What is choreography?

Corpus 17 Dec 2007English

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Contextual note
This text was a reply to a query by the magazine corpus, which sent out the question 'What is choreography?' to artists, theoreticians and other people active in the field of dance.

What is choreography? I have never thought about this question. To define the term, make a taxonomy, turn it into an epistemological field – it all seems utterly impertinent to me. Yet this question spills into my mail box while I'm reading Enrique Vila-Matas' excellent novel Montano's Malady, which inspires me to think it over. Vila-Matas' protagonist is a writer who is literally sick of literature: his whole reality consists of books, quotations and phrases, he dreams about writers, and even sex with his wife threatens to be intertextually motivated. Travelling to the end of the world doesn't quite help him to escape his condition, so eventually he aims to gain his life back by becoming literature, thereby preventing literature itself to die of illness or disintegration. A wonderfully perverse humanist commitment.

Now, imagine you find yourself embraced by "the ever expanding field of dance." Imagine you would be sick of choreography, know all too well what it is, incarnate it, become choreography – and go totally nuts. Imagine you can't eat meat balls in tomato sauce without thinking about Le sacre du printemps. Imagine you are spontaneously ‘visited' by the Ministry of Silly Walks when going out to buy a newspaper. Imagine you live up to the conviction that the show must go on. Imagine you are compelled to stand still for a very, very long time always when you see action movies on television or when your kids ought to be brought to school. Imagine you get invitations by consultancy companies to work as a mobility and circulation expert. Imagine you are shaking heavily always when you drink coffee and start to use this coincidence as an alibi for your peculiar behaviour. Imagine you are bombarding corpus with entries on your incessant flow of thoughts and adventures without cutting the crap, eventually turning the magazine into a self-help community for choreomaniacs. Imagine choreography is both your guardian spirit and your worst nightmare.

I'm not sure whether you would feel more at home in a theatre or on the psychiatrist's couch. I don't want to know really. So I continue to read Vila-Matas' novel and end up browsing Witold Gombrowicz' Ferdydurke: "But it was only when I started dancing myself that my thoughts took shape and turned into action, ridiculing and deriding my surroundings and throwing the bad taste into relief. I danced, and my dance, partnerless and in silence and solitude, grew so mad-brained that it frightened me."