Dancing Museum #2

22 November 2009

A while back, in preparation for the week long workshop/think tank project called Expo Zero, convened by choreographer Boris Charmatz at Musee de la Danse in Rennes I asked a few good friends and colleagues to send me memories of dance or dances, movement or movements – fragments from life or from dance, or from dance in life, which I hoped would feed into my work at the Expo. I already posted a few of the fragments, and with thanks again for what my friends chose to share, here’s a second instalment.

It’s the look .
Fixed , blank and it means it.
A look on a face of symmetrical beauty.
Dirty beauty.

And underneath.
The legs pushing forward and the back leaning back.
Leaning way way back.
The arms pinioned in a careless hang but the face is somewhere else .
On another job.

Below its all insistence and burn but above its all stillness and stare and the low , loud sound is reverberating  through the move at triple time .
Passing through the body and out.
Sound as surface to walk on.

Inside the body is whirring, it’s whirring  fast .
Outside it’s going slow.
And its having trouble moving  through the air, making the air cling to it-
Making me cling to it.

Not that it needs me.
The move is not in need.
Its the move as god.
Regal delinquency in action.

It burns itself past the retina straight into the gut and resurfaces at odd moments of desire.

Wendy Houstoun
(“a michael clark piece but i don’t know its name.”)


Strangely (well, maybe strange for this context but not for me) very few of my memories of movement are from the formal world of dance. Moments from Pina Bausch, La Ribot, Jerome Bel, Michael Clark and other icons are there alright and will be there forever, but the first memories that hit me when I got your email were movement memories from popular culture. David Beckham’s famous free kick against Greece in a world cup qualifier still makes me well up, and is impossible to forget since it was immortalized by Lone Twin in Walk With Me in one of my favourite performance movement moments.

Seeing Morrissey for the first time dancing with bunches of gladioli stuffed in his jean’s pockets in the video for This Charming Man is another movement moment that will never be forgotten, but there’s a limit to how many times I can mention This Charming Man in response to your requests.

So its gonna have to be the memory that I’ve been revisiting recently, along with millions of other people, of seeing Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough video back in the day. For me this was one of the last moments of the ‘good’ Michael Jackson –of the talented, spontaneous, beautiful, black Michael Jackson, before he became the white, schmaltzy, freaky, global superstar. But I – we – didn’t know that at the time. At the time this was simply one of the most exhilarating things I had ever seen – the most perfect combination of music and dance – the pleasure of watching someone ‘lost in music’, performing with every cell in their body.  Look at it – even his arms are dancing to the tune in the most exquisite piece of unchoreographed choreography ever. I can watch this moment over and over and over again and never tire of it.

Lois Keidan


He arrived late, preferring to hit the ground running. It’s an improvised piece full of live decisions. He has been naked. He has been left alone with his eyes shut. But the moment to remember is after the piece has ended, officially. The audience is starting to leave and he’s calling them back….there’s one more dance he says…a famous dance….danced by a famous woman….a grieving woman…a woman grieving for her two dead children. And as he talks he starts to dance. He is big, broad, strong.  His body moves as he imagines or remembers the woman moving, the woman grieving, his empty arms extended as though hers holding. His voice is calm and low, his own. The audience is half standing, as he describes the story of this dance, they’re on their way out, not sure what they’re staying for. He sways, kneels and lays the empty burden from his arms onto the stage. The piece is over.

Terry O Connor


Here’s my most enduring memory of a dance movement – it’s the movement that crystalised a sense that dance can express better in words some feelings, that a gesture of the body can communicate a complexity of emotion.

It’s from a piece by Roxane Huilmand that I saw at the ICA in the 80s. I don’t remember the name of the piece. I don’t remember the music, it may have been Bartok, it may have been Walter Hus.

The gesture is a simple one and I think it was like this:

with head down, moving from back stage left diagonally towards the middle of the stage, very low lighting, the solo dancer (Roxane I think), brings both arms  together in a curve from just behind her body to just in front, the hands don’t meet – they rest at waist height about 10 cm apart. The gesture seems half embrace, half a collecting and containing movement signifying emotion internalised, feeling collected, gathered and controlled, and isolation. It was brief, powerful and very poignant for me, for the friend I was with, it was boring.

Deborah Chadbourn


memory of a dance unravelled

I have never seen the show. Again. I have never seen that show again: not live, video, CD Rom or whatever, since that night I first saw it, the only time I saw it, and that woman got up from the audience and danced on stage. It was weird. I remember it vividly and yet I remember almost nothing else. It made me shake. It made my hands sweat. It made me want to leave. It made me feel I had vertigo and might only be able to crawl out of the theatre on my hands and knees. I was reduced to that childhood fear I had when my mother took me to the pantomime and they picked children to go up on stage. Nightmare. And then it ended. The music stopped. She went back to her seat. The show went on the the end. No one did anything.

Who was she ? Nothing happened but it might have. Might she not have done anything – pulled out a gun, or kissed Christine or pulled her down to the ground and punched her or tore her clothes off. Anything. And if she had what would they have done ? Because what they did – that night when I saw the show – what they did was nothing, nothing more, nothing less, than what they did every night – I guess – they just stood there, shifting, jigging even, to the music in that moon-faced, half-arsed sort of a way that defined the way they performed in that show, and that made her feel it was OK, and maybe some kind of a dance that she could join in, and then, when the music ended she sat down.

Was she a plant or what ? I never asked. Or why not, why not get up and join in a show called Stalking Realness that seems to be pretending to be an event, but not theatre, or maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. Or maybe she was a friend. I never found out.

What’s funny is how it doesn’t happen more often in theatre. Joining in. What’s surprising is how unbreakable – how  unbearable – that boundary is. The more it is tested – with performers coming out of the audience for instance, or going into it, or whatever – the stronger it gets, in general.

That’s what makes theatre theatre. Whatever else it is not, it is a collective dream space. Its success is in creating an ‘as if’ world, in which performers become explorers, and which changes the co-ordinates of time and space. And when something, someone, else drops in, it is literally matter out of place, an irritant, a violation of  symbolic world. It makes me physically sick.

Claire MacDonald