I spent the last ten days in Austria attending the MoveMentors course at Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance. The week consisted of yoga, ballet and contemporary technique, improvisation and choreography classes along with an hour group feedback session at the end of each day.
The technique classes were very detailed and enabled us to focus on extremely specific muscles in the body and how intensely they were engaged. The ballet class was also taught somatically rather that aesthetically which meant that I started to be aware internally of every part of my body and where it was in space rather than relying on something external like a teacher’s correction or a mirror.
In the contemporary class the attention was very much on quality of movement rather than complex sequences or tricks. This meant that a lot of the time we would spend repeating one step and finding something new about it each time, working out where the accents were, to what degree we had to soften or be sharp and also what thought process had to occur in order for this to all tie together. This was quite a different experience to what I had done previously as the moves we were doing at first seemed incredibly simple, but the amount of layers and details that can be found in an arm gesture or a step really surprised and inspired me to find this depth in all my movement.
The improvisation classes were mainly focused on partner or group contact work, with the emphasis on not having an agenda when entering the space and therefore not making conscious decisions about movement. Instead of this, it was very much about letting your body or the energy of the group lead and guide your movement choices. This was very interesting for me as I had never had so much weight put onto how your mind is when dancing and how this can really affect the energy and cohesion of the space.
The choreography part of the day gave me a wide range of new skills as it was very different to how I have been working recently. The starting point was physical movement and changes of rhythm, for example, in one task we were given a list of adjectives such as turn, roll, jump, and we had to create a solo using only these moves. After this we added qualities such as shaking, collapsing and suspension which created a variety of dynamics within the movement. We then went on to set counts for the solo and then alternate between doing it double speed and normal speed. We also added a rhythm section using kathak counting with really shifted the focus away from specific movement. The final layer was to add a character onto the movement with a partner and then interact using these two elements. By the end of the week each of us had a complex, multi-layered solo each one completely unique despite the fact we all started with the same task.
The feedback sessions gave us a chance to not only hear from our mentor but also from each other, and what different people’s experience of the day had been and what they had gotten out of it. It was also interesting to hear why people were there as there were a lot of people from backgrounds other than dance, including circus performers, philosophers and drama students. Even though people’s previous experiences differed the unifying factor was everyone’s fascination with movement and performance.
I am going to try and incorporate a lot of the skills I learnt this week into my everyday practice and thinking. Some of these things include being aware of what state of mind I am in when I enter the studio and how this might affect the work I am aiming to create. How to think more somatically about my movement and to not only be aware of how it is holistically in the space but also very specifically at the same time. I also want to become more aware of my movement habits and try to break them, so that I can have more options of how to execute movement and free myself up more creatively.
Below is a video from The Bodhi Project, the performing company at SEAD.