Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Choreographing You

I know 'choreography' isn't a good word in social tango circles: performance of planned, well-rehearsed sequences, danced with great skill and watched by a passive audience, doesn't fit into the free flow of a milonga.

But in the 1960s visual artists and dancers began to see choreography more broadly, looking to renew the sense of the body by intensifying the relation of an 'audience' to the environment, to heighten self-awareness of the body in space and time. Choreographing You (Hayward Gallery, London, till January 12) is about this.

A lot of the show is like a gigantic playground, great fun for physically adventurous and curious people to explore themselves in unexpected physical activities. & at the heart of it, when the fun of tilting platforms, the claustrophobia of enclosed passages, and the effort of negotiating hanging hoops wears off, is a massive archive of dance film, 147 films available to browse. Wide-ranging: among much more, there's film of Jackson Pollock painting, the records of Allan Kaprow's 1960s 'happenings', film of Pina Bausch dancing Cafe Muller, of Trisha Brown improvising a dance/drawing, and of an extraordinary 2½ hour solo performance by La Ribot (I cheated and watched it on fast forward). An archive of film from the 1960s to the present, more than can be watched on a cold London afternoon.

In the end it palls, and it's good to move back to physical engagement with unusual and sometimes challenging environments. If our 'comfort zone' of habitual bodily and mental activities is extended, habitual reserve starts to break down in a way that never happens confronted with a normal exhibition of dance or artwork. It felt cheerful and friendly.

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