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A Body Which Draws Itself – Week 1 Development 2023

Week one notes

Week one of development has so far been focussed on the engineering of new apparatuses inspired by verbs and training practices related to contemporary movement and dance. I am operating within certain restrictions in the space, especially taking artmaking materials into a dance studio space, sequestering my materials and activity to a limited and controlled drop-sheet zone. In this restriction I have found myself exploring the work through a more architectural and site-responsive lens, placing particular emphasis on site the of performance, ritual and process as a whole, as opposed to developing performance for separate, singular outcomes. The site consists of mark making materials, various ropes and cables, and a collection of other objects for the purpose of engineering drawing apparatuses. The most notable difference in this space, which I am keen to be focussing on, is working without suspension rigging capability which was present in the previous two iterations.

These initial apparatuses have taken inspiration from my verb list and the core pillars of dance and contemporary movement training, including:

- Pelvis: a common practice in contemporary movement training is a focus on the pelvis as the centre of gravity and, when properly employed, the epicentre of balanced movement This process can be referred to as opening or dropping the pelvis. Anterior tilt in the pelvis is very common in dancers, particularly from poor training which doesn’t engage the core and inner thigh muscles when performing “turnout” positions. This “dropping” of the pelvis actually means to bring the pelvis back to a neutral position, a common analogy is to think of the pelvis as a basin of water (or gravity) that should be held level and only tilted or poured intentionally. “Basin” is also the etymological root of the word pelvis from Old Latin peluis.

- Diaphragm/Core/breath: Engaging the core muscles and breath control is the next pillar of improved balance and movement. Particular focus is placed on performers learning to isolate the diaphragm, to breathe deep and “belly out” while moving rather than shallow or sharp “shoulders up” breaths.

- Balance: When pelvic control is combined with core strength, better balance is achieved. This goes beyond balance against gravity, like when standing on one leg, it includes balance of the physical anatomy to improve movement quality and reduce unnecessary strain or exertion.

- Contraction/extension: The contraction and extension of complex muscle groups forms the mechanics of all movement. Martha Graham, rebelling against the unnatural forms of classical dance, developed new techniques focusing on the body’s natural mechanics for movement as a source of power and expression rather than a tool for virtuosic or aesthetic visual effect.

- Flex/point: As the part of the body that connects with the ground and gravity the most, the use of the feet is of great importance to movement and balance. Engaging the foot in a pointed or flexed positions has a vast effect on the complex muscle contractions from the toes all the way to the core.

The three of these core pillars which I’ve ended up focussing on most is the pelvis, diaphragm, and contraction/extension, finding that general balance and foot flex/point has instinctively been activated by and integral to most of the apparatus experiments. Each of these apparatuses create predicaments in which the activation of these core training ideas are integral to the performance of verbs and movement, some in ways that are assistive, others in ways that are a hindrance.

Moving forward I’ll be looking to continue developing the work through a site-responsive and expanded lens, responding to the dance studio space around me and placing emphasis on the drop-sheet as a site for ritual, play and process which becomes an ongoing sculptural and drawing space. I am also looking to explore this work as potentially a collaborative work, bringing in another performer or musician to respond to the work.

Another factor of the work which I am considering is the current misbalance of conscious vs incidental mark-making and whether too much emphasis has been placed on mark-making with fine-art materials. I am concerned that this development thus far has potentially swung too close to antiquated, artist-as-genius, territory. Going into the final leg of development I would like to explore alternative, more contemporary modes of drawing and recording the body in performance.

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