14.xii.2007. Dancehouse: Play in a Room. Including Set Up, The Idea of It and Forget Me Not. By Shelley Lasica. Performed by Shelley Lasica with Deanne Butterworth, Tim Harvey and Joanna Lloyd. Music by Milo Kossowski.
Dance, for me, is theatre amplified.
When I say, I'm interested in the relationship between words and images, I am trying to explain my two favourite art forms: theatre and graphic novels. Both are attempts to show and tell by selectively employing elements of both, colliding and exploding with beauty and truth. The importance, to me, may be that, while I think I can make words do what I want relatively well, in more than one language (although I believe I'm much better at it in Croatian than in English, still), I also believe I think in images. The translation of my mental images into words seems to make it all the more explosive, all the more beautiful. Story of a, although terminally flawed, was my attempt to take book design that one crucial step further and make a text aided by images (book design, or heavy book design bordering on graphic design, is my third love): although, in retrospect, halfway through I got tired and started designing layouts; instead of influencing the text, graphic elements started influencing the reading. Music, as wonderful as it is, does not necessarily interest me as much.
Seeing theatre for the first time – and I was quite old, in my teens, and had to coerce parents into taking me – was a great déjà vú. I had, simply, always thought that theatre would be what it was. I had dreamt of it that way. Just like, when I look for graphic novels, I still look for graphic novels I know must exist somewhere, somehow. It was a great sense of hunger suddenly satiated.
Dance was this, but amplified, but removed. I saw my first dance performance with only a couple of humble theatre performances on my viewing resume and there it was, again, the feeling of perfection: the feeling of still and silent fulfilment. Dance has nothing to do with words, certainly not mine, and very little with my thought-images. Dance is images translating straight into movement, with no words ever explaining. Dance has, then and since, felt eerie, strange. Like someone scratching an itch I didn't know I had, and not quite getting rid of it. I love dance: it's like sex, it's like falling in love; it's a sense of off-centre half-fulfilled desire that goes completely past my conscious mind, that refuses to engage on that level. Dance, for me, is the sea, is falling, is motion sickness.
I try to see every dance performance around. I often have to force myself. There is a barrier I feel that I don't feel with anything containing words: a surface tension that makes it hard to break through. It is glorious in its muteness, it is silent human bodies being almost tragically human, like that pinned butterfly before dying; but it has the impenetrability of death. I get something from it, but I don't know what it is. I keep going, and the answer keeps flying past me, smiling but rapid.
The pinned butterfly in motion is more than a lame metaphor: I find silent graphic novels scratching the itch with far better accuracy and effect, because still, because frozen, because properly dead and opened up to my hungry scrutiny. I can look and re-look until my brain, still going over the speed limit, starts making sense. But in dance, I am hopelessly behind. I can only tentatively grasp the sequence of movement, the interlaced poses, the many images per second, dozens lost between blinks, between concentration drops. I feel I am skimming the surface and there, underneath, are all the secrets like water fairies. And I go back.
I am seriously considering asking to be present at rehearsals (with what authority, I wonder?) just to see the same movement again and again and again until it makes sense, until I can break it down and keep it in my mind. It's an exercise of mine, after each dance show, to try to re-create it in memory, always a hopeless failure.
I've seen more dance this year than any other year. I've seen Lucy Guerin×3, Gideon Obarzanek×2, Merce Cunningham×3 (or ×6), Sankai Juku×1, Fringe showlets ×3 (one of which, One More Than One, was stunning), BalletLab's Brindabella and, to close the year, Shelley Lasica. As much as I love Lucy, and Chunky Move's repertoire, it's shows like Lasica's, or Merce Cunningham's, pure unadorned dance, with meaning unliteralized, left unspelled-out, unpointed-out, that are challenging me as a person who feels, thinks and relates. That are stretching my capacity to exist, as a human being.
I don't feel I can say anything about these shows, with any authority whatsoever. I thought about all sorts of things, particularly at moments when I couldn't shut my mind up, my loquacious brain coming up with metaphors, comparisons, associations and zen aphorisms: Zeami, the spiritual beauty of dance students, relationship struggles, spatial confinement of living in European and Japanese apartments, feet, faces, sweat, how modern dances should abolish lycra, the significance of short hair and nails, the difference between hard and soft movement. None of which had anything to do with the chillingly beautiful piece of dance that happened, bit by bit, in front of me. The dance was just that, a dance in front of me. Smiling.