My most exciting project this year is the start of ConCuerpos in the Netherlands!!
I'm lucky to be working with the beautiful dancers Kamee Frieling, Dennis Massar and Anneloes van Schuppen. We started a somatic-based piece called Trees and Ballons in collaboration with the architects Alexander Petrounine and Anna Underowicz. Marc Nukoop did the sound composition. Here is a bit of the project:
Description of the project
In this new creative project, I want to deepen the relationship between Sign Language (SL) and choreography. A relationship that I have been nurturing in my past creations mainly with my inclusive dance company ConCuerpos. I want to develop further this exploration by opening a new side of the research: being inspired by the kinetic experience of signing using somatic methods.
In my previous works, the focus has been to enhance the kinetic aspect of SL by applying choreographic tools in a way that signs and gestures are expanded in terms of space, dimension, speed, rhythm, and the interconnection between dancers.I have always started from some kind of text, whereas a story, a transcription of a speech, or a creative text created in collaboration with the dancers. The process followed by interpreting this text into SL with the help of the deaf dancers, and then bringing those signs into collective movement to compose dance sequences.Even though the signs transformed significantly when becoming dance, the meaning of the text has been taking a lot of relevance, dictating the meaning of the work. In this sense, there has been always a trade of literality that I want to challenge. Even though I still find value in those methods and choreographic results, I started to sense another approach since I have been doing my Somatic dance education.
For this project, instead of starting from a specific text, I want to see if it is possible to start from the body directly, from the kinetic experience of signing and the eloquence that this language brings to the fingers and hands in motion. By doing so, I think a deconstruction of SL is going to happen, creating an expressive but not literal dance that can be enjoyed by both deaf and hearing communities equally.I want to invite my team to challenge the hierarchy in language by focusing on and prioritising movement above meaning. My initial questions are: What are the underlined movement principles when signing? Can these principles be studied from the somatic perspective?
Like this, the aim is to development of a somatic method of movement research specifically to study the different aspects of SL in order to create dance in collaboration with the team which includes a deaf dancer and an interpreter. I’m interested in studying the meaningless phonological features of SL such as classifiers, hand-shape, location, and movement. Also, the iconic (in opposition to arbitrary) characteristic of the signs, since SL is a visuogestural language. This characteristic makes it possible that even hearing people can understand some signs since the meaning of the movement can be guessed by its form. That is why the process will include studying Dutch Sign Langue and its linguistics, parallel to having somatic experiences from different body systems such as bones, flesh, and fascia. The purpose is that these two start to dialogue through the body. I have identified two relevant systems: the supportive system and the eloquent system.Like this, I want to bring focus to a sophisticated movement of the hands, arms, and spine from a very grounded place that involves the use of the whole body.
Motivation and urgency for the project
I am committed to the continued progress of disability justice, supporting artists with a disability to make dance more accessible. My collaborative work in this field challenges traditional notions about the body and expands what dance can be. Mainly, I have learned that dance can be enriched by the experiences of disabled people such as is the case with the deaf community and SL. A beautiful form of communication based on movement that has a lot to teach movement researchers like me. In other words, my stand on the inclusive dance field goes beyond offering dance opportunities for disabled artist but also giving value to what they bring to the table.
The context of this research starts with my work as Director of ConCuerpos from which I realize that it was very relevant and urgent to develop an artistic language based on the notion of Universal Accessibility in order to offer accessible dance works for all audiences including people with hearing and visual impairments. After successfully creating professional-level dance works including dancers with and without disabilities, I realized that we were still creating for a very normative audience. Following the perspective of creating spaces for encounters rather than working under a segregation logic, my interest is to create in a way that everyone can enjoy. This means integrating SL and audio description as expressive means within the dramaturgy, and not as access tools that come once the work is finished. Within this exploration, I have been able to go further in the relationship between SL and dance since I have been lucky enough to collaborate with deaf dancers. Thanks to this collaboration,I have been able to develop clear methodsto combinethesigns with partnering and contact tools, which results in abeautiful choreographic way of storytelling, as I see it. As stated before, for this project my aim is to deepen this research with the knowledge I have acquired in the somatic dance education I am following in the Netherlands.
I find somatic practice asan amazing tool for creative movement research. This way of moving brings attention to the first-person experience rather than the external appearance of movement, which allows a very inclusive approach to dance practice. In my experience, to make dance more accessible, the path is to find the movement principle underlining so that everyone can study that in their own body. Furthermore, the focus of the education I’m following is on real-time composition, involving practice on how to place the movement material in time and space. This connects immediately the somatic experiences with creation, reaching the artistic ground. I am very inspired by this approach and I am eager to have the opportunity to bring it into the experience of signing, and studying the beautiful characteristics of this language in a creative manner.