GRAVITY AND STRANGELS by Gilles Jobin
I am now in one month residency at Cern. What did I make of it? Many things, too many things!…. It is so inspiring, there is so many experiments… But I promised to stay focused…
I gave up on the idea of the Metaphors to concentrate on Gravity and Movement Generators. As I was collecting metaphors, I realized that the ideas in the metaphors were sometimes so powerful in themselves that I was totally distracted by the anecdote and was totally loosing the flow… If it would be interesting, maybe more as an outreach program or a commission work, to recreate physics experiments with real bodies, experiments might become easier to understand. So Cern outreach, physics dpt at universities, here I am! But for now, I must stick on more fundamental movement research.
ON GRAVITY AND MENTAL IMAGE
I am interested in knowing more about gravity, and in general the question of how our body holds together in space. Having realized that we are traveling through space together with the planet, that gravity is insignificant as a fundamental force, I would like to know more… But what mostly stroke me was the fact that we “hold together” and that we are “not a pile of matter” on top of each other, on top of the earth… It seems to be pretty basic knowledge, but I realized most of the people I know also think themselves as a “pile of stuff”.
For me, being a dancer the notion of gravity goes deeper as the relation to gravity has been rooted in my dance practice form the start and never put into question. It is a very direct relation from my body to the ground. Stand, fall, roll… In Ballet it is about balance and liberating from gravity, in contemporary dance it is about “feeling the ground”, “be grounded”. I realized that it is much more than that, and that gravity has to do with movement, velocity and energy, attraction, curves, trajectories etc… I was a pretty keen skater in my teens and I love to “curve” when I ski nowadays. I should have known better! But dance does not produce so much speed, so the effect of gravity is not so important, it is difficult while dancing to feel the “weightless” sensation you get while ski-craving, or on a skate ramp as you are about to fall back into the vertical. We do not produce so much G-force while dancing… I always somehow made the link with my sport practice, but to feel my body as atoms glued together by the nuclear force is quite amazing, and a new paradigm in how I “feel” my body from now on. Or better said, how I innerly visualize my body, or, how I internally “consider” my body as an object in space.
I believe it can be quite essential for contemporary dance to understand a new way to “feel” our body in movement, an new way to “see” our body in motion, a new way to represent our body. Much of the way we consider our body has to do with the way we think about it: you will look more beautiful if you think yourself as beautiful. We have this capacity to project inner images of our body to the outside: confidence for instance or the opposite, shyness. We can “feel” and “see” our body from the inside. We have this sense of being able to “see with our back”, or to place our feet under the table in the right place without seeing them, as much as we can type without looking at the keyboard our hands holding into the air or play music even if we are blind. It is all this capacity to position our body into space, the capacity to visualize and sense our body parts. It is not “feel”, because you don’t really feel your foot under the table, it is more “think” because you think about its position. Sometimes, one can get confused, if the legs are crossed for instance and get a confused image of the position of the limbs. There is neurological explanation for those sensations, but there is questions when one can still feel its amputee member. I read somewhere that we build up a mental image of ourselves that does not only rely on sensations, we have a capacitiy to feel ourselves in space, (if we have at least one reference, in our case usually the floor)
We can influence those inner images. For instance, in that yoga class when the teacher was talking about the sensation of having a hot bottle of warm olive oil being dripped over my head, I could almost feel that sensation! (that metaphor took me out of my yoga class an made me feel greasy…). As well, in my beginners dance classes, I remember those instructions of “roots growing under your feet”, or as I have put it in during the creation of my piece The Moebius Strip, “become the floor, like you become one of Trafalgar’s square stone lions, like you become stone…”. Of course, the atoms of my body did not change into atoms of rocks, but I can project my mind into that idea and therefore “become the idea of being a stone lion”. Which is what really interests me here. Because for me, as a choreographer, it is the situation and the transmission of this idea that is powerful. An idea without meaning, true, but looking at that dancer “becoming the same material as the floor”, I give to the spectator a very intense situation to look at. It is dense and the dancer is not doubting about what he/she is doing. He/she has a power of conviction that sucks the spectator into his dancer’s brain… It is all about subjectivity, from the inside and for the outside as well! I am always surprised on how spectators pick up on ideas I have put in my pieces, ideas that sometimes even the dancers don’t know about, while spectators after a performance spot it right on! We should never underestimate the power of an idea nor the power of suggestion.
STRANGELS AT THE CERN LIBRARY
The other day, when we did this performance in the Cern’s library, we were “Strangels”, strange angels, “coming from another dimension to rest inside the library”. That idea of the Strangels is pretextuel. It gives me the license to be in the library and move. Without this pretext, what on earth would be dancers doing in a library while people are studying? Inventing the Strangles authorizes me to create movement and situation. In this case it is a narative that allows me to be abstract: abstract figuration again… But the “real” idea, was that in a library you can not be intrusive as people are doing serious work. So you must be quiet, and almost become invisible. So, just to have the idea of being invisible makes you invisible! For some people working in the library on the first day (we did it twice) when the performance was not announced unlike the second day which was announced, we were almost invisible. We were quiet in our moves and made not fast gestures. Therefore the people studying did not loose their concentration. Some did not even see us or very briefly. They might have seen us, but have not realized we spent two hours in the library as we were not intrusive. Their “mental time”, or “mental clock” was set in a different time scale: When you are concentrated to the max, time passes in a different way say than when you do your grocery shopping. Concentration adds density to the sensation of time. By making us “time compatible” with the people in the library, we became invisible, or better said, unnoticeable… In that sense the performance was a success as our main goal was reached. We could “be” , as strange as we are, and still be part of the same “fundamental soup”. In a live performance, spectators and actors get old together. In this particular situation, there was a “décalage” between our realities. In that sense we did not get old together because we did not have the same experience in space an time…
In my next blog, I will explain what I mean by “Movement Generators”… Stay tuned…