Wednesday, March 24, 2010

dance + words

Alex offered an interesting task today: take a phrase of movement and put words to it. The goal was to speak clearly and in a relatively natural rhythm, without the stilted chanting that's so often the first tendency when your brain is trying to put together a sequence of words and a sequence of steps. The words could be simple, abstract even, but they had to illuminate a shifting, double idea of intimacy: intimacy with the "audience" and intimacy with someone else.

The movement was simple, mostly gestural and pared down, and we had about half an hour to work; but it was fascinating how difficult it was. The words and the steps jostled each other in my head. I'd have hold of one, and then have hold of the other, and when I tried to put them together, I felt like I had to decide whether to snap my words to the shiny apex of a movement (and skirt close to the chanting monotone) or drop them in the spaces between (where the danger of mealy-mouthed hastiness lurks). Then there's the inherent emotion that seeps from a moving body, which tips the slightest verbal melodrama into embarrassing sentimentality. It's like a double-sided magnifying glass.

The words I made up:

Think of me like the haberdasher considers his wares.
Magnify the particular --
white collars, hats, and pins --
Like that glass you keep forgetting on the table.

Point of view is what makes the illusion work.
Your silk handkerchief.
My black hat.
Sim sim salabim.
Smoke and mirrors shoot you in the heart.

Seams and cracks; you're standing too close, but
Carry on! Don't look
You might miss the trick.

Or see something else, entirely.

When I remember sequences of motion, I have landmarks, small pieces and moments, that I rely on because the momentum and connections are logical and inevitable. I can say, my arms are here and then my leg does this and I don't have to consciously remember the thousands of minute manipulations that get me from one to another because it somehow makes sense.

When I remember sequences of words, or am making up sequences of words, I feel like I have to hold onto every single fragment, right down to the tiny prepositions and tense agreements, because words are so precise. They can stand for vast, messy things, but the words themselves are really still in a way. They're partially symbols for what they mean.

Remembering both together made me feel like these languages, dance and English, which I've been speaking for most of my life, were suddenly unfamiliar. It was bizarre and I felt full of prickles (the good kind, the kind that set my brain twirling and make me smile because the day is suddenly more interesting than I deserve).

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