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  • Writer's pictureashlee

Days within a series of days

Woman in pink shirt and baggy black pants in the dance studio: lifting her bent leg and arms high

Picking things up where we left them in my last post

Day 5, Mar 30, Theatre

Today I returned to the Motion Poetry podcast for my warm up. I was curious about why that podcast works so well for me. Is it the combination of the offered tasks and the text or is it just that the poetry itself is a fantastic imaginative and direct stimulus for my movement? The tone and rhythm of the spoken words elicit movement that differs from my habitual patterns by being unpredictable; constantly shifting and interrupting. The imagery and ideas behind the language, along with the sound, cadence and energy of the words provide such a rich enticement to dance.

And the dance itself? My spirals go backwards, unravelling, as well as forwards. I question and ponder and tell and relate. I join and I ignore. I punctuate. Sometimes I spin. I spin downwards and upwards. I gesture. Sometimes I look. I glance. I identify. Once I misjudged. I still balance and lift and hover. I wonder and I commit. I hold space and try and mould it to my body or fit myself inside. I travel over terrain of rhythm and movement, sounds, thoughts and stories. I remember, and project forward to remembering now.

Strange, to think of myself back then, dancing and imagining myself sitting here now, remembering that day.

I then revisited the 4x5+2 structure, although it was a bit rocky today. As I was getting underway, I was interrupted with an apology that a timetabling mix-up meant that my session would be cut slightly short. Getting back to it, I eventually worked out that I had somehow managed to mute the sound I was using, so the first 5-minute dance blew out and the following 2-minute stillness was more or less swallowed up. In the end I did not have time to write any reflections on today's dance through of the structure. Taking a moment now to check out the (still grainy) footage from each dance in retrospect...

Gif of dance #1

1. A soft testing, a feeling out.

Gif of dance #2

2. The testing becomes somewhat posey, with clean lines that reminded me of a colleague back in Melbourne, more full-bodied, dancey shapes and spearing arms beginning to emerge. It was just gaining momentum in time for the bell…

Gif of Dance #3

3. To begin, a supine hand dance set to a soundtrack of children playing outside in the foyer as they await their dance class. Arising as a yogic animal before a moment of suspension, which eventually softens, and crumples back to the floor. A dance of the arms and ribcage as I sit in pretzel – this ‘seated 4th’ still somehow expressionist. Can I play until the monster

returns, evolving back into its yogic distortion?

Gif of Dance #4

4. Waltzy-posey, always this sense of trying things on, embracing a lankiness. Human vs dancer, opening, waiting, building tension I can’t quite see through the camera. It grows up through the legs but is expressed in the ribs and arms and hands until finally it dissipates just in time for the bell.

Day 6, Apr 1, Theatre

Today began with a 20-minute, running on empty warm up dance. Energy from my organisation-brain propelled me to the studio, and I hoped that my creative-brain (and body) would materialise once I arrived. I found fuel enough to move, but barely more than that – not enough to focus or form the practice. I was haunted by echoes of advice and dictums from past teachers, both helpful and unhelpful. However, there was a curious, quiet sense of satisfaction to be moving just peeking through my apathy, and I was able to push on to the next thing, trusting in the process of showing up and in the structure that was beginning to form.

I moved onto the 4x5+2 score with ‘Perhaps more richness. More variance. More identity and willingness to dive into each dance knowing that it’s not forever.’ I found this structure supported me through my slump in energy and motivation, providing me with a scaffold to build my practice around. I still hadn’t realised that this was becoming the foundation of my practice – I wrote about toying with ideas of setting more formal structures, deciding on a specific score, type of score, image or instruction to stick with long-term, but every time I started down that thought path another part of me rebelled and wanted to stay with this more open practice. I was also faintly annoyed that this kind of planning was showing up in my writing, blocking any reflections on the dance itself.

There seemed to be a LOT of outside noise permeating the studio today: traffic, construction, leaf blowers, laughter, impossibly constant sneezing... More echoes from the past, this time turning up in my physicality rather than my thoughts: There was a glimpse of a choreographer I loved working with at uni. There was another of one I really didn’t. How is she still there? Have I been holding onto that way of moving all this time when I didn’t even value it when it was first offered to me? An unconscious embodying of an approach I felt so little connection with in all my scope of experiences. There was a frustrating instruction to never quite hit the shape, complete the line, or reach the potential of any impulse to move. ‘Is that why I never feel quite satisfied? Is this where I live now? Somewhere just before the point of satisfaction?’

At this point my energy levels were very low, but I was determined to do more than just the warm up and the 4x5+2. I felt I should be able to achieve more than this in my time in the studio, so without thinking too much more about it I set another timer, this time just for six minutes and completed one more dance. I did not, however, manage to lift the pen after this one.

The "I have no energy to dance" dance; searching for small pleasures

Day 7, Apr 6, Studio

Today’s warm up: meditate 7 / move & stretch 5 / dance 8

Have more fun. And more water. The ticking clock only annoyed me for a moment today. Today is actually a night and so full of this warm, almost but not quite unpleasant smell of teenagers rehearsing that I feel like I’m swimming in it. Buoyed on a thicker air, the air saturated by creativity, energy and memories. It is almost as if it wafts up from the tarkett like steam off a road when the sun dries up a recent rain shower. I am trying to float along it and remember what it feels like to dance as if I am the greatest at this dance and my face and energy, my presence is as much a part of the dance as my limbs and spine. And brain. I want to feel it, but also look ok and not just have twit face, concentration face, tired lumpy face. What if I do want people to watch? I should have fun! Whether it’s being a character or solving a physical puzzle or following a score, does it have to be so serious? People can tell by your face, your eyes. The warm fug of the studio is like the desert from that Doctor Who episode, and I can explore it in my swishy coat and solve its mysteries and its wrongs with style and flair and fun.

I know it sounds a bit gross, talking about dancing through the aftermath of a sweaty, teenaged rehearsal, but it really wasn’t. As you may have guessed, I don’t do well in the cold, and it was so good to be warm and not fighting to sustain my body temperature for three hours (occupational hazard of a dancing and writing practice). It was amazing how the studio seemed alive and full and so much less like a daunting blank space I needed to fill on my own. Perhaps it had something to do with the change in routine and the vibe of the studio at night – the fluoros weren’t fighting with the natural light and there wasn’t constant soundtrack of nearby construction work – but there was a real sense of company, and strong memories of being a Quantum Leaper.

In the 4x5+2 dance that followed I took my own advice and had some fun. I played with story, character, focus and rhythm. I laughed at the serendipitous way every time the bell rang I had somehow managed to just arrive at the centre of the space – like my internal clock kept steering me to reset at centre. I wrote: ‘Conscious of an absence of consciousness and of an imagined lack of consciousness that is unconsciously present all along. Perhaps forever.’ …Ummm, sorry what, past me? I have no idea. But I did have a sense that I could almost access a different personality in this night-time studio vibe, and I was open to it.

Even whilst I was enjoying myself, I was aware that I wasn’t as present in the dancing over the duration as I wanted to be. I was worrying about the future of my project, upcoming funding decisions and Plan Bs. Still working towards the ability to separate the dancer from the director in my head and stay grounded in one thing at a time. An old injury was just starting to niggle enough to mention in my writing and cause more distraction as I worked.


At some point I learned to see each day as a day in a series of days, each moment, and each dance nestling between the one that has come before and the one still to come. I’m not sure if it was beginning to dawn during these weeks or if I didn’t realise until much later, but it’s a big part of why I didn’t fall back into that Day 2 rut again. I now absolutely believe I needed to experience a long-term practice before I could fully understand this simple, underpinning principle. My understanding of practice as a long-term commitment to an activity in the hopes of improving skills or insight was not a lived-through one. I knew intellectually that it was unlikely to be a smooth and steady upward trajectory, but the perfectionist in me needed to experience the ups and downs to really get it in her head: Each dance will not be a complete and stunning work of art in its own right, but that does not make it any less valid or a less necessary part of the process.


A Contemplation and an Emergence


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