilkie, 2002:247).
creative.3 These aspects overlap and inform one another. This study shares Turner’s view. The first stage of this study reveals the felt experience or affect of architecture within the body and the layers of our multi-sensory perceptions. While we cannot forget the repertoire of place and the social, cultural and historical aspects of our experiences, it seems important to acknowledge the primacy of our felt experiences, themselves informed by our histories, in apprehending the built environment. As Fraleigh reminds us, our ‘body of space is the origin for our perception and understanding of space in general’ (1987, 181), and this understanding is developed in infancy prior to symbolization. We also develop cultural and social knowledge through our experiences as infants once our initial perceptions become stabilized into familiar, named patterns of interaction. One of the central issues for this study is how we might describe these pre-symbolic, embodied experiences, perceptions that are fleeting and subjective. The musical articulation process I developed is a method of documenting these complex and fleeting sensations so that they could be used to develop an articulate dance practice. This involved attuning to our felt experiences “abstractly”, as though one might in infancy prior to the development of symbolic meaning. In distilling aspects of experience that often remain invisible or unrecognised, this study reveals a level of bodily discourse and engagement with the built environment that opens up new questions or avenues for architectural imagination. At the same time undertaking this architectural ‘training’ out of the studio and in the everyday world, allows us to explore beyond the fairly limited repertoire of movement often used in dance. This was one of my primary motivations for undertaking this project as I felt constrained by the usual codes of practice in the studio. The challenge or displacement of these practices allowed myself and the dancers involved in this project to refine our movement sensibilities or Rather than question which elements are ‘of’ the site and which are ‘brought’ to it, drawing on the approach of choreographers/directors Lucas and Pearson, Turner suggests that we conceptualise the site specific event as occurring in a potential space where all the elements are considered co-creative (2004, 382).
articulations in new ways, expand our knowledge, imagination and experience of possible body states and spatial distinctions. As such the dancers themselves were co-researchers, both explicitly, as their perceptions of architecture were used in the process, and implicitly, as their attention to the experience of the articulating the body states developed in the studio was their role as dancers. As such this project was developmental in terms of a dance and the dancers. I chose to utilize the Burwood campus of Deakin University for this study for three main reasons. Firstly, the studio and theatre are part of a wider University environment and I aimed to explore these sites as architectural sites of dance. Secondly, the University site is one which offers varied architectural experiences, housing a range of teaching related buildings and outdoor areas, as well as shops and cafes that offer both sweeping and intimate views from many different levels. Downs and Stea (1973) suggest that the more diverse the environments the easier it is for individuals to draw out key differences in their responses to the environment. Thirdly, it seems particularly relevant to undertake this type of spatial investigation considering the historical neglect of corporeal practice within academic institutions. Carozzi (2005) argues that academic practices, with their focus on the spoken and written word, separate discourse from action, sensation and emotion. In discussing how participants recorded their felt experiences of moving through the campus and then went about elaborating these perceptions in the studio, this written exegesis and research process is an example of how the realms of discourse, sensation and affect might inform and interlace with one another. In elaborating dancers’ perceptions in the studio we developed a detailed compositional language. The dance produced exists as another mode of enquiry, without reference to language. The methodological process by which this movement language developed emerged throughout the studio rehearsals.
1.2 Summary of methodology There are many issues revealed by this study, including that of how we can use dance as a way of thinking about and physically engaging with the world. In examining dancers’ experiences and using their thoughts and ideas to create a dance, and in utilising this dance as a way to understand the studio and theatre site, there have been complex layers of relationships to examine, producing different kinds of knowledge at different times. In using practice as research I have been particularly focused on the importance of the temporal nature of practice, an aspect that is often negated in theoretical research. As Bourdieu (1990,81) argues, central to any practice is our awareness of the unfolding of meaning in stages that are revealed along the way. Practice is unlike a theoretical study that we can present and conceptualise all at once, as we might in a diagram or chart. Describing in language the development of various stages of physical ‘know how’ developed over time through any studio process is challenging. This exegesis attempts to document some of these findings, findings that are temporal and situated, but in doing so presents them in a way that transforms them. As such the exegesis and the dance work produced in this study are different yet related modes of enquiry. As a creative research project it seems important to acknowledge that the methodology here was an emergent one. The studio process was one that drew on embodied and intuitive practices that led to new solutions. This unfolding of the methodology in process is a key aspect of all creative arts practice according to Barrett (2007), who considers the invention or innovation of such projects as the methodology itself. She argues that within emergent methodologies small changes of complexity develop to produce a level of intricacy which can then transform into a new system. The method of architectural mapping and studio development of these perceptions in this study created an original process or system that was not known in advance. A challenge for this and other practice as research projects pertains to how the dance practice is documented and presented for assessment. While it is generally accepted that dance and other arts embody tacit
knowledges that are communicated and understood in parallel ways to the written word, the presentation of material knowing ‘presents problems both in the accepted examination protocols and the subsequent documentation system’ (Phillips, Stock and Vincs, 2009, 25). In presenting the tacit knowledge developed through this study it is crucial to maintain the ‘live’ performance situation as this ‘pertains to how those particular epistemological genres are made manifest in human experience’ (ibid, 26). The live situation in performance is key for this research as it enables a viewer’s kinesthetic intelligence to be activated, facilitates a three dimensional sense of the surroundings and fosters an awareness of the varying energies between performers, the performance sites and viewers in ways that a recording of the practice cannot achieve. This is important as the dancers involved here were working to develop detailed movement textures and rhythms that embody strong connections to one another and the space they were performing in. In addition, my focus on the affective apprehension of architecture, not to mention dance, makes it important that my research be understood from actual rather than virtual space. Screen translations of dance can prompt kinesthetic responses but this is usually due to the editing process and often involves altering the dynamic qualities and camera/ viewer perspectives of the dance. So although I have documented the studio process at various stages on video camera and included this in the research documentation, I have presented the final work to a live audience for assessment. The final performances have been recorded on video, edited and submitted as documentation.
1.3 Participants involved The participants in this study were dancers known to me as students or dancers through my teaching and choreographic projects in Melbourne. They were chosen for their interest and commitment to this project. They were also participants who were able to attend the rehearsal times at the Burwood campus. The dancers were not selected for their ready-made skills as such; the dance was made out of them and their skills were developed through the studio process for the dance itself. In Chapter four
I explain some of the developments this training brought about for the dancers. There were two successive groups of dancers who worked on this process. Eight dancers undertook the initial musical articulation of the campus and worked to elaborate the movement states from their journey. A performance of the first section of the work for all eight dancers occurred in February 2009. One dancer continued on with the work and was joined by three new dancers who practiced and further refined the movement states for the second and final stage of the work. This change of personnel led to new insights as these dancers developed new questions and discoveries in relation to the movement states. I also changed roles at this second stage of the process and rehearsed and performed with these four dancers in the final presentations in January 2011. The discoveries I made as a result of this change of role from choreographer/ researcher to choreographer/ performer/ researcher are elaborated in chapters five and six. Ethics clearance was sought and gained as the dancers’ verbal comments and writing have fed directly into the studio process. The dancers agreed to contribute their responses for use in both the studio process and my exegesis. Written comments from the dancers’ musical articulation of the campus were retained by me throughout this study. I have used pseudonyms rather than their actual names when referring to them throughout this text.
1.4 Exegesis structure This exegesis is positioned in relation to the studio work as a document that maps out the relationship between the ideas and practice not as they occurred in chronological order, but as they might be best understood from the perspective of the reader. Chapter two discusses aspects of corporeal and architectural matter. Themes central to both dance and architecture include awareness of scale, weight and balance, rhythm and time, intensity and spatial
energies, orientation and perspective. These aspects have informed and have been shaped by the studio process. Chapter three describes how the study was conceived and practically undertaken. I discuss the dancers’ roles as researchers and how their awareness of rhythm, weight and intensity revealed new insights for architecture. I explain why I used dance practice as research to investigate and elaborate affective engagement with an architectural site, and how this process displaced the ‘site’ of dance training out into the world in order to reveal new kinesthetic insights. The methodology for my studio practice both emerges from and speaks to the concerns of architecture and movement, as chapters two and three explain. Chapter four elucidates the creation of the dance material in the studio. I describe how the layers of movement qualities were developed and refined to create movement states and how the emergent spatial properties of movement states were facilitated within the studio site. The studio process prompted further questions about how the studio was shaped by and in turn informed the dancing. This led to the second stage of the process, in the theatre. In chapter five an analysis of the relationship between dance and architecture is presented as it helped me to frame my ideas for stage two of the process. This stage involved investigating the materials solicited in the musical articulation of the campus in relation the theatre environment. The strategies that I used to facilitate an awareness of the dynamic relationship between the dancers’ bodies and the energies of this environment are explained. Chapter six explains my discoveries in relation to the final performance and in particular my change of role from choreographer/ researcher to dancer/ choreographer/ researcher in the second stage of the creative process.
CHAPTER TWO Living architecture, our affective entanglement with the world
2.0 Living Architecture Architecture is often regarded as a fixed set of solid objects, but it is actually a relation between ourselves and the spatial structures we perceive and use. There are many layers to this relationship across different orders of meaning, including sensory, affective, social, logical, asethetic and proprioceptive. Is it possible or useful to bracket out aspects of our awareness, such as memories and the cultural and historical associations we make about a site to focus on our immediate sensory or affective relations with architecture? This project is concerned with the sensory and affective level of this dialogue as these are areas of interest for both dance and architecture. This chapter builds the background and develops support for my argument that a ‘site’ is in fact a dynamic and temporal dialogue between the human body and architectural site. Affective and sensory engagement with the built environment has been of concern for architects, and they have explored this area through various approaches. While some have addressed the architectural plan, others have developed architectural processes to investigate these realms. It seems important to investigate this ebb and flow of affect, as it is an aspect of experience that is overlooked in the factual and logical approaches of many planners and architects4. As Massumi suggests, there seems a growing sense that within ‘media, literary, and art theory that affect is central to our understanding of our information and imagebased late capitalist culture’ (2002 27). Writers from the field of 4
Heidegger (1971) states that people make sense of their surroundings first through inhabitation and their emotional responses to them, then later quantify their actions and attitudes through science and technology.
architecture have tried to address the affective and sensory aspects of experience within built environments but their writings do not form a unified or comprehensive field, nor are they generally a part of mainstream discourse on architecture. These writers acknowledge that traditional architectural discourse needs to be supplemented by less universalising approaches. In this chapter I argue that my own practical process, whereby dancers recognise and document their affective and sensory responses to their experience of architecture in bodily terms, forms an example of such an approach. I create a rationale for my own process through examining architectural writing on affect and sensory experience, as well as the work of key philosophers such as Heidegger (1951), Massumi (2002), Johnson (1987) and the dance theorist John Martin (1965).
2.1 The built environment and movement 2.11 Consideration of the sensuous, temporal and moving body in relation to the maps and plans of architecture The maps and plans of architecture are not temporal but our relations with the built environment are. Writers on architecture such as Lozanovska (2002) and Franck and Lepori (2007) have discussed movement, temporality and sensation in relation to the architectural plan. The human occupation and use of architecture through time is as significant as the buildings themselves; the architecture is the inhabitation, as architect and academic Lozanovska (2002) describes when she writes of a village in terms of its inhabitants’ daily activities. Lozanovska (2002, 140-151) draws on the writings of De Certeau in her examination of the problems facing architectural discourse, including maps and plans, in representing the places of everyday activities and movements. In describing these problems she uses as an example the everyday work actions and pathways of women in a small rural village in Macedonia. For Lozanovska the village women’s meeting sites and their paths between and within buildings are not represented on the traditional architectural plan of the village but exist everywhere; their movements
are ‘tactical’ in the sense De Certeau suggests5. ‘Tactical’ actions defy the scope of the panoptic vision of the plan. Lozonovska asks how the movement stories of these women’s use of the village might add layers of knowledge and understanding missing from architectural maps and plans, and pursues the development of a kind of ‘interwoven discourse’ between architecture and photographic and oral movement stories. The unofficial and official knowledge of the village inhabitants might be layered in such a discourse. This approach offers interesting ideas for my own study, which is similarly concerned with how the dynamic relationship between bodies and architecture can be captured. Like the stories Lozanovska describes, the dancers’ imaginative writing about their own experiences in their routes through the campus architecture as part of this study have been used in order to reveal other hidden or unnoticed layers of information about our experience of the built environment. Architectural processes of mapping and planning generally neglect the materiality and movement of the body, although some architects have redressed this tendency. According to Franck and Lepori when attention has been paid to the body and movement by architects there has been a tendency to view measurements and movements as standardized and universal. It has been considered a body ‘expected to perform tasks in the most efficient manner possible, with few feelings, with little pleasure from sensation, rather like a machine’ (2007, 25). The image of the ‘Vitruvian man’ by Leonardo Da Vinci, is in their view, all too often reflected in architectural plans and maps, perpetuating the notion of the body as independent of objects, other people and the surroundings. Franck and Lepori acknowledge that historically architectural pictures and drawings of buildings have actively removed reference to lived bodies, their actions or experiences. According to Franck and Lepori, the drawings of architect Nancy Wolf have counteracted this trend. Wolf’s drawings provide a strong feeling of materiality and human scale, and reveal moveable openings, which for Franck stimulate movement ideas 5
De Certeau describes activities such as wandering and jaywalking as ‘the clandestine forms taken by the dispersed, tactical, makeshift creativity of groups and individuals already caught in the nets of discipline’ (De Certeau,1984, xiv).
(see picture 1.1). The possibilities of seeing inside buildings through articulated exits and entrances elicits a sense of moving between inside and out, as opposed to the images of reflective, smooth modern city buildings which in Franck’s view ‘invite neither the eye nor the body to engage’ (2007, 27).
2.1 Nancy Wolf’s design in Franck and Lepori (2007, 154)
Influenced by the Cartesian approach to experience, the ‘drawings of the modern period beginning with Durand increased the abstraction of space and architects’ conception of spaces became more removed from the occupants’ experience’ (Frank and Lepori, 2007, 158). Offering a contrasting view, architectural theorist Martienssen proposes another way to consider the architectural plan, one stimulated by the writings of the architect Le Corbusier. She examines how architectural drawings can hold and reflect movement and sensation and might be considered the ‘spoor’ of the building (1976, 116). Architect Le Corbusier commented in 1923 that ‘the plan in itself holds the essence of sensation’ and Martienssen goes on to explain that through the plan we can gain a sense of the space relations envisaged by the architect, as well a sense
of weight, time and character of the architecture. Expanding on the ‘spoor’ or footprint analogy in relation to the architectural plan, she suggests ‘that it is not only the size and weight that are indicated but other characters of the building; as with animals, the marks indicate hoof or pad, and by distribution, speed of travel, and thus possibly state of mind from tranquillity to terror’ (1976, 116). While this analogy is interesting, it maybe that it is the expertise and awareness of the reader examining the architectural track or plan that may or may not make the weight or movement readable. While size and proportion might be determined from the architectural plan, texture, light, temperature, our body’s tactile, kinaesthetic, affective and sensory awareness is not readily translatable. For these reasons it seems important that the dancers in this project do not rely on a plan or map as they negotiate their way through the architecture under consideration. I have designed the process of musically articulating the campus so that they pay attention to the way the body orients and balances itself, understands and responds to the proportions, textures, forces and densities of materials and subjectively senses the architecture and its activity through time.
2.12 Incorporating the senses, affect and time into architectural design processes Grosz (2001, 30) argues that architecture and geography have tended to ignore time, change and emergence, and thus temporality need to become more integral to design processes. Franck and Lepori (2007) also question how architects might further incorporate the role of the senses, movement and the effects of time into their practices. Franck suggests that in an attempt to draw attention to the embodied experience of architecture, Florida design studio students are encouraged to respond physically and emotionally to their own designs by building full-scale drawings or paper enclosures so that they ‘remove the opportunity that work in miniature provides to dominate the world through vision’ (Franck, 2007, 33). Franck argues that the students become participants in their own designs as they need to move through them in order to understand
them, and in this way they animate and embody architecture and understand the time it takes to use and experience it. Franck describes another practice undertaken by architecture students at the University of Pennsylvania. In order to draw attention to bodily sensations the students are asked to traverse different stairways in bare feet and pay attention to the sensations in the feet and the entire body. In order to attune to all the qualities that touch the human senses we might need to rediscover our own embodiment by ‘moving to another level of experience- to one of qualities and not only of things’ through touching various surfaces, or imagining what they would be like to touch, watching the play of light and shadow and noticing the temporality of sound, temperature, compression or expansion of space (Franck, 2007, 35). In attuning to our experience of rhythm, weight and changes over time as we move through and use the urban environment this study similarly aims to allow us to learn more about the ‘liveness’ of our world and our bodies. The process elaborated by Franck is similar to my own process of musically articulating the campus. It gives significance to bodily sensations and to the built environment around us. It gives life back to objects and surroundings: they can be seen to stretch and change their tensions in relation to our use of them. A range of architects have generated their own design processes that directly consider the affective and sensuous body, such as Peter Zumthor. Zumthor discerned the various sensual qualities of a site at Vals, Switzerland, and then created the building around them, drawing his evidence from experience, memory, and mystical and mythological traditions associated with the site (Sharr, 2007, 91). He created a collection of water spaces which the user moves through. Sharr comments that in Zumthor’s work there is a celebration of emotion and felt experience: the latter considers the choreography and sensuousness of the experience in detail for users of his buildings, incorporating a range of textures, elements, varied lighting sources, sounds and materials of varying densities (Sharr, 2007). Perhaps this is similar to Massumi’s discussion of architectural processes which, as I discuss later, closely consider qualitative space as well as Euclidean space. For him such a
building might become ‘a materialist art of qualitative body modulation, a translogical engineering of matter gone mindful’ (2002, 207). Architects Herzog and de Meuron, like Zumthor, prioritize sensuous experience as part of their design processes. Burkhalter (2010) argues that both the weight and dynamics of the building site for Hertzog and de Meuron’s, Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London, were important considerations in their creative process. Burkhalter examines the form and function of the architecture of the Laban Centre. She states that the architects considered how ‘the impact of the cityscape [of Deptford] is tracked into the dancescape through landscape, as the ramp indicates, but also into the stairways and distribution of rooms centred on the theatre-atelier’ (Burkhalter, 2010, 36). According to Burkhalter the Laban Centre architecture incorporates a ‘hollowing out’ dynamic in relation to the structure of the inner courtyards and ‘seemingly elastic’ studios. She is referring to how dance activities appear to spill out and retreat back away from the warming up platforms (adjacent to the studios), and around the centrally located theatre space. Burkhalter’s interest in the dynamic of the building in use parallels my interest in how the dance studio and theatre compose our movement. While she has examined the design process and the building in terms of the studios and their arrangement and use, I have also considered the densities, textures, weight and light of the studio and theatre as they informed our dancing in rehearsal. Architects who design with computer animation programs have been able to explore movement flows and duration within their architectural process to some degree. Braham and Emmons (2002) discuss movement and flexibility in relation to the architectural design process created by Greg Lynn, whose topological work utilises software developed for movie animations. These writers suggest that there is great appeal in the computerised, moving architectural shapes and flexible design thinking in Lynn’s work. Understanding the urban environment in terms of its ‘system of traffic, activity, resources, and information makes it evident that buildings too exist only as a result of these flows and exchanges’ (2002, 294). In Lynn’s process of blob modelling ‘objects are defined by monad
like primitives with internal forces of attraction and mass….sites become not so much forms or contours but environments of gradiated motions and forces’ (Lynn 1997, 54-61). Braham and Emmons suggest that while Lynn’s design process enables architecture to consider change over time and respond to the specific local conditions of its environment, the translation of this digital environment into an actual working structure can result in a loss of responsiveness and flexibility. The concept of attraction and mass is significant in thinking about embodiment and movement responses to the environment because movement, especially dance, is inevitably a gravitational activity. While Lynn’s architectural animations are interesting, mass as computer-generated image remains predominantly visual and weightless, unlike mass as lived and experienced by dancers. Central to this project is the premise that experience of the built environment is spatial, temporal and gravitational. Through the process I have developed, the dancers have become more finely attuned and responsive to the weights and rhythmic tensions of the body and the built environment. This project draws on the detailed insights that dancers can offer into the relationships between the body and site, and thus offers a unique contribution to the extant writing and practice on this issue.
2.13 The primacy of the body in experiencing architecture Numerous philosophers including Schilder (1970), and Carter (1996), and the architectural theorist Yudell (1977), have discussed the ways in which metaphors of space have developed through our understanding and use of the body in everyday life. The associations between upward or upright action, and goodness, consciousness, lightness and rationality, and those between downward action, heaviness, emotion and the subconscious, have a physical basis in the fact that animals and people sleep when lying down and stand when awake (Schilder, 1970, 208). Our thoughts and understanding of structures originate in bodily experiences of moving and interacting with objects as infants. The structures of verticality, containment, balance, blockage, attraction, cycles and centreperiphery are examples of bodily experiences developed as infants that
Johnson (1987) suggests we project onto situations as image metaphors to create shared understandings. Our bodies are our first means of understanding space, and the forces of gravity and balance are central to that spatial knowledge. In examining the architecture of the body and the balancing forces at work within us, movement theorist and movement educator Mabel Todd highlights the central role our bodies play in understanding the forces of motion and gravity in the materials around us. Without a working knowledge of these forces derived from our own body ‘the high steel scrapers and great bridges today would be impossible’ (Todd, 1937, 22). Through testing materials, in much the same way as we test the parts of our bodies to support our weight and move us through space and time, the architect has ‘learnt how forces act upon materials and how these must be arranged to meet the constant impact from such forces’ (Todd, 1937, 22). Franck (2007) shares this view of the primacy of the body in our experiences of space and the built environment. She draws attention to our bodily experience of architecture and suggests that architecture sometimes insists on particular ways of moving. This relates to De Certeau’s (1984) notion of the ‘strategies’ of a place, and my earlier discussion of the ‘strategies’ of architects or planners. Franck suggests that ‘short steps with no landings, tell your body to move straight up, no pausing, no turning…..Grand stairways with narrow risers and spacious landings invite slow and gracious movement. We pause at the landings, gazing out into the distance’ (2007, 56-57). If architecture suggests or invites movement then it also suggests rhythm. Martienssen also discusses the centrality of the body’s relations with architecture and how at times buildings can invite interaction with them for its own sake, and as a result they become ‘play sculpture’.6 Shrines and temples in Eastern cultures are examples of this as are ramps and modern motorways. Franck cites Anton Gaudi’s Giraldo Tower in Seville, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York and Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp ‘Where there is a sculptural quality about the building which can provide its own visual fulfilment,
and there is a tendency, when people are present, for them to explore and experience the building itself rather than to use it as setting’ (Martienssen, 1976,151). In this instance the built environment appears to promote a sense of discovery and draws attention to our relationship with it.
Chapel in France as buildings which draw users’ attention to their movement choices and encourage exploration. Architects and theorists Hillier and Hanson (1984) also examine our bodily relations with the built environment. Hillier argues that the design of urban dimensions such as the pathways of a town or suburb can informally and automatically draw people together or keep them at a distance7. Hillier investigates pathways to determine whether they are integrated or segregated and thus how they can facilitate or restrict movement and events such as informal interpersonal encounters, coawareness and street activity (Seamon, 2004, 134). Integrated pathways are those which connect to many other pathways and are thus said to be shallow. They can be accessed readily. Deep or segregated paths are those that have only a few entry points.8 I have ensured that the routes the dancers use in their mapping of the campus involve pathways that appear to be shallow or integrated, and those that are segregated, to ensure the dancers would explore contrasting urban experiences. I would suggest that sensory and subjective responses to the weather, textures, densities, out or indoor light and current feeling state are all significant factors that inform the use and experience of paths, as well as their layout and the social factors that Hillier discusses. Scale and the proportions of architecture are felt directly as bodily experience. Scale is an issue that Rassmussen has discussed in relation to music and its harmonies and disharmonies. Rasmussen argues ‘that scale and proportion play a very important role in architecture’ but further proposes that ‘there are no visual proportions which have the same spontaneous effect on us as those which we ordinarily call harmonies and disharmonies in music’ (1962, 105). He suggests that uneven soundwaves can create an unpleasant sound and can make us 7
Hillier (1984) defines the importance of convex and axial spaces in determining our movement; convex spaces being those that are spacious in terms of width and breadth, and typically become local places where people gather. In contrast he defines axial spaces as long narrow pathways through an area, which involve direct human transit in a straight line. Yudell discusses a related idea, but terms built environments that offer many options, or numerous nooks and crannies for users to explore, a ‘loose fit’ as opposed to those which dictate movement or offer limited choice as a ‘tight fit’ (1977, 66).
physically ill, but small irregularities in architecture are not similar in the effect produced and can often only be discovered by measuring. There have been attempts to connect proportions of architecture to the musical scale. The ‘golden section’ rule, or the relationship of a:b equal to a: (a+b), is one example.9 Rasmussen suggests that in experiencing such a building one does become aware that the rooms are related in size and this gives rise to a sense of wholeness. This scale is related to body size; we understand it through our relationship to our own proportions. It is critical and affective. I expand below on the idea that there might be related rhythms that can be discerned from such structural relationships, and that these are felt immediately in using a building. While architects have examined the primacy of the body in our experiences of built structures, John Martin, a movement theorist, has also examined similar themes. He discusses ‘inner mimicry’ or our translation of an object’s state of action into ourselves, for example when we perceive a very tall building we tend to respond inwardly and elongate. Martin suggests that in the perceiving of an object such as a building, we become the object as we translate its experience into ourselves, as well as consider it a thing apart from ourselves that we might touch and deal with. In both cases our bodies are involved. Our actions and our affective responses to these actions are intrinsically linked. For instance in perceiving a building we will define an opinion of good or bad according to how well its base seems to support its mass. Martin argues that perceiving involves movement at an invisible scale. When we find qualities such as hard, smooth, rough or bright in objects ‘we are actually describing the motor patterns which are set up in us by contact with such objects’ (1965, 46). In his view these qualities are primarily the names we give to neuromuscular experiences and thus ‘if it were not for movement receptors throughout the body, constantly regulating our postural changes and general movement activity, there would be no such thing as a smooth, or a soft, or a heavy object in the world’ (1965,46). These ideas connect to Laban’s discussion on the felt This scale was used in the construction of the Philharmonic building in Denmark designed by Ivar Bentsen.
‘tensions’ of objects discussed in the next chapter, and are key to this examination of the relationship between bodies and sites. The process I developed of musically articulating the campus attempts to record the dancers’ felt responses of weight, intensity and rhythm that they notice as they journey through the architecture. Consideration of how we might articulate the immediacy of these detailed sensory experiences is discussed later in regard to the writing of philosopher Daniel Stern (1990). In his text Diary of a Baby, as I noted in my introduction, he plays with the idea of describing infants’ sensory and affective experiences which are not yet symbolically organised or stabilized.
2.14 Orienting in built space and architecture that articulates awareness of this Philosopher Brian Massumi (2002) discusses two different orienting abilities that fold into one another in our experience of space. He describes proprioceptive orienting, which he considers the qualitative space of variation, as movement referenced to our previous action. As such, this mode of operating is self-referential; it incorporates the twists and turns we take, fusing its elements into a rhythm. The proprioceptive mode of orienting does not create a space of measurements as ‘to get a static measurable, accurately positioned visual form, you have to stop the movement’ (Massumi, 2002, 183). The second orienting ability Massumi describes is visual orienting, where we come to a stop and locate ourselves in Euclidean or measurable space. He argues that these two orienting abilities merge into one another and are continuously cross referenced by our other senses. Massumi proposes that when we negotiate our way without sight, as in the dark, we create a ‘virtual’ visual world of dynamic and durational space; we rely on proprioceptive orienting but also create a ‘virtual’ Euclidean space simultaneously. He discusses the possibility of creating buildings that involve ‘non visual hypersurfaces’ or ‘using proprioception as the general plane of cross referencing’ (2002, 191). Massumi cites examples of this type of building in the relational architecture of Arakawa and Madeline Gins (see pictures 2.2). These artists’ buildings elicit sensory and kinaesthetic responses
over visual ones according to Massumi. This type of architecture might be connected at some level to Martienssen’s ideas about ‘play sculpture’ or architecture that invites collaboration and participation with the architecture itself, beyond stationary looking.
2.2 Arakawa and Gins’ Landing Sites (Arakawa and Gins, 1994, 37)
The contrast Massumi describes between proprioceptive orienting and visual orienting is a key concern for this study and has informed several of my dance studio practices, including one that developed from two dancers’ experiences of the rhythms and intensity of academic classrooms. It seemed that in describing their experiences of the classroom they were very aware of both their linear, Euclidean sense of space in relation to the sight lines or perspective of the teacher’s white board from behind the desks, and their proprioceptive awareness of the
soft carpet and direction changes as they negotiated their way through the chairs and tables. Exploring these two modes of orienting in the studio has offered us an opportunity to find ways to make detailed shifts between contrasting movement states and modes of attention.
2.15 Light, architecture and movement Light maintains a strong influence on our use and perception of architecture and reveals dynamic aspects of our built environment. Attention to details such as how we notice changes in textures as a result of light variation, and the changes to forms and surfaces created by light and weather over time, are key to this study. These details can provide insight into the subtleties of our affective involvement with architecture. The ways in which lighting is experienced in moving up and down stairwells and how this informs our sense of weight and rhythm is one of the areas of experiential detail attended to through this study. The philosopher Tuan (1990) discusses how lighting and sound influences our movement and sense of time. He argues that when there is darkness space takes on a sense of tangibility as we move hesitantly and slowly, expecting some form of material resistance. In semi-darkness space may seem enveloping, creating an almost mystical state for those within it, where everyday landmarks remain unseen. In comparison, when the sun shines directly overhead, blanketing the space, Tuan suggests light creates a space lacking depth and where time appears to stand still. The importance of light and duration as aspects of our bodily relationship with architecture is another important aspect of this study. Through the mapping process within this project, Jayde, one of the dancers, described this relationship as she reached the top of a set of stairs, the bright ‘light silenced everything for a while’. It is clear that light animates buildings, just as our sense of how light changes over time can be heightened by textures and architectural forms. The impact of light on our body state is perhaps forgotten today with the widespread use of homogeneous lighting in buildings whose forms allow little external light. The subtleties
of light and dark and the responses they elicit are articulated by the writer and architect Tanizaki (1984)10. In their musical articulation of the campus the dancers mentioned the way that natural light, its variations at different times of day, and the temperature generated through sunlight, has impacted on them and their environment both indoors and out. Some noted the vastly different experiences of walking the concrete paths on a very bright day and on a day of cloud and high winds. Light has the ability to directly animate buildings, and people and nature participate directly, comment Frank and Lepori (2007, 94). Trellises, grills and openings such as windows and skylights create changing patterns and shadows. Franck and Lepori propose that natural light connects us to the presence of the outdoors when we are indoors, it can also suggest to us how to behave, how active and loud to be, how close to stand to others and how gently to move. Light remains a key consideration for architects in general. Frampton also elaborates on how luminosity can change the appearance of textures and forms in his analysis of the architecture of Tadao Ando. Frampton suggests that Ando’s houses in Japan utilise the movement of sunlight in ways that highlight the varied textures and forms of their concrete walls, revealing the ‘latex sheen of its subtly undulating surface[s]’ (2002, 308). In this way light reveals dynamic aspects of what might appear fixed or static surfaces.
2.16 Inside and Outside: Melding of architecture and bodies in action In discussing the animation of architecture as our embodied, temporal relations to built structures I have drawn on a range of architectural practitioners and thinkers who have a phenomenological approach. Schilder (1970) and Martin (1965) both discuss in depth the way objects that come into contact with the body are incorporated into it. Our body image changes as we use these things. For instance we see a tool, such 10
In his book ‘In Praise of Shadows’(1984) Tanizaki examines the detailed and subtle changes in light that animate architecture. It seems that cultural considerations arealso key to the experiences of light, and Tanizaki’s writing reflects on Japanese architecture and cultural values.
as a walking stick, as an extension of our arm and through it we feel the earth and its textures11. Through our patterns of use and habitation, space becomes like a possession: we lay claim to it by these actions. The philosopher Heidegger describes in detail this extension of our body schema out into space; When I go towards the door of the lecture hall, I am already there, and I could not go to it at all if I were such that I am not there. I am never here only as this encapsulated body; rather I am there, that is I already pervade the space of the room and only thus can I go through it (1971, 335). In his complex text Building, Dwelling, Thinking (1971), Heidegger uses a bridge as a metaphor to describe how the built environment is incorporated into our being. He explains that the bridge allows us to relate to the world, and it holds us up, presents what crosses it to the other side and reveals the world to people crossing it. The bridge creates a world in which there are opposite banks, passages over and under, crossings and joinings. According to Heidegger, we use and know this built thing as immersed in our experience rather than objectified and separate from us. The bridge becomes an extension of our bodies; it changes us as we use it and alters our movement journey. Its textures and undulations elicit particular rhythms to our walk, it raises us up in the vertical plane to see more than we normally would and we can perceive its tensions changing as we cross it. These aspects of experience are not measured and recorded but can be compared with other experiences. Meanings are created by patterns of embodied experience and perceptual structures of our sensibility (Johnson, 1987). For example, when we develop a preconceptual bodily schema for the concept of a ‘path’; we know from our own experience that a path might be open or closed, that it may continue indefinitely or have a definite end, and that it is a distance we might calibrate (Johnson, 1987, 116). These schematic structures can be considered forms of embodied, imaginative, knowledge that contribute to and guide our understanding and reasoning. We adapt 11
Frank (2007) expands on this concept of the way our body schema, or the system of motor capacities that enable movement and posture, is flexible and open to integrating the body, objects and the environment.
to, understand and incorporate things into ourselves rather than seeing them from the outside. The way we shape and incorporate space into us as individuals and groups is something dancers are particularly attuned to in the studio. Despite this, dancers do not normally attune to how we are shaped by the built structures and in turn create our environment in everyday life. In this study the dancers offer insight into these transitory experiences and reveal how our bodily energies work in dynamic relationship with those of the built environment. In documenting and then elaborating patterns of perceptual experiences in this study we have been able to further understand this inside/ outside connectivity; how our bodily tensions are informed by and help to compose the built environment. For example, how the twists and turns of a ramp might be simultaneously felt and observed as sequences of rhythm and weight. Heidegger says, ‘only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build’ (1971,160). He describes building and dwelling as poetic and creative acts and suggests we could gain insight by judging things alongside each other, comparing the range and interplay of experiences, rather than separating them out in a scientific sense. Sharr proposes that ‘the tools for measurement in his scheme were an individual’s judgement, their imagination, their senses and emotion’ (Sharr, 2007, 80)12. Examining the variation in the range of intensity or affect in dancers’ experiences of the built environment is a key concern for this study, and as a result I have investigated non-representational modes of meaning. The elaboration of the dancers’ subjective experiences of the Deakin campus architecture has particularly revealed how sensory and affective experiences overlap and ebb and flow in complex combinations. I chose to focus on the factors of rhythm, weight and intensity and their interplay in this study for a number of reasons, as explained below. I draw on the work of the architectural theorist Rasmussen, the philosopher Massumi and dance theorist Martin to elaborate these factors in order to develop further understanding of our bodily relations with the built environment. 12
According to Sharr (2007), Heidegger advocated for an increased appreciation of feeling in relation to the built environment at a time when the technocratic outlook and prioritisation of the visual were coming to dominate the modern world. He found being to resonate most strongly in experiences of high emotion.
2.2Rhythm, Weight and Intensity Dancers shape and mould space, incorporating and sculpting space as they move. They are encouraged to make qualitative distinctions even if particular dance styles place a constraint on these. In considering the relationship between the body and site I have been drawn to the concepts of rhythm, weight and intensity as felt experience, as these are concerns that are central to dance and are often overlooked aspects of the built environment. Rhythm, weight and intensity are also experiences that are temporal in nature and ones that are often ignored through the predominantly atemporal, visually oriented practices of architecture such as maps and plans.
2.21 Rhythm The structures of the urban environment are often considered stationary and unchanging and thus the effects of time are overlooked. Writer and theorist Paul Carter (1996, 2008) offers interesting insights into the ways in which artists, groups or communities create representations of places that capture the rhythmic performance of everyday life. According to Carter, examples of this type of representation can be found in art works of place. The dot paintings by the Western Desert Aboriginal people such as the Pintubi and Walpiri, are both plans of a site and traces of passages. The varied densities and pressures applied in these dot paintings also capture the movement of the artist who created them. These ideas have informed my decision to use a hand drawn symbolic code of my own to record rhythmic response to place (see diagram 2.3). Dancers using this code are able to record the subjective significance of places as they use them and share them with others. They can record what happened there subjectively rather than the social or cultural significance of the activity. While it has been argued that architect’s plans and maps conceal the dynamic nature of the environment, Carter (2008, 10) suggests that non
linearist grammars of place making and markings, such as the dot and circle drawings mentioned above, allow for gaps and intervals that are not empty, but embody within them a rhythm. These rhythms are the traces of passage. This study aims to find a richer account of these rhythms and the animation of architecture. I found Porter’s and Rasmussen’s writing on rhythm and architecture useful in devising the musical code used by the dancers in their musical articulation of the campus. Rhythm for Porter can be defined broadly: from the ‘syncopated flow’ of words or syllables, music or body movement, to the ‘pattern variations of the repetitious ordering of architectural elements- architectural rhythm and harmony giving rise to the allusion of architecture as “frozen music”’ (2004, 157). While Rasmussen argues that there is no clear relation between architectural form and music, he does hold that all modern architecture can be divided into two architectural rhythms, one metrical and symmetrical and the other ‘natural’ and asymmetrical (Rasmussen, 1959, 127). I equate the symmetrical rhythm to a two step, and the uneven to something like a Samba rhythm which stresses syncopated beats. Rasmussen discusses varied rhythms of church architecture as examples of this division: the harmony and clarity of Renaissance churches with their use of semicircular or regular shapes creates even rhythms, in contrast to the more restless, uneven rhythms of Baroque churches, which lead the user on through one different chamber after another. In Renaissance architecture the rhythmic alternation of convex and concave forms creates a sense of harmony and order in his view. For Rasmussen the rhythms of Chinese gardens, built to contrast the symmetry of the regular and regimented Emperor’s Palace, adopt meandering paths following spirals and tight curves and creating irregular gliding rhythms, not dissimilar to the modern motorway. While the paths and roads might reflect uneven, gliding rhythms in outward form, they might solicit very different experiences of locomotion and weight. The idea of even or symmetrical rhythms and uneven, irregular rhythms both as external and internal experiences has informed the process of musically articulating the campus developed as part of this study. Dancers were encouraged to attune to these rhythm variations as perceived both in the architecture
and through their own bodies as they moved about on campus. The elaboration of varied combinations of these rhythms in the studio, with accompanying perceptions of weight and intensity, has offered some complex challenges for the dancers which have tested our coordination and balance. Similar to previous discussion in relation to Martin’s (1965) work, Rasmussen argues that you can feel rhythms in your own body by ‘the process of recreation’, or the imagined use of architecture. He argues that through imagining the body’s passage through architecture we discover its rhythm. He cites an example in the Spanish Steps in Rome, which are structured in a similar way to an 18th Century ceremonial dance for four couples who advance, break and reunite, and again break and reunite as the pattern of steps and platforms do. We see the ‘dancing rhythm of a period of gallantry’ through the architecture according to Rasmussen. But as Martin suggests we can also feel the rhythms of the objects through ‘inner mimicry’, by becoming the object itself and feeling its imagined movement. Objects as they present themselves to us have their origin in our bodies. Porter similarly proposes that columns, paths or windows and their intervals and alignments can give rise to rhythms within the body. For example, rhythms found in architecture might include the three-part beat of the waltz which have been connected to the floor plans and window patterns of Renaissance architecture (Porter, 2004, 157). We understand these rhythms through our bodily schema and thus they are simultaneously outside and inside us. Participants in this study were encouraged to think creatively about how they experienced the rhythms of the campus architecture and how they might document these through my musical code and imaginative writing. Yudell (1977, 61) also discusses bodily rhythms and how ‘the ebbs and flows, weights, rhythms and surges that emanate from us are inherent in the body and its movements’ as we negotiate the built environment. There are often many rhythms at play simultaneously, for example in walking a rhythmic march we also have the rhythms of breath, our heartbeat and alignment changes all occurring simultaneously. We might also be taking in the visual rhythm of patterns within a surrounding
building and imagine ‘scaling, leaping and occupying its surfaces and interstices’ (1977, 61). Textures we see and feel can similarly give rise to different rhythms and pace. For these reasons, the dancers in this study have been able to map their various experiences and write creatively about how these might simultaneously be at play with one another, like counterpoint in a musical composition. The juxtaposition of varying rhythms and qualities perceived in moving around the campus has reminded us that body states are not always homogenous. The layering of different qualities has produced some interesting combinations to explore in the studio, for example combining a weighted, uneven rhythm with a continuous, light quality simultaneously. Dancers’ findings and reembodiment of varied rhythms from their use of the architecture has led to discoveries about the affinities between rhythm, intensity and spatial tensions. For example a crescendo of a three-four rocking rhythm appeared to create very different spatial tensions than a two-four rhythm combined with a rebounding of weight.
2.22 Weight and gravity Weight and stability are the qualities of built structures to which we respond most immediately and directly. Our bodies are the first structure, and the ways we balance as we curve away from the rain or stretch out and reach up to the sky to bask in the sun provide the basis for our understanding of architectural weight. Rasmussen (1959) has also explored weight and lightness in relation to architecture, and how historical and cultural styles of architecture have reinforced various ideas about people and their environment. He proposes that Gothic architecture reinforced the vertical over the horizontal with its sharp and pointed spires and towers, while the heavier and grander late Renaissance buildings reinforced the sense of mass and weight through contrasting convex and concave forms (1959, 142). For Rasmussen, the epitome of the weightless building is the Japanese house of sliding walls,
grass mats and verandas (1959, 100).13 While historical and cultural ideas about weight, lightness and movement inform our perception of the built environment, weight is felt within our bodies as we sense the imagined movement of the architecture and in our interactions with it. The issues of weight, balance and intensity have been closely considered in relation to the architecture of the theatre and dance studio within the second stage of this study. Schilder defines experiences within the body via our perceptions of mass in external objects and how these are known through pushing and playing with objects against different body parts (1970, 91). For example, the base of a cup of water feels heavier at the bottom when we carry it despite the weight being evenly distributed. Similarly a building’s foundations feel heavier to us than a spire. Landmarks that are very close to us can make us feel small as compared to the expansive experience of emerging from a doorway onto a large vista. All movement is felt as a change of weight, and dancers in general are particularly attuned to this. Their contrasting experiences of weight from their campus journey have been explored in the studio, particularly the qualities of the heavy, ominous walls of the larger campus buildings. Combining the sense of weight as strong forces resisting and giving in to gravity, and the rhythms connected with these walls, has worked against natural or known affinities and revealed new movement possibilities. For example we have found ways to rise slowly with resistance and ‘collapse’ upwards against a wall with strong force by organising our body weight in particular ways. Attending to these layers of perceptions has offered the dancers opportunities to refine and extend qualities that are not part of regular dance training techniques. Yudell’s exploration of weight and architecture presents other interesting concerns. He acknowledges that the pull of gravity has been a central concern for modern dancers and he cites Laban’s connection of the planes of movement and their symbolic use as key to defining this relationship. Laban’s work is discussed in more detail in the following chapters. We typically use two axes in utilising the built environment, In his view the Japanese design their houses like furniture, to facilitate motion. While the ‘white man is always seeking stability’ in Japan ‘everything is in motion’ (1959, 100).
predominantly the sagittal and horizontal plane. Yudell suggests that without the opportunity to ascend or descend and experience various changes in weight, our journey may be a dispirited one (1977, 42). While we may only use two axes in our day-to-day activities it seems that our interaction with architecture also gives rise to various internal journeys, for example a sense of floating up towards a skylight. The experiences of weight and balance within the body are key to informing our perceptions of architecture as gravity acts continuously on us. It seems that while we can and do respond to the weight and fluidity of the surrounding architecture, our emotions, the heat and light are also important factors that influence our sense of weight or lightness in the body. It is only in analysis that weight can be separated out; our experiences are multisensory and multifaceted (Stern, 1965). Dancers highly-attuned awareness of mass and weight and how this is entangled with their use and response to architecture is central to this study. Grasping these experiences and playing with them in the studio, has been a way to unsettle more established approaches to movement creation. Defining and elaborating the interplay of qualities we experience in the built environment and finding ways to heighten the detail of these, has informed our dancing.
2.23 Intensity The other aspect of movement I have chosen to use as a category linking bodies to built structures is ‘intensity’ or affect. Massumi (2002) describes intensity as a mode of being that is unqualified, and as distinct from emotions which are qualified, owned and fixed. His analysis of how affect works as an enlivening force on bodies is complex, and he draws on scientific studies to elaborate these operations. Both Massumi and Cytowic (1993) hold that perception and cognitive thought are not separate but interdependent because they share the atomic body, although they can be apprehended separately to a degree. In the unfolding of a discrete emotion or action Massumi proposes there is an excess or a fade-out, or what Massumi terms intensity (2002, 35). This
excess, or ‘realm of potential’ of actions or emotions that are not actualised, is barely noticed. While intensity is usually beneath perception in its normal function we can however attune to its fluctuations as a relational field.14 Intensity is the variation in quantity or urgency of the feeling, rather than a discrete category of affect. It can be described in dynamic terms such ‘crescendo’, ‘fleeting’, ‘punctual’ or ‘surging’. My own examination of intensity has focused on training dancers to attend to fluctuations in affective states both in experiencing architecture in the musical mapping, and in elaborating movement states in the studio. I discussed Massumi’s notion of intensity as a realm of ‘potential action or expression’ with the dancers prior to their mapping in order to help them describe the fluctuating intensities of their campus journey. Frank and Lepori focus on the affective aspects of our relationship with the built environment, in order to challenge the status quo in architecture which they consider offers an ‘incomplete approach to design that is based on market values, abstract personal aesthetic criteria, technical standards, and the mechanical reproduction of repetitive types- an approach to design that lacks concern for human, physical and emotional values’ (2007, 6). Franck and Lepori examine ideas concerning the way the materials of architecture can create ‘energy fields’ that interact with our own personal energies, and these ideas connect closely to this study of intensity of affect within the built environment. They discuss how different materials act on the quality of our perceptions, and how other elements such as water and trees can create ‘soft, vibrating, reflecting, moving and singing volumes and surfaces’ (2007, 86). At times their writing echoes that of writer and psychoanalyst Daniel Stern (1990). As already noted, Stern’s writing has been used to help stimulate the dancers’ imaginative writings on intensity. He defines the rise, development and ebb of intensity from the perspective of a baby in Diary of a Baby (1990). The baby is caught up in the immediacy of its 14
Intensity might be ‘punctual’ or ‘continuous’ in nature in Massumi’s view. When punctual, he suggests it is often described in negative terms, as in a shock, where we suspend our connection with purposeful activities or expressions. But according to him this suspension is not passivity, it is filled with resonance. When the ‘continuity’ or gradual trace of affect is put into words it is often in positive connotations (2002, 36). The latter is akin to our ‘sense of aliveness’ or changeability.
experience, rather than past or future, and thus is less concerned with why or how events occur but is closely attuned to the ‘feeling tone’ of experiences. Stern describes the relation between architecture and intensity for the baby in musical terms, ‘suddenly a piece of space stands out……It stands motionless and sings out a bright melody……far away, large soft volumes now show themselves. They beat out a slower deeper rhythm’ (1990, 23-24). The waves of intensity that Stern describes unite internal and external worlds. For example, as the baby feels hunger its perception of the rhythms and intensities of its surroundings change. Stern distinguishes these variations in rhythm and intensity from discrete categories of affect, such as sadness, fear or anger. He terms these variations ‘vitality affects’, and suggests that the infant is far more likely to perceive the acts of adults around them as ‘vitality affects’, rather than discrete categories of affect (1985, 57). Stern’s imaginative writing helps to define how our personal energies have a significant effect on our experience of materials, and within this project it is the dancers’ individual responses to these energies that are key. I introduced the dancers to Stern’s writing in order to help them elucidate their affective experiences in the musical mapping of the campus. Discussing how we might compare or distinguish between our experiences of the built environment through our senses and affective awareness, the architectural theorist Yudell explains that when our sense of order, orientation or balance is challenged, such as on cascades of stairs or entrances or exits that are precarious, we become aware of our own movements and spatial relationships more fully, we are on ‘alert’ in order to respond to the situation (1977,65). One sense might be pitted against another by the architecture to create an unsettling feeling. For example Yudell describes the way that, on approach to St Peters in Rome, the building looks closer than it actually is because the statues in the distance are larger than those in the foreground (1977, 96). In such an instance the feet feel the distance but we experience an optical illusion. This type of disorienting situation prompts a heightening of all the senses in Yudell’s opinion, a sensory state which we can only sustain for short periods. This connection between disorientation and intensity was described by the dancers at various stages of their journey. In elaborating
the fluctuations of affect as we use the campus architecture the dancers in this study were particularly able to appreciate how our bodily relations with architecture are temporal, dynamic and subjective. The following chapter explains the method through which this was achieved.
CHAPTER THREE Methodology
3.0 Introduction Dancers can potentially offer detailed insight into the temporal, subjective perception and use of everyday environments. This chapter will explore dancers’ abilities to discern varied intensities, weights and rhythms in using the built environment, and provide insight into how these layers of perception operate. These aspects of experience have been chosen as the focus in this study into affective and sensory relations with architecture as they are elements that dancers are potentially highly attuned to as a result of their training. Study of our affective relations with the built environment can offer back to dancers information that is useful for their own dance practice, for example, enhanced understandings of movement qualities, then possible combinations of these, and new processes for creating dance. Consideration of what dancers can contribute to and discover from a study of the built environment has informed the development of an original methodologic process elucidated here. In summary, this process involves the dancers documenting a range of felt states in relation to rhythm, weight and intensity and then elaborating these states through dance within the studio to create a shared compositional language. This shared movement language is also informed by and recreates the studio and theatre environment.
3.1 What a dancer’s experience of the built environment can reveal Dancers potentially posses an ability to be highly sensitive to changes in weight, flow, time and space as felt experiences as a result of their training in the dance studio. This training potentially creates more detailed levels of articulation in the body and awareness of distinctions within the world, than in non-dancers. As such, dancers’ detailed descriptions of the rhythms, weights, energies or intensities that they
perceive through non-visual senses in the built environment can provide access to levels of experience rarely considered. As mentioned in the previous chapter, non-visual and affective relations with architecture are often overlooked in studies of the built environment due to the dominance of sight and scientific discourse in Western culture. Similar to Dempster (1999) and Foster (1986), the cultural and social theorist Tuan (1977 and1990) discusses this hegemony of sight in the West. He expresses his desire to explore non-visual sensory awareness, sentiment, and place through examining theatre and performance. Tuan suggests that the ‘cognitive’ power of the senses has often been overlooked in scientific discourse on perception and that with practice we can improve our sensory awareness to discern significant ‘worlds’. He asks ‘can senses other than sight and touch provide a spatially organized world?’ (1977: 11)15. Just as we might train to discern greater awareness of our perceptions of smell or taste and their properties, dance training can develop in dancers detailed awareness of weight, rhythm and balance, and thus an acute awareness of the dynamic and forceful ‘world’ within the body. In this project I aimed to direct dancers’ sensibilities towards our body and its relations with architecture to discover how they might understand this relationship as a ‘world’ or realm of dynamic forces. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Johnson describes how our perception is structured by ‘bodily based image schemata’ and proposes that this image schemata is not a template or visual image but a pattern of ‘perceptual interactions and motor programs that gives coherence and structure to our experience’ (1987, xiv)16. Dancers attend to these patterns of perceptions in detail in the studio when dancing but often ignore them in everyday life as they are considered ‘not dance’. In distilling some of these patterns of perceptual interactions and motor Descriptions of taste use geometric terms such as ‘flat’ or ‘sharp’ and odours can similarly be
‘heavy’, ‘delicate’ or ‘light’. He explains that the five senses reinforce each other in determining spatial awareness, for example taste involves touch (with the tongue) and smell, providing us with information about the size, density and texture of the substance being tasted 16 Johnson (1987) suggests that these patterns of perceptual experience are then projected metaphorically across various domains of experience, including science and art, and are used to help us organize our more abstract understanding. These include bodily based patterns of containment, balance and force.
responses, such as how they might experience balance, weight and rhythm in moving through a narrow doorway to a vast lecture theatre for example, the dancers can elaborate some of these perceptual layers and motor responses at a finely-tuned level. In exploring what dancers can reveal about how built environments are perceived and transformed by our use of them I aimed to develop new levels of awareness and understanding of our relationships with architecture.
3.2 Laban’s ‘tensions’ Laban’s work on the planes of action, and dancers’ use of dynamics, space and time have offered a useful framework for my thinking about how dancers’ experiences might offer new insights into our experience of architecture. Laban considered the deeply sensorial realities of the body in writing about dance and thus his terms have been used frequently in describing the practices developed in this study. He considered the world as an arrangement of energy forces both around us and in us17. For Laban, space can be understood as ‘an arrangement of rhythmical vibrations on a vast scale, of waves and dynamic streamings’ (1984, 51). This view can be connected to the previously cited ideas of architects Frank and Lepori (2007, 74), who propose that the materials of architecture create energy fields that interact with our personal energies and give rise to feelings and desires. Understanding the structural forms that exist around us as dynamic and giving rise to felt experiences within the body, enables recognition of the connection between space and time, and that between structural values and expressive values, according to Laban (1984). Laban perceived that even inert objects contain movement, their immobility retaining the imprint of movement and the human or mechanical energy that created them (in Louppe, 1994, 31). Laban termed these movement energies the ‘tensions’ of objects. Movement tensions might arise from the contours of 17
It is Laban’s view that ‘one has almost entirely ignored the dance-like formative element in moving energy’ due to exaggerated attention to causal knowledge in Western society (1984, 2021).
the object and the ‘axial flux of energies’, for example towards and away from its centre. For example, there is a spatial tension between the centre of the seat and all four legs of a chair. A spatial tension can be defined as a counter-tensioned force in a particular direction that helps a person to balance or move with control. For example there exists a tension between at least two body parts when we create a line of extension or a curve through the torso. In movement there are often multiple spatial tensions at play in a dynamic relation in order to keep the body balanced. As Louppe explains, ‘at each moment the body is multiple, including its intentions and intensities, and in the tangled play of tensions and counter-tensions’ (116, 2010). Laban considered closely the spatial tensions that can run from, through and around the dancer. He orientated these on a grid of twenty seven directions to create a cube around the dancer (see diagrams 3.1 and 3.2), with six points up and down, front, back, right and left, eight points high and low on the diagonals and twelve in between points, four on each plane (sagittal, vertical, horizontal). Overlaying the Cube and the Octahedron below creates these twenty seven directions.
3.1 Laban’s Cube (Maletic, 1987, 61)
3.2 Laban’s Octahedron (Maletic, 1987, 61)
Laban developed his movement ‘scales’ through exploring how the movement of spatial tensions through different planes, directions and levels involves changes in movement qualities, relations to gravity and affective states. Dancers understand these spatial tensions as multidirectional and involving continuous transformation and change (Laban, 1984, 17). Tensions can occur between body parts or from the body into extended space. In this study the dancers described the overlapping rhythm, weight and affective tensions in using the campus. We then explored these spatial tensions in relation to the studio architecture. How the textures, densities and structures of the studio might help to facilitate these tensions has been a central question within this process.
3.3 Dancers’ articulation of inner, proximal and extended tensions in space An awareness of inner tensions, tensions within the kinespheric or proximal space of the body, and extended tensions in space is key to dancers’ discussion of their use of the campus in this study and in the development of the movement states developed within the studio. For example, in moving through a series of footpaths the dancers can potentially recognize the rhythmic twists and turns of their bodies in inner space, and the extended trajectories of the paths as ‘felt’ experiences. The objects or structures around us such as the chairs and walls of a classroom, are stable but they inform our movement, they give us planes and angles at the proximal level and these can become directions in extended space. Dancers potentially hold a detailed understanding of this connection between extended space, and proximal and inner space of the body. In discussing dancers’ use and understanding of space Louppe (2010) explains that micro movements can resonate across the entire space from whatever direction they began. While inner impulses to move and change direction at the proximal level can be transformed into the level of traveling (movement through space), dancers also work with movement impulses from the periphery. We can move as though pressed and shaped from an outside or peripheral force, at which point our inner space becomes passive or receptive. In this study, dancers’ knowledge of spatial tensions, as described by Laban, provides insight into understanding our experiences in using and perceiving the built environment, and then the studio and theatre. Through the musical articulation process I outline below, this study reveals how bodily tensions created through our use and perception of objects around us meld inner and outer landscapes. Through the musical articulation of the campus the dancers record their perception of internal and external tensions or states. For example, they describe the ebb and flow of intensity in walking towards and through passageways, up stairs, ramps and amidst classrooms. While movement and its play of intersecting forces transcend verbal interpretations, Laban states that the qualities used within movement are describable just as music is in terms
of sound-patterns and rhythms (1984, 48). This study of architecture and movement has involved us as dancers and choreographers articulating in detail this melding of internal and external worlds by drawing on Laban’s terms, as well as terms from music and the writing of Daniel Stern (1990). John Martin’s (1965) writing on personal spheres, or ‘fields of action’, and the multiple ‘auras’ that are created between bodies in dance, has also informed my thinking about we might describe the interplay of spatial tensions both internal and external to us. He proposes that these ‘auras’ overlap, play and rebound off one another. Louppe (2008) similarly suggests that space can appear to move and form itself between bodies and dance amongst them, irrespective of whether the dancers converge or move apart and disassociate from one another. In other words, there are projected spatial energies between dancers even when they are at a great distance from one another and even if they are still. In this project I aimed to reveal how patterns of spatial tensions of the body can be developed and played with amongst the dancers. I use the dancers’ capacities as finely-tuned instruments to discern how these spatial tensions of the body might operate in relationship to the studio and theatre sites.
3.4 Laban’s space, effort, time affinities Laban’s so called ‘affinities’ between various modalities of weight, flow, time and space have framed my thinking in relation to the studio process. Laban defined a range of what he termed ‘natural affinities’ between planes and directions of action, effort and time qualities; these are interdependent with the body’s potential and limitations (in Bartenieff, 1980, 90). Laban suggests that when affinities are broken ‘additional energy’ is often used. This is not only a result of the body working against gravity, but because in breaking affinities we need to use the impact of body weight for a particular purpose (in Bartenieff, 1980, 89-90). In musically articulating their campus journey the dancers describe combinations of qualities which, when elaborated in the studio, work against natural affinities. For example, a sudden collapse upwards
against the wall with heavy weight, works directly against the affinity between lightness, rising and verticality. In this case dancers are able to find ways to slowly shift the centre of their weight away from the wall and gather their limbs centrally in order to fall upwards with strong force. Exploring broken affinities provides insight into how our bodies prepare to work with particular intentions in mind. Working against ‘natural affinities’ has also led to insight into how we use and understand the spatial planes of sagittal, vertical and horizontal within and through the body. For example, in moving forward or backwards with sudden, strong force dancers found that using the vertical plane by rising on the backwards action or descending on the forward action, helped us to retain balance and control. This process has led us back to exploring the spatiality of the body itself rather than replicating particular movement styles.
3.5 Foregrounding spatial tensions of the body and site for an audience Within the studio process close consideration was given to the way the dancers’ kinesthetic space can be shared by viewers. I explored how the various practices might best be experienced by the audience in order to maximize the felt tensions of body states. I aimed to discover how I might build the resources of the dancers in order to help them amplify their felt tensions. I drew on the writings of movement theorists and practitioners Mabel Todd (1937) and Mary Fulkerson (1977) to generate images and sensory experiences that might help us. Fulkerson (1977) and Todd (1937) explain that we can use physical constructions such as pendulums and towers of blocks, and sensory experiences of the physical structures of the body, to create images that connect the body to the world. We can use architectural images such as crossing a bridge in the act of transferring weight over the bones of the foot to find deeper connections within the body and ease within movement (Fulkerson, 1977, 14)18. Becoming aware of the spatial energies around and through us can 18
We might better understand the forces acting on the structure of the pelvis in standing upright if we learn about the forces acting on the keystone of a bridge; ‘the oblique lines of force, coming through the shafts of the femora from the ground are redirected towards the keystone [or the
help us to identify and feel our internal structure as a system of volumes, weights and rhythms. The reverse is also is possible; we can learn more about the structures around us by understanding our own bodily structure and its energies. These images engage the dancers in activities that have both practical and imaginative content rather than simply reproducing solutions. Like Todd (1937) and Fulkerson (1977), I developed a range of structural images, sensory experiences and ideas to help the dancers deepen their awareness of the felt energies within their bodies so that these might be shared by an audience (see chapter four). I considered closely the dancers proximity to the audience and the audience’s viewing location so as to maximize the sense of exchange between them. For Louppe, individuals manage and construct their own kinesphere and in the same way ‘each of us is linked to a specific space, whose imaginary charge, whether or not we think of ourselves as dancers, has an extreme signifying force’ (2010). She proposes that in a performance this kinesthetic space is shared with viewers when spectators’ own spatial awareness encounters that of the performers: when viewers look at the dance the space of movement and space of perception communicate. Dance and movement theatre can put participants and viewers in touch with ‘areas of interpenetration, exchange, and isolation, “auras” and “lines of energy”’ (Schechner, 1973,12). This is precisely what I intended to foreground through the performance of the movement states we developed, and the proximity and spatial relations between the viewers and dancers was one of the keys to achieving this. Tuan believes that for a performing individual space is primarily a kinesthetic feeling, while ‘to the spectator space is a kinesthetic feeling to the extent that he is able to identify with the performer’ but is also ‘a visual pattern “out there”- a pattern woven by the performing figure’ (1990:238). He explains that compared with performers, spectators are much more conscious of the changing visual patterns in space during a pelvis] by tensile forces- muscles and ligaments’ (Todd, 1937, 116). Thus we might consider the bridge both as something you walk over and a structure that walks.
performance, and less aware of the ‘tingling energy’ that is experienced by performers. In this study one of my aims was to make the varying tensions of the movement states more tangible to the audience. I aimed to develop strategies that would help the dancers attune to the weight, intensity and rhythmic qualities of their movement but also to discover how the studio itself might help facilitate these tensions. I aimed to discover how the structures, the textures and densities of the walls, floor, exits and entrances might structure and accentuate particular movement qualities, as discussed in chapter four.
3.6 What dancers can contribute to and learn from a study of rhythm and architecture Dancers are potentially able to define simultaneous rhythms of the body and their tensional states, including those of walking, breath and everyday use of the environment. Through the dancers’ musical articulations of the campus in this project, they have been able to identify distinct rhythms, weight and affective qualities of their experiences, such as those of climbing ramps, crossing thresholds or walking past pillars. Investigating dancers’ awareness of overlapping rhythms and weight qualities in the studio can reveal new understandings of rhythm-space connections. One of the movement states in the studio elaborates the experience of climbing a ramp, an experience likened to a three-four rhythm of heavy weight by one dancer. Accentuating this rhythmic, swinging quality facilitates particular aerial pathways and spatial tensions within the body. Knowledge of this connection between rhythm and spatial forms builds the resources of the dancer and potentially generates a more articulate body. Laban also investigated the relationships between rhythm, spatial tensions and trace forms. The latter are the aerial pathways of the limbs and head through the kinesphere. He explains the connection between rhythms of the body and the spatial relationships they create, ‘the shapes which rhythms take on in dynamic space are astonishingly manifold…similar or even identical to the wonderful patterns which life
produces and science unveils’ (1984,50-51). For example the structure of atoms or the movement of particles in electrolysis all have parallels in dance according to Laban. He suggests that understanding the body’s rhythms in movement can be a source of inspiration and knowledge about the natural world. He describes rhythms of interaction between bodies in dance, such as those of fleeing or following, sympathy or antipathy, which he considers not merely symbolic ideas but complex sequences of tensions. He explains that ‘spatial directions combine into tensions and sequences of tensions which are not mere symbolic thoughts but rather chords of bodily gestures endowed with expressive power and conscious intent’ (1984, 52)19. Dancers are practised in understanding rhythmic chords of tensions in the studio, but they can discover new rhythmic chords in their perception and use of the campus. In this study we have found many new combinations of tensions, and in one instance played with different space-rhythm qualities in each half of the body. I sought to create relationships between these new chords of tensions and the studio environment. This has enabled us to consider the performance site as a realm of spatial forces that we can attune to and use in performance.
3.7 What dancers can contribute to and discover from a study of weight and architecture Exploring weight and the effects of gravity potentially allows us to escape from perspectival space, and opens up other means of understanding space. Dancers in this study describe the ebb and flow of weight qualities solicited from the campus and elaborate these in the studio. We explore resisting and collapsing against walls and floor of the studio, pressing body parts against each other and in contact with other dancers. The question of balance and support in relation to gravity has been key throughout the studio process. Louppe suggests that one important distinction between the way space is represented in the ‘scopic’ arts of 19
Louppe discusses related ideas and suggests ‘rhythm is a kind of transformer between signals given off by the sonorous, plastic environment and the body which integrates them, returns them and transfigures them through the gamut of its organic reactions’ (2010, 112).
painting, sculpture and cinema, and how it is presented in dance, is the question of weight and support. While sculptural works do explore weight to some extent, Louppe holds that dance is quite unique in that our apprehension of space first begins with our experience of our body’s supports and our alignment in relation to gravity (2010, 140). She argues that we first experience this in relation to the parental body and then through our own corporeality in relation to the ground. For Paul Virillo (1994, 37) it is important to bring weight into perception and to acknowledge the weighty body as the origin of our vision of the world20. Within this study I have used the dancers’ detailed perceptions of weight in using the campus and in elaborating these experiences as movement states in the studio to make new discoveries. For example, in developing collapsing and resisting qualities against the studio wall we have made discoveries about the densities and vibratory qualities of walls and the body. In investigating weight and our relationship to architecture as we did here, we can discover more about the porousness of the body; how we absorb sensations, matter and structures as energy tensions as well as project them. At the same time we can consider the porousness of the built environment and how its surfaces and structures are felt as weights, patterns, densities, forces and rhythms that are in relationship with us.
3.8 What dancers can contribute to and gain from a study of intensity and architecture Dancers are familiar with exploring patterns of bodily tensions at an abstract level, prior to their definition as discrete emotions or ideas. In documenting and then physically elaborating the perceptions experienced on their campus journey as patterns of spatial tensions the dancers have made visible how materials act on the quality of our perceptions before they are named. Barteneiff suggests that Laban’s term ‘tension’ can be used to describe the tension of elastic materials but also nervous or emotional tension and tension between individuals or 20
Virillo, suggests that Laban first exposed this feeling of falling or the quality of the loss of support, and our perception of the ground as a result of the weight of the body.
groups. For Laban all these meanings are aligned ‘since to him tension changes in emotional or thought processes are visible and traceable in the patterns of the body’ (Bartenieff, 1970, 17). As discussed in chapter two, I have drawn on Brian Massumi’s (2002) discussion of intensity in order to further define the way we might experience its ebb and flow. For Massumi intensity is described as the non-conscious field of perception or the arena of incipient or imminent action or expression. A moment of imminent action involves sensory responses at a micro level that happen too quickly to be perceived, although we can notice variation in the levels of intensity to an extent. For example, when we are about to have a serious accident, before we are conscious of what is happening we often experience a gap of suspended animation, an extremely intense moment where awareness of our unfolding experience is heightened but where we are unable to define precisely what it is we are doing, thinking or feeling. Intensity is not the same as emotion, which is a qualified perception that is known and recognized like other discrete perceptions. It is the suspended moment before we actualize or identify a thought, action or an emotion. Intensity appears to be most clearly manifested in the skin, our surface interface with things (Massumi, 2002). When we experience the skin prickling this can be a sign of heightened intensity; this can be positive or negative. Intensity is distinct from a defined or owned emotion for Massumi (2002), and can perhaps be considered the quantative aspects of affective states. Stern’s discussion of ‘vitality affects’ relates closely to Massumi’s notion of intensity. Stern suggests that ‘vitality affects’ ‘are better captured by dynamic, kinetic terms, such as “surging”, “fading away”, “fleeting”, “crescendo”, “decrescendo”, “bursting”, “drawn out” and so on’ (1985, 54). He suggests that there are two aspects to ‘vitality affects’, ‘activation’ and ‘hedonistic tone’. ‘Activation’ refers to the intensity or urgency of the feeling quality, while ‘hedonistic tone’ refers to the degree to which the feeling quality is pleasurable or unpleasurable (1985, 55). It is the former, or ‘activation’, which is of most interest to me in this study. I have been particularly drawn to Stern’s musical description of ‘vitality affects’ as his way of writing captures the ebb and flow of patterns in time, without ascribing discrete categories to these affective perceptions. Hence the
musical code I developed for the dancers to use in their articulation of the campus. Stern explains that music and dance are clear examples of ‘vitality affects’. ‘The choreographer is often trying to express a way of feeling, not a specific content of feeling’ (1985, 56). Stern suggests that dance and music reveal simultaneous ‘vitality affects’ and their variations.21 Movement theorist John Martin discusses a similar notion. He suggests that while movement can be the result of emotion or idea, people from the earliest times have danced to express feelings that could not be expressed by other means. Dancers have explored ideas or affective experiences that they have been unable to articulate through language, and that have created changes in body state through the tensions of muscles and in breathing. The ‘artist senses something unknown or unknowable and expresses it irrationally; then through the continued contact with this expression, he or others begins to attach a certain tangibility to the idea’ (1933, 11). The variation in body states Martin describes can be likened to Stern’s ‘vitality affects’. In using the everyday environment for tuning us in to variations in intensity we can begin to discern some of the patterns of ebb and flow that are often overlooked. For example, dancers in this project describe the gradual build of intensity in reaching the top of a barricaded ramp when the vista before them is revealed. We daily rely on our surroundings to know where we are and where to go. We take in this information through our senses, almost to the point where we sometimes lose a connection with an awareness of our bodies; our awareness of embodiment is often in the background, so to speak. It seems that through attuning more closely to the affective cues the environment presents to us, how welcoming it might be to inhabit or engage with, or how it might encourage or discourage certain patterns of moving, feeling or occupying it, we can recognize the blurring and interconnection of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ experiences of using architecture. In developing this He likens the role of the viewer of abstract dance or music to that of an infant watching an
adult. The adult’s behaviour has no intrinsic expressiveness, but ‘the manner of performance of the parent’s act expresses a vitality affect, whether or not the act is (or is partially colored with) some categorical affect’ (1985, 56).
knowledge further, dancers can become more attuned to the variation in ‘feeling tone’ that we discern within the built environment. As a result the dancers are practising dancing when walking around the campus.
3.9 New movement states and working processes In documenting and then re-embodying the energies of these ‘lived’ tensions in their musical articulation of the campus and exploring these in the studio or theatre, the dancers have developed ways of working that do not form part of the standard range of contemporary dance classes. This kind of ‘architectural training’, provides an opportunity for dancers to refine and experiment with various combinations of qualities of weight, rhythm and intensity and their ebb and flow. For example, in reembodying the smoothness and continuous rhythm of a painted concrete wall at the same time as a pulsing, weighted rhythm of pillars of bricks, we can play with the simultaneous experiences of different textures, intensities and experiences of weight. As dancers we can use these gradations of experience to discover detailed transitions between various combinations of qualities to extend our movement range and challenge our skills. By elaborating the felt experience of architecture in the studio and noticing the distinctions we make in using the built environment, dancers can also discover how we transform and are informed by the studio and theatre spaces we use everyday. As I have already noted, the dance studio and its walls, textures, light and colour inform and compose our bodies even if we are not conscious of the changes taking place. Throughout the studio process I have been interested to discover how the dance studio informs and is in turn composed by our movement states. This prompted a second stage to the research process that involved discerning how the theatre provided various ‘feeling tones’, or intensities, and informed differently the practices we had developed in the studio. Simultaneously, I aimed to discover how we create change and reconfigure the dynamic tensions of the theatre through our use of it. Our bodies can be described in terms of temporal forces that are responsive
to the ‘local conditions’ of the performance environment as we use and recreate it. For example, in elaborating certain weight and rhythm qualities in movement in close proximity to and against the walls in both the studio and the theatre environment, we examined the way the densities, light, proportions and textures of these different environments could inform our movement. Dancers can also work to stretch and redefine the site through amplifying the energy tensions of the environment including its forms and textures. This detailed awareness of the dynamic relations between our bodily tensions and those of the different performance environments extends our usual ways of working in dance and offers original processes for creating movement.
3.91 Creating an original process The “musical articulation” of the campus and the elaboration of the various layers of perceptions in the studio, enables dancers to deepen their understanding of patterns of weight, rhythm and intensity and their related spatial tensions. The development of this musical articulation process is one of the original aspects of this study. The aim of the musical articulation of the campus was to enable us to access the full gamut of possible qualities that are experienced in our use of the built environment and to find a way to record this range of responses. The dancers were asked to write about their subjective, temporal perceptions. What language do we use and how do we acknowledge the difficulties in recording often indistinct or multi-layered, embodied sensations into some form of writing? As Massumi explains, ‘the problem is that there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect’ (Massumi, 2002, 27). In order to help the dancers define and attend to intensity, weight and rhythm in response to the campus architecture I asked them to read a sample of Diary of a Baby by Daniel Stern (1990) directly before the mapping took place. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Stern’s description of intensity relates to the imagined experiences of a baby, Joey. The baby has limited ideas about different contexts experienced and the social, cultural or historical connotations
they may have. As such the baby is caught up in the immediacy of the experience rather than in memories, associations or future predictions, although these do occur from time to time in some form. In Stern’s writing, the baby experiences and identifies sensations prior to naming the things to which they belong. The baby also blurs the distinction between what is self and not-self; he is directly caught up in and responsive to the changes in his environment. As explained, this blurring of inside and out is part of our experience as adults but is not usually recognized, for example we might particularly notice that moving into a suddenly bright and expansive space is uplifting and lightens us. For the baby the blurring of inside outside is constant and ‘each moment has its own sequence of feelings-in-motion: a sudden increase in interest; a rising, then a falling wave of hunger pain; an ebbing of pleasure’ (1990, 14). It is these dynamic sequences of ebbing and rising intensity that Stern describes in a musical sense that is key for this study. In thinking about and using this kind of writing the dancers were able to define and document their own ebbs and flows of intensity in a similar way. Stern’s writing offers a process or vocabulary that allows us as adults to recapture a sense of an immediacy before judgement. In addition to reading the writings of Stern (1990), the dancers were also introduced to a musical code of terms to help them to describe experiences of rhythm, weight and intensity as they used the campus. As explained above, I chose to develop a musical code as musical language captures the dynamic ebb and flow of intensity over time, without naming discrete affective states. I was inspired by Stern’s writing, for example his description of ‘a perceived flooding of light, an accelerating sequence of thoughts, an unmeasurable wave of feeling’ (1985, 55). I chose the musical terms of the code after reflecting on my own body’s rhythms, weights and intensities and sounds in walking the paths, buildings and stairs around the Burwood campus. Rasmussen’s (1959) comments and those of Yudell (1977) discussed in 2.21, also informed my development of this musical code (see diagram 3.3).
3.3 The musical code used by the dancers I decided to focus on the distinction between asymmetrical (or uneven) and symmetrical (even) rhythms. I differentiated these even or uneven rhythms in terms of different weights and speeds. The code I devised offered three options of asymmetrical rhythms, a light and fast Bossanova, a mid-weight uneven nine-eight rhythm, and a heavy, slow five-four. My code also included three different symmetrical rhythms, a fast, light polka, a mid weight pop rhythm or a heavy, driving march. I also gave the dancers a range of musical symbols that they could use to help further qualify their experiences, these included the terms crescendo, diminuendo, grave, staccato, legato, allegro, adage, and accented. The musical code was used as a way for the dancers to define the feeling tone or energetic tensions of experience. They read and considered the musical terms and a sample of Stern’s text just prior to musically articulating the campus. I also described Massumi’s
interpretation of intensity, or the fluctuations of a realm of potential action or emotion not yet realized. I asked participants to follow a set of written instructions (see Appendix) for a journey through a site and to keep in mind their experiences of rhythm, weight and intensity, as well as the musical code and Stern’s text. They followed this set of instructions for their journey so that they were not concerned with other operations in that environment, as they would be if I asked them to articulate a route undertaken as part of their everyday activities. Their intention was to journey through the site on foot, paying attention the qualities outlined. Undoubtedly they did use operational and inferred modes of perception their journey, but I aimed to reduce these by prescribing the journey and their thinking to some extent22. I decided to ask participants to recall and document their rhythm and intensity in writing directly after the actual journey, as opposed to recording it en route, as I aimed to reduce the distractions and keep them predominantly in responsive mode in experiencing the site. I realized that in recalling this information after their journey that many aspects of this could be forgotten and altered. The extent of this loss or mutation was another key question for me. In analyzing the drawn or verbal ‘cognitive’ or ‘imaginative’ articulations or maps from participants of various studies Downs and Stea (1973) acknowledge that these maps are distorted, incomplete and depict discontinuous surfaces. I predicted that I would also find large gaps and contradictory recollections of certain places. I therefore thought it would be important to ask participants about their experiences so I could modify the journey to make recall of their experiences easier. As a result the musical articulation experiments were conducted a number of times. 22
Appleyard (1973) defines three main areas of environmental perception; operational, inferential and responsive. The operational relates to our activities, tasks and goals, the inferential, the associated ideas and images we create and the responsive the distinctive or eye-catching elements of the surroundings that intrude on our operational search. While these three modes of perception overlap, as do awareness of the self and architecture, I aimed to try and allow the responsive mode to become dominant by directing the dancers’ intentions towards their response to and use of the architecture, rather everyday work-related tasks or associated ideas about the site.
I suspected that individuals’ memory of experiences would vary in the degree of detail and perhaps also in terms of the sensations and architectural features attended to. I was also aware that the participants’ use of the symbols and writing on intensity would also differ, some would use the symbols and write little description, others vice versa. Downs and Stea (1973, 21) also concern themselves with the issue of ‘signatures’ belonging to individuals or groups23. While I intended to try and reduce the differences in individuals’ spatial activities, intentions and operational responses by prescribing a journey through the site for them, I had little control over their values. I acknowledged that while some participants would enjoy and write about their perceptions of environments that use natural light, cool colours and have high ceilings, others would be drawn to focus on darker, more intimate spaces. Stern suggests that even for infants there is an awareness of different intensities; ‘how intensely he feels about something is probably the first clue he has available to tell him whether to approach it or not’ (1990, 18). He suggests that infants are drawn to things that are of moderate intensity, ‘it increases his animation, activates his whole being. His attention is sharper’; the object seen becomes like a magnet. (1990,18). I suspected that individuals’ own responses to varied levels of intensity would lead them to focus on entirely different areas of the sites visited, thus I knew it could be very difficult to compare any of the participants’ writing. I aimed to discover if the individual experiences of the dancers would offer some insight into the range of rhythms, weights and intensities experienced and how these might overlap and combine. Following the initial musical articulation experiments I clarified the weight qualities of the rhythms in the code to offer a more distinct range of options for the dancers to choose from. This enabled greater clarity of qualities. I also found that on shorter journeys the dancers’ writing became more detailed. As a result I asked dancers to explore a number of shorter journeys through specific pathways and buildings that became 23
Downs and Stea (1973, 21) suggest that the ‘signature’ or encoding and decoding of information is as important as the content of the map itself. Differences in mapping signatures often occur due to individuals’ various spatial activity patterns, values, intentions, focus on different things in varying degrees and their intentions in using the environment in question.
interesting to me as a result of their initial comments. These areas included a wooden ramp, stairs and certain teaching and lecture rooms. In total the dancers completed two long articulations and two or three shorter ones. Four months after the musical articulation experiments described above I asked all dancers to explore their own spontaneous journey through the campus in order to attend to the architecture through their feet, either with or without shoes. They used the same range of symbols developed for the previous mapping experiments. There appeared to be more shared or similar responses to the musical articulation of these ‘foot’ experiences in comparison with the first experiments, perhaps because the dancers were particularly attentive to touch and the balance of weight over the feet, rather than many other layers of proprioceptive and sensory responses. As a result, body weight, textures and the structures of surfaces underfoot were regularly commented on, less so the weight, rhythm or proportions of the walls or space above them. The next chapter discusses the perceptions that were elaborated as dance in the studio and the process through which this occurred. The questions that emerged through the process of elaborating these states are discussed and I examine the dynamic relationship between the dancers’ bodily tensions and those of the studio site.
Musical Articulations: An overview of processes and outcomes
4.0 Introduction to the studio processes The studio process I developed has involved the dancers as research participants; they attuned to their journey through the campus with a dance sensibility and provided insight into these experiences, but in addition, they attended to their experiences as they elaborated movement states in the studio. The musical code I devised enabled dancers to describe the affective ‘feeling tone’ (Stern, 1990) of their use and perception of the Burwood campus architecture, rather than relating that architecture and experiences in it to facts and symbolic meaning. From the dancers’ musical articulation of the campus various sequences of perceptions were selected and explored as movement within the studio, leading to the development of a range of movement practices or states. A movement state can be defined as a combination of movement qualities and modes of attending to internal and external relationships. The findings from both the musical articulation of the campus and the studio process suggest that both the body and the built structures we use can be considered dynamic partners in relationship; the built environment appears to change and stretch its energy tensions in relationship with our bodies as we use it. In developing an understanding of this dynamic, temporal relationship between the body and the built environment I have departed from the way in which many architects and choreographers have viewed the built environment, as static, atemporal and geometric. There have been two central strategies in the studio process that have allowed me to tease out the temporal relationship between the body and the built environment. Firstly, I initially worked to help the dancers remain closely attentive to the movement qualities of the body states. We explored the emergent spatial properties of these states as a secondary
consideration. Secondly, we sought how to facilitate and structure the movement states in relation to the spatial tensions of the studio. Key issues reflected on throughout the studio process, and discussed in previous chapters, are elaborated here. These include overlapping qualities; modes of orienting; planes of action; scale and density; rhythm and texture; intensity, the skin and stillness; breath, weight and balance; Laban’s movement affinities. 4.1 The Studio Process The studio process has involved discerning the various rhythms, intensities and weight qualities at play through dancers’ experiences, and then discovering how the combinations of qualities discerned might be elaborated in a dance or as a dance. In my initial rehearsals I asked the dancers to choose a sequence or combination of perceptions from their musical articulation of the campus that they found most interesting. This initially led to mimetic movement as dancers began to echo the spatial forms of the site that their comments related to, for example, they gestured to the lighting fixtures and replicated the angles of paths with their arms. After some experimentation I found that it was most useful to ask the dancers to work from their written articulations of the campus which interested me because of the apparent interplay of perceptions involved. I reminded the dancers not to think of the visual aspects of the built environment that produced these weight, rhythm and intensity qualities, but to attend to the gradations of textures in their bodies. As these body textures were created anew in each rehearsal and performance, one of the difficulties of this process has been how we rediscover and refine these textures of weight, intensity and rhythm in each subsequent studio rehearsal and performance. This has involved a process of trial and error and has led to the development of processes and practices. We discovered that we needed to develop the imaginative resources of the dancers through imagery, remembered tactile experiences, breathing techniques and through using concrete forms and structures, such as the walls and doorways. Studio exploration of certain qualities and combinations of these, revealed challenges which are discussed below in relation to the body textures, or states of bodily
tensions. The central questions that have arisen from the studio process include:
What activities or techniques have helped the dancers find a detailed level of understanding and performance of the qualities distilled from the musical articulation of the campus as suggested by the descriptive terms? What particular spatial tensions (both within and projected from the body) and ‘trace forms’24 have developed from the rhythm, weight and intensity states defined? How might the states or practices developed challenge our usual ways of working in dance? How has the studio itself informed the body states developed and helped to structure them? How might these states be best shared with an audience? What new information might be revealed for architecture? Have the movement practices developed in this study extended my own and the dancers’ understanding of dance technique and choreographic processes?
4.2 In the Studio My own movement values have been central to this choreographic process and have been challenged in some respects. These have been particularly informed by my own training in Modern dance, influenced by Graham, Cunningham and Limon, and contemporary release-based techniques such as Alexander Technique and Skinner Technique. Like many other release-based movement practitioners I am particularly 24
Laban’s term ‘trace forms’ refers to the aerial pathways that are carved through the air by the limbs and head as they move around through our kinesphere.
interested in the ways in which we can find efficient movement and clear alignment through detailed knowledge of our body’s anatomical structure. Finding imagery and vocabulary to improve movement efficiency, and to help define the qualities of movement in the body has been a central aspect of this process. As a choreographer I value movement that explores variation in regard to space, time, weight and flow, and thus creates complex challenges for a dancer that go beyond codified vocabularies. I have sought to challenge the dancers involved in this project by building the movement states to complex levels in terms of the range and interplay of time, weight and intensity qualities experienced and modes of attention utilised. I have drawn dancers’ focus to the changes happening in their own bodies and in relation to one another and the studio. Some of the movement states proved more challenging for particular dancers than others. For example one of the dancers found it extremely difficult to release the tension in her hands and head in the ‘light/ resistance state’ and she required more time and individual attention to discover the movement texture in her entire body. Our prior training as dancers deeply informs the body and working to extend each dancers’ individual movement range has been one of the challenges of this study. In this process, I initially remained concerned with weight, rhythm and intensity within the movement states, and thus elaboration of group structures and patterns in space was a secondary consideration. Reflecting some of Laban’s work on the relationship between rhythm and spatial forms, we amplified the movement qualities of each state to identify the trace forms and spatial tensions that they produced. Having defined what these were, I then sought to build group forms and arrangements so that these might best allow an audience to be involved in the qualities of the dancers’ bodies. This in itself is not an approach usually adopted by contemporary dance training methods, as our methods often focus on replicating shape and spatial pathways as a starting point for learning. I used the studio architecture to structure some of the group arrangements, further amplify the qualities of movement states, and to facilitate a sense of connection between the studio and
dancers’ bodies. I also considered the placement of the audience in relation to the studio’s structure.
4.21 Overview of Main Discoveries Exploring how qualities might overlap and ebb and flow in movement terms has been one of the most revealing aspects of the musical articulation and studio process. For example, in the ‘percussive/ sensing’ state described in more detail below, we did not represent a series of pillars or walls and their spacing, but rather revisited the felt qualities of strong weight and uneven rhythm in the pillars, and the fluent, light weight and continuousness in the painted wall, simultaneously, by practicing a split of awareness down the centre line of the body. This ‘percussive/ sensing state’ required the dancers to maintain contrasting modes of awareness in each half of the body and developed their ability to coordinate complex actions of different qualities. An important aspect of the musical articulation of the campus was our discovery of how the rhythms of perspectival and proprioceptive modes of orienting overlapped in the dancers’ experience of a classroom. These overlapping modes of orienting were explored within the studio. For example, in the ‘classroom mapping’ state we adopted perspectival orienting when we aligned our bodies with the spatial tensions extending from the studio doorways and walls. The dancers also explored these same tensional lines as sudden impulses within the space of the body. We discovered techniques such as attending to particular aspects of the studio architecture in relation to the body that assisted us in moving quickly between these contrasting modes of attending to space. Identifying and amplifying the trace forms that emerged from this and other practices, enabled us to appreciate our body as our primary experience of space. Throughout the studio process we have sought to discover tools to deepen dancers’ capacity to make the different states accessible to others through movement. These have included the use of breath, tactile memories and imagery. The significance of tactility in recreating varied
levels of intensity, rhythm and weight qualities has been highlighted by this process. In the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ and ‘percussive/ sensing’ practices, drawing on remembered tactile sensations helped us to find greater specificity in our movement. The connections between breath, weight and balance have also been central concerns throughout this process. In the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ practice elaborated below, dancers used breath to improve their use of the qualities of light weight and fluent flow, and resistance and release. When we use and perceive architecture our sense of breath, weight and balance are involved but often below our consciousness. In exploring through movement the detailed changes in weight, breath and balance we might experience when engaging with the built environment, we can find layers of intelligence about architecture different to those developed through traditional mapping, drawing or sketching practices of architects. These themes formed my overarching foci. I elaborate below the specific development of aspects of these foci. The table below provides an outline of the seven movement states we developed in summary form. Movement States Percussive/ sensing
Qualities explored The dancer’s body is divided vertically, one half dancing percussive, strong force irregular rhythms, the other sensing with slow, sustained movement.
Dancers align with and observe the angles and planes of the room in stillness. This is contrasted with sudden, internally propelled versions of these angular, linear forces.
Walls of weight
Dancers work with strong, resisting forces against the wall, with a slow, continuous rhythm. This is
interspersed with sudden, weighted collapses upwards or downwards. Stairs
Dancers work with fast pace movement of light weight. This develops to a gradual crescendo of heavy weight and slow pace. The reverse sequence of qualities is also explored.
Dancers work with sudden, percussive forces pulling the body backwards as it walks calmly forward. The reverse sequence of pulling forward whilst walking backwards is also explored.
Concrete lecture theatre
Light weight, sustained, floating forces evolve into sustained, strong resistance outwards or downwards. Resistance builds slowly to a crescendo and then a sudden release.
Dancers build to a gradual crescendo of a rocking, three/ four rhythm.
Light force, slow, sinking forces are interspersed with an occasional upward, rebounding force from the floor.
4.22 Overlapping qualities In examining the dancers’ writing from their musical articulation of the campus I noted that they experienced different rhythms, weights and
levels of intensity simultaneously. For example, various overlapping rhythms were often discernable for the dancers and, while one might meld into another fluently, their interplay could create a crescendo in intensity.25 In the studio we explored moving simultaneously with contrasting rhythms and weights and investigated how certain qualities might ebb and flow or become dominant over others. This interplay required the dancers to shift both gradually and quickly between very different body textures, and to dance some simultaneously. For example, in the ‘percussive/sensing’ practice we elaborated qualities drawn from the experience of walking past uneven, strong pillars and a smooth concrete wall. We imagined dividing the body vertically and the dancers used the image of one side of their body becoming a weather vane, sensing the texture of the surroundings and maintaining a calm, adagio quality of light weight. The other side of the body percussively cut and sliced the air with an exciting, staccato quality which came and went in an irregular rhythmic pattern. The undulating, curved and detailed folding in the sensing side contrasted the angular trace forms of the opposite, percussive side of the body. Dancers practiced this ‘percussive/ sensing’ pairing whilst moving around and in contact with others. This created challenges for the dancers as they had to perform complex actions with simultaneous adagio and staccato qualities. Further challenges arose when we alternated which side of the body performed which qualities. The ‘sensing/ percussive’ pairing in the body, dividing the body down the mid-line, is uncommon for dance as a dancers usually attend to their body as a unity. While some dance training methods encourage students to consider different qualities in the top and bottom half of the body, dividing the body horizontally through the waist as in the floor work of the Graham technique, dance training rarely divides the body vertically. I wanted the dancers to be able to amplify and move articulately between different body states so that they would make these changes in state more accessible to the audience and facilitate viewers’ own awareness of 25
Jayde explained of the central atrium in one of the larger buildings (La), the ‘clashing, competing rhythms at play cause[d] me some visual anxiety’. As she moved towards one end of the building ‘the giant rectangular arch[ing space]- grand and tragic and very full, dull[ed] all the other layers of sound’.
their bodily experience. In observing the ‘percussive/sensing’ state I hoped the audience might also recognise the staccato and adagio musicality of their own bodies. All of the movement states involved the ebb and flow of varied weight, intensity and rhythmic qualities, and these practices created contrasting spatial forms. We also explored transitions between the unique movement states in order to find further challenging combinations of qualities. For example, in merging between the ‘foreboding’ practice and the ‘mapping’ state dancers were required to move with qualities of staccato, strong force whilst creating extended tensional lines leading them forward or backwards. These transitions, like the ‘percussive/ sensing’ pairing described above, required dancers to combine qualities that challenged their coordination and balance, and often required very different modes of awareness and orientation.
4.23 Modes of orienting: perspectival and proprioceptive orienting In elaborating the affective and sensory experiences from the dancers’ musical articulation of the campus environment, I noted how at times the proprioceptive rhythms of movement were foregrounded while at others the externally oriented perceptions were dominant. In initially discussing dancers’ perceptions of a classroom, we spoke about how we might remain still and observe the ordered and regular, parallel lines and angles of the classroom’s desks and the white boards, structures that mirror each other. Then as we move through the room the right angles of desk legs and chairs directly inform the body, creating twists and turns at right angles. We experimented with these ideas in the studio. Dancers practiced observing the geometry of the dance studio and carefully mapped with their body the angles and planes of the studio from stationary positions. We explored this precise and careful mapping both close to and at a distance from the studio’s walls, ledges and floor. The dancers found more detail in this texture by arranging their bodies against a structure such as the studio doorway, and then recreating this movement at a distance from the doorway whilst aligning with it. In adopting perspectival looking, the dancers needed to attune at some level to their bodily forces in order to balance, but could predominantly
attend to the spatial tensions of the studio and consider their body’s tensions extending out to the external environment. We explored how the ‘mapping’ actions could be attended to as internally propelled actions, similar to the twists and turns of the body as it negotiates moving around chairs and tables. Dancers investigated feeling the spatial tensions of these ‘mapping’ actions within the body as a fast sequence of impulses that required quick shifts of weight. Rather than creating deliberate, extended lines of force, these sudden tensions felt in quick succession within the body created trace forms of curves and arcs and produced syncopated and exciting rhythms. The dancers practised and became adept at transforming from the slower, careful, rhythms and tensional lines in the perspectival ‘mapping’, to the fast, curved and more intense, internally propelled tensions. These internally propelled actions, which drew on proprioception over visual orienting, were facilitated by dancers’ attention to the quick tensional forces between particular body parts. We accentuated the pull, spiral or reach within the torso and limbs to the point where balance was almost lost. Amplifying the emergent spatial tensions in this and other movement practices led to an appreciation of how our bodies are our primary experience of space. The rhythms dancers described as they journeyed through the campus at times seemed to rise and diminish, moving from the centre of attention to the periphery. Stern suggests we are in a dynamic relation with objects because of the play of forces of attention and periphery (1990). For example, he suggests that warm and intense colours seem to come forward to us while cooler colours recede to the periphery (1990, 21). This process has alerted us to the detailed temporal phasing in and out of different qualities and intensities and as such it becomes clear that architects’ choice of materials and forms have a considerable impact on us. While perspectival orienting, or looking at the environment from a fixed, singular location is commonly used and represented in architectural practice, working from an experience of moving unsighted around familiar buildings populated by other bodies, or mapping walls and doorways through touch and weight, can foreground the role and interplay of all the senses. Different modes of awareness are used in overlapping ways to
help us to orient ourselves. There is interest amongst architects to explore how a building might speak of and to the body. For example Richard Blythe’s company ‘Terrior’ developed a design process which draws inspiration from the patterns of shadows we create and perceive as we use a site (2010). As mentioned in chapter two, some architects such as Peter Zumthor, have designed buildings specifically to foreground hearing, touch and smell. Dancers and choreographers might usefully collaborate with architects to explore these areas of commonality. Our ways of operating depend on physical and perceptual experiences which overlap, connect and ebb and flow. Understanding how this might occur seems important in the Western world as our tendency is to categorize and separate out phenomena ‘breaking the world apart into pieces and assuming independence where we might see relationship’ (Franck and Lepori, 2007, 164). This Western tendency to classify and separate phenomena as containers that divide up the world has significantly influenced architecture. Separateness is reflected at many levels according to Franck and Lepori. For example, the segregation of houses and activities, and the creation of bounded types of places like walled suburbs or areas of homogenous use. As a result of this dominant approach there is a need for ‘greater opportunity for the distinctiveness and peculiarity of each building’ (Franck and Lepori, 2007, 165). Architects and choreographers might work together to consider the spatial tensions or trace forms at play within houses and work environments, and how our bodies and buildings operate in field of energy relationships, to create exciting collaborative projects.
4.24 Identifying and accentuating emergent spatial tensions In the studio practices developed we investigated the interplay of different affective, rhythm and weight qualities and considered the particular spatial forms that evolved from these. In examining the emergent spatial properties we began to attend closely to our use of planes of action. For example, in a practice we termed ‘wooden ramp’ the vertical plane
became a focus. In’ wooden ramp’ a slow, three-four waltz rhythm and a crescendo in intensity were elaborated from a dancer’s perception of climbing a ramp. From these qualities a gradual rocking motion developed into large dimensioned falls and tilts. Dancers refined the practice through further accentuating the arcs and spiral tensions that were created in the body. Three-four rocking actions appeared most efficient and balanced when instigated from the torso or the legs, and with a sense of pushing into the floor. We worked to amplify this vertical spatial tension by pushing and rebounding to and from the floor. As the intensity of the crescendo of the rocking built we allowed the head and spine to fall away from the vertical axis and used a strong push downwards through the legs to recover our balance. Consideration of the vertical tensions running through the body in pushing down into and up from the floor, and falling away from vertical to create a build in intensity and weight, was central to finding a controlled crescendo in the waltzing, rocking of the ‘wood ramp’ practice. Use of the vertical and saggital planes became the focus when dancing the qualities of the ‘foreboding’ practice. The ‘foreboding’ state involved irregular, percussive forces that slowly built to a crescendo of weight and intensity. After the peak of the crescendo there was a sudden and significant drop in intensity, and a transition to a light weight, legato rhythm. This was a sequence of perceptions that Ava and Beth described in walking towards and into a large, darkened lecture theatre. In elaborating these qualities the dancers initially began to explore an increasing staccato force which pulled them backwards as they tried to walk a direct path forwards. We found that we could improve our balance and control throughout this practice by allowing the staccato ‘pulled back’ actions to draw us up on the vertical plane in order to allow the body to fall forward (the saggital plane) and into walking again. When we experimented with reversing the direction of the ‘foreboding’ practice, walking backwards and being percussively ‘pulled forwards’ in a crescendo, we discovered that when we are ‘pulled forward’ quickly the pelvis and supporting leg need to descend to enable us to maintain balance. In direct opposition to the pulled ‘back actions’ the weight of the body needs to be low and direct for us to confidently shift weight forwards
and then back into walking. Dancers became more proficient at creating the staccato crescendo of ‘pulled back’ or ‘pulled forward’ actions by using vertical tensions through the body to assist with control and balance. Both the ‘foreboding’ and the ‘wood ramp’ practice provide examples of how going back to our understanding of space in the body and the space that the body creates can be revealing. While the three planes of vertical, horizontal and saggital are part of architectural vocabulary historically, we use and understand these planes in relation to our bodies. This knowledge informs our perception of built environments. This process of elaborating qualitative states has enabled us to go back to our primary experiences of planes, experiences that are first explored in infancy, and to reassess how we move, over replicating particular movement styles. Such an approach can be likened to Dalcroze’s exploration of the rhythms and forces of the body as it stumbles or falls over and around objects. This formed part of his system of training in music and movement (Dalcroze, 1984).
4.25 Scale and density of walls: vibro-tactile energies The scale of some of the larger buildings and campus walls were noted by dancers in the musical articulation experiments. The way in which we perceive scale is an area of interest to this study and to Rasmussen (1962), who describes the way the scale and proportions of buildings might be felt as even or uneven in rhythm. I was interested in Jayde’s description of the weighted feeling of the ‘ominous’, ‘operatic arch’ in one campus building’s central atrium. She and a number of dancers connected the arch to a grave quality, strong weight and an uneven, fivefour rhythm. We began to elaborate the qualities of sustained resistance and sudden collapses of strong weight. The dancers experimented with collapsing upwards or downwards suddenly on the first count of a fivefour rhythm and then moving with sustained and grave musical qualities, and strong resistance for the remaining four counts. Imagining slowly levering our bodies up like a crane, and then giving in to a great weight to
move suddenly, upwards or downwards, was an image we found useful to find detail in dancing this combination of qualities. The movement maintained a continuous grave, intense feeling tone. When the dancers worked with heavy weight on the wall and floor they created various sounds; the thud from landing on the wall, the soft brushing of the plaster and the clang of hitting the plastic skirting board, all added another layer to the rhythms of the movement. In observing the dancers I noticed that when they attuned to these sounds there was an increased detail in their movement and I could sense both the subtle and strong vibration of sound energy through their whole body. The dancers’ bodies and the site shared in the varied energies created; the slapping, thudding and soft sliding rhythms vibrating through both. This seems somewhat similar to the ‘vibrotactile’ experience Henriques describes in relation to dancers felt experience of music at a Jamaican Dancehall event.26 The dancers’ bodies in this project became like sounding vessels. The walls’ density, texture and connection to other walls resonated through the dancers’ bodies as they used them. In architectural discourse a wall is often represented in scale drawings as a line, or line with varied thickness, and these lines are often the same despite the variation in texture and density of the wall. These representations eliminate detail and lack any sensuous connection, although as explained in chapter two, Martienssen (1976) suggests architects themselves are able to read architectural maps similar to a footprint and can discern more qualitative information than others. For most, the architectural line obscures much, including the geography of the ground it stands on as well as weight, texture, light and colour. Paul Carter suggests ‘we seem to think as much as we draw, in straight lines and flat planes’ and that this linear writing mummifies the dynamic character of our environment (Carter, 2009, 5). Through the dancers’ musical articulation of the campus it is clear that we are immediately aware of weight, rhythm and the dynamic balance of objects around us. Henriques investigates the vibratory rhythms and affects at Jamaican Dancehall events where
the sound and energy tensions move through bodies, walls and objects and transfer from one medium or milieu to another (2010, 64). He draws on Lefebvre’s rhythm analysis (1998) to examine the frequency, intensity and timbre of the event’s many affective rhythms, from those of the blood and nervous system to the music, day/night and seasonal cycles.
The dancers have been particularly articulate about how certain large scale walls and proportions of the campus are felt rhythmically. In the studio their bodies played with and enlivened these rhythms and those of the studio walls. In using the built environment we often overlook the amount of detailed information we glean through all the senses: ‘man…fabricates by abstraction, ignoring and forgetting a great part of the qualities of what he uses’ (Valery, 1932, 65). To explore the weight and rhythmic qualities of walls from around the campus as well as those within the studio can provide us with a much thicker or richer set of experiences to take account of or greater articulations. The dancers’ use of the walls in this practice indicate how we can attune to and create detailed energy relations between architecture and the body.
4.26 Underfoot rhythms and trace forms A number of the practices we developed increased our ability to distinguish between and layer different movement qualities. The development and interweaving of two practices, that of ‘wooden ramp’ and ‘metal steps’, involved contrasting rhythm and weight qualities that were elaborated from our use of the campus. ‘Metal steps’ was a state that developed from the dancers’ perceptions of climbing a metal staircase. For example, Gretel experienced vivace, light, rebounding qualities and an even march rhythm. We elaborated these qualities and noted that the lively rebounding actions that resulted, predominantly used the vertical plane. The dancers explored sustained sinking or melting with light weight, followed by a fast, energizing rebound. The trace forms of the practice initially involved spirals and indirect paths in light weight melting, followed by a direct and sudden wave up through the centre of the torso. The shoulders, the elbows and hands drew up and towards the body’s centre line. Like the energizing clash of a cymbal, the energy pulsed up from the floor and then reverberated lightly outwards. The lively and light, vertical rebounding of ‘metal stairs’ contrasted the spiraling, three dimensional, crescendo of rocking actions of ‘wood ramp’ mentioned earlier. The ‘metal’ practice appeared surprising and energized, and the ‘wooden ramp’ calmer and more predictable by
comparison. I decided to alternate the ‘metal’ and ‘wood ramp’ practices, just as we might walk on one structure then the other in everyday life. The dancers became very articulate in their shift from the crescendo of the rocking waltz rhythm, with it’s spiral trace forms and sense of fall and recovery, to the vertical rebounding, light weight and vivace qualities of ‘metal steps’. This transition was facilitated by allowing time for the dancers to attune to the different use of weight in each practice. For example, they created very subtle rocking to begin the ‘wooden ramp’ practice in order to sense their own push into the floor beneath them after the lively and light upward rebounding of ‘metal’. Perhaps the most salient thing to emerge from this interplay of rhythms is the range of spatial tensions we can attune to within the body; the crescendo of rocking and spiraling of one texture (wood ramp) to the lively vertical bursts of another (metal steps). Consideration of the range of qualities and levels of intensity we experience as we walk on different surfaces can alert us to the contrasts we experience in everyday life but have perhaps become desensitized to. Noticing the rhythmic transitions that occur in the body as we walk on different textures, structures or into cavernous space or tight spaces, can reveal to us how the built environment is connected to time. Similar to Stern’s (1990) discussion of how we develop spatial and temporal knowledge through observing the architecture and rhythms of the face through social interactions with others as infants, we also develop spatial knowledge about the rhythms of ebb and flow as we move through buildings. We understand and recognize stairs, entryways, lifts and ramps through rhythms and the weight we feel in the body as we use them. Each of these experiences has its own time and weight trajectories to which we can attune. A tight entry opening to a cavernous space, a winding stair or ramp, animate our corporal experience qualitatively. As Louppe reminds us ‘there are no spatial forms except those that are elaborated as body experience’ (2010, 143). The variety of patterns of perceptions elicited from underfoot surfaces and built structures indicate that architect’s choices in regard to these surfaces do significantly inform our bodies. Rasmussen’s (1962)
discussion of the Spanish Steps in Rome, mentioned in chapter two, describes the dance rhythms these steps suggest. Similarly, spiral shaped rooms, such as the Guggenheim museum created by Frank Lloyd Wright, and other spiral buildings might also create a sense of fluent flow and infinite time as we perceive and use them. As Martienssen argues, the spiral trajectory ‘forces a continuous movement forward on the spectator…. [and] tends to emphasize, along with the movement past, the temporary nature of the experience’ (1976, 102). Architect Steven Holl specifically considered the density of elements in relation to time and weight in his creation of the Stretto House, the design for which paralleled Bela Bartok’s Music For Strings, Percussion and Celeste. Holl divided the house into four sections to match the four musical movements. He paralleled the division between heavy percussion and light strings with ‘heavy orthogonal masonry and light curvilinear metal’ (2007, 31). Choreographers could have useful discussions with architects about these themes of rhythm and weight which are central to both their fields. Such discussions could provide further insight into how sites and bodies change over time, an area that the philosopher Grosz (2001, 30) suggests has been generally ignored within architectural practice.
4.27 Intensity, the skin and stillness As part of the project I have worked to find ways to help the dancers to recreate the intensities and rhythmic qualities of each movement state anew in order to maintain a concentrated focus on these qualities in each subsequent rehearsal. We found that one of the most effective ways to recreate different states of intensity was through remembered tactile experiences. This was particularly evident in the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ and ‘percussive/ sensing’ practices. The ‘concrete lecture theatre’ practice evolved through elaborating a dancer’s experiences of a particular lecture theatre. In the studio we explored a transition between qualities of heavy weight and strong resistance, qualities which a number of the dancers connected to the deep set windows and concrete walls, and light, fluent flowing, vibrant
rhythms, that were associated with the red colours and smooth textures of the carpet and chairs. We investigated how contact with the skin might promote these weight and affective qualities. We discovered that having a partner lift and hold our limbs facilitated a sense of their weight, whereas light brushes and taps on the skin appeared to facilitate the feeling of lightness and a fluent, breezy rhythm. This brushing led to more subtle articulation through all the joints of the arms and hands including the fingers, and it also created sudden and fluent upward impulses. The dancers continued to use these remembered experiences of brushes or taps against their skin as a means to help recreate the light weight qualities. Similarly in the ‘percussive/ sensing’ pairing the dancers also used the memory of brushes against the skin to heighten the ‘sensing’ quality. We noted that when we brushed the skin of another with the ‘sensing’ side of the body it resulted in increased articulation and greater softness in the fingers, torso and feet. Vera commented that as the dancers moved away from one another in this body state, their adagio ‘sensing’ side could carry with it the memory of moving around or against another person. Practicing this memory of moving around another presented a way to keep the adagio ‘sensing’ quality more detailed; when one senses another in close proximity we not only feel their movement but their heat, smell, breath and thus our awareness involves many layers. Attending to the imagined smell, breath, heat and movement of another whilst ‘sensing’ the space, added more subtle layers to the dancers’ awareness and created greater delicacy to their movement. While remembered tactile experience was key to the ‘percussive/ sensing’ and ‘concrete lecture theatre’ states, intensity in stillness was noticeable in the ‘stairs’ practice. In this practice the dancers elaborated the qualities of a crescendo in weight and a diminuendo in pace. These qualities were drawn from dancers’ stair climbing experiences. The dancers explored this trajectory of qualities with a set movement sequence and then investigated performing the same sequence in retrograde, reversing the changes in weight and time. In observing this state I noticed that the gradual qualitative changes in this practice
engage the viewer in the pull of either slowing down or speeding up before one realizes objectively what is going on; time and weight are made more tangible. There is a moment of pause or suspension at the end of the descending phrase, where the dancer lies on the floor at the end of the weight crescendo, and this moment has drawn my attention to how their bodies appear to retain a sense of the journey undertaken. The settling of their bodies is ‘active’ with both the dancers’ transition in weight as they arrive and their readiness to begin the reverse journey. This can be connected to Massumi’s (2002) discussion of intensity, where there is ‘a pressing crowd of incipiencies and tendencies’ (2002, 197). He describes intensity as a feedback-feed forward situation as we fold our actions and expressions and their context, back into the realm of potential. It seems to me that this moment captures something of this feedback- feed forward situation, it is a moment of intensity or incipient action in stillness. Consideration of the charged energy or intensity of space, and the fluctuations between stability and mobility, are important considerations within the urban environment. As Laban suggests ‘dead space does not exist, for there is neither space without movement nor movement without space’ (in Bartenieff, 1980, 101). In what appears to be empty space there are always gravitational forces at work. We perceive space from the standpoint of our own body which is always in dynamic flux. Noticing how our energy fluctuates when we pause or suspend our activities in certain places, or how an ‘empty’ room might be charged with potential energy or tensions, is important for both choreographic and architectural practice. These fluctuations make apparent how both dancers and architecture anticipate movement and embodiment, even when there is no observable movement taking place or presence of people. Consideration of ourselves and the built environment as part of a network of relationships, or a field of energy to which both contribute, suggests that neither people nor buildings are ever still.
4.28 Breath, weight and balance
The issues of breath, weight and balance have been central to our elaboration of the movement states. In the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ and the ‘walls of weight’ practices we have found the use of breath has been central to developing greater detail in the variation of weight qualities. In ‘concrete lecture theatre’ the dancers practised using a slow, elongated breath in through the nose in order to exaggerate the lightness of the sternum and ribcage to sustain the feeling of fluent flow in their movement. They also combined breathing in with sudden impulses upwards to facilitate the vibrant qualities of this state. Both these breath techniques increased the sense of light weight and fluent flow of actions and created particular lilting, breezy rhythms in movement. Moving for an extended period with light weight and fluent flow is often practised in the adage exercises in ballet but this tends not to form part of our training in contemporary dance. This use of breath helped to develop our capabilities to do this. In the same practice breathing out through the mouth and holding our breath helped us to create forceful resistance whilst pushing against another dancer and allegro qualities in the movement following the release. The use of breath helped to make the change of state more tangible. We harnessed breathing techniques in the ‘walls of weight’ practice to help us find greater precision in the control and release of weight against the walls. The dancers breathed in whilst slowly resisting the walls and floor, gathering and arranging the limbs before the sudden collapse of strong force against the wall with an out breath. The out breath helped us to fall with full body weight and to create sound as we collapsed. Both the ‘walls of weight’ practice and the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ state have particularly extended the dancers’ skills in terms of how they can use their breath to create weight, flow and force variations. Relating breath patterns to rooms has also been of concern for some architects, particularly Eric Brun-Sanglard, a visually impaired architectural designer who aims to reveal ‘how homes breathe and how rooms need to work together’ by walking through a house repeatedly until his movements are memorized and he can find an optimal spatial flow (Abramian-Mott, 2005). Choreographers and architects might discover insight about
breath, weight and flow and the built environment through conversations on these shared themes of interest.
4.29 Laban’s affinities Throughout the process of elaborating the sensory and affective qualities that dancers described in the musical articulation of the campus we often found that the combination or patterning of qualities created situations where natural affinities, as described by Laban, were broken. In these instances we made discoveries about how we might refine the distinctions in movement that it is possible to make. In the ‘walls of weight’ practice the legs and torso collapse upwards and back against the wall. These moments of moving vertically, suddenly and with strong force against the wall work against the affinities Laban defined between upwards action and lightness (in Bartenieff, 1980). The ‘walls of weight’ practice particularly uses the vertical plane and to a lesser extent the horizontal. Laban states that the vertical plane relates most strongly to weight, but he also proposes that actions that predominantly work along the vertical axis have an affinity with either a two-four or four-four rhythm, or an even pulse. Actions within this ‘walls’ practice (with their five-four rhythm) work against Laban’s plane-rhythm affinities and those of upwards action and lightness. Working against these affinities can draw the viewer into the ways in which a dancer’s body is organizing itself. Accenting a collapse upwards against the wall after a slow sustained action allows viewers to see how the body prepares itself for this unusual action of a sudden, upwards collapse. For example, we can observe the gathering in and arrangement of the limbs around the centre of weight, and subsequent vertical thrust downwards and fall upwards on to the wall to create a bridge between floor and wall. The breaking of movement affinities was also an aspect of the ‘stairs’ practice. This was particularly evident in the ascending trajectory, when the dancers move from a low level and rise slowly from the floor in retrograde. The kneeling to standing point in this ascending phrase was the most problematic section as the legs have to work the hardest
against gravity and the movement remains legato in quality. This section of the ascending sequence works against Laban’s affinities of fast time and backwards action. In practicing this transition we found that accentuating a very clear spiral pathway and focusing our awareness on the circular trace forms of movement helped us to keep the trajectory of pace and weight trajectory gradual. Accentuating the spiral path during the retrograde journey meant that movement became much more detailed and easier to remember and control and the pathway seemed to unfold organically. Whilst dance and movement practitioners such as Steve Paxton, have established that the use of spiral pathways into and out of the floor promotes ease of action, retrograding movement and moving gradually and sequentially from a heavy to a light state is uncommon in dance practice27. In this instance the technical problem we discovered had a choreographic solution. Exploring the spiral pathway in order to rise may also be revealing for architects, as it was for the designers of Seattle Public Library, Koolhaas and Ramus, who created a spiral path up through the library stacks. In using this library Franck and Lepori suggest that as a consequence of the spiral path ‘it no longer feels like such an effort to go to another “floor”, hunting for a different volume, and the collections of books can expand and contract without being relocated elsewhere or divided up’ (2007, 183-4). As already mentioned, the ‘foreboding’ practice and that of the ‘stairs’ were both practices where we reversed the movement and sequence of qualitative changes in order to disrupt our habitual practices and discover insight into the spatial forces of the body. This process, similar to the work of Mabel Todd (1937), can allow us to understand the way connecting images of our bodily structure and forces, and those of the structures and forces in architecture, can be mutually informing. Consideration of how we centre our weight to create a bridge structure with our body between the floor and the wall, as we did in this practice, connects the structural forces of the body to those used in architecture. Bodily observations of forces and weights have been cited as inspiration Retrograding movement did become a process familiar to dancers working with Twyla Tharp
and Trisha Brown in ‘60s and ‘70s.
for architectural structures, for example the Calatrava Tower in Barcelona created by Santiago Calatrava, which is based on the forces of balance within an athlete who is holding an Olympic flame. Exploring relationships between the felt forces of the body and those of the structures around us challenge the reliance on vision underpinning most architectural processes. This type of exploration might lead us to consider the changing qualities of experience rather than the geometric properties of objects around us. In designing from the body Franck and Lepori suggest there is the opportunity to consider the world and its materials as ‘a source of nurture and stimulation, [and] the possibilities for design to evoke sensory and kinesthetic experiences [can be] seized’ (2007, 161).
4.3 Building the overall plan of the studio piece My decisions as to how to layer all these practices to form a work for performance evolved through trial and error. I chose to begin and end the studio piece with the ‘mapping’ state as this drew attention to the entrances and exits of the room which the audience would use themselves in coming and going from the studio. I wanted to encourage the audience to attend to their own kinesthetic experience of the studio environment. We improvised with a transition between the ‘mapping’ state and the ‘percussive/ sensing’ practice relishing the legato transition from the internally propelled ‘mapping’ actions to the adagio, light weight qualities of ‘sensing/ percussing’. The dancers became very competent at making a transition between sudden, weighted internally propelled actions of ‘mapping’ and the light weight, sustained ‘sensing’ quality in one half of the body. They slowly introduced the percussive, strong force qualities in the opposing side of the body. I liked the unexpectedness of this, but also wanted to challenge dancers and audiences with quicker transitions that would demand fast, contrasting shifts of attention. As a result, we explored a more sudden transition between ‘walls of weight’ and the ‘foreboding’ practice (walking forwards, being pulled back). After the ‘walls’ practice, we played with walking slowly away from the walls whilst
creating a quick diminuendo of collapsing actions. The dancers found that they were able to match the diminuendo of collapses with the gradual crescendo of ‘foreboding’ pulled back actions. This fast ebb of one practice into another became more detailed and controlled as the dancers attuned to one another; their attention to the rhythms of others alongside them was palpable. I kept this transition because of this sense of awareness between the dancers, but also because the dancers appeared to maintain a connection to the studio walls in both states. They appeared to be magnetically pulled back towards the walls they had just danced along. Another transition that I experimented with occurred between the ‘wood ramp’ and ‘stairs’ practices. The former built to a dynamic crescendo of rocking, spiral actions. We experimented with moving from this rocking into movement of light weight and fluent flow (the start of the ‘stairs’) by traveling quickly across the space with the spiral pathways. We later discovered that we could more effectively establish the light weight, adagio and breezy qualities by taking time to build the feeling of lightness in our own time and on the spot. This enabled us to coordinate breath and action and to revisit the imagined upwards brushes along the skin in our own bodies before working together. Allowing the dancers time to establish a movement state in their own body before they explored working with others and danced more formal material, was often an important consideration in devising the work’s structure. This discovery was important for me as it helped me realize as a choreographer that the experience of the dancer is paramount. Following the ‘stairs’ state I wanted to find a transition back to the ‘mapping’ state to conclude the studio section of the work by drawing audience attention back to the stability of the walls and doorways of the room through which they would subsequently leave. We experimented with a transition from the ‘stairs’ state to ‘foreboding’ (walking backwards and being pulled forwards) and then to ‘mapping’. The dancers ended ‘stairs’ by aligning in a tight, central corridor in the trajectory of one of the doorways. Overlapping pathways were then created as the dancers walked backwards and were pulled suddenly forwards in ‘foreboding’.
The dancers became adept at moving between the forward and backward forces of the ‘foreboding’ practice and the extended ‘mapping’ tensions aligned with the door trajectory. The final version of ‘doorway mapping’ was intended to draw audience attention back to the main diagonal trajectory leading to the exit through which they would leave the studio and move into the theatre.
4.4 The studio environment As part of this process I have remained focused primarily on the weight, rhythm and intensity qualities of the movement practices, observed how the studio environment has informed these and how it might facilitate the emergent spatial properties of the practices. For example, the ‘walls of weight’ practice was elaborated from dancers’ experiences of the larger walls of the campus, but has in the development been informed by the studio walls which have been used to generate this body state. The large end wall of the Deakin studio has been used predominantly in practicing this texture. It is high, solid and wide, similar in proportions to the walls of the buildings which prompted the initial weight and rhythm qualities, but very different in texture, density, colour and sound. This studio wall has allowed the dancers to fall against it with their whole weight, created particular sounds and its smooth texture has enabled us to slide and collapse easily in contact with it. The concrete walls that stimulated the original qualities of this practice would have informed movement differently; these concrete walls are rougher, denser and cooler than the studio walls. While the walls and density of the studio informed the ‘walls of weight’ practice, in another rehearsal it became evident how the architecture of the studio could be used compositionally in other ways. I asked the dancers to spread out and find an available area of wall to practice on, and realised that if they used all the plaster walls available to us in the studio (where there was not a door, mirror or electric unit etc) then we created interesting and varied grouping of dancers around three sides of the room. I asked the dancers to walk backwards from the end of the
‘percussive/ sensing’ practice to the closest area of available wall and start the ‘walls of weight’ material when they reached the wall. This resulted in small groups of two or three working in unison. The overlapping timing of the various groups created interesting accents between different groups across the three walls. In structuring ‘walls of weight’ in this way I interacted with the architecture of the studio to compose the piece, dividing the dancers in groupings in space and varied groupings in time depending on the duration of their backward walk to the wall itself. This was a useful discovery for me as a choreographer and offered me a new way to use and think about the studio as a creative tool. It also sets up a relationship between our use of architecture in an everyday settings and our use of the studio architecture. Another example of how the studio helped to compose the dance relates to the ‘mapping’ state. I used the corridors leading from the doorways of the studio to structure this practice and left open one of the doors so we could build a sense of the connection between the doorway trajectories and the space beyond the studio. I asked the dancers to perform their perspectival ‘mapping’ moving in the extended paths leading from the doorframes on adjacent walls. This structural use of the doorways helped to connect audiences with the spatial tensions of the studio and draw attention to the dancers’ perspectival mode of orienting as they aligned with the studio’s architecture.
4.5 Assessment of the creative process in the studio In order to draw attention to patterns of sensory and affective states we experience I have attended closely to the fluctuations of intensity, rhythm and weight in the body and allowed the spatial forms of movement to emerge from these qualities. The dancers developed detailed awareness of how these fluctuating qualities might overlap, ebb and flow in our bodies and this extended their usual ways of working as dancers. The studio process developed here, which emphasized movement qualities over geometric properties, has built a particular kind of body; one that is sensitive to the ebb and flow of intensity or affect, a body that can
recognize and move between perspectival and proprioceptive modes of orienting and one that can find subtle and sudden shifts in moving between different rhythm and weight qualities. Refining these sensitivities has led to the development of the dancers and a dance work. As part of this first stage of the process I began to explore how the structure and sensuous qualities of the studio might be used to highlight movement qualities and shape our movement practices. This strategy enabled me to explore our dynamic relationship with the built environment in performance. In order to investigate this further, a second stage to this process evolved. This latter stage investigated how the movement practices described in this chapter might be informed by and transform the theatre space adjacent to the studio at Deakin University. This stage is elucidated in the following chapter.
CHAPTER FIVE Dance and theatre architecture
5.0 Introduction I did not initially envisage making a work in two different sites, but it became clear to me during the studio-based stage that a second stage to this study could allow me to further examine the relationships between bodies and sites. In realising that the studio practice would culminate in a performance, I acknowledged that one of the stages of this transition usually involves moving the work from a studio to a theatre. I decided to investigate this transition specifically to further explicate the relationship between our bodies and sites. I examined how the movement states elicited in stage one in the studio (the white space) might be changed by, and in turn become a means to recreating a theatre environment (the black space). These movement states helped us to sense the theatre differently; as an environment that is porous, sonorous and one in which vibrating energies interact and dance with us. Architecture is often viewed as the ‘frame’ of the dance, but I explore in this thesis how this frame also informs bodies, is animated differently by each performance, and shapes the ways in which these bodies are apprehended by viewers. Rather than consider the dancer as a figure or object within the frame of the theatre, I consider the performance situation as one in which the spatial energies of the dancers, audience and theatre architecture interweave. The theatre as a field of forces offers a more complex way of understanding the performance environment, a space that ‘we work with at every moment, as it works in us’ (Louppe, 2009, 128). Dancers’ bodies are also sites of spatial tensions, sites that go everywhere with them, including the theatre or studio. The thesis argues that the relationship between our bodies and architecture is lively, dynamic and temporal, as explained in detail in the previous chapter on the studio process (stage one). In the first stage of this study in the studio key themes began to emerge about the dynamic relationship between the body and the performance
site; planes of action and perspectival orientation; bodily apprehension of architecture in terms of scale and spatial energies; and rhythm, proportion and weight in architecture and movement. Drawing on the work of a range of practitioners and writers including Foster (1986), Yates (1969), Louppe (2010), Dempster (1999) and Rehm (1992), I discuss the above themes and the dance practices and sites that have helped me to articulate and define my own discoveries and intentions in this project as it developed in the theatre. These discoveries are elucidated in detail towards the end of this chapter.
5.1 Planes of action and perspectival orientation in the theatre How planes of action are understood and experienced through the body as extended trajectories in space and as inner forces is key to my approach to the choreography. While the dancers in this project were aware of planes as felt in the twists and turns of their movement, and in positions of sitting or leaning on desks and chairs in their journey around the campus, they also described planes in relation to perspectival orientation, or relations between the horizon and vanishing point. I am particularly interested in understanding how planes are felt as a directional impulse and are spatialized by the dancer because this contrasts our Western tendency to see space as external to our bodies, and as a bounded, geometric entity that can always be quantified and ordered into subdivisions. The architecture of the proscenium arch theatre, with its parallel and perpendicular lines and vanishing point, reinforces the tendency to view the theatre as a visual, bounded and geometric space, as opposed to a dynamic place of spatial forces unique to the performance event. Historical theatre architecture and planes of action is a theme discussed by both Louppe (2009) and Foster (1986). Both writers have investigated the spatial practices within the ballet lexicon of the Renaissance court ballets, ballets that were shifted from the royal court to the proscenium arch stage during the 17th century. According to Louppe (2010, 130) the lines of travel of the ballet in the early court setting were generally
mapped out on the floor on a single plane (the horizontal). These pathways of the body traversing through space, such as arcs, lines and circles were the dominant focus for the organisation of the dancers (Louppe, 2010, 129). Foster argues that the rounded or spherical horizontal pathways of balletic action, were transformed by the relocation of ballet from the court to the proscenium arch theatre (1986, 131). She asserts that balletic movement of the proscenium stage ‘exploited the two-dimensional vertical plane by extending the arms and legs further away from the central body into space and by increasing the number and kinds of elevation and jumps’ (Foster, 1986, 131). Foster’s comments suggest that the proscenium arch composed ballet movement in specific ways, the institutionalized stage of Classical ballet reflected the bidimensionality and depth of stage as conceived by the painter. Those composing movement became concerned with the pictorial image and thus the sculptural, three dimensionality of movement and its ‘felt’ aspects were of less importance for choreographers and viewers. In contrast to this pictorial idea of the theatre, I explored it as a sonorous or acoustic realm in the second stage of the process. The acoustics of the theatre became increasingly important as the second stage of the process progressed. The dancers’ brushing, sliding and collapsing around the edges of the theatre in the ‘walls of weight’ practice helped me to facilitate a vibro-tactile sense of this environment. This practice enabled us to experience the theatre site differently and we became more aware of how energies travel as sound and movement through our bodies and through the site. While the pictorial image appears central to the proscenium stage, Yates argues that sound was the guiding principle for early Renaissance theatre architecture in Europe. The basis for the designs of the Renaissance theatre were inspired by the Ancient Greek theatre as described by Vitruvius (Yates, 1969, 117). Vitruvius considered the theatre as a ‘sounding vessel’ and the materials and design were created in order to harmonise with, and amplify the voice.28 For Vitruvius, ‘the ancient architects, following in the footsteps of nature, perfected the
ascending rows of seats in theatres from their investigations of the ascending voice’ (Vitruvius, trans. 1914, 56-57). The symmetrical semicircular shape of both the seating and the stage areas
While the early Renaissance theatres were designed with the emphasis on acoustics, Yates suggests that the developments of perspective, optics and mechanics during the Renaissance period had a major impact on the evolution of theatre design. The ‘theatre became a “picture theatre”, a window through which the audience looked at changing scenes, and the role of the dramatist and the actor suffered discrimination’ (1969, 123). While Yates remains uncertain as to what influenced the emergence of the proscenium arch, she proposes that the central entrance for performers on stage which was at the back in the Greek theatre, was perhaps brought forward to become a triumphal arch. The splendor of the painted scenes behind the stage took on increasing importance and the proscenium arch established a separation between audience and viewer (Yates, 1969, 118). Within this study of architecture and movement I have aimed to minimise the sense of perspective, or idea of the theatre as a pictorial frame with edges, foreground and background. I have worked to highlight the changing spatial tensions of the studio and theatre in relationship with the dancers’ bodies by focusing the dancers’ attention on movement qualities in connection with the structures and textures of the theatre. This has included attuning to the spatial tensions of walls, rostra and entrances. My approach presents a challenge to the ‘strategies’ of the Deakin theatre architect who has designed the theatre’s structure, including its lighting rig, to draw attention to the site’s central area rather than its edges or walls. The approach I used here is not uncommon in dance practice. Doris Humphrey, amongst other Modern dancers, worked against what Louppe terms the ‘restrictive scenic lines of force’ of the traditional stage and considered how dancers could create spatial forces in movement which were not directed around the central vanishing point of perspectival space (Louppe, 2010). Humphrey examined what she considered the strong and weak trajectories and locations of the
in Ancient Greek theatre and early Renaissance theatre, was designed to reflect the circular motion of sound.
traditional stage space, and created dispersed centres of force through movement tensions in her works Passacaglia and Water Study.29
5.2 Bodily apprehension of theatre architecture: scale and spatial energies The architecture of the theatre, its seating arrangements and scale, and its impact on the spatial energies between performers and viewers became of central interest to this study. I wanted the audience to attune to the three dimensionality of the theatre and the fluctuating weight, intensity and rhythmic qualities of the environment and the dancers’ bodies. As a result I considered the audiences’ placement in the room carefully. I crafted the work so that the audience used the same entrances and exits as the dancers and walked across the space themselves to their seats. The audience sat on chairs at floor level on the edges of the performance space, rather than on a raised rostra, which would have separated them in terms of height. Looking down from above would have also decreased the size of the dancers’ bodies in relation to the scale of the site, and this was something I aimed to avoid as I wanted viewers to sense the scale of the human body against the seating rostra and walls from floor level. Rehm also discusses the question of scale and audience perspective and suggests that in the Theatre of Dionysis, a fourth and fifth century theatre situated on the south side of the Acropolis, the angles of the entrances for the performers and the architectural scale of the theatre shaped the performers’ movement in important ways. In the Dionysis theatre the majority of the audience looked down on the action, many from a great height. Unlike the modern proscenium arch, which in most cases requires the audience to look in on the action unseen and from a distance, the Ancient Greek theatre according to Rehm, ‘aims precisely at the opposite effect, [and creates] a sense that the audience 29
Seigel describes the energy and the spatial configuration of Humphrey’s Water Study, where clusters of dancers condense and disperse to reinforce the theme of water cresting and subsiding. While Humphrey does use the centre of the stage as an area of convergence, the individual dancers and group patterns draw attention to the rise and subsidence of energy as the main focus ‘the dancers make slight variations in interval as they take their cues for change, imitating the overall unevenness within an overall pattern that prevails in nature’ (1987, 89).
has gathered in a public place to be addressed, and confronted by the play’ (1992, 37). A sense of confrontation was reinforced by the architecture itself and the actors’ use of it.30 As stated above, the Ancient Greek theatre was designed to allow sound vibrations to move horizontally and vertically (Yates, 1969, 113) and thus particular forceful and outwardly directed spatial energies were facilitated. In devising the performance in this study I did not want to create a sense of confrontation between audience and performers, but rather a situation in which the audience might sense the spatial energies of the dancers in a continuous space. In order to achieve this I designed the theatre piece so that audiences might experience the dancers’ spatial energies throughout the entire studio and theatre, rather than feel separate and distanced from performers. I designed the work so that the dancers moved on, around and through the edges, entrances, curtains and rostra of the theatre, including the areas behind the seated viewers. I aimed to facilitate for the audience a felt sense of the malleability of the relationship between the dancers and the site; to notice the elasticity, crescendos and diminuendos, changing rhythms and areas of heavy or light weight. Audience placement in the room was key to achieving this. I structured the piece so that dancers would move right up to, behind and alongside viewers who were situated in two equally sized groups in opposite corners of the site. This enabled audiences to further sense the dancers’ movement tensions, sound and breath in close proximity and on all sides of them. Ancient architects sought to create a sense of balance or harmony for users in the theatre through geometric rules according to Vitruvius (trans. Morgan, 1914). For Vitruvius the design of a theatre and temple should reflect the cosmic and human proportions of man. The ancient theatre designs he described were based on both. Vitruvius’ theatre designs
The routes of entrance for the performers opened directly towards the audience, thus
immediately confronting the performer with the viewer, rather than allowing the actor to look upstage at other performers as they might when entering from the wings in a modern theatre; ‘the fifth century theatre in Athens was not an intimate space, and acting [and dancing] there was of necessity forceful and outward-directed’ (1992, 38).
were based on a relationship he created between a circle, a square and the proportions of a human figure.31
5.1 Plates of the Vitruvian figure (Yates, 1969, 18)
Whilst architects have considered the geometry of the ‘Vitruvian man’ in creating built
structures, this view is one that sees the body as idealized, universal and machine-like; one that perpetuates the view of humans as independent of objects, other people and the surroundings (Franck and Lepori, 2007, 25).
To depict this relationship he drew four evenly distributed equilateral triangles to create twelve equidistant points around the circumference of the circle (see picture). These points reflected the twelve signs of the zodiac in astrology (trans. Morgan, 1914). Vitruvius theatre took the form of a complete circle and used the points of these triangles to determine the points of entry and exits for performers and audiences in the theatre; the five exits for the actors and seven exits for the audience32.
5.2 Plans for the Roman Theatre based on Vitruvius’ designs (Yates,1969, 114)
Acoustic principles, geometry and cosmic forms were the guiding elements in early Renaissance theatre design. Contemporary architects, however, have focused on the interplay of forces between audience and performers. Theatre designer and theorist Ian Mactintosh has considered how the shaping and dimensions of the auditorium, seating and stage 32
For Vitruvius the height of the seating auditorium was required to be level with the top of the back of the stage, ‘for the reason that the voice will then rise with equal power until it reaches the highest row of seats and the roof’ (Vitruvius, trans. Morgan, 1914, 6, iv).
areas of the theatre has traditionally informed the transfer of energy between performers and audiences (1993, 153). He suggests that dancers ‘need to sense the physical presence of the audience and vice versa’ (1993, 154) and he argues that this interdependence of energy between spectators and performers is in his view greatly improved in theatres where the audience curves around the proscenium and provides points of connection between them. He notes that when the stage projects out into the audience and the audience view from above, as older thrust theatres and some modern theatres do, it creates a similar layout to that of the court theatres of the seventeenth century (1993,169). He appears to suggest that the thrust theatre and the court venue create greater interplay of movement energies between spectators and viewers.33 Macintosh suggests many architects, himself included, have tried to determine if there is an ideal geometrical relationship that might be conducive to composing a balanced interchange of energies between viewer and performer. He praises the use of what he terms ‘progressive harmonies’ or a developed geometric system (such as the Golden Section, Le Corbusier’s modular system or the Fibonacci series) in theatre architecture as he believes this enables the audience to attend to the sightlines, acoustics, mechanics of staging and lighting more easily (1993, 167). Macintosh proposes that the theatre auditorium of Leidse Schouwburg (1972), designed by Onno Greiner, offers an ideal geometric arrangement. This theatre was based upon similarly proportioned oval forms in plan, section and elevation.34 Macintosh’s discussion considers both the geometric and felt relations of the theatre. As De Certeau’s(1984) work reminds us, it is also important to take into account the ‘tactics’ of users, including choreographers and performers, who shape these energy fields or felt patterns. While a theatre may, as Macintosh suggests, create a balanced energy field, the performance itself may work to disrupt this. Macintosh
states that the reason in the dance and the drama why the architecture of the audience should enfold the performer arises from an ancient need to balance physical forces’ (Macintosh, 1993, 155).
three planes ‘created an egg shape not discernable by visitors to the theatre but which suggests a magnetic field in space which exerts a positive influence on them’ (Greiner in Macintosh, 1993, 168).
It seems that architects’ ‘strategies’ in designing the proscenium arch theatre are often in conflict with the ‘tactics’ of dancers and choreographers. Dance artists throughout history have worked ‘tactically’ within the theatre. Many modern dancers and theatre practitioners have sought to create new relations between viewers and performers in traditional theatres, including artists of the Bauhaus and Russian Constructionist era. Theatre designer Adolphe Appia and practitioner Richard Schechner sought specifically to unite performers and viewers, and both worked within and beyond traditional theatre spaces. While Appia’s focus was on creating rhythmic harmony between movement and environment, Richard Schechner’s Environmental Theatre (1973) in some ways parallels the approach of early modern dancers who were interested in the affective qualities, spatial tensions or the varying energy states of bodies. Oskar Schlemmer and artists of the Bauhaus were also concerned with our experience of volume in space, and the ‘sensation of space’ that Schlemmer attended to in his dance works (Goldberg, 2001, 104). While my own process has remained focused on our experiences of weight, intensity and rhythm within the studio or performance environment, Schlemmer’s focus was on the geometric aspects of movement. Schlemmer considered the theatre space mathematically, as a ‘spatial linear web’, and he erected taut wires across the space dividing it into bisecting axes for his stage workshops. Schlemmer proposed that ‘out of the plane geometry, out of the pursuit of the straight line, the diagonal, the circle and the curve, a stereometry of space evolves by the moving vertical line of the dancing figure’, and the relation between the geometric plane and this ‘stereometry of space’ could be felt35. Schlemmer’s view appears to consider the architecture of the body predominantly from the outside, and in relation to projected energies in extended space 35
He explained that this ‘felt’ sense of space was similar to imagining the dancer’s movements hardening into a negative form in a room of soft pliable substance (1972).This differs significantly from my idea of the ‘felt’ tensions of architecture. His interest focused on ‘adapting the performer to the geometric configurations of the theatrical space- of turning him into a moving architecture, to use Gropius’ description- through the use of padded, de-personalizing costumes and masks, mechanistic body movements, and rigid spatial configurations’ (Franciscono, 1971, 241)
relative to a central point. This contrasts my own approach, which seeks to investigate the internal and external worlds of the dancer and the audience member. My own exploration of planes, rhythm, weight and different modes of awareness of our bodies in the movement states in both the theatre and dance studio, have led to us attuning to and defining felt spatial tensions within the body, through extended space and in relation to the performance site.
5.3 Dance and theatre/ studio architecture – inner and outer spatial tensions The previous chapter described how in the ‘mapping’ state in the white studio the dancers performed a series of actions both as externally motivated and aligned, by observing and mapping the studio’s geometry, and as internally felt tensions (with a focus on the tensions between and within body parts). This enabled us to create movement with contrasting trace forms, rhythm, flow and weight qualities. The connection between inner and outer spatial forces and planes of action was also a key concern for German Expressionist dancers. While it is popularly thought that Expressionist dance is movement created to expose an inner emotion, for German Expressionist dancers Laban and Wigman the focus was on how to identify, define and elaborate tensional states in the body. Bartenieff (who was inspired by Laban’s theory and practice) explains Laban’s view of the body as a geography or landscape of relations, through which our relation to the world around us is built on the affective as well as poetic planes (Barteneiff in Louppe, 2010). It is this building of space from the body that Laban calls sculpting the space. As mentioned in chapter three, Laban also suggests that we feel and know particular energies within the body such as collapsing, swinging or rebounding, and describes the trace forms or pathways of these energies in space. I described some of these in relation to the movement states developed in the studio, such as the way a crescendo of a rocking, three-four rhythm created arcs and spirals. While architects might describe space in terms of directions, planes dimension, volume, light and proportion, the body’s spatializing enfolds space-rhythm tensions that we feel and comprehend
through time, such as those that might lead to collision or nestling. Laban describes the trace forms that these tensions involve as ‘engraved into or projected out of them as moulds, grooves, humps and ridges’ (Laban, 1984, 48). 36 Chapter three has discussed how Laban’s work emphasized the way that dancers compose the environment around them from the spatial energies of the body, while he simultaneously considered closely how objects around us enfold particular spatial tensions which the dancer can embody (Bartenieff, 1970, 38). The buildings or objects that surround us, their forms, textures and other qualities create physical, emotional and breathing related space-rhythm tensions within us in everyday life.37 This inside-outside relationship is one that is central to dance. Dancers are practised in balancing inner and outer forces such as in feeling the pathway of a spiral through and extending from the limbs, in a hollowing or curve of the spine, the tight knotting or elastic stretch of the limbs. The inner and outer spatial relationships of the body were central to Wigman who investigated the energies of leaning and pressing in her works Hexentanz (1913) and Totenmal (1929). Louppe suggests she kneaded space like a heavy mass and did not rely on any kind of objective frame or scenographic place38. Laban’s (1935) writings discuss his ideas for a dance school and performance venue and ‘Labanschule’, planned for Zurich. He describes the ‘ideal show-place for dance’, ‘a dome, flattened at the top, with audience sitting in circular tiers of seats…[which would be] only suitable for plastic dances’ (Laban, 1935, 162). It seems Laban favoured in the As explained in chapter three, the felt experience of the space-rhythm tensions as described by
Laban unites the inside and outside of the body, time and space. A dancer knows what it is to hold, push or pull space from the inside but also how these sequences can be related to external forms. 37 For Laban the contours of an object make visible the body ‘tensions’ arising from it, for example, the leg of a chair from the Roccoco period winds and curves as if allowing for the many possible movements of the user. He proposes that we can access the dynamic energy of an object by studying its uninterrupted contour. One can translate an object’s tensions toward the centre and away, or the ‘axial flux of energies’. The axial line is an imagined trajectory that situated around a unit of movement, or along which it this movement runs. One can visualize this axial line in objects and sense the tensions and counter tensions away or towards this imagined axis. With each movement and ‘through her very gesture she [Wigman] allowed the other’s
perception to perceive and inhabit this space’ (Louppe, 2009, 135). John Martin (1965) has described this as ‘feeling through’ which establishes rhythm with clarity and which leads the spectator to fill in the gaps in completing the form of the dance, for example the rhythms of pushing might be the connecting principle of the dance.
round seating because it helped to facilitate a three dimensional sense of the choreography39. Through our work in the theatre we began to discover how dancers can shape and sculpt spatial tensions that work with the tensions of the site, but also how our bodily tensions can change and alter our perceptions of the site, its surfaces and structures. We began to appreciate the flow and connectivity between the built environment and our bodies by sounding it out and watching movement resonate through and around its contours. In this way the inner and outer spatial tensions of the body and those of the site became dynamic and malleable. For Wigman and other Modern dance artists’ exploration and study of the human body and its potential ‘produce(d) a view of dance (and dance technique) that has more to do with learning how to move than with unquestioned imitation of movement styles’ ( Fraleigh, 1987, 104-5) 40. Similarly, I consider this project as one where we have used architecture heuristically; to discover insights about the spatial relationship between bodies and sites.
5.4 Rhythm and weight in studio/ theatre architecture, movement and performance Rhythm and theatre architecture were investigated in detail by the German theatre designer Adolphe Appia in the early twentieth century. Appia considered that the actor/ spectator intimacy depended as much on the nature of the performance as on the theatre itself. He was initially inspired to pursue this intimacy following his viewing of Jacques Dalcroze’s Eurythmics, a movement training in musical sensitivity. Louppe suggests that Dalcroze elicited from the body a musical sensitivity from bodily reaction: ‘Dalcroze discovered dance in the colliding or brushing of 39
Laban himself attempted to become an architect in 1903, and unsuccessfully submitted drawings of a dome-shaped, crystal-like structure for entry to the Ecole d’Architecture in Paris according to Sarah Burkhalter (2010, 28).
In Dempster’s (1993,12) view, modern dancers such as Wigman posed a challenge to the perspectival mode of apprehending dance which historically underpins Classical ballet. They achieved this through their exploration of the devalued senses of touch and kinesthesia, and the connection between internaland external space.
bodies stumbling between and amongst things and places’ (2010, 113). The movement practices he developed stemmed from observing and exploring people’s adaptation to the environment in everyday activities. Dalcroze’s development of perceptions from the every day use of architecture relates to my own approach, but within this study I have deliberately chosen to focus on weight, rhythm and intensity particularly within the campus environment and then to layer these qualities with our experiences of the theatre and studio space. Appia and Jaques-Dalcroze rejected the classical decors of the proscenium arch, stating ‘our present decors [in the early twentieth century proscenium arch theatre] are the direct enemy of the real rhythm of the human body in three-dimensional space’ (JaquesDalcroze, 1984, 129). The stage designs created by Appia, and their platforms and stairways, ‘undulated and flowed with the movement of bodies’ in Dalcroze’s performances (Louppe, 2010,138).41 The relations between viewers and performers were crafted in such a way as to facilitate the flow of spatial energies between them by uniting stage and auditorium: there was no physical or visual separation between these areas. I also aimed to facilitate this sense of unity, but rather than collaborate with an architect to create the theatre, as Dalcroze did with Appia, I worked with the existing structure of the theatre. In devising my performance in the theatre I aimed to use the unique structures and surfaces of the Deakin theatre environment, including its exits and rostra, and I aimed to ensure the performing area enveloped the seated audience. The audience and performers walked through entrances at the back and sides of the theatre that are not normally used or occupied in performances. This entry and placement of the It seems that Dalcroze’s work enabled him to feel directly part of the way the dancers’
used and created the environment and as a result ‘he [Appia] saw the need for sets which established and emphasized their mass and volume unambiguously for the viewer, because only within the context of such an arrangement could the actor’s body itself be seen to occupy space rhythmically – that is to be engaged in [the] active and living moment (Beacham, 1987, 49).
audience was designed in order to enable audience to consider their own movement and location within the performance space. Through the qualities of architectural harmony and proportion, Appia’s stage designs provided a strong sense of rhythm visually. Beacham suggests ‘the spectator himself could imaginatively sense the designs’ physical quality as the body of the performer moved amongst them’ (Beacham, 1987, 49). This is a complex relation, one that is key to this project. Focusing on the dancers’ experiences of weight and balance in my own work has been one way I have tried to solicit viewers’ perception of the felt forces at play in the theatre and studio environment rather than promote a perspectival view of it.42 Dancers learn to balance, rebound and fall by understanding the felt forces directed towards earth and sky, rather than in relation to a fixed, visual horizon, and thus audiences can also be drawn to these forces as they perceive them in a dancer.
5.5 Reassessing the performance space Although there are often significant differences between the rehearsal and performance environments used in dance practice, dancers’ perceptions of the studio or theatre environment are not often selfconsciously considered. Theatres often have little or no natural light, and they may have fixed seating rostra and curtains, in contrast to the more open space, flexible seating and greater light in studio environments. Our behaviour in the studio and theatre often overlooks our felt responses to these kinds of variations in the performance environment. While many artists have responded to the sensory and kinesthetic qualities of a nontheatre performance site, only a few appeared to have considered dancers’ sensory perceptions of the studio or theatre. American dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown is one such artist. British choreographer Rosemary Butcher has similarly concerned herself with dancers’ Graham’s technique focused on the dancers relations to the floor and awareness of the back of
the body as preparation for elevation. Doris Humphrey also based her technique on the relations between rising and falling, or the arc between lying prone and standing upright; ‘the rebound is our only chance of regaining in a short time an orientation to the sky’ (Louppe, 2010, 139). Louppe suggests that it is the relations between rising and falling and their instability that enables the dancer to escape perspectival space.
perceptions of the performance environment, but like Schechner has often created these environments in collaboration with architects/ designers in studios and gallery spaces. Both Brown and Butcher were inspired by and contributed to the experimental dance work of the 1960s in New York, and developed unique approaches to exploring the perception of built structures through our bodies’ sensory-motor awareness. While a central concern for the modern dancers mentioned above was the connection between embodied forces, affective qualities and external structures, many of the post modernist dancers of the late 1960s in New York began to investigate the studio, gallery or dance theatre rather than assuming the neutrality of these environments (Worth, 1999). Many aimed to renegotiate the meanings of the body and notions of ‘theatricality’ as well as redefine the audience/ performer relationship (Dempster, 1993,14). Trisha Brown sought to use architecture heuristically to further our understanding of bodily structure, weight and movement. Her work Walking on the Walls (1969), where the dancers literally did this suspended by harnesses, provided her and the performers with opportunities to reassess the act of walking and our body’s relationship with gravity and building architecture43. The dancers’ movement was both composed by the building, the length, breadth and textures of the gallery walls, while at the same time they composed the building itself by using a vertical wall as a “floor”.44 Removing the dancers’ usual supports by suspending them in various hanging apparatus such as large nets strung from the ceiling in this and other works, Brown was able to find varied ways to connect the quotidian body and architecture and to explore the tensional states created in bodies through developing these new relations. Exploring relationships between performers and audiences that enhance viewers’ awareness of the kinetic relations between bodies and sites is Foster comments that ‘having readjusted their movement to accommodate the new distribution
of weight, dancers progressed across the surfaces with an eerie sureness, their form of travel uncanny yet familiar’ (1986, 172). Foster states that Brown’s use of quotidian time and place through pedestrian activity, such as in Walking on the Walls, meant her works ‘reflected above all else their own physicality’ (1986, 174).
also of interest to Rosemary Butcher. Butcher’s piece d1-3D (1989-90) was an investigation between the dancers’ bodies and the different gallery installations created for each stage of the work by architects John Lyall and Zaha Hadid. Performed in various warehouse spaces, the dance drew on Le Corbusier’s modular system of measuring based on the human form. Worth explains how Butcher devised a modular system of movement, using units that maintained a particular rhythm and floor plan (1999,187). For example a double arm swing combined with skipping action became a base unit which was repeated, built upon and fragmented throughout the pieces as the dancers used the installation. 3D, the last stage of d1-3D, was created on and around a large scaffolding ramp structure which extended out over the audience. Rather than using the proscenium stage which ‘tends towards a flattened pictorial image’, ‘Butcher in 3D brings her audience close to the performance space, to witness the subtle relationship between movement and environment, that can, in an instant, twist the viewers’ perspective’ (Worth 1999, 184).45 While Brown’s emphasis in the aforementioned work seemed to be on the dancers’ experience of their bodies in new orientations, Butcher’s focus in this work was on the audience’s perspective on the constructed environment. I am interested in both aspects, and have created a performance which aims to draw audiences towards an awareness of the theatre space and studio as a spatial realm of forces. Like Butcher, I have worked away from the pictorial image or the view of the dancer as a figure in a frame and experimented with the audience having varied perspectives and experiences of the dance and the performance space itself. My emphasis has been on how the dancers’ energies are projected within and shaped by the theatre or studio architecture. I aimed to reinvent the space of the studio and theatre as a realm of ‘felt’ tensions that dancers could play with, as these tensions played on their bodies. Worth suggests that through the performance Butcher drew attention to how movement creates
the environment as much as the ramps and walls do. ‘She [Butcher] has the ability, like and architect, to create structured spaces within which her audience can take an imaginative walk. Their entry is the completion of the piece. Since her medium is movement, these spaces are shown in constant motion, equally defined by dynamic, density of action and gestural allusions as by the more architectural aspects of shape, line and light’. (Worth, 1999, 203)
5.6 Findings in relation to the theatre/ studio architecture and dance 5.61 Perspectival orientation in the theatre and studio In order to displace a perspectival or geometric awareness of the performance space, a mode of apprehending space reinforced by the proscenium arch theatre, I have investigated how the choreography and the location of the dancers and the audience might foreground the dynamic ‘felt’ relationship between the performance site and our bodies. As mentioned in chapter four, practising and refining the qualities of weight, time and energy in the studio and theatre and keeping these qualities as the main focus of attention for the dancers, is one way I have facilitated this.46 Throughout the creative process I defined and amplified the spatial tensions and trace forms of the movement states, and discovered how the spatial properties of the studio or theatre might heighten them. For example, the dancers practiced the ‘walls of weight’ state in contact with the studio and theatre walls. Sensing the walls’ weight and force in close proximity and against their own bodies helped the dancers to amplify the weight qualities in movement. This led to the discovery of unique insights about these two environments, as explained below. In attempting to foreground the energy tensions between bodies and the theatre site, I created a work which had no front or ideal perspective from which to watch, developed sections which could only be seen by some viewers due to the structure of the site and crafted occasions where there was close proximity between viewers and performers. For example, proximity between dancers and viewers helped to accentuate the tensions in the ‘walls of weight’ practice in the theatre as dancers moved in near darkness with strong resisting force and sudden collapses. Sliding and brushing against the textures and structures around the edges of the theatre, at times behind the viewers, meant that the vibro Exploration of how the body produces these qualities, prior to the shaping and construction of
movement, is in Louppe’s view a ‘way to observe the body as producing forces which gradually integrate the rhythm of space-time’ (2010, 116).
tactile energies of the theatre were potentially more tangible for the audience. This could either engage the audience’s participation (as they searched for the source of the sound) or heighten viewers’ own sense of the energies of the room as they remained still. This ‘walls of weight’ practice heightened my interest in the theatre as an acoustic realm, similar in some ways to that of the Ancient Greeks. As mentioned, I aimed to create a sense of a continuous space rather than bounded and quantifiable one, by using the entire room for the performance including the areas behind the rostra and through the entrances. This resulted in generating for the audience a sense that they were situated within the performance, rather than ‘looking onto’ it. To further enhance this sense of connection between the site and the spaces beyond it I chose to open some of the doors to the theatre and studio during the performance and crafted the piece so that dancers used these entrances and doorway trajectories, as well as the walls. This enabled the dancers to move alongside the audience and on the same pathways that audience members had used in entering the theatre. The arrangement of both the ‘foreboding’ and ‘classroom mapping’ practice, both of which took place in and out of the doorway trajectories, were meant to create a sense of shared space and connection between inside and outside for both the dancers and viewers.
5.62 Planes of action and the unique architecture of the theatre and studio Throughout this project I have discovered how planes are experienced as felt tensions by the dancer as this contrasts our tendency in the West to consider space as external to us. The textures, density and structure of corners, walls, ledges and doorways have helped compose movement in the ‘mapping’ practice. In molding their bodies to reflect the angles and planes of the white studio, both in and out of contact with it, dancers were able to explore ways of using the room which opened up new possibilities for exploring unusual counter tensions. In the theatre we further developed a series of doorway ‘mapping’ actions by transforming them to
an oblique alignment in parallel to the angle of rise of the seating rostra. Dancers had to reassess the vertical plane, as ‘vertical’ for these doorway ‘mapping’ actions became the oblique axis. This led to interesting experiments as we found new counter tensions to enable us to balance whilst maintaining the oblique tensions in each action. Moving into and out of these oblique tensions created particular rhythms of slow, bound movement followed by fast falling. These contrasted the more regular, slower pace of the original ‘mapping’ rhythms in the studio. This practice highlighted some of the different spatial tensions within the studio and theatre environments and drew our attention to the spatial properties of the these sites as temporal felt experience.
5.63 Bodily apprehension of theatre architecture: scale, sound and spatial energies Within the studio process I used the scale and spatial energies of the studio and theatre both in the choreography and arrangement of the audience. For example, through having similarly proportioned areas for the audiences’ seats, and placing these groups of seats in a similar arrangement in both the studio and theatre, I tried to create a sense of balance. Macintosh (1999) suggests that creating overlapping similarly proportioned areas for the performers and viewers can create a sense of ‘felt’ harmony and balance in terms of energy forces. I organized the audience in two groups in opposing corners on the diagonal, in a symmetrical relationship within the rectangle of the studio and the theatre. In both performance spaces these arrangements ensured that all viewers were situated across the entire space at a similar distance from performers and there was a sense of balance in their placement. This was desirable because I wanted the audience to initially feel a sense of symmetry in the space to contrast the dancers’ predominantly asymmetrical groupings and uneven placement through the room, for example the uneven arrangement of dancers on the walls in ‘walls of weight’ in the studio, and the three diagonal doorway trajectories of ‘foreboding’ in the theatre.
Another creative strategy I used to facilitate the dancers’ and audiences’ felt sense of the studio and theatre was the use of sound in the ‘walls of weight’ practice. We accentuated the sounds of this collapsing, resisting practice in order to further deepen dancers’ attention to weight and rhythm qualities. The very different textures of the walls of the studio and those of the theatre elicited changes in this movement state; the smooth, uncluttered, plaster walls of the studio facilitated more uniform sounds and fluent transitions of sliding and rising, while the uneven plaster, concrete and at times fabric covered walls of the theatre elicited sounds and movements that were more varied in their rhythm and weight. The varied sounds, rhythms and textures in the theatre environment meant that the ‘walls of weight’ state became more unpredictable, playful and less grave in tone than it had been in the studio.47 The acoustic aspect of the theatre became more important to me as the work progressed. In the theatre the ‘walls of weight’ state occurred in darkness, as opposed to how this state was performed in the brighter, reflective space of the studio. This was done in order to accentuate the lack of natural light the theatre and the lack of visibility due to the seating rostra and black curtains which fell close to the walls, but also to allow the audience to attune to the vibro-tactile sense of the room through the dancers’ sounds and actions. The dancers defined the scale and textures of the theatre space for the audience behind, above and around them through the sound of their bodies collapsing and pressing against the structures around them. Laban suggests, even blindfolded we sense the vibrating energies around us; ‘we still feel our surroundings, we feel especially the presence of something moving, we feel the shapes we are approaching (thus the shapes moving towards us) (Laban, 2003, 22). It was this felt sense of the site, its textures and scale, that I aimed to foreground. Exploring how we might experience scale through movement and tactility as we described above, is also an idea that has attracted interest from One of the difficulties we encountered in exploring ‘walls of weight’ in the theatre was the
general clutter of the theatre throughout rehearsals, as the wings area is used as a store for seats, tarquet, props and cables. The changing nature of these areas mean we needed to adapt and work with the theatre as an environment in process, and this further highlighted the temporality of architecture.
architects. Collaboration between choreographers and architects might result in the creation of theatres that invite movement and can be used in flexible ways; environments where the textures, curtains and seating are considered creative resources for movement and touch rather than fixed and static entities.
5.64 Lighting, spatial tensions and intensity in architecture Within this second stage of the process I considered closely how to use the textures and structure of the theatre to enhance or alter the qualities of the material, and how the movement states were both transformed by and became a means to recreating the theatre. The white studio and the black theatre sites informed the ‘foreboding’ practice very differently in terms of its rhythm and the crescendo of staccato actions. In the dance studio we had used the doorways to structure the ‘foreboding’ movement in a long rectangular corridor parallel to the wall. In the theatre version of the ‘foreboding’ practice (walking forwards and being pulled back) the dancers used the diagonal shafts of natural light from the theatre’s doorways to provide pathways and shape the dynamics of their movement. We noted and used the trapezoid shape of two doorway light shafts in the theatre to structure the practice. This trapezoid shaped path enabled dancers to amplify their force and intensity in their pulled back actions; their movement grew larger in dimension (to fit the light shaft) as they traveled backwards and as a consequence gathered momentum and intensity. This contrasted with the studio version of the practice performed in narrow, parallel trajectories; this arrangement of the practice meant it did not reach the same level of intensity as the theatre version. In this way I remained true to the principle of a dialogue between the body and the built space. Exploring the ‘classroom mapping’ movement practice in both the studio and theatre spaces revealed how qualities of light create changes in our body state. Dancers performed the ‘mapping’ state in alignment with the largest doorway of the studio, and one of the doorways of the theatre in natural light in rehearsals. In the brighter and reflective environment of
the studio the practice looked faster in rhythm and strongly weighted into the ground. In the darker, more intimate light in the theatre the same movement appeared slower, more fluent and lighter in weight. This suggests that the perception of different lighting states entails qualitative changes in body texture. Light was an important element in shaping the weight and time qualities as well as the spatial structure of the ‘classroom mapping’ practice and the aforementioned ‘foreboding’ practice. This process has highlighted the ways in which lighting, its shape and source within the theatre or studio can be used as a creative resource. Because light sources impact on how we dance, using different sources of natural light in the studio and more varied, flexibile light sources might increase our range of affective bodily states and layering of these. Lighting became increasing important to me as the work progressed. Quite late in the process I began to manipulate and combine the natural light sources with theatre lights in the theatre, as discussed in the next chapter. In thinking about the design of the dance studio choreographers and architects might further discuss collaboratively how lighting might be able to be adjusted by users of a dance studio so as to reveal different volumes of space and allow for very different sensory experiences. This could lead to the development of lighting systems ‘like eyelids of different consistency, texture and patterns…. systems [that] will modulate our emotions’ (Franck and Lepori, 2007, 95).
5.65 Balance, weight and space-rhythm tensions As mentioned in the previous chapter, specific use of breath was central to refining the detail of movement states. In the ‘concrete- lecture theatre’ practice the dancers worked to heighten their sense of weightlessness by sustaining their gaze on the roof cavity above them on an in-breath, expanding their chest cavity and connecting inner and outer space. The feeling of weightlessness was also accentuated by dancing around, and brushing lightly against, the curtains of the theatre. Our literal interactions produced imagined actions which we used as a resource to facilitate the light feeling. These imagined brushes of curtains against the skin helped
to draw awareness to tactility and lightness of the limbs. The dimensions, folds and textures of the theatre curtains instigated changes in the texture of the dancers’ bodies and drew attention to the surfaces, densities and volume of the theatre environment. While historically modern dancers worked extensively with the floor to explore gravity and weight, the walls, alcoves, curtains and entrances in this project have allowed us to make discoveries about weight, rhythm and intensity. The use of the everyday exits and entrances, the curtains and the walls in the performance also draws attention to the auxillary spaces of the theatre and studio. These spaces and the thresholds we move across, away from and towards have been important as they have provided us with textural information that has revealed new combinations of qualities for us to explore in dance. In attending to and scrutinizing these areas, choreographers and designers of theatres might collaborate to discuss the shared themes of the body’s scale, weight and sensory experiences. Consideration of texture and forms that invite touch, challenge our balance and provide dynamic interplay might open up interesting avenues for both the architect and choreographer. How combinations of building materials of different textures such as wood, concrete, glass, metal in different forms such as in walls, stairs, alcoves and ramps can reawaken new layers/ combinations of kinesthetic experience has been a valuable aspect of this process. Architects might use a variety of materials in ways that surprise us and in doing so draw attention to the workings of kinesthetic perception. In some instances, such as Herzog and de Meuron’s Laban Dance Centre in London, where the colourful, translucent shell of the building invites touch and the dancers use the platforms and benches created specifically for them, they already have.
5.3 Images of Herzog and De Meuron’s Laban Centre, London (Hargendoorn 2011) and Pearman (2011).
These varied textural layers outside and inside the studio could become a resource for the choreographer as in this project, and help to refine dancers’ awareness of weight, rhythm and balance as they use them.
5.7 Creating the plan of the dance in the theatre environment As the practices were performed in the theatre I began to consider how they might be layered to form the ‘theatre’ section of the dance. I wanted to begin this section of the work in darkness and to allow the audiences’ first experience of the room once seated to be an auditory rather than visual one, foregrounding the ‘vibro-tactile’ energies of the environment. Dancers began with the ‘walls of weight’ state in different locations around the edges of the theatre. Lighting gradually allowed some of the dancers to be seen, whilst others continued with this practice behind or under curtains, rostra or walls. This led me to consider how the theatre structures hide, fragment and reveal the dancers and thus compose the dance for the audience. I continued to play with appearance and disappearance throughout the theatre section of the work. Rather than have the dancers perform the same movement state simultaneously, as had generally occurred in the white studio, I crafted the work to encourage a sense of fragmentation. The dancers often explored different movement states in specific areas of the theatre, including behind the seating rostra and through exits and entrances. Duets, trios and solos of different practices occurred simultaneously, and as a result the audience had to choose where to direct their attention. At times they saw only partial views of performers. Towards the end of the theatre section the dancers joined together to perform the ‘mapping’ movement aligned with the seating rostra. They fell and extended their bodies towards this oblique axis as they traveled towards the rostra. This weighted and fast paced version of ‘mapping’ practice occurred in quick waves of action which climbed up the seating rostra itself. We allowed the sudden, internally propelled ‘mapping’ actions to take us into falls and drops that traveled horizontally, and vertically up and down the steps before we rolled horizontally along the steps to conclude the piece. This ending of rolling horizontally echoed the last stage of the studio section. In the following concluding chapter I discuss my discoveries from the final performance, in particular the elements of light and sound, and as a
result of my change to the role of dancer/ choreographer/ researcher in the second stage of this study.
CHAPTER SIX Conclusions
6.0 The final performance The performed work stands as a primary outcome of this research. In this chapter I briefly discuss the final performance and point to some of the directions the research has opened up for me in the future. While I did not originally envisage making a work that would move from the studio to the theatre it became evident to me that such a transition would enable me to explore and develop my own claim about our needing to regard any location of dance making and performance as a site with which is necessary and productive to attune. As explained, it is often the case that choreographers create a work in the studio and then relocate it to the theatre as an unexamined part of the creative process. In my own project these sites became dynamic partners in the dance I created, sites that could be seen to stretch and change in relationship with the dancers’ use of them. In the studio environment, unlike the theatre, the edges of the environment were highly visible and the reflective white colour of the walls made it easy to perceive even the smallest movements of a dancer standing on the far side of the studio. I found that the studio section overall was more detailed in terms of the dancers’ and musician/ composer Victor Renold’s work together as a group; we often worked as an entire group on the same movement state and more often in unison than in the theatre. This required attention and focus between all performers and across the entire studio, and this was facilitated by the white and reflective environment. The theatre offered many varied textures, light variations, alcoves, exits and structures for us to explore in relation to the movement states. Using the theatre’s qualities and structures to devise solos, duets and trios, and allowing these to interweave and overlap, made possible contrasting energy tensions in different areas of the site. Our use of the theatre’s edges, alcoves and
rostra, and the often simultaneous performance of different movement states by soloists or duets, meant that the dancers and Renolds were occasionally closely attuned to a localized area of the site, and then at other times attuned to the entire environment. This facilitated a sense of the malleable and contrasting spatial tensions within various localized areas of the site. Very different dynamic relationships evolved between the dancers, the site and the audience within both the studio and theatre section of the piece, consonant with the particular spatial energies at play in each environment.
6.1 Findings and Questions Coming out of this project for me is an interest in exploring in greater detail the relationship between light, sound, bodies and sites. This study revealed that the elements of sound and light are not extraneous but a central aspects of the dancers’ relationships with the sites of performance.
6.11 Music In order to further facilitate audiences’ felt sense of spatial energies in the theatre, I chose to use live music in the work and wanted the sound of the dancers using the theatre also to be considered as accompaniment. Live music allowed the audience to experience the resonance of both the studio and theatre and the energies of the musician and dancers within these environments. I collaborated with composer and performer Victor Renolds on both stages of the process. In the studio showing of the first section of the piece we created accompaniment for the various states of the dance to highlight or contrast the weight or rhythmic properties of the dance. For example the mandolin was played to accompany the ‘concrete lecture theatre’ state to amplify the light weight qualities of this state. While the timbre of the mandolin reinforced the light weight feeling, it contrasted the strong resistance movement which was also a part of this state. At times like this the music worked both with and against the
qualities of the dance, and this was desirable as I wanted to let the dance and music speak on their own terms, as well as to reinforce selected qualities. Where contrast occurred I tried to ensure that the music did not dominate the dance. While the dancers were undoubtedly influenced by music, I tried to retain the integrity of the dance rhythms, weight qualities and ebb and flow of movement states as much as possible by directing the performers’ attention to these. In the theatre, the music was central to defining the spatial energies of this environment. The acoustic element became more important as the process developed in the theatre. Renolds was able to play his instruments whilst moving through the entrances and exits, and inside and out of the theatre. We attuned to how the site composed his music on this journey. We retained this journey as it was a strategy we used to further displace the perspectival mode of looking and to attune the theatre as an acoustic realm rather than a predominantly visual one. The fact that Renolds could not always be seen and that his music changed in quality according to his location in and beyond the room, heightened awareness of the influence of the structure of the theatre, its densities and its textures on all of our senses. The dancers’ brushing, collapsing and sliding against the walls of the theatre and studio in ‘walls of weight’ gave insight into our bodies as sonorous instruments that play with the performance site as it plays us. Renold’s use of the musical instruments paralleled this relationship; the textures and structure of the built objects he played (drums, guitar and mandolin) also resonated with energy as sound and movement through the space of his body and the entire site. There were notable changes in his body state as a consequence of his musical crescendos and diminuendos, and these echoed the musical states we recognised and developed from dancers’ use of the campus structures. The dancers’ and Renold’s ‘vibro tactile’ energies in playing the walls, rostra and floor in the theatre were further highlighted by the lighting design; the low levels of light in the opening stages of the theatre section of the work allowed viewers to attune to the sound energy of the bodies and room over the visual picture created. Highlighting the tactile energies of the
performers and the site, and enabling the dancers to appear and disappear throughout the theatre section of the work, was also a means by which I displaced the idea of the theatre as a pictorial realm or one of perspectival scenes. The recreation of the theatre as an acoustic realm relates to the way the Ancient Greek Theatre was designed and used as a theatre of sound. My creation of the performance site as a realm of sound was also a de-centring of that site as we made use of the walls, rostra, exits and adjoining spaces to the theatre to project sound. The process of exploring the theatre and our bodies as acoustic sites in future projects is of particular interest to me as it has inspired original dance material and provided revealing insights into the nature of our dynamic relationships with architecture.
6.12 Lighting My ideas for the lighting states developed from consideration of how the natural light sources vary in both the studio and theatre. For example, the colours and the sculpting of light as it falls through windows and doors was unique to both environments. I was also inspired by Steven Holls’ ‘Sunslice House’ (2005) which is lit by sculpted windows at varying angles, creating arcs and thin diagonal shafts of light on the walls and floor. In the studio the lighting states at times reflected the way the afternoon light from the studio’s only window projects a long, vertical strip of light on the rear wall. I also decided to light the diagonal shaft from the studio’s main entrance, a trajectory used in the doorway ‘mapping’ state. Throughout the second stage of the process I became more attuned to how the reflections of natural light and shadow on the auxiliary spaces, walls and entrances and exits of the studio and theatre might be used both to deepen or change particular movement qualities. We often worked in the natural light in the theatre, opening the external doors, as I felt this natural light changed the way I moved. I also observed changes in the dancers. For example in performing the ‘mapping’ state in the doorway shafts I felt their movement became calmer and more fluent. Dancing in the natural light also revealed to me various light pathways,
paths we used to structure certain movement states. In the theatre I chose to use theatre lights to illuminate the three main doorway trajectories to reinforce the way in which light is shaped by the architecture. Light was also projected from a doorway under the rostra and on the curtains in the wings area to draw the dancers and audience’s attention to these forms and their textures. As already discussed, these areas of the theatre are often taken for granted as they are considered the frame of the performance rather than central aspects of it. The ability to vary the light sources in the theatre or studio to structure movement, explore the changes these manifest in body states, or to adjust these sources to promote certain qualities that are already evident in a dancer, now seem very important to me. The creation of lighting states that work with the sources of natural light in the studio or theatre in conjunction with theatre lighting is now an area of interest for me, one that emerged quite late in this process. This leads me to question how my future projects could further incorporate the evolution of lighting states into the very process of creating the work. Discussion with architects on such themes could be revealing and might instigate new spaces for dance and performance, sites that facilitate our creative work within them.
6.2 Composing as a dancer In undertaking this study based in our sensory and affective perceptions of architecture there have been many interesting findings that I did not foresee. One of the central areas of discovery for me was the insight I gained in becoming one of the dancers myself in the second stage of the process. My initial decision in undertaking this research was not be become one of the dancers. I wanted to be able to be able to experience the dance from the perspective of the audience so that I could position myself in different locations in the performance space, note the impact of this, and take in the entire scope of the performance and site. The decision to include myself as one of the dancers was made due to necessity as one of the dancers had to leave the process, this role
afforded me more detailed awareness of the implications of what I proposed to the dancers. For example, the resources required to recreate a movement state anew each rehearsal and remain inquisitive as to what differences occurred from one week to the next, was made much more apparent to me. Dancing the work myself also allowed me greater insight into what the movement states were actually doing for us as dancers, namely revealing how we could generate a more detailed understanding of the space of the body and that of the studio and theatre sites. While it is often the case that choreographers are required to produce dance works in short blocks of time, often six or eight weeks, due to funding arrangements, it seems clear to me now that the kind of discoveries I made throughout this process came only as a result of the two-year length of this studio process. My sustained, in-depth studio process made it possible for me to build the resources of the dancers to enable them to attune to the detailed layers of movement qualities within their bodies. This has implications for my future work, and I now envisage working on the same themes over a range of projects in order to achieve the level of detail discovered in this study. The view of the built environment as a dynamic field of forces in constant interplay with our bodily forces contrasts the dominant view of space and the body in the West as entities that can be measured or quantified and segmented, and as atemporal. Our ways of naming and categorizing further reinforce the separateness of things, assuming independence where we might discover connection and relationship. Through this process we have developed a way to think about the body and the built environment as entities that are interdependent and mutually informing rather than bounded and separate. The affective and sensory relationships between the body and environment, and the tangled processes that produce and are enacted by bodies, are often invisible to qualitative methods of research which rely on language and sight. Theories of the immaterial that have been marginalized by neuroscience and psychology and those with an emphasis on movement and temporality might offer more rewarding methods to examine affect. Through this studio process of manifesting the dynamic relationship
between the body and architecture, I have been able to develop an imaginative and original way to elaborate the patterns of sensuous and affective aspects of architectural experience.
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1.1 Instructions for Musical Articulation of the Campus Dear participants, This PHD project is a practice-based investigation into the relationship between architecture and movement. The project explores the interactions of person and place at the level of affects and the senses. It will lead to creative development of a dance work for public performance. The first stages of this project will involve you undertaking various journeys through chosen sites in order to examine experiences of rhythm and intensity. We will experiment with creating a symbolic and written imaginative map of rhythm and intensity. One of the challenges of this relates to how we might distil and describe these experiences as our perceptions and ideas are often fleeting, indistinct and not always easily recalled after the event. In order to help you define and describe your own journey I have devised a symbolic code of musical terms and will also make you familiar with writing excerpts that might be helpful. While these offer a guide, they way you use them and the style of writing is open to individual interpretation; there’s no right or wrong way. ‘Intensity’ can be defined as the non-conscious field of perception or the arena of incipient or imminent action or expression (the beginning of various pathways of action or expression). It involves sensory responses at a micro level that happen too quickly to be perceived, although we can notice variation in the levels of intensity to an extent. For example, when we are about to have a serious accident, before our we are conscious of what is happening, we often experience a gap of suspended animation, an extremely intense moment where awareness of our unfolding experience is heightened but where we are unable to define precisely what it is we are doing, thinking or feeling. Intensity is not the same as emotion, which is a qualified perception that is known and recognized like other discrete perceptions. It is the suspended moment before we actualize or identify a thought, action or an emotion. Intensity appears to be most clearly manifested in the skin, our surface interface with things (Massumi, 2002). When we experience the skin prickling this can be a sign of heightened intensity, this can be positive or negative. In the extract below Daniel Stern writes about intensity from the perspective of a baby called Joey. Joey at this age (6 weeks) is not so concerned as to how or why events occur but with the ‘feeling tone’ or intensity created. Joey does not know what she feels, where she feels it or what she wants at this stage; her wishes, motives and feelings remain indistinct. Temporal words of ‘before’ or ‘after’ are not used yet as Joey has little understanding of how events follow one another. Everything occurs in the present, much like ‘dreams being filmed’ (1990, 8). This immediacy, being in the moment, is something I hope you can remain attuned to as much as possible in your journey and this is why you will only write about your experience after the journey has been completed so you aren’t distracted en route.
The baby describes seeing the bars of her crib and the darker far wall. Suddenly a piece of space stands out. It’s a pillar, thin and taut. It stands motionless and sings out a bright melody. Now, from close by, different notes drift in. There is nearby another pillar of space. It, too, sings- but in harmony with the first. The two melodies mingle in a tight duet, One melody loud, the other quiet. Far away, large, soft volumes now show themselves. They beat out a slower deeper rhythm. The near, bright duet runs in and out of the far, slow rhythm. The two spaces weave together into a single song that fills the world. Then, from somewhere else, sounds a different note. A shooting star, it flashes past and quickly disappears. (Stern, 1990, 23-24) Colour, light, the weather, water and music are key ways that Stern uses to relate Joey’s experiences. These are often described in overlapping ways. The above text provides an example of a relationship between music and architecture that is felt as intensity. Patterns in the surroundings can be interpreted as rhythmically related, loud, soft, heavy or light, fast or slow. For Joey, the distant and dimly lit volumes of space are heard at a quieter and slower rhythm to the bright shapes in the foreground. Objects are seen not as a part of some bigger piece of furniture or room but as abstract pieces of sculpture that evokes a feeling tone (1990, 24). These dynamic intensities arise, build and ebb and on these waves ride Joey’s sense of being, connecting internal and external worlds. Attention to peripheral activity is another key consideration for you on this journey. While you may gaze at a certain spot in the room, your attention may simultaneously wander to other areas outside this spot. The way that the surroundings that are out of focus can appear to move or change colour is an aspect of experience we as adults are rarely aware of, but this play of forces is an interesting aspect of our spatial experience. In this way there are no inanimate objects and we are always in a dynamic relationship with these peripheral moving forces or intensities. I would also like you to consider how the patterns, alignment of windows, columns and other forms of the environment can be considered symmetrical or asymmetrical, even or uneven in rhythm. Regular patterns or alignments of walls, window or furnishings produce a different feeling tone to those that are random and unpredictable. The rhythms that are produced in the body through our walking are similarly regular or irregular, fast or slow, light or weighted, increasing or decreasing as we move through a site, experiencing its features, textures, densities, temperature, sound and light. Our balance and sense of weight is central to this; our stability or lack of balance gives rise to particular rhythms. The musical terms below might help you to define the time and weight qualities experienced both inside and outside the body.
You might wish to draw your pathways, particular landmarks or features of the site or the body and use the symbols to indicate rhythm or weight. You might also write paragraphs that capture your experience and use the listed terms or other imaginative metaphors of your own.
Devised Code- Musical Articulation of Sites Symmetrical or Regular rhythms- either double or triple categories March or Polkas- two-step time, heavy weight 2/4 Rock or Pop music- even and regular, medium or light weight 4/4 Minuet or Waltz- slow and stately, heavy 3/4 Jigs, Polkas or fast waltzes- lively, quick and light weight 6/8 or 3/8
Asymmetrical rhythms- not clearly double or triple categories (syncopated- emphasis not on the main pulse) 16/8 – syncopated such as the Latin American Bossanova- (two bar rhythm sequence repeated). Light and breezy. 7/8 Eastern European rhythms- Bulgarian Dances- fast and irregular 3+2+2 More insistent, medium weight 5/4 slower, dramatic and uneven (theme from Mission Impossible)Heavy and driving.
Adagio- slow movement, at ease, fluent flow and light force Allegro- lively and fast, strong force
Legato- smoothly—fluent flow (fast or slow pace) Staccato- short detached notes, bound flow and strong force (fast or slow)
Creshendo- gradual increase in volume Diminuendo- gradual decrease in volume
Vivace- very lively and strong intensity Grave- slow, serious and strong intensity
Route AThis route starts from the Elgar Rd car park Start from the car park and walk up the path behind EH building towards Lb and La, the large buildings up the hill. Walk up between the two large buildings and then turn right into building La. Turn right once inside and walk down the length of the building to the end (away from Elgar Rd), then left into the end corridor. Return back the same way to the central atrium and have a seat for a while to take in your surroundings. Climb the stairs to level 3 and walk to the front of the building (towards Elgar Rd) and go outside. Find a seat here. Return through this entrance and follow a corridor on the left down the length of the building away from Elgar Rd. Find an open classroom and go in and sit. Return to the corridor and keep walking down to the end of the building on this floor (away from Elgar Rd) and then turn right at the end and go over the bridge to the other building, Lb. Walk in, turn right and walk along this building following the walkway around and into a lounge area, sit for a while then move on to follow the corridor around to the other side of the building. Walk up the stairs encased in glass and then return to the ground floor where you can sit and write about your experiences.
From building P walk out through the garden past ICON and then cross the road and turn left towards the art gallery admin office. Take the ramp that runs to the right of this office. Go up to the walkway until you reach the entrance to the Rusden lecture theatre. Go in and have a seat. Come out and then walk towards building P along the bridge and walkway. Keep going past P building and then past Corner Café and the Library. Keep walking up past the library entrance and then diagonally left towards building T, following the path up the hill. Turn right and go into L building, follow the corridor around to the left to the admin office. Go into either the smaller rooms room L105 or LT 10. Return back past the admin office and then straight down the building (towards the library), pass into the concrete walkway infront of building L. Turn left and then left again to walk along the brick pathway directly alongside building L. Go along the brick pathway and left around the far end of building L Enter building T and walk back through, take a seat in there. The come out the end of L building closest to the Library and turn left and walk along the concrete corridor again to the Plateau Café. Walk down the steps in front of the café, next to the grass and towards the round performance platform in the centre of the main walkway. Sit and write about your experiences.