Whose Dance Are You Doing

Talk / SNDO 1982-2006: dancers talking about dance 2009English
Jeroen Fabius (ed.), Talk / SNDO 1982-2006: dancers talking about dance (SNDO Amsterdam, 2009): 93-104.

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Contextual note
This interview is a transcript from a video recording of a public interview. Aat Hougée interviews Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson and Nancy Topf, guest teachers at SNDO in 1982, about their personal reasons for choosing to dance and about their views on developments in dance. The interview dates from the very beginning of the school, when a new direction have been explored. Aat Hougée asks basic questions what it takes to be a dancer, what dance is about, and how contemporary education can support learning to become a creative dancer.

LN / I'm here from the States to teach at the Theaterschool. I give voice training and I'm working with some compositional forms with the students.


SP / I'm teaching a class at the Theaterschool about working with a score which is made of photographs of football players.


NT/ I'm teaching two classes at the Theaterschool. One is in release technique and the other is in structures for improvisation.


AH / What we are trying to do is to make clear what might be important to watch in dance. In a way, to teach an audience, over a length of time, how to watch dance - but not by historiography. You hear people talk about dance; I think there is something to say about how to watch dance. I think that's the main reason why we are here.  So the first question is, why did you make a choice for dance, to express yourself as an artist?


LN /In a way, I didn't make a choice. I didn't choose one form, the form of moving, to express myself, against a choice to express myself in language. So I have to think for a moment how to get into that question. I often feel, in teaching, that it's much easier sometimes to just say something very clearly, to say what you mean, rather than make gestures that could be misinterpreted, or don't go right to the point. But I don't think the articulation that you make in movement is the same as the articulation that you make in words. I think there's an overall statement that you make, in your presence as a mover, like a statement that you make in writing, or in speech.


SP / It's clear that we're working on playing the senses, on exploring them, on finding out what they do, how they affect us, and I did make a very definite choice, at a certain point, after I had studied dance for several years, to become a dancer.


AH / The question is not why you once made that choice but why are you, at this moment, when you want to express yourself, why are you choosing movement?


LN / It goes back. I think what I'm doing now is filling in the parts of movement that were least explored as I became a dancer, like filling in the other senses that weren't developed. So it's not just becoming a dancer, it's becoming more of a hearer, and more of a seer, and more of all the other senses, to feed into the movement. And the movement could be any art, it's just that I've done that longest. But I think that you have to fill the circle with all the senses, whether you're an artist, a painter, a musician, a dancer. I don't think it's the form that matters so much, it's how you feel it, with how much sensation, with how much you sense.


SP/ I've considered to stop dancing, and a couple of thoughts keep bringing me back to dancing. One is that I think that dance is one of the least explainable, or understandable arts. It has something to do with the substratum of being and the flow of time in terms of all the senses. It's so ordinary, and so completely part of the background of existence that it's a mystery. It's like something that one forgets, because it’s just always there.  So to focus in on that gives me a sense of completing a whole picture again. And the other thing is that I think this century is a century that has been, almost more than any other time in western thought, dedicated to dance, to movement, to the human movement and the human body.


AH / Can you explain that?


SP/ Yes, the work of Laban, the rise of modern dance ...  Once there was no international movement form and then this form of ballet started moving around and becoming a movement vocabulary that was shared by different countries and each country, each little pocket culture, sort of had a point of view. Before that there seems to have been folk dancing and it was only idiosyncratic dancing in each area. There got to be an international vocabulary. Considering the international communications the way they are, the individual movement explorations of one person can be influential for modern dance far beyond their community boundaries. Look at Graham, look at Isadora (Duncan), look at any of the modern dancers and many of the avant-garde ballet dancers. An understanding of movement and what technique might be, and what each individual brings to movement, is beginning to blossom. Then on top of that you have Laban and his work, his notation and his theories about improvisation and urban life, his theories about movement itself, and the fact that he could put it as clearly both in language and in notation for the first time in western thought. This kind of clear vision was followed by Eshkol, who is the founder of the next clear notation that I know of, much later, but again a very clear and complete view of movement and how to translate it. Then registration became possible in photography and film and video causing this climaxing moment in our thought about movement nowadays. I'm sure computers are going to add a lot too.


However there is even more thinking and more data possible about the human body and its movement now than has ever been objectively available before. And that gives us some kind of way to compare what we're doing internally with what appears externally. The dancer has a way to grasp the moment with new tools. And that's very exciting to me and I enjoy being part of this particular moment in dance, I think. I also enjoy dancing. Far from all these things that we've been talking about, and any idea of making a choice, it's fun to do. It's fun and healthy. It's ecological. It's not economic, not economically powerful, but it's ecologically powerful.


LN / I have another thought about this historical evolution of dance at this time. The planet itself is in a period of recuperation and in modern dance there's been a turn of attention back to animal forms, to more basic perceptual examination of movement, coming from a very refined place. Where ballet, an abstract vocabulary of movement that seems to have had its heyday, is still having its heyday. There's another generation of thought in teachers of movement. The teachers include performers, people who perform and show their work to the public, looking back again at the roots of movement, which might have had an emotional source at one point, around Isadora's time and through Martha Graham. People are getting back to an examination of animal forms and neurological forms of movement that not only are motivating the movers but are changing the perceptions of the audience too. I think it's a healing process of the earth, of the beings on the earth that we've gone back to these roots at this time.


NT/ I'm also amazed at the sharing of vision that so many people are having in that way, because for me it was just a personal discovery, then all of a sudden it's become everyone's discovery. My own motivation was just that I needed to find my own sources, where was I going to create from, after having been trained and trained. I had only that training, then I was emptied out, and I had to go back to nothing. I was empty, so I had nothing. It was from that nothing that I started finding something and it was the source of my movement and that's what I'm interested in, working with people and finding where it comes from, what is the motivation, finding it within each person, for them, not for me. It becomes more holistic. Rather than parts of a puzzle, it starts with the whole thing.


LN / Some of the dancers now try to bring attention to some very small things, to the smallest movements of the things on the earth. They bring appreciation back to looking at  a flower, or caring for a plant, whereas much of dance will turn a gesture into a very large movement in a vast space, to be seen from a great distance. Much of the more contemporary movement that is happening has brought the eyes very close to the dancers to enable people or remind them to see the roots in the motivations, the smallest amplification of movement. This means that, again, when we go into a more technological time, we can balance it with an understanding and appreciation of the creation of the smallest things that make human and animal life on the planet grow.


AH / We talked about making choices in a performance. How does that relate to this certain idea of modern arts, that every dancer tries to find his own roots and to create something that comes from a very deep and true place?


LN / A phrase comes to me: the depth of the consciousness with which things are performed equals how far they'll express themselves. That's something that I can sense. That's one idea, and the other would be how clarity of focus is expressed in performance, how confused or how clear the focus is determines how much I am drawn or not drawn to it. Also, how open the performer is to the process of performing, being aware that it is a live happening at that moment, rather than a repetition of a past moment.


NT/ Well, that is about the training, it's fear. The training of dancers, and the way I've come to enjoy training people, is from the inside out. I think that there is a center point, and it expands in a circle, rather than being a flat form where things are imitated. It's like the opening of a flower, rather than just seeing something from opening a door. When a performance is expressed in that way, it's expressed from the inside out, rather than as a flat form, which I consider like entertainment, which a Broadway show is. A dance that interests me is more of a spherical form, circular, it has an inside. I see the training that way, it's like you can see it expand and contract in that round way, rather than just seeing the outside. You can see inside people. They become transparent, so there's depth, you know. The deeper you go, the more interesting it becomes. The thing about choices is that in the making of choices, you see the functioning of the inside. It's the choice making that reveals what's there.


LN / I see that when I look at someone moving, I can see something moving within them. It's a three dimensionality that leaves a hole in the space after the dancers have left. And that's just a sense that some people have instinctively, or just to inspire themselves. I might say "that was a good mover." No matter what they do, when they're moving, I am moved by some indescribable quality. I might say it's three-dimensionality or presence or whatever, there's a sense of the whole space moving. But yet I might look at someone who makes something flat and say "that was fantastically flat" and maybe it came from a conceptual place, where someone had a talent for organizing space in such a way that they could flatten it into an absolute plane, and I would say that was quite fantastic as well. I would find it almost impossible to make choices at a beginning level about students having certain talents. What they would need is to have some kind of driving motivation to do it. Maybe I could read that better than I could read their talent, their three-dimensionality.


AH / From the traditional dance education, people learn about forms, and some of them in the end become beautiful dancers and others not. I have some kind of belief that there is another field of dance education in which you can educate more people more quickly, by giving them more knowledge about, maybe physical processes. What do you think?


NT/ I think it's the ability to not know so that you can fill it with the right moment. If you don't know then the answer comes from what happened before. I think that is the thing about beginners, it's often that they think they have to know. It's like a training to be sure of your body so that you can afford to not know, it's like you can trust it. It's about trusting your move, so that it comes out of a place that's empty, not all cluttered. And I think that helping them through the feeling of security that a trained dancer would achieve,like Steve, to allow him to be in the right place at the right time. For them it's finding that security that you know he has, that's important.


SP / I remember in the Judson days we once auditioned for a performance which was to happen in a traditional modern dance performance situation at the YWHA, the 92nd street Y, which was where a lot of important modern dance was produced. New York has an ego that makes all of us who live there feel like we were seeing it all, all the important material but they laughed us out of the studio. The "us" that they laughed at were Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Yvonne Rainer, myself... and a number of other people. I remember once Merce Cunningham said that Yvonne Rainer would never be a dancer. I'msure he's forgotten that, I hope he has. For myself, I'm sure I'm in the same boat. I have preferences. A lot of it has to do with what I have received.


AH / But can you see physical knowledge in dancers?


SP / Look at the case of Simone Forti. I saw her from the time she came to New York, having studied with Anna Halprin on the West Coast. She would try to take Merce Cunningham's classes but afterwards she would crawl around on the floor, doing what I now recognize as developmental movement working on what happens in the body from being a fetus on to being an erect adult. But at that time she was crawling around doing primitive stuff. I had to stop myself, I was very involved in technique at that time, taking ballet and things like that, I had to stop myself judging her. Because she had an integrity which allowed me to look at her crawling around on the floor with some new viewpoint. She was making me see that crawling. But if somebody auditioned for this school by crawling,what would you think? I mean, would that be of interest? Or would it be a scandal?


LN / It's a strange question, because I see that the most unconscious movers and some very unconscious performers move me fantastically. They haven't sculpted or crafted their understanding or could probably not articulate their understanding, their physical knowledge.

They're moving from a place that, for my physical knowledge, or from my physical empathy, I am moved by. And this happens with people who have no training, or consciousness of what they are doing.


AH / I don't talk about knowledge in a very conscious way. Some people have it,they come in the school and they really have it. But I am just convinced that if people start dancing and don't have that knowledge, that what they want to show doesn't look like what they are showing.


LN / Well, that's the problem of preconception of what dance is. If Simone is crawling, then that is where Simone is, then she'll bring that across. For her that's dance as well.


SP / It's about what dance could possibly be. Because everybody has to dance in the knowledge that the current generation holds. Every student that comes in here is going to be here for five years. At the end of the five years the field, especially in the twentieth century, could change considerably.


AH / I am not talking about a strand. I am still trying to get into my idea on dance, on movement. The human body has a lot to do with being able to sense energy through the body and to sense movement, to feel the movement and do it.


SP/ I looked at first-year students last night at this school, and I saw a whole roomful of people who just have it. I looked at some fifth-year students the day before and there were a number of moments when they just didn't have it. It has something to do with the preconception factor.


AH / Workers on the street, doing their job, they will have it. Farmers working on the land, they will have it. As soon as you get people into the school, and they have to perform that thing, or whatever, show it, they lose it. So in education you find ways to get it back.


LN / Well in a way you are training people in this way in the school. You're training people to look at things in a certain way, and to appreciate things on a certain level. In the first year, they're naïve, so they're less apt to edit their impulses, and they perform tasks in movement in a fresher way. The more self-conscious they become, the more they get an idea of the right way... If you see something that is right, often you try to duplicate that. And if you see something, or get feedback that something you've done is right, that's often terrible information because then you try to duplicate that instead of duplicating an understanding of the process that made that a real moment, or a readable, empathetic movement. So when you talk about a five-year span, the earlier ones, when they first come in, are doing perhaps truer work and more beautiful movement than the later work which becomes more self-conscious and loses the idea of process. When you look at video tapes of your work, often the hardest thing to do is to forget what you think is good, because then you try to duplicate that unconsciously, and that often becomes deadly, because you're directing yourself, rather than taking an inner direction.


AH / Aren't we training people to be able to find those personal truths in what they are doing?


NT / I think the question I always find interesting is whose dance are you doing anyway. Even if no one likes it, if you think that's where you are at that moment, go and do it, and take a risk, and see where you are. That's the most interesting thing for me to see, when they go to that fully, to their place. And I think if they can be aware of what that place is, they can have some material that's interesting to deal with. But if they're looking for the place to come from outside, they won't find material that would interest me very much.


SP / One thing about modern dance which has confused the issue considerably is that, in the days of ballet, or the days of dancers who were music hall performers, the less high art, the lower art dancers. There was somebody who judged what was good dance and what was bad dance. They had a lot of criteria and I'm sure a lot of it was personal as well, I mean Lazare and the major teachers in St. Petersburg and all that, made choices. They made certain choices very early on about what was the proper kind of body, and what was the proper kind of temperament and what nourishment that temperament needed and what roles that temperament was suited for. They knew what roles they were heading for. They had a repertory.


Modern dance has come along and democratized dance and it's possible to be a really major force in dance now with never having danced in a major company, never been subject to any outside criticism whatsoever. I mean, in terms of somebody having power over your life. Finally the public, or influential people in the art world, see the value of whatever it is the dancer is doing and it becomes powerful in its own right, without the selection process that dancers early in the century were subjected to. It seems in the process of bringing awareness to a situation like this, which one of the kinds of awareness that you're bringing to people is that they've a wide variety of choices to make. What it is all about is more and more a major question for younger people. I bet all those questions exist more for students now than they did before, when there was at least the security that if you were chosen you were right.


AH / They have to find out their own criteria.


NT/ I don't think you find this everywhere. I think there are plenty of places people can go for that kind of Czarist tyranny. For example any of the major companies in New York City...


SP / How do you get into those major companies? I mean, there are perhaps plenty of places, more than ever before, but there are also thousands more dancers competing for those places than there were before. You could devote five or six years competing for a place in a company, then decide it's not going to come my way then give up. In the meantime, your spirit, your aesthetic choices and your body are being developed for this aim that you can never achieve.


NT / But you still see many people doing that, classes are very full. So I think that then there are rare places like this that would offer that other choice as a way of going about it...


SP / I think that it's the most interesting choice ultimately. I think that the development of one's own criteria is an important choice at this time. It's such a schizophrenic world, and to be able to come down and say this is where I want to be, this is the way I want to dance...


NT/ I think eventually you have no choice but to do that if you're going to continue dancing. I mean, after you have a Czar or leader take over your life, there's going to come a time when he'll say "you're on your own," and then that person is in a worse position than the one who had to find out sooner.


AH / So people have to find out their own criteria. That's true in a way but a lot of people say my criteria are to stop here, this is what I want to learn, this is how to stretch my leg, how to stand, and our criteria is that people should really go through something.


NT / There are many places that person can go to learn to stretch his leg...


AH / I know, but when you say the students should find their own criteria, some students will say OK, those are my criteria, I want to be good in those technique classes, and that's enough. Then we say no, you should go further, because your own criteria are not clear for you, you have to really go and go and go...


SP / They know this very clearly before they come, don't they? If they know they're going to be pressed in this direction, instead of some one aesthetic way of doing something, and ultimately it seems like they owe the school the trust to go ahead and proceed in the direction the school stands for.


AH / ...It's an artistic choice they want to make, but I think there is something for every dancer that they should do before.


SP/ I felt like I agreed with what Nancy said. Did I go through something? I went through so much training, in so many different areas, that at a certain point I couldn't consider my body my own. I still don't fully consider it my own, because every technique I studied for more than six months remains. In fact, I had a couple of belly dancing lessons, I had two belly dancing lessons that remain in my body, in my muscles. They were profound. At the same time, the body that took in that information was my own, in a way that I'm very conscious of, and it was only through, I suppose, the complexity of all those interlocking disciplines that I came to understand anything of what my body is capable of doing. Once you realize that you can perceive something from the outside, perhaps one is able to then find material from the inside.


LN / It's such an interesting question. Because I had no training of the sort that is offered here. I went through the traditional training for dance that was available, ballet, Graham, Cunningham, but I was always dancing, making my own work and I never equated learning movements from a teacher in a dance class with dancing. So I didn't have to fight through that, because I was always aware of dancing as a very free part of myself, my own vocabulary. Now, I did pick up pointing my toe and it took maybe five or six years to get rid of that as a movement habit... but I never felt it as a movement inhibition. Even when I was concentrating on being aware that I was pointing my toe, I don't feel my awareness or motivation for movement was hampered by my traditional training.


AH / Then, were you very special?


LN / Was I very special? From my point of view, these kinds of discussions didn't exist along the way. I was never present at a discussion like this, about training the body. I had to stop training in my early twenties, because I became aware that my body was going to be endangered, my physical longevity was endangered by certain things that I was doing habitually. Then it took until my late twenties to look for a technique to learn that would increase my lifespan as a mover. And I don't know if I'm a better dancer now than I was back then, or whether something is gone due to my attention to bring awareness to certain parts of myself.


AH / You are one of these special people who found their way out through the traditional thing. Is it in a way dangerous to draw conclusions about individuals because they're so very different?


NT / I think that's true. I think that for me one of the clues is that as a child I had an incredibly creative experience and I didn't think I was going to go back to it, because I had to reject it to find the technical world and then that process continued. But when I did come to the end of dancing and thought, "Oh my God, what do I do now? I don't want to dance like him, or her, or that, or this... " I just didn't know what to do. That's when I laid on the floor for a whole summer and just yawned, and just stopped and tried to find the source. But, as I see it, the source is luckily still growing at this point; I think it can always grow if you get there. That's the place that grows continuously in people and I think that, for me, I was lucky to have that as a child. Because I think that the earliest movement experiences, it's like riding a bike, you never forget how. And if you were nurtured very young, then I think you can always go back to that. Hopefully the people who haven't had that nurturing can find that place that grows anyway. What you're trying to do here I think is to give people the knowledge that there's a place within them that they're going to develop from and I'm real glad I found it.


AH / Do you have a feeling now you've gone through all those experiences that there might be a more efficient way to get where you are now?


SP/ Given the nature of me as an adolescent, I think I would have to answer no. I just went through what was available at the time. I wish I had been able to do more. I wish I had had the leisure to study more belly dancing, tap dancing and martial arts. Because all these forms are visions of human form, and finally those visions add up in your body to a lot of information that when you come to make artistic choices, you have a large store to choose from. But I look at Simone, and a few other dancers that I know of, as people who came through without technical training in the traditional sense. Simone Forti is one of the most influential dancers of the New York 1960s and 1970s era, partly because she didn't have movement habits built into her body that came from some place else. But she did have an unusual amount of drive and stamina and belief in her own process to continue. And I think that's unusual. And I think if an institution can give the students five years to concentrate on movement, it hardly matters what they do, as long as they're doing it very intensively, as long as they're very involved with it, as long as it's always there... They have to do a prodigious amount of work.


AH / When you see most people come from ballet class, they have been busy with movement, for ten years ... and at the end they often don't know how to move anymore.

You see people coming from the Graham school, they don't know how to move, but some of them do...


LN / I think what we are doing in this sense is stimulating an interest in the actual mechanics of movement, stimulating an interest in the study of the mechanics of movement. I don't know quite how to think about the creative potential of that training. I don't know if studying at this school can increase the creative potential of an individual, but I think that what you're giving them is something so much more than what is offered by an imitative aesthetic. Ballet dancers don't often dance that long. They have to deal with the fact that the form that they practice is very hard on their bodies...


SP/ In a way I think the thing rests in the politics of the situation, in a funny use of the word politics. I don't think it would matter whether it was ballet or hula, if one of the aims that was built into the situation, however traditional the technique was, was that that person at some point was going to take over their own motivation and do their own dances, and at some point grow past a master/student relationship, if that was built into the situation. It's beyond the techniques. It's into the uses of people, that the people who control the aesthetics of those techniques, at any given time, pursue.


AH / I guess the same thing with modern dance technique, from an emotional point of view, when you do that very intensively, you can't disconnect it from the emotional content.


SP/ In one way, this is the problem in everything we've been talking about, the reason that in the 1960s people started becoming more interested in movement which is not aesthetic based, is because the aesthetic comes from the time that it was made. Graham came from a time when Jung and Freud were incredible influences on thinking, she went to other places for movement, technical devices, she went to the east, for instance. But if you look at what's available now, if you look at the whole spectrum of it, you have Graham, with a woman's understanding of the emotional and the physical realm, you have Cunningham, with a man's understanding of the random cosmos and Newtonian physics of traditional ballet dancing. You could go on and on. To make a really fine school it seems to me like you ought to have Graham, you ought to have ballet. To augment the Graham psychology you ought to have this incredible Spanish dancing, flamenco psychology. You ought to have some yoga, to go clear to the other extreme of the use of the body, you ought to have an understanding of a lot of the branches of sciences and arts that are occurring through the century, and how they have changed and how their changing has changed the viewpoint of the public at large. You definitely ought to have so many kinds of movement from different ethnic backgrounds.


AH / Do you really think that feeding people that amount gives them the possibility to go deeply into something? And the other thing is, those things that are a special technique maybe are conditioning people so strongly that they close themselves off to get other experiences.


SP / But there are only specific experiences. There are no free experiences. There are unique experiences but they relate to something. We are social organisms, we are humans, and we relate to each other. Anything that Graham is doing now in Europe - I mean, you posited her earlier as a past figure - but she's still alive and kicking. Her company is kicking even more than she is at this point and they're still causing waves. They're still influencing us, who are relatively free of that kind of influence for a lot of reasons. One is that we have chosen our own direction. Cunningham is still doing it. When I first started dancing, only one modern dancer besides Isadora had died, and not including Nijinsky, because at that point he had not been re-evaluated as a modern dancer, and that was Lester Horton, who had died tragically young. All the others were still alive; I mean the important figures in the field at that point...


AH / In what way is the Graham work still influencing what is happening?


SP / She is important today because the basis of much of the interest in modern dance is that the technique that she developed can be seen as a technique in a very complete way- complete physical training and a complete emotional training, in the same way that ballet has been prior to Balanchine's getting his fingers into it.


AH / But is that of any meaning towards the development of modern dance, or has it become something of its own?


SP / What I was going to say is that it created a field for both continued growth, which it has done, and also for rebelling against, because if you have a really strong something to say "that's not for me", that pushes you further in the other direction. It comes back to the same question, it's important to go through all that stuff.


AH/ You also went through the things at the time... that was what there was. Just what I'm after though, is what experiences did we gather in all those years to maybe start a more efficient, a newer thinking about dance education.


SP/ I don't think it's important for us to go through the steam age again every decade to get to computers. At the same time, I've noticed that a lot of people are severely hampered in this world as they move around it, because they are in a computer age but they're trying to confront a gas-operated machine. That old stuff has not gone away, it is not old­ fashioned, it simply started earlier. You can call me philosophical if you want, but to me it seems eminently practical.


AH / I think you are right that the old stuff has value, but what happened with the old stuff? Is there any inspiration left in that material from the time you were there?


LN / There is. When I studied Graham I had a very remarkable dancer as a teacher. I will say that I learned nothing about how my body worked at that time. After six years with this teacher I was confronted with the same technique taught by another teacher, but I was so flattened and uninspired to move during the classes that I had to stop taking the classes. I had nothing against the Graham technique at that time. It wasn't until later that I could develop a dislike for it. But I had an intense dislike of being confronted by an individual who was asking me to do movements, when I was getting no inspiration from them as movers. What I think is that the kind of training that's happening now, training through imagery and a very direct and more efficient anatomical knowledge of the body in motion, means that any of these students can apply that process to learning Graham or Cunningham technique with a much higher amount of success than they would have had adjusting from the Graham technique to the Cunningham technique in the past. That's of great value. Not only that, but I think their bodies will last longer as well.


AH/ That's what I think is important, that if you don't get people the knowledge to recreate those old techniques, but just offer them sometimes bad forms, then it can be rather deadly or even kill something


SP/ But I don't think any ballet teacher would disagree with you, because I've read and had some experiences with ballet teachers. I mean ballet is one of the older of the international dance forms, the oldest international dance form as I understand it, and it has been through so many hands and it has existed for centuries and it's in a way a sign of how techniques go. One thing that seems to happen is that, for certain teachers, there's an understanding of how to inspire people. When we were talking before about the three-dimensionality of a person who dances well, one of the words I thought was, why don't we just use the word inspired dancer? And in the sense of somebody whose breath you can feel, that the inspiration, the taking in from the outside is felt, and the expression of that breath is also felt. Breath in its literal sense and also in the metaphorical.


AH / Maybe, in the old techniques, it's very hard nowadays, to find inspired people, because to be inspired with a dance form that has its roots forty years back, is rather difficult.


SP / I don't think so.


LN / Not if the mover's moving.


SP / I saw a Graham dancer named Billy Kiprich who around sixty was able to inspire me simply with the way she sat, in that position, with her legs spread, and the way that she could move in that position. I do think it's difficult to find them and I bet it was always difficult to find them. I mean, you look back at the history of dance and you do name a few names which people revere as inspirational...


AH / But if you compare the dancers who are now in the Cunningham company, if you would invite them to teach the technique, there would be a big difference with the people who were there in your days, in how inspiring they can be and how much creativity they can put in.


LN / Well you said it yourself, that you can see a ballet dancer who is inspired. The form isn't that important, in a way.


SP / I think education has an incredibly deadening effect on people these days, because inspiration is largely absent from the teaching. People become slaves of the institution for the time that they're there, but in a way coming into an institution is an exact metaphor for the whole coming into life. You come into this situation, you're there for a while, it takes over your motivation in the same way that life takes over your being. I think it all depends on who you hire - that's a subjective matter - and how well they do here, how they mix with the students. But, right now, it is a certain time in Holland, just as it was a certain time in England and earlier in America, that people are going to see things as in conflict, and I think, as time passes, that will diminish. I think that's a problem of introducing new ideas into a society. People should resist those ideas. Why are they necessarily good? They have to be examined. Just because they've been proven in America, at least in terms of longevity, just because some place like England is having a Graham school and Cunningham's and post­ Cunningham work is influential there right now, why should it be good here? I think it has to be examined by the Dutch. And they will examine it, and find the good in it, and take it in their own direction. I mean, that, in some ways, is the message of modern dance, that it exists for individual viewpoints, and the individuals can then take it, once they understand or accept that premise, then they can move.


AH / The fact that we do it like we do it has something to do with the fact that we do it here.


NT/ What I find amazing is that the work that I've found no place for, suddenly an institution is open to, really wants it.