Meg Stuart: Eradicating dance

BLITZ 26 Nov 1991English

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Contextual note
This text is part of the Portuguese anthology. This text collection contains 100% of the writings of André Lepecki for the magazine BLITZ. Sarma could realize this project by the support of the Portuguese Institute for the Arts.
You can read more about André Lepecki and his poetics as a writer on the following link:


Editor Sarma: Myriam Van Imschoot
Editor Portugal: Monica Guerreiro
Research in Lisbon: Jeroen Peeters
Coördination: Steven De Belder, Jeroen Peeters, Charlotte Vandevyver, Myriam Van Imschoot
Translator: Clive Thoms
Financial Support: Portuguese Institute for the Arts
Thank you to: André Lepecki for the contribution to this anthology, BLITZ for giving consent to republish the texts on, Diana Teixeira (typiste)

Meg Stuart will be at Acarte presenting her piece Disfigure Study. Go and see it! You won’t be sorry. This is what she has to say.

M. S.: At that time I just wanted to do a choreography and I only wanted to do a trio, but I felt very frustrated because there was too much dance in this trio and the small parts that I liked weren’t so physical. There was a part when all they did was measure each other; they measured each other with their own bodies, like this, like with this arm against yours, see, that kind of thing, and it was then that I started to get really fascinated by Parts of the Body. It’s true that a movement directed towards a task creates something emotional but this business of measuring was the simplest thing there was and all that “dance movement” was just not needed, it didn’t fit into the piece. Anyway, I ended up abandoning the piece. I did it, and that was that. And then… well, Bruno Verbergt (the director of the Klapstuk Festival) had seen the video Held, so when he approached me, he was sort of “I want this piece in your show”. This was what he proposed: given that he didn’t know my work very well, he was in a way guaranteeing something, which I understand. And so there was Held and I thought: I do a solo, a duet and a trio. All very simple, very clear, there would be three sections, a choreography in three parts. And I did the solo over six months, starting in September 1990 and presenting it in March. During all that time I worked on the solo I do at the start of the piece. In July, I started to try to do the trio and ran into a whole series of problems…

A. L.: Yes, you had trouble with the original dancer…

M. S.: Exactly, you know the whole story… Well, I ended up doing with all the material I had at the time these “poses” and this whole business about sitting and lying down, which had originally been intended for three people but with what happened this summer here in Louvaine it turned into a duet with Francisco. I really liked doing this duet. Up to the last moment, I was still trying to do a trio, I had a whole load of dance phrases … I had dance phrases and I had dance studies and what happened was that I ended up throwing away all these dance phrases because the studies seemed much more interesting, which has to do with meaning.

To think that the audience thinks that I think that…

A. L.: You said that in the piece you had made in New York there was “too much dance” and now you’re saying you prefer “non-dance”. Why? Do you think dance has little to say?

M. S.: I think that just moving, making phrases, the whole process whereby people are taught to make a choreography… You’re taught to make a choreography like this: first you make a phrase, see, you make a phrase and then you fix the phrase, and then you go and manipulate the phrase with a view to “harmony” or “disharmony” and “space”, you know what I mean… I simply don’t think this is necessarily the way to do things. I love dance but I feel that what I see there… I need clarity all the time. I need the audience to think that it knows what is going on. And I need to know what I think is going on, so I need to have a context. I love movement but it needs to have a conflict, a conflict almost like a story where you need to have an introduction, then a conflict, then a resolution. I think more along these lines. To have only phrases or only dance without a context doesn’t work. That’s why I often say that what I want is to eradicate the purposeless dance.

A. L.: And so you give clues for people to think they know what is going on…

M. S.: (laughs) Yes… There has to be a reason for someone to be dancing. He can’t just be dancing to show how virtuoso his movements are, which is also nice to watch, but there have to be subtexts, you know, you can’t just have movement.

A. L.: Are you aware of these subtexts?

M. S.: Yes, I am. At least I think I am. You know, I spent these five years dancing only movement for movement’s sake, because I worked in Randy Warshaw’s company (Randy designed the lights for this show) and he danced for Trisha Brown for seven years.

A. L.: A more abstract sort of dance…

M. S.: Yes, but what I learned from Randy is that you also don’t need this outdated emotional thing. You can have an arm stretched out or simply show the angles of your body with an intention and this can turn into something, like your body falling, falling… This can become emotional, a movement, then another. A pure movement you are creating can involve you, you can be moved by it. It doesn’t have to be aaaaghhh!, or anything like that, just as it doesn’t have to be “dance”.

Perfect complements

A. L.: Why Francisco Camacho and Carlota Lagido?

M. S.: I like their sense of time. And time is really important in my work. When I have an idea, or when I think of an image, like that body parts things I was talking about, it’s just words. As in the choreography, in the opening bit with the legs: “kiss my feet”. People said it was a cliché and all that. And Francisco and Carlota were perfectly prepared to sit there, and Francisco was willing to do a dance for two legs... You know, for a lot of people, that’s not “dance”. I think American dancers are more into “here’s my whole body, I’ve trained my whole body for it to move in space” and it’s “me, me, me” all the time. Francisco and Carlota were more into giving me all the time I needed and they actually gave me that time.

A. L.: And Carlota? It seems you were a bit doubtful at first because she looks so feminine…

M. S.: I had an idea for the piece. I think it is really important to have two women in it and a man handling the two. The girl who was originally going to dance the duet looked exactly like me, which was kind of fun, we could be the same person, she could do my part, and I could do hers. Now, I can only do my part. When I had problems with her and I opted for Carlota, I had to make a mental choice. I think it’s funny I have this masculine look and now we have this very feminine woman. But Carlota got much stronger and I now think she’s perfectly cast in the part.

A. L.: And the others?

M. S.: Hahn Rowe had already done the music for my solo and Eva had done the costume. I think Hahn has really movement-sensitive music, he never has to show off, he doesn’t have to display everything he’s capable of doing. He’s a brilliant musician, he pays attention to everything, I think he’s completely perfect for my work. And Randy had already done the lights for my solo. You know, it’s my first big piece and I felt I needed more security in everything…

A. L.: You know, I think your piece is very Portuguese… dark, obsessive, full of ghosts…

M. S.: When I’m more mature in my work I’m going to try to do a happy dance (laughs)…