A Dance That Is

15 Sep

1. Any set of signs can be engaged in a process of translation. Signs are weak entities involved in strong relations. The letter L means L nothing more – perhaps left but that’s another story all together – but is given orientation, or say meaning though it’s relations.

Objects are different, objects cannot be translated. They can be described and organized, introduced into semiotic systems but objects are not sign. Signs or also objects but as objects they are not signs.  

2. Dance understood in respect of culturally coded systems introduces dance to semiotics, to meaning production, to signification, to translation. Since the early 90’s performativity has been firmly attached to semiotics, haunted by a somewhat naïve reading of the post-structural dictum, language is all there is, thus forgetting the self-corruptive tone of voice resonating through “How To Do Things With Words”.   

3. Semiotics is like currency, exchangeable. If Phelan and others had issues with performance and archive in the 90’s – how performance ontologically speaking could not not be an implicit critique to reproduction based economies – the problem today is rather what could possible escape semio-capitalism. A dance whose startingpoint is signification and meaning production does certainly not imply a critique of anything at all, or if it does, such critique has turned into a “modest proposal” – not a full frontal assault [however impossible but never the less] but a benevolent or even cheerful affirmation to the already possible. Dance understood as semiotics, or that wants to be understood as, necessarily sells out its specificity. It becomes one among others and no longer a No-manifesto. 

4. If dance is made semiotics there must exist, so to say a master key. A tool or diagram with which all dance can be deciphered and understood. Such a tool has often carried the name reason. Ballet has often been understood, or suffered under the burden to be the master key. This is not just a matter of obligatory ballet class, or how dance critique tendentially fall into ballet lingua, or how Jonathan Burrows use to say, “in dance there is ballet and the rest, and those two seems always to be in opposition, or a mutual threat” [it might now be exactly what JB said but I like it], but all over the place from the performer to he spectator, from studio to showtime, from the magazine to the encyclopedia. Never mind, how dance without copmpetition is the art form must firmly attached to technical ability. Technique is obviously nor good or bad but homogenization certainly is.

5. If there is a master key this implies – as far as my competence concerning such keys – that it, so to say, can easily master all other possibilities. Like language, if I know French it’s piece of cake to understand Italian, and do I know Latin I know it all etc. Learn ballet, the Latin of European dance and you’ll be fine. Yet, evidently as we know from Stravinsky the moment you know your counterpoint you are so trapped, and still how tired am I not of ballet dancers vainly talking about unlearning, and further more trained or untrained is not an issue. Our current economical regime makes anything and anyone special and money on that. How was that worn phrase now “perform or else” and save me from The Grammar of The Multitude. 

6. If dance on the other hand is understood as an object, i.e. as a passage, or connected to trace [help], memory [double help] or presence/absence [triple freakin help], or as inscribed into the regime of performativity with its sleazy psychoanalytical sidekick. If dance is an object it’s not a matter of translation, it’s not a matter of what it mean or produce, it – the dance – is exactly not anything else than that. We shouldn’t go into whatness but then what the fuck, dance is, concerning whatness – the condition of being an existent thing apart from whatever may be known or stated about that thing. 

7. If dance is an object, i.e. if each dance is a more or less autonomous object and not translatable, each dance must be given the opportunity to develop or enjoy itself. If dance is an object there can be no master key, or at least the master signifier is just that: master – it’s a dance but that means short to nothing and everything but from there on each dance must be approached as a singular, an entity that produce it own existence and can enjoy itself without the help of humans, language or signification. To paraphrase Ian Bogost, to make dance, or to engage in dancing is not a matter of language or writing, it’s a particular kind of carpenting.

8. If dance is an object there can be no master technique but each dance – which might or not be repeatable – must necessitate it’s own practicing, it’s own address. A dance can be classified as a dance, yes as an object – it’s not a stone but each stone is an object and itself not translatable. And the stone is at the same time complex as it is composed by phosphor, calcium etc. and those are in their turn composed by and so on.

However dances can be classified as much as stones and can be divided into smaller particles – but the regimes of representation organizing classification can and must be other than the regimes of representation of each individual objects and it’s being in the world.

Obviously, an object is also for itself in the world and it forms relations to other objects including humans, however those relations are never translatable into something human. Similarly, a dance is an object, and it is in the world as much as a stone, a cigarette, a waterfall, a scent or a premonition. We must let dances have and enjoy its own existence, only then can it offer us interesting problems. The dance I want to dance is one that minds it’s own business not one that I know what it means already before I start it up. The dance I want to experience is one that needs no anthropocentric back up, that is not like anything else but simply itself and enjoying it, a dance whose starting point is not relations or negotiation.

9. If each dance is itself distinct, each dance must ask for it’s own practice. It is no longer a classical “what” asking for essence and situating something in relations with and organized through some correlational master plan, it’s a what that ask for an autonomy, not from something else but for itself and as such. Said in other words, it’s only when we allow a dance to be as alien as it wants that it can exit the domains of the possible, the economic territory of imagination, creativity and enter potentiality, produce some sort of breach.

Ballet is a practice, equally good as any other, but it has been turned into a semiotic, a fundament of cultural code by dominant discourse, you know it. Never the less, if ballet has developed a kind of inner logic it is still possible to approach it as an object.And, again – if dance is a set of autonomous objects that cannot be translated each dance must be practiced as itself and as such, and the practice however ordinary it might seems must be autonomous, distinct and finite.Dance is not a technique, or set of techniques, that has application but a cluster of practices that can and must not be forced to merge into a make belief semiotic, whatever their names are: release, Limon, BMC, Forsythe whatever it was called, hang out technique of the early 21st century, occupy, and so on.  

10. A semiotic system can only issue possibility. Objects carry the possibility of event. Something whose meaning we are already familiar with is not about to surprise us in any respect, or if it does at best as a “modest proposal”, or criticality, or in other words – re-active change, change already prepared, rehearsed and packaged. Objects are not events but as they are not translatable they carry the possibility of an emergence of active change, a change with, so to say, nor departure point or arrival – a change in itself and such. 

11. Dance is a cluster of practices and practicings. It is not a semiotic but an object – it can not be translated by only practiced – and each dance must be practiced as an autonomous existence, thus in no way subject to difference but always confronted as a particularity.  

12. Dance is something we practice. To practice implies not to recognize but to allow for something to withdraw, to skip out of semiotics and cultural code, into a radical foreign, allowed to be alien. However, although not engaged in recognition practice is not hope for the best, wait for the accident, or dance to the end of life [although it always is, too], it is harder than so cuz it exactly implies to loose oneself, and that can only be done through rigor, however a different rigor than one practiced by semiotics.



One Response to “A Dance That Is”


  1. Dance Practice as Research » a dance that is. Spangberg on practice - September 25, 2012

    […] — Mårten Spångberg https://spangbergianism.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/a-dance-that-is/ […]

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