October 18, 2008

now we are done. really. the performance is gone, finished, finito. so much adrenaline and anticipation for 10 minutes of dance (sorry, I meant movement)! but it was cool, I enjoyed the performance very much. we had a long day at the theater, with short times for spacing and light cues check, and with a dress rehearsal just before the actual performance. but it was fun, nice energy in the group and -I think- a nice audience for Japanese standards (though I may be completely wrong…). people were clapping less than I expected, but at the same time a lot of them clapped to the music in the (coreographed and musicalized) bow. I had my moment of public embarrasment when they called my name and I had to bow from the audience, and then everyone was happy. almost everyone, I think. some people where not so excited about my work, but that is expectable, natural and fine. other people liked it quite a bit, and specially the people from the University seemed quite positive, both the dancers and the teachers. we also had visitors from the Argentinian Embassy, the Cultural Aggregate (so the Japanese audience had the luxury of having 2 Argentinian Pablos in the same room at the same time!), and two Japanese secretaries who were very sweet in their Argentinian accented Spanish.

my coreography was quite nicely performed, I think. as usual, just the presence of the audience already makes all your flaws evident to yourself. the structure had it’s dips of energy, and moments where it was very difficult to have a nice (structural) timing. I also realized only today how much the piece was rehearsed for a small space like the studio, where I was never too far from them. specially using the voice would have needed a lot more practicing in a space that big. but a very beautiful surprise (I am very sorry to say that I didn’t plan it in advance) is that the movement and structures, and a lot of the spacing, worked very well for those distances and perspective (the 300 seats audience was higher than the stage, like in a flat floor theater or auditorium). it was nice to have an overview of the evolutions in space and group relations.

all in all, I am very happy with this experience. it was a great process of negotiations, finding communicative strategies for the rehearsals and constantly measuring the status of the process. this last issue of calculating progress in every rehearsal, being avaricious with time, is not something I want to carry on to my next projects, but it was an interesting training. maybe it’s good if it can become a subconscious skill, or an intuitive practice, instead of a neurosis of sorts.

also, I have been busy discussing with myself how much physical involvement do I need to have in rehearsals. I love to move with the performers, and it helps me to think, but it also keeps me away from watching, and that is sometimes a loss… but this is always a kind of dialectic of my rehearsals, and the thing is in this process it got very hightened because sometimes moving with the performers seemed like the only way to communicate some things. so, happily, I did not arrive to any conclusion, but it’s been good to have such a simple and serious question so present every time.

in this trip I’ve been enjoying also the concentration of being here mostly only for that project. yes, I had time to walk the city, do some sightseeing or other experiences, but my attention was very focused in the piece, and that was a very beautiful feeling. and though I don’t wish to always be somewhere where I don’t really live, for once (for one process) it was a cool feeling. or… I don’t know. maybe I can anyways dedicate all that mental energy to a project, because I do feel like that was more or less the case with the previous coreography. maybe I’m changing. maybe I’m learning how to be more focused… let’s hope so.

then after the performance we had a nice dinner, in the Japanese terms that I described many posts ago: a little bit of food, a lot of drinking. I was surprised at myself (about the drinking, I mean), to be honest. it was great, I had some cool conversations and finally got to socialize more with the dancers. I thought that it was very stupid of me not to have organized something like that (though more modest) before – next process I think the first task has to be: go out for a drink together. such a rich experience. we talked also about the pieces and that led to exchanging what we find interesting to see in performances… once more I found myself speaking pretentiously and posing a little bit, and once more I didn’t repress it because it showed me some of my own opinions on things. and also because I am starting to feel very comfortable with abusing the word dance in my professional vocabulary, trying not to fear that it might sound dull or lame, and trying not to let it become one very specific reduced idea. it’s fun… oh, and before I forget: we also discussed Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and (my beloved) Jackie Chan, masters of timing and movement…

well… I do feel a little bit empty and sad now, about leaving Tokyo and about not rehearsing anymore. I will miss the dancers and the studio. and I will miss this city.

hmm. I think I want more…

October 15, 2008

today I tried a little bit more around the idea of my ‘Japanyze’ side-dish – that is, a small semi-spontaneous side project I do during this trip. with ‘Japanyze’ I’m just wondering about the racial aspect of my fascination with Japan, and I’m wondering about desires of racial exchange, of being someone else, or something else… I heard once about make up products designed to make Japanese women look like they have bigger, more open eyes (which is, apparently, one of the cannons of beauty here – hence the eyes of the Manga and Anime drawings, for instance). so I thought, why not me? why not do the same but inverted? so I started tryng to tape my eyes, practice a misplaced temporary lifting, pulling the skin from my temples to make my eyes look like Japanese eyes… somehow.

a few times, now, I’ve tried to do it. today I found a better technique to hold it. and I checked also how it looks with yellow tape. I think the colour of the tape can also be an extra layer of reference. I also want to try it with white tape. maybe do a series of fotos… I would like to do a bit more of a performance with it, but I still doubt and wonder, and fear it might be offensive for someone. 

I had a nice conversation with Matsuo, in the meantime. we both drunk coffee while I was trying out the tape thing, and we had a cool talk about my idea and the potential reactions… I mentioned going out in the street like that, and also that I would like to go to a game center and do some pictures with taped eyes in a Puricura booth (a ‘game’ where you take some pictures and add some quick preset glittery effects and then get a few prints in small formats, for your wallet and your friends’… apparently popular amongst groups of people going out… hey, I even did it once we were out for dinner in Yokohama). and we talked about the posibility of people feeling offended, about a history of Japan being submitted to American racism, and about Japanese racism – while Japanese people might be offended by my gesture of pulling my eyes back, apparently old Japanese people use the same gesture to refer to Koreans and Chinese. we talked a bit about the Japan Bashing period, and about Japan’s incredible economic reconstruction after WWII. I brought in some unclear reference to Takayuki Tatsumi’s theory of ‘Creative Masochism’ and Matsuo agreed on my friend Ernesto’s comments (check a few posts ago) on the Japanese people being very adaptible.

so, while having this very interesting conversation, I had the space for two very important things: to keep thinking how to frame this idea (this image?) in an effective way, and to observe Matsuo’s response to my little performance. because, for the first 4 or 5 minutes, I was still using the tape and talking to him with pulled eyes – with Japanese eyes… I don’t know what he would say if he reads this in the blog (maybe he will tell me soon?), but I felt he wasn’t very comfortable. that’s why I took it off soon, but I think it was a great starting point for the conversation… maybe that is a nice format… maybe it can be a starting point for conversations… and going back a little bit: it seems quite important to find some layer that makes the little performance easier to bear, or to engage with, somehow to make sure it doesn’t seem like an offense. I think it could be quite funny, and that it should be clear that is not about mocking Japanese people but about making fun of my own desires and fantasies. that is what the framing, the form, needs to be about… some kind of balance between triggering something a bit visceral, and building up a friendly space to share, maybe by exposing oneself (the performer) to ridicule. this is an idea I’ve been working with when I was teaching, and sometimes in rehearsals, as a way to relax a bit the atmosphere and encourage some shamelesness from the other dancers… I think I have been very succesful at making myself look like a real idiot, but I am actually quite proud of it. I have to think about Robert (Steijn)’s teachings (I hope, Robert, you won’t take me wrong – I’m just trying to acknowledge influences).

so, to finish, I’m doubting wether to place a picture here or not. but I think it’s nicer to leave it to your imagination. in any case, I will probably show up with pictures or video or a performances at sime point.

caught once more in the maelstrom of contradiction
October 14, 2008

over the weekend I had an e-mail exchange with one of the dancers from my piece. she mentioned having read my blog (this blog), and she seemed to be a bit upset and offended by what I wrote. by something I wrote. so I started re-reading the last few posts, trying to understand what had I said so bad about them, and though I couldn’t find anything, I felt really really bad about it.

since our communication is quite fragile due to the afore-mentioned (many-wheres in this blog) language barrier, and since our process is kind of short, and our cultures quite different, and our working experiences very dissimilar (just to mention a few of the parameters determining this process), it is important for me to build as quickly as possible a working relationship as strong as possible. and when I thought that she (and others) might feel offended or hurt by my writing, I panicked. saturday night I was feeling awful. so I wrote her an e-mail, trying to explain a lot of things about the process and why there are no reasons for her (or the other dancers) to feel attacked by what I write in the blog. this e-mail I copied into the blog a couple of posts ago. I thought apologizing ‘publicly’ was a good way to atone for whatever I might have said, and I also thought that what I had written for her was a nice synospsis of reflections around the process and our relationship. in the end, I think now, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and things seem to be ok. is all well what ends well… or is all well what was never bad…

but then, getting to what I wanted to write about in this post, the interesting thing for me is the place of misunderstandings in this chain of events. because I thought that there might have been some misunderstandings in reading the blog, but then my friend suggested that I was misunderstanding the dancer’s e-mail, and that she might not understand my new e-mail very well (because it was a little bit… profuse, to say something, and probably very redundant)… and I found myself wishing we would understand each other clearly and well, and questioning my whole discourse about how creative and interesting misunderstandings can be. but I think now that I was panicking, and emotional (I was also very tired on saturday, after teaching and having had a very intense week), and it was easy to loose my faith.

today I believe again that misunderstandings are quite cool. and that this correspondence helped me write and think a little bit extra… so there is the creative potential, right? wow, and now this episode actually ends up endorsing the ‘thesis’ of the coreography, ha… amazing.

en el horno
October 11, 2008

last rehearsal today. or, actually, not really the last rehearsal, but the only one we have left is the night before the performance (only in one week from now!), so I don’t think I will pressure the dancers with more changes or additions to the coreography… in any case, today it was fairly good, in spite of having 3 absent dancers, starting almost 15 minutes late, and getting a new frustration in talking about costumes. also the energy was a bit low, but I think they are tired and I didn’t manage so well to keep a good nice exciting atmosphere there today… and still, as I said, it was fairly good. surprisingly they took even a bit more freedom than the things I proposed (maybe it was a misunderstanding?), and it was great to see them take much more care of the timing and of the nuances in sound and space. I think the structure got a bit better now, and they are also taking more responsibility. that’s very nice to see.

and then, I am just very scared of how it can go with no rehearsing in so many days, and with the overload of dancing so many pieces. it’s nice to see them, and I think the fact that my coreography is quite different from the others (and that it resorts to a very different performativity) could make the whole evening much more exciting and rich, but I fear that it might just blurr and mess things up.

(he stops writing, lays back in his chair, and reflects for a moment – short pause)

I was just thinking that, just like me throughout this trip, also the group has better days and worst days. I just remembered how tiredness also fucks up your language capabilities, and your brain slows down. maybe today they were more tired than usual. I was thinking this after going over my feeling of guilt – the guilt about my lack of clarity (which is enlarged by the language issue, and by the fact that I speak a lot). today I felt very responsible for the low group energy. I remembered Katie Duck’s ‘directing’ workshop, and I did try to turn things around – shift the space – start again – change focus – do something. it did get things better, and it’s not like I don’t notice, but sometimes it’s also tiring for myself and difficult to pick up again. I was also tired today.

at times I think that what gets me most frustrated is not the results of how the piece works, but the fact that sometimes it doesn’t manage to engage the dancers fully. and though I Think the responsibility should not be only mine, I do feel very sad when it doesn’t work so well… I like rehearsing. on some level, I think I still like more rehearsing than performing. maybe I know what I feel: I want my rehearsals to be a very exciting experience for the people involved…

reading once more
October 9, 2008

I started reading a book again. I’m happy about it.

from stimulating your own body to being stimulated by it (hmm… that sounds a bit kinky)
October 6, 2008

yesterday we also visited (me, for the first time) an Onsen, which is a bath/sauna with natural hot springs. apparently the hot springs are very common here, though in Tokyo they have to drill to find them (the locations are not natural). besides the fact that it was very relaxing and nice, it was (yet another) a learning bodily experience. and it reminded me of visiting the flotation tanks in the research process of Nora Heilmann’s piece ‘Fieldings’.

I also think that the iodine (a lot of it) and other minerals in the water were affecting my nervous system. all the moments of going from the hot water into the cold water were very… full of sensations, to say something. feeling very light, feeling vibrations all throughout, feeling my heart adjusting and working. it also made me think about how my relation to my own body has changed in these last 3 years, and it made me feel a lot more sensitive and open to sensing things that (probably) constantly take place in my body.

a specially memorable moment happened a couple of minutes after going into the cold water for the first time, and some serious stress or something got released inside, because I started laughing and couldn’t stop for about 3’ or 4’…

on top of tokyo… not.
October 4, 2008

-note: this post is a mix of lines written in different days, so please forgive the emotional incoherence of the writing-

after dinner with Ernesto, a (new) friend from Uruguay/Amsterdam, and having had some conversations about economics, politics and bussiness, I ended up a bit ashamed of how ‘unpolitical’ my project in Japan became. and not because it’s not political in some manner (thank god for the always present micro-politics thing…) but because I had to admit today -in conversation and in later reflection- that a lot of my comfort and small successes here seems connected to the whole axis of inter-racial desire, fantasies and expectations… and I feel like my piece here is dealing only with a small portion of that, maybe in a very naïve manner. and maybe that is ok (today I feel much better about things), maybe it’s also my ‘manner’. I think my way of working, of relating to new people, of presenting myself, is always a bit naïve.

I have the impression sometimes that a lot of the welcoming I receive here is due to my foreigner condition, and maybe also to being white and male. and maybe that’s not so terrible. or at least it’s not my fault nor my responsibility (is it?). yesterday I was feeling that I’ve been avoiding the subject, and that my work could have been much more of a reflection about those issues: desire, race, fantasies. I feel like I escaped into working around certain exchanges and using transliterations and translations as strategies for creation. and again, yesterday I was feeling that this is a bit superficial or too simple… but today I also thought that is appropriate for this process, for the ammount of time we have to spend in rehearsal, for this being my first experience in Japan, for the fact that I also need to take care of myself and withdraw a little bit when I feel that things can get too sordid… and, also, that there is a certain depth in my creative process, even if it’s not in the coreography. and I am actually very happy about it, and I think the negotiations on the level of language, of managing energy and leading a big group are already a very rich experience. I am dealing with a group of 13 people, in a very restricted process, so I have a lot to enjoy, learn from and be proud of…

in any case, I have to accept that sometimes this trip can also get dark. yesterday I was feeling quite depressed. today I had a good day. but still, I do realise that there is a lot more to the Japanese sense of sexuality and sensuality that would be very interesting to keep looking at, or work on. no double meanings intended (well, maybe now…). I have the feeling that the many layers around those issues have a strange dynamics of exposition and hiding. I have the impression that they are very sexist. they seem quite represive on some issues, and seem to have a conservative discourse on gender. homosexuality seems like a huge taboo. at the same time, I see a brutal ammount of softcore/hardcore sex exploitation. and on top of that (please allow me to keep writing, even if it’s very speculative, unclear and rushed), a big culture of exhibitionism and voyeurism, maybe as an escape for marginalized people… but also as a commodity. there are also a lot of fetishisms publicly exposed in publicity, in fashion, in magazines and books, and in people’s urban attitudes.

this brings me to the next point, hopefully: the Japanese are so good at being capitalists. in my conversation with Ernesto (an enthusiast of capitalism), he made some really interesting comments. I think he proposed a very good insight on (an aspect of) the Japanese people. we were talking about coreography, and I mentioned that one of the issues I deal with is the fact that the dancers in my piece are not very used to open forms or improvised material. then, when our Japanese friend said that the Japanese people are very square and always need to be told what they have to do, Ernesto disagreed saying that they are very good at shifting and adjusting and evolving, even within or maybe because of very tight frames. and that’s why they are so good at bussiness, and that’s why they managed to become the 2nd biggest economy in the world in barely 30 years, after touching bottom in WW2 (and, I would add, that’s why he seems to like them so much). so I thought his image of the Japanese as actually quite flexible was very lucid and … something like bold? I found it inspiring. I hope it will help me rethink things about my rehearsals with the Japanese dancers.

and then, one more thing that this comment triggered was a scary thought. I always wonder how much our artistic tendencies and new ideas are informed by social changes, or by paradigm changes that are already very spread out socially. how much are we contemporary artists spear heads of thought, and how much are we just an illustration of what social and economic dynamics have already brought about. Ernesto’s comment also made me think that somehow all the things we praise in open forms, decision making ‘in the moment’, adaptability and versatility of performers, improvisation, etc, could be very easily seen as a reflection of the values of capitalism and of what has made capitalism so succesful. I hope I’m clear enough… somehow it was quite a sad perspective, and I think that was the main reason for my sadness yesterday. I thought, for instance, that then maybe Classical Ballet or Opera have a big political meaning because of their not being economical… or that very rigid and not dynamic styles/genres/whatever, contradict the movement principles of free market and capitalistic economy…

let me write one last paragraph (in this post) just to bring out another similar thought. I don’t have much more to say about it, but I’ve been thinking for a while about how the strategies of alternative thought of the last few decades (postmodernism?), maybe specially deconstruction, have been appropriated by capitalism. advertising and publicity, marketing, shop names, etc, sometimes seem to use deconstruction with amazing sofistication and creativity. their discourses have managed to become very ironical, humorous, sometimes very creative, and still keep serving the purpose of stimulating consumerism. so I have a similar feeling to what I was talking about before: (our) critical discourses sometimes are either too late or just futile against capitalism’s capacity for adaptation. how to fight hyperconsumerism and social inequality (and the systems of thought that rely on them) if the tools produced by alternative/critical thought can be absorved and used so quickly by capitalism?

so… thank you very much for accompanying me (if at least by allowing me to imagine that you read this), and for forgiving my inaccuracy, my unclarity, my redundance and my lack of argumental depth… this writing, this dialogue, is the way I have to try to keep thinking. no offenses meant to anyone. I do feel embarrased and exposed in here, but I trust that this exposure also has the potential to trigger some reaction and inform me and help me grow… thanks again.

again that guy...

that guy again...

what goes on in this blog?
September 30, 2008

I was just thinking, while taking a shower, that when I write about the rehearsals I am always talking about the evolution of my relation with the dancers, and about the progresses in our communication. and not much about content of the piece. yes, I’ve mentioned which kind of materials and excercises we’ve been using, but it feels like the subject of the piece has really become this dialogue between them and me. and, though I fear its onanistic edges, I do think it’s quite legitimate that the subject of my work has ended up being my own process of negotiations in Japan. so much for all the political aspects of appropriation of cultural identity, preconceptions and cultural promiscuity. welcome the all-praised micro-politics!

on the other hand, this is becoming a very nice exploration on the possibilities to mix some very simple relational/group dynamics propositions, with very specific ‘representational’ material. combining the tango or traditional japanese dances movement material, with semi-open forms and improvised evolutions through space does seem quite a… weird (but hopefully also interesting) proposition. and I’m happy to see if there is some potential in it, and if eventually there is also a possibility to think that these ideas (the relational structures and the representational materials) don’t negate each other.

and once more, just to keep reminding myself, I have to trust that I can give this group a bigger challenge. no more carefuly planning how to build up materials little by little during the rehearsals! from now on, we assault every idea at the same time!

original proposal
September 30, 2008

this is a document with my original proposal for school, where I explained what this dance project was going to be about: PFontdevila – Proposal Japan

observations become a lie as soon as I write them down
September 23, 2008

in Japan the toilet seats have a system that keeps them constantly warm. transit is always on the left, including sidewalks and staircases – except where it is otherwise indicated. in Japan things are highly regulated, with indications and instructions everywhere. very polite, firm suggestions. in Japan people are very polite. Tokyo is quite chaotic, with bycicles riding on the sidewalks, in a very unpredictable way, indecisive enough to become scary. in Japan it is not so easy to find people that speak English. in Japan people don’t touch each other much, and they greet you with a bow, from a distance. to make up, they greet you several times, specially when you leave. in Japan there are (luckily) cold water dispensers everywhere, ready for the thirsty dweller. even better since in Japan bottled water is expensive. in Tokyo mobile phones are a plague.

in Japan everyone wears mouth and nose masks, like the ones nurses use, to protect the others from catching their diseases. specially in the summer/autumn change of season, when everyone gets sick. in Japan food is very cheap. Japanese people get drunk every day after work. in Japan everyone wears mouth and nose masks to protect themselves from the polen and things that come off the trees, because they are all very allergic people. specially in the summer/autumn change of season, when a lot of stuff comes off the trees. in Japan food is very expensive. sometimes they have to spend a night in a capsule hotel because they are too drunk to go back home. Japanese people are very cold. Japanese people are a bit like animé, expressive nearly to the point of expressionism. Japanese food is great and very healthy and energizing. Japanese food is all yucky and sticky and slimy. Tokyo never sleeps. you can always find shops, restaurants and every kind of service open at all times.

I don’t mind it being a lie, but how can I stop my movement material from becoming unimportant as soon as I try to set it?