Crimson Coast Dance

February 5, 2021: USING OBJECTS IN MOVEMENT EXPLORATION & CREATION by Genevieve Johnson

(Relics – photo by Mathieu Rivard)

I very often work with objects in my creation. I use objects as constraints, inspirations and/or starting points in my poems in motion. It can be:

  • Objects I find in nature (a stick found at Diver’s Lake for Nested: Lean and Rise below ) – or thrifting (a kimono found in a Tokyo flea market for Relics above)
  • Objects I make alone and with others ( knitted kimono for Nested… below)

(Nested: Lean and Rise, photo by Ruane Dumler)

Another Way to Engage and Relate with Inner and Outside World

Each object has its own way of being in the world:

  • Heavy and dense
  • Light and airy
  • Noisy
  • Repulsing 
  • Soft
  • Flexible, malleable, fluid, stiff, crackly, huge, enveloping…

Each has a personality that gives me information about itself, the world around, myself…

Genuinely relating with the object's different qualities opens up countless movement possibilities in me. It can be the starting point of a whole embodied story.

When I explore with an object

  • I move “my becoming-the-object”
  • Let myself be surprised by what the object has to offer
  • Move the unexpected of this encounter
  • Let my movement be transformed, myself be transformed

(La plume et le couteau – photo by Mathieu Rivard)

Exercise: First Part 

Choose an object that you like – Move with it and explore:

  • texture, sound, smell, colour, light through or on it…
  • How does it move or not?
  • How can it become part of you or a part of your body (a new limb perhaps)?
  • What memories does it bring back?
  • What story does it carry?
  • If the object was human what type of person would it be?
  • How would you dance with this person?

(Poetry night, on Elegy a poem written and read by Carla Funk)

Taking the Object's Point of View: Moving As Partners

When working with objects, I use “animism”: I pretend the object is alive, has a personality. Animate as opposed to inanimate. It is a principle present in many primitive sacred philosophy: believing that all that surrounds us is alive and that we can relate together as living beings.

It is part of the Shinto philosophy behind butoh and also part of what Freud explains as “the Uncanny”, a strange discomfort that connects us to our unconscious. 

The object apprehended as a living entity becomes a partner in the creation process.

(Relics – picture by Mathieu Rivard)

Objects Inviting Their Own Words and Places

Words

In the heart of each of my poem in motion, there is a written poem. There are words. Behind. Words that become springboards for my movements. 

I dance the words resonance in my being using mental and verbalized images.

Sometimes these words are coming from exploring with an object. From their specific qualities and the ways they let me interact with them, objects give way to words that can be danced. The poem below was created when exploring with the kimono in Relics.

Relics

This tired kimono found in a Sinjuku thrift store.

Light as a fist full of air. Silk so thin you could almost see through its delicate embroidered foliage. White on white. Seams, so patiently put together years ago, now unraveling their story through smiles opening in  the fabric. Fluffs of padding broken in pieces between its panels, it was hanging with hundreds of others, like roles waiting to be donned.

Silk cocoon. Carefully woven caterpillar’s nest.

Enveloping my body, it erases its shape while revealing its depth. Flexibility of assembly allowing transformations. Aerial skin. Translucent in the stage light, it comes to life. Awakens to become a body, a partner in my movement. The time of a pas-de-deux, its luminosity becomes flesh.

The audience, witness of the duplication, holds its breath, transported into illusion.

Lately, I brought these words forward. I wrote poem not only supporting the movement but also to be said as part of the sound score (recorded or live). Voice and movement reunited.

Nested: Lean and Rise

knitting our stories
threads of fibers into loops
of malleable locks 
mending our memories

row after row
resting in between the open 
nested throughout the stitches
journey along the strands
all pain melted in the cradle of the weft

wool cotton silk

collection of selves travelling the yarn
re-collecting a single presence from many
together a cocoon

walk the lines
leaning on
meandering with

weaving in

for support

Exercise: Second Part

  • Write a series of words inspired from your explorations with the object
  • Move these words (let them move you) with the object
  • Select and organize words and movements in a sequence you like
  • Write a poem from your explorations
  • Move your dance sequence as you say your poem or record it then move listening to this new score 

Places

Places have their own qualities as well. Your movements will take different colours in different settings.

Exploring with the same object in a different space will provide new feedback for the creation because it allows a connection with nature, our environment. Let the qualities of the space and object be obstacles: obstacles as good things – constraints and restrictions help us be creative in finding solutions.

  • How do the shapes of the space and object can influence your movements and emotions in the moment?
  • We are reintegrating our ecosystem when we dance in site-specific. Notice how you start to look around again, with all your senses. Notice what changed in your perception of each space. Use it in your dance.

Even if at the end you don’t dance with the object and not in the places you explored it in, these many experiences are building layers of images/ memories to feed your movements, your artistic creations. These layers will resurface later in the work.

Still photo fro video by Sofina Johnson

(Lifeline, still frame from video by Sofina Johnson, sculpture by Troy Moth)

Exercise: Third Part

  • Explore moving with your objects in different places
  • Take any sequence that you explored and like and move it in different places

From your living room to your backyard or your outside deck… in a nearby park… by a stream… in the pool…

Let it be bizarre and corky. This uncanny is part of the creative process: ugly and strange are also aesthetic qualities that are to be embraced in artistic creation.

(excerpts of Lifeline movie)

I made a short clip of different places I danced this poem in. By exploring different grounds, weathers, qualities and sizes of space… I discovered the character, the movements and the story in ways that added depth to them all.

Next blog, I will put movement, objects, words and places together in the exploration of performance-installation. 

Be there and keep dancing…

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