The majority of my time this past week has been spent rehearsing, preparing for my presentation at Arts University Bournemouth, thinking about solo practice, and also clearing up some of my lengthy to-do list. In thinking about my own approach and reasoning for solo practice, I share some literature that resonates with me. This is followed by a brief introduction to the work of Alwin Nikolais, whose work I am inspired by in terms of structural aesthetic.

Six Solos

In the documentary “Six Solos: Li Chiao-Ping Dances”, Chiao-Ping worked with six male choreographers who each created one solo work on and for her. The six solos were then brought together to form one evening of work. The solo artists’ choices to work with male choreographers was driven by her enquiry to explore gendered physicality. What was questioned in particular was how male choreographers experience working on her female body in comparison to their previous male centered creative endeavors. Additionally, Chiao-Ping wanted to question if, as a female choreographer creating on her own body, she had been placing limitations on herself by self-censoring or holding back.  Of course, the findings of this investigation revealed her body as equally physically able to any of the male dancers the choreographers had worked with previously. What was more intriguing here, was the question surrounding her own limitation. She discovered that it is much less limiting and easier to move through her own choreographic process because of the inherent connection she has with her own movement language and visual decisions. Thus, her solo practice was far from censored. When she worked with the six other choreographers, although challenging and fruitful in collaboration, she was left with unanswered questions regarding certain phrase structures and directional choices. What the self-choreographed solo process has to offer any artist, in comparison to that of working with an outside director, is a deep sense of understanding and knowing. I can definitely confirm this, which is why I am working solo throughout the course of my practice-led PhD.

The Laugh of Medusa

Relative to solo practice, The Laugh of Medusa, a short essay by Cixous, has popped up in my reading way too many times for me to ignore, so I decided to read it and I am glad I did. It aligns with my solo practice in the sense that it is encouraged that “woman must write herself” (p.875). Or, as I perceive this, I must create and perform myself. This is why, whenever I have to discuss methodology in research, I am always transparent about my subjectivity and do not even attempt to remain objective. For instance, even though, as posed by Cixous, it is difficult for woman to write herself due to the capitalist constraints that can distort her decision making process, such as being accused of transgressive behaviour for her outspokenness, the process of writing (or dance making) could potentially begin to override embedded phallocentric codes of construction. I am working towards unveiling fresh perspectives that are centred around objectification and subjectivity in performance, so there really is no other way to approach the research. If I write on and with my own body, I cannot be subordinate nor can I self-censor.

Alwin Nikolais

A slight shift in gear, but still relevant nonetheless, I want to acknowledge Alwin Nikolais; an extraordinary choreographer who has a really wacky flair for bringing together costume, sound, light and dance. In several of his works, including Tensile Involvement (1953) and Rooftops (1963), it is as though the dancers are merging into the set of the stage, whilst at the same time they are manipulating it. Or, in his work Mantis from IMAGO (1963) the dancers’ bodies were cleverly enlarged by the use of costume positioned on their extremities. This exaggerated their range of movement of which remained minimal and slow in order for audiences to process. Nikolais wanted dance to be more than emotive expression between a man and a woman, which was common in this era of dance. Instead, he wanted motions, rather than emotions, to come to the fore in his work. This is interesting to me because in most of my own creative work, I have worked from an internal space. I wonder how a shift to purely external stimulus and abstract cues would influence my practice. I will test this theory.

I’ll be back next week with more to share, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on InstagramTwitter or Facebook

Rowena x