essential threads?

Bud Blumenthal (
Sun, 25 Jul 1999 21:26:16 +0200

<x-rich><fontfamily><param>Geneva</param>Dear Friends and colleagues,

This thread concerning the definition of new dance - like forms with
respect to an absolute definition of the word dance is interesting to
say the least. For the LIST it has great emotional power for two
reasons. First, when one's knowledge of meanings of words is
challenged, his very knowledge of reality is challenged, thus his very
perception of existence, thus his very conception of his own self - his
identity is challenged. We have acquired at the very earliest stage of
our evolution the instinct for fight or flight when faced with
perceived threats to our existence so as to insure our survival, thus
that of our species. While this fore-mentioned chain of anxiety applies
to anyone (dancer or not) in proportion to their own need to understand
or to "grasp" their world, it obviously would find the most resonance
within groups of people who's "lifestyles" or "careers" are directly
involved with the subject. Therefore, the second reason it has
emotional power for us, is that the conception of the danger to
self/species through the challenge to one's knowledge of reality,
applies with the most force to the subspecies which is dancers and
dance makers. -- It is they/us who doing the dance of death on the
edge of the abyss, feel the heat from the intellectual fires stoking
the cultural convection that pushes awry the tectonic plates of society
slowly(?) forming the fissures destined to be their/our graves. --
Faced with obliteration, dilution or absorption it is understandable
even commendable that dance practitioners take measures to mount a
defense against parasitic concepts. In that dance has always been the
weakest sister within the stage arts, and we the practitioners lead
unusually fragile lives compared with those all together outside of the
arts, parasites must be taken seriously.

But hold on, there is another reason that these questions of definition
have emotional force for us here. It concerns not the danger of death,
but the joyous hope in birth. We are participating in and witnessing
the birth of a myriad of new forms and processes. Reality is
accumulating dimensions at an unprecedented rate. We on the dance-tech
list are assisting in the creation of some of these dimensions. There
are those here who are pioneering processes and forms that did not
exist before they put finger to keyboard, camera and computer in front
of stage, pickup and midi controller to floor and foot. Totally new
physical and mental environments are coming into being. We are in a
palpable genesis. Reality is expanding. This is one half of the raison
d'etre of the dance-tech list isn't it. Therefore, faced with the
danger of stillbirth, diminution, marginalization and co-option it is
understandable even commendable that Tech - dance practitioners take
measures to mount a defense against parasitic concepts. In that Tech -
dance is but a newborn within the arts, the practitioners generally
lead unusually fragile lives compared with those all together outside
of the arts, parasites must be taken seriously.

Dance-Tech is a relatively recent fusion isn't it? It is a compound
made of two of the most different of processes. One is stomping,
leaping, wiggling, and rolling, while the other is soldering, bolting,
calculating and keying. Fusing these two processes is not the simplest
of tasks. They can be mixed so as to form cocktails with varying
potentials for color, taste and intoxication. This dance-tech cocktail.
Should we call it dance or tech? Cock or tail? Is this "thing" a dance
that serves to send you out of yourself or a technology used to re
localize your perception? A technology to get your spirit high? Or a
dance to transport your cognitive process vertically?

Dance and tech are uneasy bedfellows as any dancer who has worked with
props and gagets knows. The dancer's batteries cannot go on working and
working like lithium-ion ones, but then they won't quit on you in the
middle of a performance like the others can. If a dancer injures
himself on stage, almost invariably he'll finish the performance
anyway. If the lamp burns out in the video projector, it won't finish
the performance but the dancers will dance on without it. Technology
eats up so many essential hours of rehearsal time (and the mental time
of the choreographer!) to the great frustration of the dancers waiting
around. Most dancers don't understand electronics or mechanics very
well, the understanding of which has little to bear upon their primary
occupation. A technician constructing a motion-sensored interactive
sound environment has little interest in turnout or in release
technique. Often technicians find the inevitable hour and a half warm
ups of the dancers and subsequent needs for breaks a boring loss of
time. Why is it so hard to make the choreographer respect the rich
complexity at hand when things go wrong while at the same time
comprehend the overall logic of the installation enough to trust it?
Why do dancers become less and less efficient after seven at night
while technicians become more and more efficient approaching two in the

What with the difference between these two worlds so great, it seems
unnatural that they attract one another as much as they do. It is
indicative of the openness of spirit that characterize the
practitioners of these two arts that they have sought out the other and
attempted to mate. What connects these two forces is each one's nature
to invent and the space for this in a collaborative work. Invention is
possible through the opportunities that the difference in the other
offers. Thus dance puts up with tech which puts up with dance so that
the dance-tech child can be invented. It is this shared need to
participate in invention or "creation" that delicately reunites these
two skittish movements. Opposites attract. But not without difficulty.
Push pull embrace push....

Dance - Tech forms a visage. A face with two differing sides to it.
Like Eros and Thanatos becomes Janus, dance and tech become......????
Whatever word or words we come up with it becomes something other than
the two constituent words. Like a horse and a donkey become a mule, man
and wolf become werewolf. Or should I say poet and mad scientist become
Hyde. Anyway, anyone would agree that Mr. Hyde was far more interesting
than Dr. Jeykel.

It seems to me that the dance - tech list is a natural arena for the
two sides of this new face to hash out some of these philosophical
issues. The process has started. The game is on. I propose that we
continue to debate these important questions and work together to
invent new labels that describe our work more accurately and potently.
Terms collectively coined in such an informed, concerned and
representative environment which is the dance-tech list, are likely to
benefit from their attentively engineered inception so as to meet with
a prosperous future. </fontfamily>

Bud Blumenthal

Cie Tandem asbl

58 rue de la Lys

1080 Brussels, Belgium

T: 32 / 2 / 425 89 37

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