I actually did some reading in reading week. This may come as a surprise, believe me I didn’t set out to sit and read about dance. Rather I planned to spend my days, sleeping, eating and re-watching the Harry Potter box set, thus completely distancing my mind from dance and attempting to relax. Nevertheless, I found myself reading Martha Bremser’s ‘Fifty Contemporary Choreographers’, a suitable read for a first year I thought, considering we will shortly be covering dance history in critical and reflective studies.
As I expected my knowledge of contemporary dance and its origins has quite a few holes in it, something that was made almost embarrassingly apparent after reading the first few pages of the introduction. Reading Bremser’s book did feel, however, like doing a huge dot to dot, without the actual physical act of connecting the lines between the points. Scraps of knowledge, vaguely remembered names and a clutter of accumulated learning over the past couple of years since I first found out about contemporary dance were subject to a profound sense of clarity. It was wonderfully engaging.
Engaging also through the use of language and analysis of choreographers and their respective works. I found myself practically racing through, pausing only to write down the occasional quote that I thought might come in handy sometime in the future and drinking in the information like a very dehydrated fish. I’d like to think that was a rather witty simile, but in reality it is the most accurate description of my experience. Sort of a dance history enlightenment.
It was also a very productive activity for my half term travels. Living in the Suffolk countryside it is very easy to distance yourself from post-modern expressionism and abstract art forms and in that contemporary dance itself, however you may choose to interpret it. Hence, reading about arguably the fifty most prominent contemporary choreographers was mental stimulation, brain food to stop myself from indulging in the conservative lethargy of the countryside. My body may not be physically active, but this does not mean that I cannot exercise my mind and push myself to think about things. Ha, that sounds very cliché, but it is true, sadly.
It was interesting, also, to see how people actually write about dance. Writing a blog, and reflecting about dance has been an experience in itself. For I am used to writing about 16th Century social history conflicts, analysing Shakespeare and annotating pictures of Greek vases for my A Levels last year. Although I liked these subjects (I wouldn’t haven’t chosen to do them if I didn’t), they don’t spark my interest like dance. Hence, I am finding it strange writing, analysing, and translating my feelings and reactions to dance through text. I’d like to think that I’m doing okay at it. I’m not sure whether people agree with me, I certainly acknowledge that I have a repetitive and slightly ostentatious vocabulary when it comes to reviewing dance, accompanied by a sort of sarcastic wit to fill space, but it’s a creative progression.
Over reading week I’ve also remembered my likings for the other arts. Downloading new music, reading magazines and drawing the organs of the body for PAD has reminded me that dance is only one art form that interests me. Add to this a little excursion to London Town to visit friends, which included a lot of walking, most of the time dragging a suitcase and tripping up people behind me, and pretending that I was an intrepid explorer instead of a tourist. I visited Camden for the first time (I know what am I playing at?), walked down the Southbank in the ‘beautiful’ British rain and saw a series of work by Gerherd Richter’s in response to composer John Cage at the Tate Modern. Topped off by watching Hofesh Shechter’s new piece ‘Sun’ at Sadler’s Wells, I like to think I covered all creative bases.
I think it is very easy to just think dance, dance, dance, during term time, especially Monday to Friday as everything is so intense. It additionally feels like as a first year you really have to immerse yourself in training and technique, because we’ve only just started the course. We need to have a strong foundation upon which we can layer on our creativity and other skills. As Andile likes to remind us after he’s physically exhausted us in contemporary, it isn’t enough to just be a dancer any more. You have to bring as much as possible to the industry, you have to be versatile, creative and willing to experiment. Consequently, I’m glad that I’ve been reminded of my other interests during this week, and I’d like to think that I’ll try harder to integrate them into my free time from now on. Also, learning more about the history of contemporary dance and its top contributors, so to speak, I hope will enrich my future learning. I like knowing about what people have done in the past, mostly so when people mention names I can smile and nod, or even contribute without having to pretend I know who it is.
This half term week was incredibly enlightening, and creatively motivating. I like that my reading week has been a lot more adventurous than my original intentions of lying in bed and snoozing, although I may pay for it later in the term when I’m praying for a week in bed…
So, that’s what I did this reading week, seemingly evocative of primary school show and tell, but it seemed the most appropriate way to share instead of reeling out paragraphs analysing a book, ha.