By NICOLE KLAYMOON, dancer, choreographer, storyteller, and artistic director of a local dance company called Embodiment Project. Nicole is a student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program.
This post was written as an assignment for professor Cindy Shearer’s CIA 7091: MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop. As part of a community of artists working across art perspectives, students in this course get the chance to teach each other about their art form(s), practice, lineage and influences, and are challenged to inquire into the interdisciplinary arts as well as forms new to them.
Dance cannot be documented in a way that can live on throughout time, unlike music, film, language, and visual art. Dance is a fleeting and interpretive artistic discipline that can only exist in the visceral immediacy of the present. While film can capture acrobatic tricks and physical illusions, it cannot capture the alchemical transmissions that occur in the intimate space between performer and audience. According to Merriam-Webster’s second definition legacy is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”—something that endures over time. So how do choreographers and dancers leave behind work in an art form that exists in the now? While the artistic product can hold great value, it is the creative method that fosters longevity and gains momentum with time.
When a renowned painter dies his/her paintings are left behind and hung on walls of museums, galleries and fancy homes. But when a dancer dies so does his/her art. Rennie Harris, Hip Hop dance pioneer and choreographer, says that dancers are “walking historians.” Once dancers train with a choreographer, they can access the choreographer’s artwork and brilliant creations inside their muscle memory.
I had the opportunity to see Joe Goode’s Performance Group when they premièred “The Rambler” at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this last spring. I was struck by Goode’s introductory monologue to the dance performance—I understood his message to be; when I am dead and gone I am less interested in leaving behind a legacy with my art, I care much more about leaving behind my formula that can live on without me. And “The Rambler” reflected Goode’s deep sense of his artistic process and humanity.
The Israeli artistic director and founder of Batsheva Dance Company, Ohad Naharin, created a movement method called Gaga. It is hard to say if Naharin is more known for his dance works or his systematic approach—it seems that they are symbiotically related. Gaga is defined as an “experience of freedom and pleasure.” It is a process to access the power and awareness that lives inside our subtle body—the non-physical dimension of our being that can sense and interact with unseen worlds. Ohad Naharin wrote, "We discover the advantage of soft flesh and sensitive hands, we learn to connect to groove even when there is no music...We change our movement habits by finding new ones, we can be calm and alert at once…We become available..." His dance pieces clearly elicit a movement quality that is primal, ancient, and unique to each body. It appears that every company member is both technically trained and also "untrained" and "untamed" at the same time. My sense is that Gaga technique functions as a method to find one’s authentic movement expression.
When one identifies the core values that sustain a formulaic paradigm, they can tap into an abundant flow of creativity—it is a guide system to truly get out of one’s own way. The structure acts like a trellis for the vines of one’s creative mind to grow wild. Live performance and dance serves to remind us of our impermanence, but the place in which honest art is sourced is eternal. Perhaps Joe Goode and Ohad Naharin understand that their dances are non-perishable and are most alive in the present state. Nonetheless, claiming ones artistic process provides a road map for others to follow, adapt, and reinvent overtime.