the word

I’m having a little difficulty with this word; “improvisation”.  Its a term that connotes an uninhabitable territory, uninhabitable because the specificity of its meaning doesn’t touch the sides of the territory it alludes to.

Too large and too small. Also too ‘universal’ as its a word that could be applicable to any creative action in any context. When I realized that butoh is at once improvised, scored, intricately choreographed, or any combination of those things I realized I was looking at a cultural artefact. It grew out of a set of circumstances and as a response to those circumstance. That response caught on, was elaborated on and evolved etc. But it wasn’t called improvisation,  it was called butoh.

Same could be said of jazz (sorry, a hackneyed comparison but useful). The languages we speak are usually improvisationally administered situation specific events. When I lead a dance and movement improvisation workshop recently the questions that I focussed it through were:

1. What is the language we are improvising (creating, in the moment, emergent, contingent) ?

2. What is the language in which we are improvising? (that which is already known, learnt, familiar in our bodies) ?

In my own work I take into account the hodge podge of modernist, post – modernist, cultural, intercultural, etc movement codifications as what largely makes up the movement vocabularies I’m improvising in. What is the name of all that? Calling it improvisation distracts me from the material itself. It also raises up the idea of improvisation – what people think improvisation in dance is. They are usually both right and wrong at the same time, and the idea that they have is not what improvisation actually is.

I’m happy to sub categorize my work and link it to post modernism. That’s a term that is problematic in similar ways however, there’s a lot of argument about what post modernism is. But at least when I think about post modern dance I can locate it, I can come up with names, dates, aesthetics, agendas, and places.

In New Zealand I’ve largely been going about this business of training the discipline of improvised dance / composition by myself. Shall I name what I do with my own surname, creating a name branded technique of my very own? Anyway these questions are a summation or an expression of where I’m at both personally and artistically. I can publicly pull apart my work and name its constituent parts to anyone who cares to ask, but I’m still at a loss to give it a cultural identifier, to find a place for it in general scheme of things.


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