Full Radius Dance, a physically-integrated dance company based in Atlanta, premiered its work Touch in January 2013. The piece was inspired by executive director and choreographer Douglas Scottâ€™s decision to retire from professional performance, causing him to feel depression, which he realized was the result of no longer having physical contact everyday in the studio. He began to ask himself why touch, the physical act of making contact, was so important to him. What does it mean to touch and be touched? What does it do physiologically to the body? What does touch mean in gaining understanding of oneâ€™s own body and the bodies of others?
Touch, in its multiple parts involved dancers of varying bodies and abilities. As a physically-integrated dance company, Full Radiusâ€™ dancers are both abled and disabled, some use wheelchairs in their everyday lives. Scott first became engaged in this practice through a workshop offered at the Atlanta Civic Center where heÂ realized that all bodies do not move the same way that his does and that there was opportunity to explore the â€œlimits of physicalityâ€ with various bodies.  He now teaches classes and workshops at theÂ Shepherd Center, a hospital and rehabilitation center located in Atlanta that specializes in medical treatment, research, and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord and brain injuries.
The theater is dark and quiet. A rustling begins to grow louder. Shapes of bodies start to come into focus in the dark as they move across the stage. It sounds as if someone is sliding across the floor. Music begins. Light, pouring in from stage right, begins to grow brighter, illuminating the mass of bodies arranged organismically stage left.
When the lights are finally up, I see three of the dancers seated on the ground, two of which were in wheelchairs in the previous piece. This piece, titled There Is No Such Thing As Mistakes and choreographed by Lori Teague, explores â€œthe situations we find ourselves in and the situations we put ourselves in.â€ The dancers in this piece arrange themselves almost as if they are part of one body, one organism, with interrelated parts; the mass of bodies on the stage writhes and moves together. As the dance progresses, the breath of each dancer becomes more audible, another rhythmic element to the accompanying music. Teague explained that her interest in this piece was reaction time; how does the body respond in the moment of contact or confrontation? While watching the piece, a growing sense of physicality presents itself. While watching the bodies roll across the stage, one of the dancers gets up and staggers toward another dancer, using the otherâ€™s body for stability, resting her weight on his shoulders, my body began to move itself. I noticed my feet were responding to these movements; during tense moments, my leg would extend outwards toward the stage; during moments of relative calm, I was able to relax my feet to the ground. This aesthetic experience not only registered in my eyes, but my muscles registered the movements of the dancers.
In this aesthetic experience, my body phenomenologically responds. This response, though potentially activated through mirror neurons, may lead to particular perceptions of the body that carry with them particular associative meanings. If my body can â€œfeelâ€ the weight of the otherâ€™s body on me for support, or if my body can â€œfeelâ€ the need to rest upon another, does this experience open possibilities of bodily awareness?
Does this awareness carry forward after I leave the theater? Edward Warburton, a dance theorist writes about what happens when we observe anotherâ€™s movement. He describes it as â€œobserving othersâ€™ actions involves both a covert simulation of the very same actionâ€”a process crucial in imitative motor learningâ€”and a modulation of resonant action systems that seem to be important in superior perceptual abilitiesâ€ . Interestingly, during the section the â€œScience of Touch,â€ Scott is on stage with the dancers and describes some of the physiological mechanisms of touch, including that of mirror neurons. In some way, the attention to mirror neurons allows for an empathic response to even the viewing of someone being touched.
In watching dance, the viewerâ€™s visual experience coalesces with a visceral experience, but is opticality necessarily primary in the â€œviewingâ€ of dance? If the dancerâ€™s body does not reach out and make contact with my skin, is it possible for me to still feel her body? In the dance, can I begin to â€œknowâ€ the dancerâ€™s body as it moves across the stage, at times making contact with other bodies? Erin Manning, a cultural theorist and political philosopher who writes on tango as a cultural practice, writes that â€œmovement can be felt before it actualizes.â€  In order to view a dance as dance, a piece that uses bodily movement as material, the viewer has to come to the performance with an understanding of her own sense of bodily movement. For the philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, movement is the primary vehicle for sense-making and knowledge-making of our world. In her book The Primacy of Movement, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone writes:
â€œIn making kinetic sense of ourselves, we progressively attain complex conceptual understandings having to do with containment, with consequential relationships, with weight, with effort, and with myriad other bodily-anchored happenings and phenomena that in turn anchor our sense of the world and its happenings and phenomena.â€ 
Other bodies are included in this worldâ€™s happenings and phenomena.
During the final piece of the performance, the featured piece titled Touch, there were moments when dancers in chairs would balance their weight on an edge of one wheel over dancers lying underneath the chair. Hands reached out to grasp each other, distributing the weight through the arm muscles, from one shoulder to the next. Watching the performance, I was sitting in anticipation of a sudden shift in gravity, a moment of almost catastrophe. Reflecting on the piece now, I ask myself, how am I supposed to see these bodies that were moving before me?
In the case of Full Radius Dance, which presents the viewer with bodies that she does not typically see in a dance performance, what does the viewer and the viewerâ€™s body learn? I leave the theater and the reverberations of rhythm remain. What do these vibrations unhinge within my body? Are they making new connections with any of the mixed-up material that was disturbed by the vibrations? Making sense of the dancersâ€™ movements and bodies requires me to make sense of my own – this is a reciprocal movement. The question remains whether the origin of this movement and knowledge exists in myself or in the dancerâ€™s body that I watch roll across the floor.
– Meredith Kooi; meredith [dot] kooi [at] gmail [dot] com
 Personal conversation with Douglas Scott
 Edward C. Warburton, â€œOf Meanings and Movements: Re-Languaging Embodiment in Dance Phenomenology and Cognition,â€ Dance Research Journal, vol. 43, no. 2 (Winter 2011), 72.
 Erin Manning, Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2009), 6.
 Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, The Primacy of Movement, 2nd Ed (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011), 118.
DANCE informa. danceinforma.com. Photos by AMN photography. http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2013/01/20/full-radius-dance-premieres-three-contemporary-works/
This post initiates what I hope will be a series of posts made in response to the question: â€œWhat can be done with dance?â€. The question is taken from the book, â€œHow to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar Americaâ€ by Rebekah J Kowal. In the book Kowal suggests that the political potential of choreography to enact real societal change exists as much on the street as it does on the stage. I wonâ€™t go into too much detail about the book, as I will be posting an interview with Kowal shortly, but I would like to linger a little while on this question of doing. Following Kowalâ€™s lead I would like to consider the potential of dance as extending beyond the â€œpower of embodied actionâ€. Let us take for granted, just for now, Â this particular kind of power in bringing about experiential or social change in order to consider other aspects of dance. Like poetry, dance is a way of making graspable what might otherwise elude us. It is a way of capturing the wordless sensations that arise in the body at any given moment.
While I may be inclined, from time to time, to believe that what constitutes the world is nothing more than a series of words, names really, I am also quick to point to the pleasure of unknowable sensations or passions. This is what dance does. It gives us access and makes available that which we feel but do not know. Choreography, in this vein, is a way of working with newly acquired bodily knowledge. In this way, dance is perhaps more grounded than poetry, in that what is being expressed is rooted in the architecture of the body. This of course only leads us to more questions: What is the relationship between the architecture of the body and the space in which it moves? and in the context of my initial inquiry, how might dance help us re-imagine this relationship?
Very often, when speaking about performance, we speak of the space of the event. That rather fluid relationship between the invisible boundaries of the performance arena and the bodies that occupy it. This is the basis for many conversations concerning theater, dance, and other body-based performance practices. Conceptions of space, as they attempt to describe a kind of container, allow for the conceptualizing of bodily volumes. They allow us to speak of the mobility of bodies as it pertains to the environment in which they move. While there is certainly a value in thinking of the relationship between the body and space as one of volume to container, it is also problematic in that it most often privileges an unrealistic idealized body.
Space as it exists conceptually promotes an occupation of itself by a certain kind of body. A body that is best represented by the athletic body. While this may not be the image of interest for most performers the image of the idealized body has a particularly strong hold socially and is continually circulated through the design and conceptualization of space. Day to day routines are policed by the proportions of the spaces in which they take place. Door frames, floor tiles, counter tops, the boundaries of our movements are dictated by standardized measurements. Proportions that are more often than not disproportionate to the bodies that they contains. So internalized are these dimensions that they are manifested non-consciously in the very way that we imagine space around us. To overcome these biases and to allow for other or differently abled bodies is to reconceptualize the relationship of the body to space.
The dancing body is not immune to these prejudices but dance as a practice of acquiring new insight, new knowledge, allows us to use the body to think around our internalized prejudices. The dancing body, for example, does not occupy space so much as facilitates a collaboration between space and the body, it pushes itself against the space that envelops it and in turn that space pushes itself against the body. The body leans against the wall and the wall leans away. Weight is distributed, balanced and shared. The dance is made in collaboration with its environment. It is in this spirit of collaboration, that we begin to find the seedlings of a new way of identifying the performance space. With this dynamic relationship in mind the dancer imagines space as the limbs of another dancer, the back of a chair, the side of the body, an immobile leg, a sleeping hand. The imagination then elaborates and the process of choreography itself becomes about finding ways to express two sets of information, the choreographers and the dancers, and in so doing the hierarchy of values that determine the acceptability of bodies has begun to disintegrate in the wake of collaboration. We have used dance as a practice and a metaphor to circumvent internalized prejudices and to imagine new ways of being in space. I am reminded here of Cornel Westâ€™s description of Percy Shellyâ€™s poet.
â€œHe is talking about all human beings who decide to muster their imagination and empathy to conceive of a better world, given the social misery and suffering of this world.â€ Â
Perhaps, this is what we can do with dance.
- Anthony Romero
Guest Post by Jane Jerardi
Miguel Gutierrez comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago this weekend with one of his newest works,Â And lose the name of action.Â The evening-length piece features a striking cast of note-worthy performersÂ â€“Â MichelleÂ BoulÃ©, Hilary Clark, Luke George, Miguel Gutierrez, K.J. Holmes, and Ishmael Houston-Jones. Inspired by JÃ¸rgen Lethâ€™s filmÂ The Perfect Human, the elusive logic of dance improvisation, philosophical quandaries about the brain, and the 19th century spiritualist movement, the piece draws connections between the analytical and the unexplainable, grappling with the limits of language and the ever-present spectre of death. It features music by Neal Medlyn, lighting design by Lenore Doxsee, and film/text by Boru O’Brien O’Connell.
Often cited as a provocative voice in the contemporary dance and performance scene, Gutierrez — like many in his generation — works across mediums.Â His poems appear as published performance texts and he designs solo performance works as well as projects with collections of performers and collaborators under the moniker the â€˜Powerful People.â€™Â Â A Guggenheim Fellow, his work has appeared as such venues as the Festival Dâ€™Automne in Paris; the TBA Festival/PICA in Portland, OR; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN; UNAM in Mexico City, and ImPulsTanz in Vienna, among others. Equally admired as a teacher, he has built a following for his improvisation/choreography classes as well as his â€˜DEEP Aerobicsâ€™ workouts. In mid-January, I met Miguel Gutierrez at the Abrons Arts Center amidst the first weekend of theÂ American Realness FestivalÂ â€“ an annual festival of contemporary dance and performance in New York. We chatted in a quiet spot near the dressing rooms about his upcoming engagement at the MCA â€“ including the powerhouse cast performing, the ghost hunt they went on during a residency to build the work, and the limits of language when it comes to dance.Â Here are some excerpts from our conversationâ€¦
Abrons Arts Center, New York, NY, January 13, 2013
Jane Jerardi: Maybe first we should start first with you just talking a bit about the genesis of the project youâ€™ll be performing at the MCA, And lose the name of action?
Miguel Gutierrez: Sure.Â I think Iâ€™m going to paint my nails as we do this [pulls out two shades of blue metallic nail polish] if thatâ€™s okay with you.
JJ: Sure.Â Talk about mind and bodyâ€¦!
MG: It feels like the right question to paint your nails toâ€¦Â Well, the piece really came out of a couple of things.Â In some ways it was an extension of Last Meadow [Gutierrezâ€™s previous piece], which is unusual for me, because usually when I finish a piece I want to change gears.Â But, by the time we got around to finishing Last Meadow, I realized I was only beginning to understand what I was doing.Â Towards the end of the project, I was introduced to this book The Meaning of the Body, by Mark Johnson, which calls for getting rid of the mind/body split, once and for all.Â Itâ€™s beautifully stated, but reading it as a dancer, there was a moment where I thought, â€œThis seems fairly obvious.â€Â For a person who has any kind of relationship to somatics, you of course recognize that the mind and body are connected; that perception is an embodied practice, and that all contexts are experienced through a sort of corporeal interaction. I thought to myself, This sounds like a contact improv class. And I thought, why is this new? I think it was that initial indignation that led to the piece. I felt like why isnâ€™t this something that is known? Â The second impulse for the work, was my dad.Â My dad had a series of neurological problems in 2008.Â He had a series of blood clots in his brain that were note properly diagnosed for several years. He had stroke-type things and then seizures, which then progressed during my research for And lose the name of action.
JJ: That sounds scary.
MG: Aside from the fact that it sucked, I think a couple of things came out of it. Here was a person I knew in a certain way, and suddenly he was changing. It sounds sort of basic, a basic experience of change. I say basic, but it was a quite radical. Suddenly, I was subjected to doctors telling me, This is whatâ€™s happening, This is what’s not happening â€“ but no one knows whatâ€™s happening. Everyone is guessing.Â You start to see that that the way we constitute a sense of self and reality are deeply subjective. And, out of your control. Youâ€™re in the hospital with your dad and thereâ€™s nothing you can do, aside from being present.Â At the time I was thinking, â€œWhat is it that I can offer here? As a dancer? As a person with some naÃ¯ve study of somatic practices?â€ I can be present.Â I can be an emotional support. I can be resonate and present in a way that is specific to what I do. It felt clear, but I felt very conscious that I donâ€™t share a language with these doctors.Â I canâ€™t assume they know of specific somatic practices or say, â€œHey, have you heard of the Feldenkrais Method?â€ or â€œDo you know about Body Mind Centering?â€
JJ: You realize how marginalized some of these movement practices are.
MG: Absolutely. I mean marginalized isnâ€™t even the word.Â Theyâ€™re invisible. I started to see how when people talk about brain, they are talking about mind. Lots of words are being used interchangeably.Â Thereâ€™s a lot of lack clarity in definition between disciplines.Â How is it that we have the same vocabulary but we arenâ€™t using words in the same way?Â I started to examine the value system around my teaching and practice.Â What is valuable about an improvisational performance practice?Â It is a kind of knowledge and a way of knowing, but quite different than other modes of knowing.Â And I though about Why am I so invested in this â€˜unknowing knowingâ€™? Â Why am I so mistrustful of alleged truths? That was all the stuff that led me into And lose the name of action. Then, I started thinking about ghosts and the paranormal. What about an immaterial body?Â What about a discipline of study that doesnâ€™t even presume that the body has to be tangible anymore? When we had our first residency we went on our first ghost hunt.
JJ: Tell me about that.
MG: We went on this ghost hunt with paranormal investigatorsâ€“crazy ladies in Tallahassee, FLâ€¦Â which sounds funny, but are these â€˜paranormal investigatorsâ€™ wrong?Â For them, it is true.Â If they see a ghost or hear a voice, if theyâ€™re having that experience, then thatâ€™s their embodied truth.Â Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s going on here in this conversation of perception and truth. If I experience my father as my father even if heâ€™s in a coma, is he not my father? If I feel that this is blue [pointing to his nail polish] and this is a lighter blue than the other blue [pointing to another bottle of darker blue nail polish] and I have a certain feeling about it. Am I wrong? Because thereâ€™s actually no way for me to definitely know how blue this is.Â Â Itâ€™s all these kinds ofâ€¦
JJ: Big questions.Â Really big questions.
MG: So, yeah [laughing] thatâ€™s what the show is about.Â [Joking] Itâ€™s just about a couple small thingsâ€¦
JJ: So how did this all play out in your explorations in the studio?
MG: A lot of talking, a lot of improvisational explorationâ€¦ In the piece, the bodies are the proof of themselves.
Because of the way that the piece exists â€“ even though the audience is onstage, even though people are really close to us â€“ it feels like something is at a distance. I had originally thought it would be really great to make a piece that didnâ€™t involve bodies at all.Â I mean why do there have to be bodies?Â Itâ€™s so weird and silly â€“ why are there bodies on stage at this point in history?Â Canâ€™t we just goâ€¦
JJ: Totally virtual?
MG: Yeah â€“ not even virtual or holograms â€“ butâ€¦ there are people that are doing that â€“ work thatâ€™s about post-human bodies â€“ but, I am still invested in the interpersonal dynamics of being in the room with people. Thatâ€™s what keeps me interested in my work.
JJ: I think it goes back to the value thing.Â Whatâ€™s at the core of what you do?
MG: And where do you build knowledge? Where do you build a sense of how you understand things and how you perceptively locate yourself in the world? When I look at dance, I can understand it. What does that mean? Not one specific, concrete meaning.Â Rather, as Iâ€™m watching the dance, I am understanding it and grappling with comprehension.Â And that perceptual act becomes a way to construct meaning.Â That doesnâ€™t necessarily translate easily into language. I mean I like words. I can talk. But, dance actually offers another perceptual experience in time. I donâ€™t think this is exclusive to dance, either. Mark Johnson argues that reality is actually an aesthetic experience. He doesnâ€™t use this exact language â€“ but weâ€™re choreographing our way through our lives. And, that feels really powerful in relationship to what performance or a body in action can do. It doesnâ€™t always happen. Most of the time, dance is written about exclusively as a visual rendering but, thatâ€™s not the whole pictureâ€¦
Working with Deborah Hay was pretty instrumental for me.Â Something she would say is, â€œThe movement is just a costume for perception.â€Â And, I feel thatâ€™s really true. Thatâ€™s my experience of dancing actuallyâ€¦Â So much of what intrigues me about dancing is about contending with myself in the moment.Â And all the fucked-up-ness of that question.
JJ: â€œContending with things in the momentâ€ is the way that people talk often about improvisation. Youâ€™re working with a pretty incredible set of improvisers as collaborators performing in the work.Â I wondered if you wanted to talk a little bit about that?Â I mean itâ€™s a very diverse, powerhouse group of people.
MG: Yes.Â I wanted to have a group â€“ well first, that werenâ€™t all young 20-year olds.Â I wanted a diverse age range for this piece. Â I hadnâ€™t worked with a group of people who were older than me before.Â And, I wanted a group of improvisers who could own themselves in a very clear way. I wanted to work with people who seemed restless or curious.Â And, I feel like thatâ€™s pretty true of this group!
JJ: So, youâ€™re working with MichelleÂ BoulÃ©â€¦
MG: Hilary Clark, Luke George, KJ Holmes, and Ishmael Houston-Jones.Â At first, I was a little like â€“ oh my god, who am I to tell these people what to do? It really did feel that way.Â Which was great, because I wanted to be challenged directorially.
JJ: It seemed to make a lot of sense to me because youâ€™re dealing with a kind of big existential topic â€“ life and death, philosophical truths such as â€˜person-hoodâ€™ and â€˜being.â€™ It requires a certain maturity.
MG: Yes.Â It feels important that the audience is looking at people who have contended with things. I also think that I was going through something about casting in general. This thing that often happens in the dance field is people donâ€™t take into consideration the representational value of the bodies that are there.
JJ: Which is kind of saying, maybe the visual does matter.Â The way that we read bodies matters.
MG: Absolutely.Â Bodies come marked. But, it feels like often the problem with the visual rendering thing is that people ignore it in the most important aspects in some ways.Â Because they think â€œIâ€™m dealing with abstraction.â€ Or, something neutral. I know that when I first went into dance as an adult, I was excited about how it contrasted to theater, because I didnâ€™t feel like I could get type-cast in the same way. I didnâ€™t have to audition to fulfill just one thing. It wasnâ€™t like â€“ â€œOh, Iâ€™m that Latino kid.â€ So, itâ€™s funny to have come full circle and now become hyper-conscious about who is on the stage.Â But also, I think now more than ever â€“ the way artists work â€“ youâ€™d be hard-pressed to find a choreographer whose not working explicitly collaboratively with their dancers. Although, I sort of suspect thatâ€™s always been true.Â Thereâ€™s a real thought around how you have people involved in your process.
JJ: I wonder if we could talk about some of the other collaborators involved and, some of the sources because in a way you could think of sources as collaborators.
MG: Somewhere towards the beginning of the process I read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. I realized that writers give themselves permission to do so much.Â You really can go there.Â You can interrelate different things.Â A novel â€“ or that kind of novel letâ€™s say â€“ doesnâ€™t aspire to be minimalist. Certainly thereâ€™s editing. But it doesnâ€™t see reduction as the only compositional value to explore.Â As someone who has struggled with living in an aesthetic climate where minimalism is privileged above all else, Iâ€™m excited to encounter work that deals with interrelating or association. I started to realize that what we were making â€“ in a sense â€“ was a novel. For example, each dancer wears multiple costumes in the piece â€“ Iâ€™d never done that before.Â Or, even having people leave [the stage space].
JJ: By having people leave and re-enter there could suddenly be chapters.
MG: Yes, I really feel like the piece does unfold in that way.
JJ: Even though a lot of the piece comes from the idea of embodiment, youâ€™re also using text in the piece. Could you could talk a little bit about how the text figures into the work? What drew you to using text?
MG: The bulk of the text it written by Boru Oâ€™Brien Oâ€™Connell (who also collaborated to create video projections).Â Some of the text is an appropriation of George Berkeleyâ€™s writings.
Text is often used as the locator of meaning. And, if it exists in a performance â€“ thatâ€™s when weâ€™re like â€“ thereâ€™s the meaning!Â That definitely happens in this piece. But, it also functions as a texture. It functionsâ€¦almost like a kind of perfumeâ€¦.
JJ: Thatâ€™s a nice image.
MG: â€¦A kind of experience thatâ€™s not even exclusively about it being attached to understanding.
And lose the name of action appears at the MCA, Chicago January 31 â€“ February 3, 2013.Â For more information and tickets: http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2013/884Â This performance is part of the IN>TIME Festival.Â http://www.in-time-performance.org/
Jane Jerardi is an artist working in the media of choreography, performance, and video installation.Â Currently based in Chicago, her work has been presented at such venues as Transformer and The Warehouse (Washington DC), Defibrillator (Chicago IL); Danspace Project at St. Markâ€™s Church and the LUMEN Festival for Video and Performance (New York), among others.Â She is one third of the cohort that runs Adult Contemporary, an alternative art space in Logan Square.Â She teaches at Columbia College, Chicago, where she is also on staff at the Dance Center.
This week:Â A conversation with Ebony G. Patterson & Tumelo Mosaka at Monique Meloche Gallery. Patterson (Jamaican, born Kingston Jamaica 1981, lives Lexington, KY) will have a dynamic mixed-media installation that investigates Jamaican dance hall culture in the galleryâ€™s window facing Division Street. Mosaka included Patterson in his 2007 exhibitionÂ Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art where he was formerly Associate Curator of Exhibitions. Recently, Mosaka has become the Contemporary Art Curator at the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois. Pattersonâ€™s installationÂ Gully Godz in Conversation-Conversations Revised I, II and III will continue through March 26 as our 4th on the wall project.
link to series…
I have always loved anything that mixes the timeless with the now (explains Moby a lot I guess, who had a great show at the Vic last September) and while talking to a archeology friend the other day about their favorite cultural artifacts & activities she brought up the New ZealandÂ All Blacks Rugby team’s tradition of performing the Haka before every match.
If you have never seen it, this is one of those bucket list kind of things to see live. As if New Zealand needed more tourism reasons. If it’s too violent for anyone there is a sweeter version to be had as well.
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! (I die! I die! I live! I live!)
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! (I die! I die! I live! I live!)
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru (This is the hairy man)
Nana nei i tiki mai (Who fetched the Sun)
Whakawhiti te ra (And caused it to sine again)
A upa… ne! Ka upa…. ne! (One upward step! Another upward step!)
A upane kaupane whiti te ra! (An upward step, another…. the Sun shines!!)