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(funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board)

Writer: Valerie A. Briginshaw PhD

Choreographer: Emilyn Claid PhD

Embodying Ambiguities is a three year research project involving live performance, writing, live writing through the web, film and the creation of a CDRom.

The overall aim for the project is to explore the complexities of plays between dancing and writing texts.

At the heart of our research is the question how does thought move and movement think. The ambiguities of our title characterise the movement of thought and the thinking of movement in the spaces and times between choreographer, performers, live dance, recorded dance, writers, writing, and all of these and audiences.

Key research questions include:

  • How does the real' body of a performer present an ambiguity of images in performance?
  • What movements are created when the performer plays between the extremes of identifiable performance practices?
  • How do these movements influence the organisation of space and time?

The writing engages with these questions in parallel with the choreographic and performance processes.

Origins of Embodying Ambiguities

In 1999 we were the recipients of a Small Research Grant from the AHRB of £5000 to carry out what we called at the time an 'interactive writing and choreography project'. This involved Emilyn researching movement material with five dancers whilst I and two co-writers sat in on rehearsals and produced texts of writing. The focus of the research concerned the ambiguities of differently configured spatialities and temporalities and a movement language which explored the embodiment of ambiguities.

The research involved practical investigations of the literal space and time in which the dance occured alongside philosophical investigations of metaphorical ideas about space and time and relations between the two realms(the literal and the metaphorical). We were concerned with new ways of seeing bodies, space and time departing from binary oppositions and playing with the ambiguities of becoming rather than being. Emilyn choreographed Shiver Rococo which we presented as research in progress at three public performances together with a text of writing that I produced with my co-writers. That writing and subsequent more reflective and in-depth writing engaged with and analysed the choreographic and performance material drawing on a range of philosophical and post-structural theory from writers such as Deleuze & Guattari., Irigaray and Bakhtin.

A key finding of this earlier research was that danced and written texts cannot be simply 'interactive' because the plays between them are exceedingly complex. It is the complexity of these plays between danced and written texts that we are exploring further in the current research also entitled 'Embodying Ambiguities'.

OHP - go through

After 'The overall aim for the project…' and before 'At the heart of our research…'

The complexities of the plays between danced and written texts are bound up with the embodied philosophies of both, and the movement of thought between.

After 'The ambiguities of our title characterise…' and before 'Key research questions…'

Specifically the research examines the contradictions and tensions which lie between these danced and written texts and the ways in which the shared knowledges of anti-dualism stimulate and shift dancing and writing and characterise the plays between.

Emilyn  on her role as performance maker and researcher/writer

My role as writer

My research process as writer involves reading philosophical and other theoretical writing pertinent to our research focus - we identified the writings of Merleau-Ponty, Irigaray, Deleuze and Guattari and Bergson as key sources in our application. Given that movement of thought and thinking movement are central concerns Merleau-Ponty's ideas about embodiment and body/mind processes that are essentially anti-dualistic, and Irigaray's critique of his work from a feminist perspective highlighting the role that gender plays in embodiment, seemed relevant. However because Irigaray's work remains, to a certain extent, dualistic, we are also looking at Deleuze and Guattari's research since it goes beyond dualism and presents a model of 'thinking as movement' concerned with reconfigured notions of space and time that focus on the in-between. Bergson's studies of memory from an anti-dualistic position, which have informed the work of Deleuze, are also relevant given the important role that memory plays in the movement of thought.

This reading and these theories are where I'm coming from - they act as a context in which ideas, concerning the plays between the dancing and writing, circulate. When rehearsals begin I will sit in and observe and make notes. Between rehearsals my writing will be edited, reworked and placed in dialogue with the writing of theorists and philosophers. In this sense the writing is developed as it moves between these immediate and reflective processes. A key difference from the earlier project is that the writing will not be performed alongside the movement. This will allow for writing to continue in parallel with the performances. Time for reflection has been planned into the schedule allowing for re-engagement with the choreographic, performance and writing processes at a distance in order to produce more critical and analytical writing and documentation of the research processes.

Other facets of the research

One of the central research concerns -  the movement of thought - is further developed by the work of a research student who from the position of performer/researcher (she is one of the five performers engaged on the project) is investigating the movement of thought between live performance and performance records. Her PhD research focusses on the exchange of performance knowledge, which occurs in  the recording and preservation of live dance performance drawing on the discourse of theoretical quantum physics.

Lecture-demonstrations and workshops are also used to explore and probe the danced and written texts with other dancers and writers. The workshops allow participants to experience the movement language, play with developing danced and written texts and explore the spaces between. The CD Rom and the website will be designed to allow audience interaction with the various layers of the different danced and written texts produced. The website will provide an ongoing fluid text. The CDRom, which will include a film of Piebald Pegasus and excerpts from filmed records of rehearsals, performances in different venues, lecture-demonstrations and workshops, is envisaged as a culmination of the research.

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