Fragment of a Tuning Run

Contact Quarterly 2014English
Contact Quarterly Vol. 39 No. 1 (Winter/Spring, 2014): 21-23.

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Contextual note
This writing is an excerpt from "Tuning scores: an approach to materializing a dance," first published, in French translation, in De l'une à l'autre, Contredanse, Brussels, Dec. 2010.

begin ...... pause ...... replace .. pause .. end ............ reverse

Five people have organized themselves to stand in a casual curve, our backs a few feet from a stone wall. We face into a calm volume of space. The reach of our eyes is limited by tall walls of wood and glass, a floor of light satin wood, a peaked ceiling fancy with timbers. There's a presence of wind through trees, occasional inserts of whining engines.

Before arriving in this composition, we warmed up our instruments - the body and its imagination - and tuned in to the local conditions within our bodies and this space we inhabit. I have located my appetite for movement, for stillness, for engagement, for dancing. We are here to tune in a dance. Or to unfold a dance. Or to induce one. Or to make the invisible dance of this space visible.

A settling enters the curve. Or I feel the curve recomposing itself. Exit murmurs. Exit shuffling. I am tuning into the speed of listening. The weight of attention rolls into the space in front of us. Two breaths ... four breaths.

A calm voice by my side says BEGIN. 

My senses stream out in all directions at once. An expectant tone tints the silence. Two, three, four, five ...

Six, seven ... Waiting begins to muffle my organization for action. 

I've missed the beat of this proposition to begin. I tune my waiting into listening for the beat to come around again. An abrupt shh shh passes behind me. Fabric brushing on fabric. Then a quick dry slap slap of bare soles meeting the floor. A sprinter has taken form through my ears. A sudden slowdown. Green pants edge into my visual screen. 

A woman is entering the space. Or I notice a woman entering the space. Her walking has kidnapped my eyes. Or she has inserted herself into a recently empty room. My eyes have met her there. Or I see her now. She's entered my image space.

I arrive behind my eyes, join her here, see what's on my plate. I am watching a woman walking away from me. Or I am watching walking. Or my eyes are stalking her heels. I notice I have leaned forward. Or I notice I have begun.

I look at her retreating hips. Or I observe her breezy walk. This space is deep. Where is she going? My curiosity, taking its cue from her, is breezy too. I take time to look out a window. And back. I detect her elbow lifting slightly, a small crick of the wrist. She is banking a turn toward where I stand. Soon I will see her face.

A new voice calls PAUSE. My eyes stop dead, two, three, four.

My future has crashed into the present. I hear myself inhale, feel the cells of my body expand into the stillness. No thoughts. 

I restart. 

My eyes have a spree, carom off the surfaces of everything, each glance causing the next. My attention swabs the space, moving to touch and pausing to taste the consequences of this disruption, knitting the fragments of my composure together. Five, six, seven, eight. 

There she is. Still. She appears to be still, somewhat askew, one heel twisted, barely lifted from the floor. I feel my weight puddle in my left foot. I am looking at her spine. Or I am interrogating her back. No thoughts there. I am looking at an unnameable stance. I am intrigued by her poise. By the poise of the room. I am compelled to search for movement. 

There's a waver of light on a puff of yellow hair. There's a tremble of fabric around her calf. The floor creaks beside me. I notice I accept this as stillness. I notice I'm grateful for incidental movement. I notice the pleasure of small perceptions afforded by this stillness. Or I affirm my appetite for singular events.

Nine, ten ... twenty ... no more beats.

I am absorbed by the invitation of time. Or I am absorbed in the sensuality of my floating attention. I am impressed with its freedom of passage through my body. The space inside expands. The space outside gets denser. Or I am imprinted with the invitations of the space. Or I read its instructions. I feel the rising of desires. Patterns appear. I notice I am breathing. I notice I am a pattern among patterns. Or I notice I am nested in the composition. 

I am absorbed by the whole of it, the orchestra of watchers, space, and mover. I feel the co-mingling of our projections into the space. Or the space is populated with images. Or the space is a mirror to my desire. Behind my eyes …

An old man is kneeling behind the standing woman, poised to skip a stone in my direction.

There is a flight of stairs in front of her, a red table tumbling down it, making thunder.

A remnant of blue darts through the space, left to right. 

I feel-see my body curled into a gangly sphere, rolling gently, rotating slowly, floating and bobbing above a shadowy figure that may be about to topple. Or lift its arms to swat me over a net.

Or I am absorbed in a dynamic dialogue with my body's imagination that feels like dancing. I notice I am elated. I notice I will grieve when it ends. What is the lifespan of this composition?

There she is. She is sustaining. Or she is enduring. Do I detect a change in the tone of her body? I am alert to signs of decay. I will call End to avert its inevitability. 

Or I will call End to imprint this overture in memory.

Or I will call End to frame this proposition of Begin, to acknowledge its singularity. Or I will call End so we can continue. 

Or I will call Begin to redirect the energy of my looking. Or I will call Begin to provoke an illusion of action, of a future. Or I will enter without calling. I am feeling for the beat of when to insert my call or my action, whichever it may be, into the music of the room.

REPLACE, green-pants says. Her body-time a half beat faster than my measure. My head nods reflexively. I notice I'm grateful to become aware of her awareness. She has reinvigorated her stillness.

One beat.

A herd emerges from the curve. I feel the container folding into the contents of space. Amid a synchrony of footfalls, my body agrees to surge toward her island of stillness. I am alert to my distance from the others. I am heading to replace her, to embody her stance, and don't know where I'll land. 

Four, five, six. In the blur of action, my voice spills out PAUSE and captures a flashflood of kinetic energy. 

My arms are caught mid-swing, rear foot in the air, eyes locked on my destination, a body in front of me, one by my side. Bits of image, baroque, teetering, and intently forward. The composition is fragile. The silence is holding us up, two, three. A voice from the edge says END. Four.

Two full breaths. We all drop tone. Or I feel the space exhale.

We walk off directly and in different directions. I follow my feet in the direction they are pointing, to the wall that was once on my left. And turn to face a new arrangement. People are scattered loosely on two adjoining walls. The dynamic of an L appears.

The space is cleared though not empty. After-image lingers in ears and eyes and bones. Threads to follow map my body's memory.

Two people enter rolling, shifting my attention to the carpet of wood. They are smoothing the space with a canon of long liquid phrases. Or they are erasing the place where the green-pants woman stood, tsunami approaching. Or this looping action is the antidote to the arrested convergence of the space. 

Or this is the Replace that never happened. A continuous ground wave recalls the ostinato of silence that dominated the image of Begin. I am rebalancing and at the same time feel my body about-face, my palms on the wall organized to propel me backward into the ... 

A voice calls REVERSE ...