Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comments on the 2001 Motif Symposium – Paths

Submitted by Naomi Isaacson - June 8, 2001

Some more thoughts sparked off by the Motif Symposium posting. Am I at all on the right path?:


From Point of View II, can one meander on a straight path, or bits of straight lines, or is 'aimless' movement in space necessarily curved?

Whilst there may be no urgency in terms of arriving at a specific destination, can there perhaps be a sense of urgency simply in the need to move? -- If the motivation is not to trace a specific path, but simply to enjoy the feel of moving through space, would increased energy and speed (for the purpose of the physical sensation) be sufficiently purposeful to disqualify such spatial aimlessness as meandering? (I may be getting too much into semantics here, but I tend to think of meandering as generally being rather slow and drifting).

re Questions:

I like the use of the 'any' sign for 'any path'. As meandering seems to mean 'wandering without specific destination on any path consisting of curves', (at least from Point of View I), perhaps one could retain the base of Ann's symbol 1d, and (for visual satisfaction) use an 'any' sign on the top end, (a) below. To indicate curving, one could put an arrow on each side end of the base, which would indicate that both cw and ccw are acceptable, (b) below.

I think teaching Point of View II is essential insofar as the awareness/lack of awareness of inner motivation producing pathways affects both the dancer's experience of the movement and the response of the viewer. We may want the movement to look robotic or emotionless, but even this requires some sort of inner awareness.

I seem to keep coming up against the essential difference between Motif and detailed notation, and the point at which one will choose, or abandon, one in favor of the other. I tend more and more (in my current admittedly limited efforts to notate my work) to want to blend the two, using sometimes LN and sometimes Motif, depending on what I want to communicate to the reader/dancer. Am I now schizoid? Definitely!

The reason there is no problem with straight and circular paths is that these are quite exact, objective spatial terms. However, once we include motivation, differences in focus, intent, can we arrive at a conflict between visual pattern and sense or experience of the movement, e.g. "meandering on a straight path"? And does such apparent concern for detail fit within the ambit of Motif writing or of LN?

As the purpose of Motif is defined as giving a less detailed, or broader, movement description than LN, one of its main functions would appear to be a declaration of general intent, motivation, of the movement, with the actual spatial pattern being a result of this intent. This keeps raising the question: Are we concerned primarily with the movement as human expression, or as an objective kinetic language applicable to everything that moves? To what extent do we want the notation only to give a suggestion as to the use of the physical body in space, and how much leeway do we give the performer in interpretation? If I want to be specific both physically and with regard to motivation, should I combine LN with Motif?

My choreographer persona wonders whether my reluctance to commit my own work to paper (notation) stems partially from the fact that I always modify something to suit the current dancers, and also want to see their individual nuances of interpretation when reconstructing my works, and would not really like to restrict such modification for others. I think I would rather have people do an apparently "incorrect" reconstruction with the integrity of their own vision, than slavishly limit themselves to what they see on paper. Does this mean I don't myself always know exactly what I want the movement to say? -- (the reason most people hesitate (or are unable) to commit their personal goals to writing is that this demands absolute crystallization of frequently amorphous 'dreams' into specific goals). Not really -- I think it's just that what I want to say usually includes some aspect of each specific dancer.

If I say, "Do what I say, but in your own way", as a preface to each score, can I have sufficient trust in the reader that I won't want a disclaimer on the programme stating "after Joe Plod", or "variations on a theme by Joe Plod"?

For example, it may strike many as incongruous to have actors in a modern business setting spouting Shakespearean language, as in the film of Hamlet -- but to the current young audience this perhaps has more relevance than a period setting. The words, characterization and flow of language can remain, but if they do not speak to the current audience they tend to remain limited to the "museum" viewer rather than the general public. And then again -- does this matter? Can we speak to all of the public all of the time?? Is it not more important to show an exact rendition of the original, and leave current relevance to exploration by the creative talents of the current generation?

In truth, I myself do not particularly enjoy reconstructing my own past works, but prefer to move on, being at each stage of my life in quite a different place from when I first made them. I do, on the other hand, love to read the works of other choreographers, from whatever period, and like the scores to be as detailed as possible so I really get the individual intent of the choreographer (as much as possible, bearing in mind that the mark of the notator's own perception is always there, however slight).

So my notator persona wants to nit-pick infinitely in selecting the most accurate symbols and recording 'from the choreographer's mouth (body? mind?)'.

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