ImPulsTanz is a full immersion into problems. At a round table (or a centreless café, more precisely, its spatial organisation an excellent intervention into the nature of the communication), we raise the question of dance criticism in all ways but the simplest: why? (I already see there will be thinking aplenty in the following weeks.)
Once upon a time, I was asked why I keep giving running commentary on other people's creation instead of creating my own something. This I thought an interesting question. Today, however, I walked through a park and created a thought (or had a thought, in the sense of having a baby). I cannot watch salsa, mambo or even a punk concert without getting an itch of frustration, without wanting to dance myself. Contemporary dance, however (or modern or classical, dance on stage as theatre), I can watch and it doesn't frustrate me, it doesn't leave me feeling impoverished, lacking. It nourishes me and inspires instead. It is less of a thing done in front of me than an attempt, perhaps, to communicate.
I have written elsewhere on watching dance but not, perhaps, on writing. Here is another question that pops up as I have these frantic, evil coffees with comrade Pjotr. Writing on dance, I have also thought recently, is like music on architecture. It is not, could not possibly be, an act of description. It is a solid creation in its own right. It is totally, absolutely obvious that there is no way to render dance through words. If it can be grasped, it is through metaphor, through an exploding bubble of words, void in the centre. Dance is a thing completely outside the language, with its own logic, with its own code that can only be re-coded through a kind of mathematical translation. Talking with dancers, what strikes me is how many find it hard to even begin to express their work through words, how completely differently their minds work. This is another allure of dance. To experience dance, for me, is like doing maths, or reading Japanese, it's stimulating a part of my brain that is usually asleep, unchallenged. I don't think in movement, I think in words, images already explained, if there is any way for me to express myself it is by adding word to word and making these little exploding bubbles.
And I would say that the border between dance and writing is no different from the border between language and anything else. Language does not express life, it merely translates it into another secret code (and here, again, that mathematical translation in which things are moved into a different territory rather than simply dressed in different clothes). What makes writing on dance relevant to the innermost me, the reason why I am more alive when I write on dance than I am in almost any other moment, is that writing on dance is an act of creation, an act of making something of me (or, more precisely, something of the world come alive through me) alive in perpetuum. It feels exactly the same as writing on anything else that needs to be written on because it was never written on before, something that does not exist nearly translated into words yet. It feels like pulling something out by the hair, kicking and screaming, bringing it into another world all blood-strewn and unwilling.
This is also why I dislike the notion of a nice turn of phrase almost as much as I dislike the notion of a well-made play: it's an end unto itself, the ultimate falsity. To turn a phrase nicely is too easy, too simple. There is no blood, no risk of miscarriage.
To write on theatre, at least text-based theatre, is easy and simple. Not just in comparison, more broadly. Easy. Simple. It normally means entering a discussion with the play, using the same terminology, same logic. The play and the review inhabit the same world. To write on post-dramatic theatre, on the other hand, is an experience more akin to dance writing, and therefore more akin to giving birth. I can write ten theatre reviews for the energy I put into one dance piece, but that is why I write on dance.
Another thing I am often asked, another one I find amusingly off-centre, is whether I'm a theatre-maker myself. An actor, director perhaps? Yet I am just a person who writes. I create word bubbles. This is why I find text-based theatre for the most part uninteresting, and why I don't often get excited over dramatic text. It is not a challenge. A truly effective text is not only rare in theatre, it is also rarely mediated well (a great example of success was The Kreutzer Sonata; so is a good poetry slam). But I find its joys always a little bit masturbatory: I don't challenge myself. I am instead challenged by the logic of the thoughtless image, of the mute movement. It violates the borders that my brain builds for itself. And it expands my words. If I were a theatre-maker, an actor or a dancer, would I need to write like I do? I doubt. But I'm not, and so I write.