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Dance Dramaturgies We feel. We listen. We wait. Groping for meaningful threads, the logic, our senses not making sense, we probe the hidden, fall over the obvious, turn on constructions, trace connections, impose coherence, and proliferate the imagined‌ JANUARY 2014




Publication staff Jodie McNeilly Guest Editor Justine Shih Pearson Copy Editor Contributors Rachael Swain Paula Casp達o Hellen Sky

Critical Path staff Margie Medlin Director Yeehwan Yeoh Business Administrator Helen Martin Program Manager



Introduction Jodie McNeilly 4 Dreaming With Your Eyes Open Rachael Swain 10 Dramaturgies of Transplantation Paula Caspão 16 What’s in a word? Electrophysical Dramaturgy Hellen Sky 22

Critical Dialogues is a biannual online publication. The next issue is scheduled for June 2014, or sign up to Critical Path’s enews to stay informed.



We feel. We listen. We wait. Groping for meaningful threads, the logic, our senses not making sense, we probe the hidden, fall over the obvious, turn on constructions, trace connections, impose coherence, and proliferate the imagined… As an expanded practice, dramaturgy is many things. Theatre, contemporary performance, art, opera, installation, new media and dance, it belongs to all these and more, while belonging exclusively to none. Dance dramaturgy is variously figured in the Australian landscape: a yearning for that extra eye, a guiding sensibility to sharpen the structure, sift through the research, and provide support in making choices. Our tradition has developed from external influences, both borrowing and becoming inspired. We do not possess a long history like traditions in Europe, whereby the ‘dramaturg in the theatre’ or ‘dramaturgical processes’ have been accepted as a vital part of making work. Dance dramaturgs, there, have centuries of practices and procedures to appropriate, challenge, and radically theorise. While, here, we have created

ways of working and collaborating, generously folding into the mix our blended practices and openness to embrace new methods and styles. There are few rules; we are a moving, inventive frontier. On the one hand, the Dance Dramaturg may be called upon to widen the scope of a choreographer’s vision in an affirming, supportive role that reflects/makes transparent the maker’s aims and desires. On the other, the dramaturg may be more provocative, intoxicating the Cyclopean maker with new ideas in order to save the work from myopic destruction. But to understand dramaturgy solely as a role is to underestimate its ontological worth for the way we make and audience work. Dramaturgy is structural, linguistic, experiential and embodied. It is memory, dreaming, fiction, an out-of-into-focus shuffle, revealing bits and concealing other bits. It delves into the silence,


slipping between the gaps and eddies of our everyday. Taken in all these senses, dramaturgy may very well be the transformative forces of who and how we are. Dramaturgy is many things. This issue of Critical Dialogues presents dramaturgies of practice and thinking from three artists—two Australian and one European. Each author provides a snapshot of how their dramaturgy creates a rich world of performance, exhibition, design, writing, research, collaboration, and way(s) of being artist. Their engagement with dance and movement intersects with different art forms, traditions, communities and economies in a diversity of contexts: intercultural performance, Indigenous art, contemporary dance, dance theatre, fiction, poetry, dance technology, philosophy and visual arts. Offering no ‘how to guide,’ or ‘tool kit,’ each author’s meditation shows how dramaturgy is practique and a unique way to theorise. Living in stories, stories living in us. Rachael Swain invokes the notion of dreaming with our eyes open to describe how the hidden and revealed aspects of storytelling enter into the making processes of intercultural performance in remote Indigenous communities. Swain suggests a way of listening for both artist and audience so that stories heard and unheard are accepted with a non-determined ‘feelingful’ openness. Knowledge and how we come to know are put into question. Dramaturgy

demands us to dwell in the margins of perceptual knowing. In “Transplantation: Brief document across a long-term practice,” Paula Caspão also critically questions our epistemological movements in artmaking processes. The anchored ‘where’ of doing is unhinged, yet rooted through the presence of a ‘worked-on’ accumulative practice both living and documentary. Dramaturgy, here, is like a wondrous, complex ecosystem of facts, fictions, gestures, words, objects—there and not there in the world. Caspão’s writing, the written fragments, and our reading, affects these microsurgeries of perception and misperception, stitching, concealing, connecting. In “What’s in a Word?” Hellen Sky describes to us, through a selfinterview technique, the multiple currents of sensorial meaning-making in her Electrophysical Dramaturgy. Conceptual distinctions collapse between the moving body and real-time interactive systems within which Hellen dances. Body and data meld and spill into a multidirectional, multi-intuitive embodied subjectivity, forming a textuality that synthesises the linguistic with deeper levels of sensation. Each snapshot shows dramaturgy to be a leviathanic force, an interdiscipline that works silently, slipping inbetween times, places and things, scooping up our saturated lives like spaghetti: tendrils


Trevor Jamieson in Burning Daylight, Broome, 2009. Photo: Š Rod Hardvigsen


essaying this way and that. Here it is possible to find choreography’s purpose and meaning—a suggestive sentiment for future dialogue. Jodie McNeilly Editor Jodie McNeilly is a Researcher, Choreographer and Writer working at the intersections of dance, philosophy and design. Her recent interests include the elemental study of ‘transitions’ for choreographic composition, and the role of experimental dramaturgy in choreographic, interactive technologies and design thinking. Jodie has written and edited several pieces for non-academic and academic publishers. Her project “Method for a New Dramaturgy of Digital Performance ” is in the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy.


On “The Difficulty of Producing an Egg.” Epistolary conversation with a short choreographic film. iDANS Festival, Bogaziçi University, Istanbul, 2007. Photo ©Paula Caspão.


Dreaming with our eyes open Rachael Swain

I think all my imagery comes from my subconscious, from dreams. I am not talking about when I dream at night (these are far too weird and sick) but the dreams I have when I am awake. We can dream with our eyes open. —Tracey Moffatt, 1998.1


I often think about this quote from Tracey Moffatt when I reflect on the dramaturgy that has emerged in Marrugeku’s intercultural practice of creating dance theatre in remote Indigenous communities over almost two decades. This dramaturgy has encompassed a listening for stories which are never fully told, where meaning is both hidden and revealed, or perhaps will never be fully known by any of the artists in the intercultural process at hand. Often the logic comes from a perception of several parallel times and realities, grounded in experience of place and memory. Taken together these elements have informed me how narrative functions in Indigenous storytelling: a mode of telling with a direct relationship to country and its custodians. But here, with Moffatt’s perspective, we introduce both biography and fantasy into the contemporary Indigenous storytelling palette. The dramaturgy in such work embraces a ‘fantasy’ and an ability to dream with our eyes open as a creative and culturally intuitive process in a contemporary Indigenous art-making context. If we accept multiplicity of readings and uncertainty of resolution as the nature of the work we may begin to understand intercultural-Indigenous dramaturgy as enigmatic, exploring a fluctuating contemporary reality that forfeits closure and refuses to nominate a single meaning for the work. It is precisely this floating and ‘feelingful’ approach which accounts for its enigma and its richness.


In listening to ghosts and dreaming with our eyes open, the creation of contemporary intercultural-Indigenous performance actively takes on the-work-to-be-done of ‘nurturing’ the silences in contemporary Indigenous narratives. As such, this work speaks of a reconciliation that is not about resolution, but about embracing dislocation, transgression and also a respectful ‘waiting for knowledge to come.’ This is a dramaturgy of incompleteness; an incomplete experience that demands of audiences a kind of reckoning with the context of the intercultural nature of Indigenous lifeworlds. It is compelling. It evokes a curiosity in the spectator, a need to listen for meaning as it emerges between what is seen and what is unseen. This dramaturgy destabilises dominant perspectives on how the power of knowledge might function. In this way, the dramaturgy we are speaking of has paradoxical requirements of its spectators. Initially it requires a surrender, or openness to enter into an experience of displacement and uncertainty, to accept that the signs are both familiar and unfamiliar, where a fragmented logic—part documentary, part fantasy— orchestrates events. This co-exists with an active need for knowledge that is earned as a requirement of participation in the experience of being in Australia and knowing our country’s stories, its art and its history. This dual passive/active mode of attention is a way of listening required of the audience member in their participation as a spectator of contemporary Indigenous art, revealing in itself work-to-be-done by audiences and artists alike in our country. This way of listening as a dramaturgical practice extends to a devised rehearsal process of remembrance, intuition and cultural consultation. A dreaming with our eyes open which reveals the role of intercultural dramaturgy in creating counter memories for the future.

If we accept multiplicity of readings and uncertainty of resolution as the nature of the work we may begin to understand interculturalIndigenous dramaturgy as enigmatic...


Rachael Swain directs intercultural and interdisciplinary dance theatre productions for Stalker Theatre in Sydney and Marrugeku, based in Broome, WA. She has facilitated and directed Marrugeku’s productions, created in situ in remote Indigenous communities, including Mimi (1996), Crying Baby (2000), Burning Daylight (2006) and Buru, codirected with Dalisa Pigram (2010), and was dramaturg for Gudirr Gudirr (2013). Rachael is also a director of Stalker Theatre in Sydney: her large-scale dance, circus and multimedia productions have included Blood Vessel (1998), Incognita co-directed with Koen Augustijnen (2003), the Chinese Australian martial arts thriller Shanghai Lady Killer created together with Tony Ayres (2010) and The Burrangong Affair (forthcoming). In Gerald Matt, “An Interview with Tracey Moffatt” in Tracey Moffatt, ed. Michael Snelling. (Brisbane: Institute of Modern Art, 1999), 65.



Kathy Cogill and Dalisa Pigram in Burning Daylight. Broome, 2009. Photo Š Rod Hartvigsen.


It Happened in the Isles of Scilly at exactly 6. Videographic piece. Cycle Scores#1—Touché, Tanzquartier, Vienna, 2010. Photo © Paula Caspão.


Dramaturgies of Transplantation brief document across a long term practice

Paula Casp達o


Lie down (eyes closed). Chew some tangerines or figs, depending on the season. Ask a friend to read you the following lines aloud. Let yourself go onto speculation, without ever checking whether the information you are putting together is ‘correct,’ ‘valid’ or ‘true’—be aware of the process of weaving and gliding between heterogeneous areas, objects, levels, actions, discourses, silences, stories, gestures. Your mind and body can become an overflowing a swarming jungle: enjoy. [lines taken from “Sticky Tales for Affect. Episodes of Situated Thought (to be continued somewhere else),” Maska, no. 163-164, Fall 2013 (forthcoming).] Recurrent trouble in my mindscape: undecidability between the choreographic, the theoretical, the scenographic, the dramaturgical: [just written]: the difficulty to determine where exactly a performance, a text, a book, a conversation dramaturgy and choreography start and end; the difficulty to separate what is intrinsic from what is (supposedly) extrinsic to the aesthetic and/or artistic sphere. [lines from the book launch of Relations on paper, Lisbon, Ghost, 2013.] How can I un-reify… not only my dramaturgic practice(s) but also my practice(s) of documenting them? I am taking samples of previous work, puncturing them from their previous biotopes and rearranging them in this environment, making changes (in blue). The tree was not an easy one. [just written]


The tree is a ficus benghalensis, a relative of the fig tree but not quite the same. Do you like figs? Good. The main branches can now invade the screen page. From the main branches you can see aerial roots coming out, which hang down and attach to the ground page forming extra trunks. Out of the ground page—other trunks pop out. Out of the new trunks, other branches emerge, out of which new aerial roots pop out, which again attach to the ground page, developing into a tight network, that will soon reach huge, tremendous, gargantuan dimensions. HERE, out of the screen page, upwards (higher than 30 meters)—it’s not possible to distinguish the main trunk anymore. [from It Happened in Prairie du Chien at exactly 7. Videographic piece. Madrid, 2008; Barcelona, 2009; Vitoria/Spain, 2010.] What would it mean to make theory and research from the point of view of choreographic and dramaturgical practices, understood as local extra-disciplinary practices? What does the theoretician of dance and performance do— with which tools? Can we take into account the conditions of emergence—the life conditions—of her texts? Ask about the nature of the daily trans-actions that have taken place in order for a particular text to emerge? [“Audio Tales for Choreography.” Lecture-performance. Danish National School of Performing Arts, 2012.] HESITATION. CRITICALITY. A choreographic [dramaturgical] practice is not about knowing or not knowing; it is about letting the unknown move into the known; it is probably about making both the known and the unknown move, and most of all move into hesitation. […] FICTION. SPECULATION. Let’s say a choreographic [dramaturgical] practice is fictionally ‘interesting’ when it fully embraces its power of speculation: when it invests on what seems impossible, not plausible, not at all there as a possibility; when it deviates from cartographies of

territories, activities, bodies, disciplines, humans and non humans ‘as they are’ (supposed to be). [“Implausible connections: On the uses of an (un)certain choreographic.” Scores#1—Touché, Tanzquartier, Vienna, 2011.] What if I drew an octopus? A pomegranate? I’m out of space? OH. [“Chorégraphies amphibies: Tout ce qu’on peut faire en mangeant des clémentines.” Lecture performance. Festival Lignes de Corps, France, 2005.]

Paula Caspão is a Writer, Researcher, Dramaturge, and Intermedia Artist based in Paris, working at the crossroads of choreographic practices, performance, and other fields. She holds a PhD in philosophy/epistemology (University Paris-10), and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in performance studies at the University of Lisbon, and a research fellow at the Contemporary Histor Institute/New University of Lisbon.


DRAMA (DE)VICES. A choreo- and videographic piece in collaboration with Valentina Desideri. Atelier Real, Cycle of artistic documentation: “Rests, Tracks and Traces.” Lisbon, 2010. Photo © Valentina Desideri.


Video Still of Hellen Sky’s Isadora patch processing ocean waves from The Fabric of Thought. Text from Stephen Jones’ prose poem “On Subjectivity,” 2013.


What’s in a word? Electrophysical Dramaturgy Hellen Sky

This is personal, poetic; it is performative, making sense, move.


In the forward to her book Identity, Performance and Technology: Practices of empowerment, embodiment and technicity, Thecla Schiphorst suggests that “[t]he body invents technology as it absorbs it, absolves technology as it critiques it, and reduces technology as it claims it.”2 I suggest that: [m]y Electrophysical Body is wired for new sensations, new perceptions, new modes of making sense, making meaning; I can feel its transformation synaesthetically, processed cellularly, algorithmically, animated sonically, simultaneously visually. In each millisecond, I am being made anew, my body is cellular—data, an embodied dispersion. I have swallowed the system; it is embedded in me. I can taste the nuance of its difference. The Subject is moving.3 Dramaturgy is a process of sensing, a sleuth on the trail of meaning, sniffing around, seeing what comes in through the corner of your eyes, swallowing different sources, spitting some out, stirring the pot gently— material, ideas, intuition, media, context, space and words, memory, input and outputs «energy». It is fluid, responsive and responsible, operating in multidimensions of time. In a self-interview, dramaturg Janez Jansa asks herself: So what would dramaturgy be for you?


She answers: First, dramaturgy is a field of operation; the second is that dramaturgy deals with regimes of the visible and invisible; and third a dramaturg is a guardian of the concept. Dramaturgy is a fluid, dynamic and dispersed activity. 4 I agree with her. And I ask myself too: What is this term you use: Electrophysical Dramaturgy? What do you sense as different in making meaning live, when performing in real-time interactive systems? She (I) answers me: First, distinctions dissolve between performerdramaturg and the field of operation operates as a synthesis of processing energy and time. Connections between body/brain somatic systems and software analysis are attuned to the potential of micro moments, changes, inputs and outputs. This is where meaning is sensed as a continuous becoming, leading also to the poetic of my body as cellulardata. Second, the performer becomes the fulcrum between visible and invisible regimes; fluid states are dynamic and dispersed. Third, the subject becomes a guardian of the concepts as they unfold through her presence. Remaining open, responsive and responsible. When I—the Subject—embody in performance the potential of our human computer interconnectivity (a shared cultural condition indicative of the convergence of human computer technologies, interface, devices, networking systems), I sense there exists another level of sensate experience. It is a level that occurs in the production of meaning, becoming a kind of evolutionary gesture resulting in adaptive behavior that operates in


the fold between my cellularbody and the transformation of my biodatabody extended over networks. And this is not a ping-pong affect, for it engenders a deep sense of listening to the different effects/affects of inputs and outputs processing through my(a) cellulardata field of operation in the production of meaning. Here, the performer becomes a ‘conductor’ both literally and metaphorically, sensing meaning in every micro moment. Elecrophysical Dramaturgy. This is personal, poetic; it’s about making sense, making meaning, move. The Subject is moving. Hellen Sky is an Australian digital choreographer/ performer/director/writer. Her interdisciplinary work bridges dance, performance, theatre, and installation that is at times extended through new technologies. She collaborates with artists, scientists, performers, composers, academics, designers, writers, architects, interface designers and programmers to develop scores and technology systems that often use real-time data generated by the body to affect the relationship between multiple media to form total choreographies for live performance and installations. Her choreographies include the movement between various media, physical and virtual sites, image, sound, and words, making connections between performers in single physical and shared virtual sites and between tangible material, people and the inherent conceptual sensibilities. In 2013 she is Artist in Residence at Brightspace Gallery, Melbourne. Thecla Schiphorst, Identity Performance and Technology: Practices of empowerment, embodiment and technicity (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 11.


Hellen Sky, Virtual/Physical Bodies (Corpse Virtuelles/Physiques), (exhibition catalogue, Centre des Arts Enghien-les-Bains, Paris and body»data»space, London, 2009), p25.


4 Janez Jansa, “From Dramaturgy to Dramaturgical,” self interview in Maska 16, no. 131-132 (2010): p56.


Bio-data Sensor System. Hellen Sky in Darker Edge of Night. APAM, 2009, Adelaide. Still frame from video documentation Š Dianne Reid.


Hellen Sky. Photo courtesy Hellen Sky

Critical Dialogues | Issue 2 | Dance Dramaturgies | Jan 2014  

Issue2: Dance Dramaturgies

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