Who is the alien? Some ramblings during the making of ANIMoid.

Who is the alien? Some ramblings during the making of ANIMoid.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved science fiction. My mom used to write novels and stories herself. She introduced me to the great sci fi writers and I’ve been hooked ever since – not so much to the hard science, but to the question, “what if…?” I’ve especially loved the women writers like Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Doris Lessing who address social issues by imagining alien cultures on other planets with vastly different bodies, histories and ways of perceiving.

Katarina and I have been improvising dance in the studio for several years now. A lot of our work together has involved researching movement states that arise out of the practice of moving with closed eyes. We also often work with focuses that come from the Body-Mind Centering (BMC) work. These focuses might be body systems-based (eg moving from fluids, organs, the spine…), perceptual (visual, mouthing, vestibular…) or they might be developmental / evolutionary movement states and patterns, like we see in babies or animals. The BMC work has been a very rich source of movement material and ideas for us. We’re both interested in movement which is somewhat outside the realm of what you would normally see in a contemporary dance class or performance. We like to start by exploring the unknown and see what forms emerge.

So it occurred to us that a science fiction theme might be the perfect context for some of this movement research. What would happen if we approached our dancing as if we were aliens inhabiting human bodies for the first time?

One of the science fiction fantasies I’ve long been fascinated by is the idea that the body can morph: that it’s permeable, it can transform and take on new forms at will. I want a body that can do that! In ANIMoid we play in some of the body’s fluids systems, which are a great physical metaphor for transformation. The fluids are constantly changing as they circulate through the body, altering their form and function as they pass through different membranes, continuously morphing through various states of movement and mind. I find this useful to remember not only when I’m dancing but also in everyday life when I’m feeling stuck in a particular physical, mental or emotional state. To quote my teacher Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, “Transformation is just a membrane away.”

These days, as we get close to the premiere of the piece, I’m also finding the science fiction theme useful for circumventing my critic mind. Those nasty censorship voices in my head that say, “oh no, you couldn’t possibly, that’s too wierd”, or, “forget about it, that just makes you look like a bad dancer” inevitably have to be dealt with. As an alien being who doesn’t really know how humans are supposed to dance, I feel somewhat liberated from those voices. Not from the need to refine and compose, but perhaps from the pressure to come up with movement that some imaginary critic might think is beautiful, original or interesting.

To be continued.

One Comment

  • Andrew

    First of all, let me just say that if Transformation is what you guys have been searching for in this piece you have already met with success. Whenever I have been watching a rehearsal or a showing of your work you have managed to completely draw me in with how authentic your exploration of movement feels. I definitely have to remind myself that I am actually watching humans playing aliens and not vice versa, and I think that is a huge testament to how successful you both are as performers. You have also gotten me really interested in exploring Body-Mind Centering work. If you have particular resources or artists that I could check out to learn more I really would love to know. There is something so beautiful about your approach to the movement that captures both a sense of intensity but also allows room for playfulness and since that balance is often difficult to strike on stage I would love to know more about how you do it so well.

    Really what I want to respond to is your final paragraph here about your inner critic. As someone just taking his first tentative steps into creating his own artistic work that inner critic can be quite unbearable. I recently started Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which has been a great guide for me and I would strongly recommend it for anyone who needs help jump starting their creative work. In her book Cameron focuses a lot on silencing that inner critic and offers some wonderful constructive ways to deal with moving forward. However, having seen several showings of your work now I think you have really touched on something unique. Not only have you found a way to calm that critic but you have done so in a way that will directly contribute to the work you are producing now. That is such a great advantage as an artist. I can remember when I first heard the description of your piece thinking: “Wow these two have the guts to do something each of us really wants to explore but are too timid to do so.” I applaud you for such risk taking and also for executing it so well.

    Though my mother thankfully helped me fall in love with literature at an early age, she unfortunately was not much of a sci-fi fan but I am eager to read your suggested authors. I have however noticed a growing awareness within myself of how much our societies’ yearning to know “what’s out there” permeates so much of our culture. Ever since watching the Challenger break apart as a six year old I have had a strong fascination with the universe around us and that curiosity isn’t just mine alone. From TV shows and commercials to books and clothing lines the concept of “other beings” seems to have a firm grip on our culture and my exposure to your work has given me a heightened awareness of this influence. Have you experienced something similar as you have worked on the piece?

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