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Movement and writing, the politics of language and thinking, embodied mind, the mind–body problem, and the origin of language have all come up for consideration in recent discussions, workshops, and reading:

  • At Movement Research’s “Moving Into Writing,”—the long table hosted by Eva Yaa Asantewaa at Gibney Dance Center—several dancers/movers/dance–makers/teachers considered the printed word essential, necessary validation and legitimization of our ephemeral medium, whether as explanation of one’s own work, as critique, or as history.
  • Two nights later at a discussion on “The Politics of Language” with Masha Gessen and Siri Hustvedt moderated by Ulrich Baer at Deutsches Haus, NYU, the focus was on the ways language has been used as an exercise of power that deliberately distorts and confuses meaning and delegitimizes social and scientific norms and structures—both in the past and currently.
  • The next day I attended “A Field Guide to iLANDING,” a workshop led by Andrea Haenggi and Carolyn Hall based on iLAND scores, including one that involved moving, kinesthesia, and writing that Andrea and Rob Neuwirth had created. At first it was quite challenging to be conscious of feeling one’s pulse while walking along the street and also seeing, hearing, thinking, and breathing. Ditto for typing up recall of these kinesthetic, auditory, and visual sensations while still feeling pulse and breathing.
  • Then, reading about politics and the brain: In neuro–linguist George Lakoff’s book The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain, he writes that the way the brain functions, with mirror neurons firing empathetically, points to a positive emotional foundation for reason, and suggests that we are actually hard–wired for democratic values of empathy and protection—of each other, all living beings, and the environment. He has co–authored another book called Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, which I am curious to read as I suspect that, for him, embodied mind is the brain.

At the end of the above–mentioned discussion at Deutsches Haus, Hustvedt, a writer who also teaches in a psychiatric training program, announced that she had written a book called A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, and that in it she had solved the mind–body problem.

This led me to recall that, many decades ago while interviewing for a teaching job in an interdisciplinary program at a college, I had naively yet confidently stated that from a dance perspective there was no mind–body problem. My theologian interviewer found my statement shocking and offensive and, needless to say, I was not offered the job!

Coming full circle to the “Moving Into Writing” long table mentioned above, I was recently reminded that philosopher Suzanne Langer had posited that people danced before they were able to speak and that dance was the origin of language.

More thoughts to come.

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Glad to be back in the studio—and the present—after several weeks of intensive research, reading, writing and focused thinking about future plans and projects.

After an initial period of focusing on conditioning my instrument, I am also glad that new movement has begun to emerge. It is so new that I have no idea yet whether it will become part of one of the two group pieces I have been wanting to develop next, or whether it will become a different piece altogether.

Grateful for creative renewal in the midst of so much uncertainty about the future of our country and of our planet—and taking heart from the sight of a variety of green plants thriving in the cracks of the tracks of an elevated subway station.

lemons

The Lemonade Variations is the title of a new work that I began creating this past summer. I continue to experiment with several movement variations of a basic phrase and am currently searching for music that works well with the movement and will allow for further variation in performance.

Other considerations not yet decided are whether to expand the piece with sections of spoken text, whether to include other performers and, if so, whether they will be performing live or on video.

In the meantime, yellow is a wonderful color to contemplate in the winter.

While many members of the dance community turned out for The People’s Climate March, I only noticed one other dance person when I attended Birds with Skymirrors at BAM on Wednesday. Most of the cast members were from islands in the Pacific Ocean that no longer exist due to rising ocean levels caused by global warming. As it turned out, the young woman in the seat next to me was from New Zealand and half–Samoan. Before the performance she said she had been looking forward to seeing it all fall. Afterwards she said she was disappointed as she had expected it to be more celebratory of her culture and, indeed, the beautiful imagery was more mournful than uplifting.

BirdsWithSkymirrors

For me, the stage was so dimly lit that at times it was literally difficult to see although I had a perfect view of the stage. On the subway going home I read the translations of the songs and wished that there had been supertitles. The piece was non–narrative, yet the poetry of the songs would have provided more context to the mystery of what was presented onstage. Even so, retroactively, the poetry clarified the imagery in the solo and group, live and recorded elements of the piece. It was such a technically elaborate production, however, that using supertitles might not have been feasible. And even if it were, the supertitles would have to be redone for multiple languages as this work has been touring internationally. Still, the piece has haunted me for days.