BASICTENSION is a work that’s still forming and right now I am trusting that if I just follow what feels necessary the work – and making it public – will reveal things to me. Some kind of divination. It’s with this in mind that I share the programme notes I wrote for BASICTENSION outing number three, at the ICA last weekend. I referred to it a group choreography but this is not quite right, it was more an environment that I curated/designed and invited other artists/dancers into, to do what they do, in response, to move alongside me in that space but not with the idea that we shared intention/desire/positionality or anything in common but a training and interest in dancing.
Started in 2017 I wanted to make a Contemporary Dance performance, I guess I was asking how/whether this black body can actually engage with the aesthetic value system of what is known as contemporary dance, developed through a history of what is called postmodern and modern dance. I have been thinking about the historicisation of black bodies, of the relegation to the past, a largely erased past, and the inaccessible ‘Contemporary’, the inaccessible present. The references that are often read from my body are to clubs and not theatre spaces, London streets and not ballet barres, questions of ‘identity’ and authenticity and not a formal conversation about technique.
It started when I realised that the alienation I’d felt throughout my dance training was not just my general angst but the fact that that training made no space for and had no interest in me. Ideas of neutrality, of balance, of centre, of authenticity, of freedom, of abstraction, of posture…Sometimes I have thought that Contemporary dance is pure toxic ideology.
I wanted to purge myself of this haunting history and they say the only way out is through. I wanted many voices, I wanted so much self-expression and interpretation and invention, multiple histories, eyes, landscapes, knowledges, interests, logics, to help me access what was there or to create something new there, to overwrite, to acknowledge bias, entanglement and inescapability, to break it.
I wrote to friends and colleagues and asked them to watch Trio A – then to watch Anna Pavlova dance the Dying Swan, then to watch the dance scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – the whitest dances I could think of. And whilst watching these to write down instructions for their replication.
This one is for you.
These instructions are then read out live or have been recorded to be played back as voiceovers and we dance in response to them. Breaking and being broken by history. Enabling mutation, transformation, being the dancer body-machine obedient, responsive, inventive…what are the possibilities, what is the potential?
Finding pleasure in the contradiction, in the impossibility, in the failure that is so constant it goes beyond…
Moving through this history that is constantly re-constructed through and by present eyes giving form shaping us – some things need to break. We are sticky we are slippery we are moving, for release to abandon to discover and encounter and say no
Is it possible to give and take simultaneously?
BASICTENSION is a play of multiple textures between multiple realities, shifting boundaries between what is allowed inside and what is let out.
It is 05:49 as I am writing this and I am full of feeling for the mad multi-dimensional intensity of dancing. I hope you find something here.
Some of the music from this performance was originally commissioned for the solo work i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere (2017) and have been re-purposed for this, strange offshoot of that performance.
10th (7pm) and 11th (5pm) February BASICTENSION durational performance installation at the ICA with Alice Tatge, Eve Stainton, Fernanda Munoz-Newsome, Kitty Fedorec, Malik Nashad Sharpe and Stephanie McMann