The movement from stage [ ] to page:a few thoughts on theory and practice. by Konstantina Georgelou

Posted on March 14, 2012

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   Is it possible to make the move ‘from stage’ ‘to page’?

    Let’s say that it is. Let’s jump over the gap that separates them and accept that it is possible to write dance on a stage and on a page. According to this hypothesis, what is intrinsic for both is the practice of writing and, even more, of thought, which then travels as a wave of movement in the gap between the space of a stage to that of a page. If we want to further disentangle this relationship, our attention should be drawn to the particular type(s) of movement. In what ways does this movement happen? How does it operate? The aim of this short text is not to give any conclusive answers to these questions but, through them, to elicit a few thoughts on the implications and possibilities of the project “fromstagetopage”, an ongoing collection of words on methods, ideas, manifestos, research and works by Greek choreographers, in the form of a blog.

    This project chooses to go beyond the gap that keeps ‘stage’ and ‘page’ apart, seeking to empower a discourse around choreography in Greece. Although theoretical thinking has been standing next to dance practice already for some decades, this is not the case for Greece. At least, it has not been systematically so. This may sound as a negative point to some of us. But it is worth acknowledging that, on the basis of Greek choreography’s relative autonomy from western dominant and established discourses, it also shows potential for generating discursive practices that are not necessarily aligned to existing institutionalized systems of thought and methodologies.

    Reading through the blog, one can notice two things: on the one hand, an excess of somewhat modernist ideas on dance, connecting it to feelings of freedom, authenticity, subjectivity and expression. And on the other hand, a more reserved approach on what impact dance has to the individual and a deeper reflection on what (else) dance does, is or can be. For instance, there are texts in which choreography seems to be getting involved with issues of spectatorship, theatre, movement, dramaturgy, philosophy, technology, politics and the society. In other words, for some choreographers in Greece dance is not limited to self-expression, physicality and emotionality. In an attempt to redefine itself it opens up outside of itself, re-appropriating, affecting and infecting common territories of knowledge, action and thought. Although this strand of discourse around dance and choreography is not well developed yet and often seems bereft of conceptual tools to do so, it nevertheless shows traces of experimentation with the movement that travels from stage to page, and perhaps even premises a movement from page to stage as well.

    It is noteworthy that stage and page resonate to another significant ‘couple’ in art, that of theory and practice. The relationship between them is similarly characterized by gaps and movement (of thought), manifested through words and artworks. This is not to say that theory and practice are one and un-differentiated. Rather, they are constituted through difference, which is though not unilinear; it is pluralized. Theory and practice converge, diverge and intersect with each other in multiple ways, depending on the particularities of a theme, an idea or an artwork. Only by stressing the multiplicity of their differences and similarities at each case, it becomes possible to productively re-organize, translate and re-invent themselves.

    Theory in particular has been resisted by many artists, who consider it as a system based on essentialist epistemological principles and absolute truth. However, this point addresses a rather traditional understanding of how theory works. Art theorist Ana Vujanović discusses the particular function of theory and rightly claims that, contrary to certain beliefs, “contemporary theory is a post-scientific and post-philosophical discourse.” (p.20) She explains that, especially since the Frankfurt School in the 1930s, theory appears in social and political contexts, questioning, criticizing and deconstructing traditional disciplinary discourses in humanities and in the arts. Underlining the performative and intervening character of theory (considering it as a practice of discourse), she argues that “[theory] is a discourse which forces and obliges art to reflect its social position, the ways in which surrounding discourses pervade it and in which it pervades them.” (p.24) Although I would avoid verbs such as ‘to force’ and ‘to oblige’ because of the power they seem to exercise, I share Vujanović’s belief that by means of critical discourse and theory, art and society can effectively (re)position themselves towards one another.

    What is at issue here though is not as simple as illustrating sociopolitical imageries and events, in the sense of merely re-situating them on stage or on page as a way of ‘informing’ the spectator or the reader. Especially today, in such financial, political and social turmoil, everyone is familiar with the actuality of problems surrounding many facets of our lives. One is already informed and aware. With this in mind, the political and social potential of the inter-performance of theory and practice in art is rather conditioned by the friction, paradoxes, complexities and anomalies that occur in the process of working and thinking through them; in other words, by the ways that their relationship is creatively and critically problematized, negotiated, imagined and used during the artistic research and in the dramaturgical structure of a performance.

    Perhaps the aim of these few thoughts is after all to defend and, to some extent, to unfold the urgency of practicing theory and developing it alongside with the choreographic practice. I think that by functioning together, within their heterogeneity, they can effectively resist and sap regimes of power and capital, which condition dance -in its creation, production and presentation- and thinking about dance in general. Stage and page being positioned next to each other uninterrupted, as it is proposed by this project, is thus a crucial gesture in the present times. It suggests that movement has already started happening in the case of Greece. And it now needs to be developed in its own particular way.

REFERENCE:

Vujanović, Anna (2007) ‘Undressing Theory’, Maska, Vol. XXII, no. 109-110, pp: 18-25

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