Text contribution by Dylan Huw (Wales) by Israel Aloni

It’s like group therapy almost

On the margins of language, movement and creation


I have no verbs probably to describe what the hell just happened

Lee Brummer, dancer, Wednesday 12.09.18

***

On my first day observing the early stages of the ICoDaCo process in Cardiff’s Chapter arts centre, it is Lee’s turn to propose a group exercise. She would like to probe the meaning of transformation (the project’s “guide word”) more deeply – to question and deepen her collaborators’ assumptions about what it fundamentally means to transform, to be transformed, or to experience transformation. 

The task she sets is simple. Each of the dancers is to sit alone – it ends up being for around an hour – and write about a transformation they have personally experienced, which they then read aloud to the group. They can approach their text, and indeed the idea of “transformation,” in any which way they choose.

I know words better than I know dance; I feel safer, somehow, listening and responding to language. As I observe the dancers writing – sat in separate corners of the room, deep in the strain and internal chaos of personal reflection – I realise this safeness has a more profound dimension than I might have initially assumed. What I am observing is artists at work; producing something (in this case, writing; usually dance) out of the raw material of memory and imagination. Does the specific medium of an artist’s response to a topic, an idea or a memory truly matter that much? A (dance) artist at work is an artist at work. This becomes a central theme of the day. 

Transcultural collaboration in movement, with the goal of creating a group dance piece, which is the premise of ICoDaCo, nonetheless becomes something very different once you reduce (if only briefly) that collaboration to a language-, speech- or writing-based kind. Its intercultural nature is a central part of ICoDaCo’s fabric, but the pleasures or difficulties which we usually project onto intercultural communication are largely absent in a movement-based practice; different languages, accents, worldviews, backgrounds, approaches are elided when a group’s collaboration is so purely physical. Lee’s task foregrounds these elements to the group’s collaborative relationship, introducing the issue of language to the group dynamic.

The individual transformations explored by each of the performers in their responses to Lee’s task range from the banal to the immensely poignant. Joseph reads bilingually, in his native Cantonese and in English, withholding the specifics of his transformation to the rest of us in the room, who do not speak Cantonese. Thus, we only hear about the impact this mysterious seismic event had on him. Eddie’s – also delivered bilingually – is a two-pronged narrative, about a boy in Eddie’s school who replied to a teacher asking what he wants to be when he grows up with “I want to be a horse,” and evokes the story of the martyred Welsh Benedictine monk, Saint John Roberts. Vasi recalls the first time he witnessed contemporary dance – a piece entitled Group Therapy –  and invites us, his listeners, to dream with him, imagining ourselves travelling through time like the figures in Chris Marker’s La jetée. Veronica addresses a rehearsal in which she and a collaborator appeared to switch bodies, a transcendentally intimate experience. “Language,” she says, “seems to poor to describe it.” Finally, Lee opens up with two comparably intimate experiences, exploring what it means to belong to someone in the most primal sense.

After everyone has recited their transformation, one of the dancers verbalises what we are all thinking: this exercise, it’s like group therapy almost.

***

Do we think transformations as necessarily having a before and after? Or are ‘transformative’ events usually more suspended in time? This becomes the defining conundrum of the day, around which all others necessarily revolve. I keep returning to how Joseph kept self-correcting as he read his transformation. Remembering is fluid, and so are writing and reciting. How do we express the act of reflecting, that fluidity, in movement? What rituals, and which details, might make very personal reflections into something collective?

***

The next step in Lee’s exercise is a more challenging one. The dancers are to recite isolated lines from their transformative texts at random, all at the same time, creating a collective rhythm in which their narratives collide and complement each other. They gradually begin to seem to tune into one another.

“We call it group therapy.” 

“Dwishe bod yn geffyl” – I want to be a horse.

“Why does this keep happening to me?” 

“It just felt right.” 

“I was standing stage right.”

“Forgetting is definitely not an option.”

“What a waste of life.”

These phrases, birthed in different languages and from very different contexts, begin to assume the character of a large abstract narrative, an obscure sound essay on the many different voices of transformation, a choose-your-own-adventure story, perhaps.


Someone interrupts the vocal collage to ask: Is transformation always poetic? What does (or how would) non-poetic transformation look and feel like? Nobody has the answer.

***

After my first day with ICoDaCo, snippets of speech from the group voice exercise ring around my head like a stream of nonsense consciousness:

“From outside, there is one noticeable transformation.”

“Sai’n cofio beth wedes i.” – I can’t remember what it was I said.

“I tried to find respect.”

I was struck then – and the sensation lingered – by how easily these alternately profound and life-altering and disturbing recollections were rendered sort of banal through endless repetition, the phrases weaved among one another in so many ways as to make their meanings, well, meaningless.

The transformations the collaborators addressed were all very different, but some pertinent themes appeared in all of them. The voice-collage exercise, in particular, appeared to emphasise the strange continuities in these very different narratives. Almost all the dancers’ transformations addressed an element of being lost – and most of them contained an element of transformation in the sense of wanting to be someone else. Someone uses the phrase “different losts,” a method of making sense of the chaotic disorientation to which Lee’s task gave way.

What better phrase to describe the challenge, the awkwardness, the joy, of trying to evoke transformation in collective movement – or of the act of collaboration itself. We are always in the process of navigating the “different losts” which dictate our lives and creative outputs. Through the kind of collaboration which ICoDaCo enacts, we tread paths that, if they might not show us ways of being less lost, might at least guide us in making those different losts into something beautiful; perhaps, even, something transformative.

Dylan Huw

Hong Kong, the first physical meeting by Gwyn Emberton (English & Welsh) by Israel Aloni

I am writing this at 5.09am British Summer Time on Sunday 26th August. I have been back on the Isle of Britain from Hong Kong Island for about 36 hours and the jet lag got me out of bed at 4.30am – 11.30am in Hong Kong. International collaboration

I miss it but I am glad to be home.

I miss the team after our first meeting. I miss the space, I miss the Ding Ding that we took to the studio, I miss the bento lunch boxes we ate, I miss my new colleagues from across the globe, I miss hearing the artists finding out about each other and figuring out how they are going to work together, I miss seeing this happen, I miss being surprised when I hear the new ideas, inspirations, developments that are being talked about.

The first meeting is always the hardest.

There are so many questions.

  • Who are these other people in the room?

  • What do they do?

  • What kind of artist are they?

  • Where do they come from?

  • Why are they here?

  • How can we possibly make a work together?

This is added to the fact that the subject matter is so broad - Transformation is a huge topic.

How will six people who have very different approaches to making dances and theatre choose where to start?

It is like putting six pins on the map of the universe…

Some will dive into a process, some will consider, some will consider then dive then consider some more, some will dive then consider if that was the right place then back up and start again….

The first residency is done. Wow, that was fast. We are a fifth of the way there already. The work is moving forward. A new process has started, and it is exciting.

Hong Kong

Y cyfarfod wyneb yn wyneb cyntaf

Rwy'n ysgrifennu hwn am 5.09am Amser Haf Prydain, ddydd Sul 26 Awst. Rydw i wedi bod yn ôl ar Ynys Prydain o Hong Kong ers tua 36 awr, ac oherwydd y jetludded dihunais am 4.30am – 11.30am yn Hong Kong. Cydweithio rhyngwladol...

Rwy'n gweld eisiau'r profiad, ond rwy'n falch i fod gartref.

Rwy'n gweld eisiau'r tîm ar ôl ein cyfarfod cyntaf. Rwy'n gweld eisiau'r stiwdio, rwy'n gweld eisiau'r Ding Ding oedd yn ein cludo ni yno, rwy'n gweld eisiau bwyta o'r bocsys bwyd bento, rwy'n gweld eisiau fy nghydweithwyr newydd ar ochr draw'r byd, rwy'n gweld eisiau clywed yr artistiaid yn dysgu am ei gilydd ac yn penderfynu ar sut i gydweithio, rwy'n gweld eisiau gweld hyn yn digwydd, rwy'n gweld eisiau cael fy syfrdanu wrth glywed y syniadau, ysbrydoliaethau a datblygiadau newydd sy'n cael eu trafod.

Y cyfarfod cyntaf yw'r anoddaf, bob tro.

Mae cymaint o gwestiynau.

·     Pwy yw'r bobl eraill yma yn yr ystafell?

·     Beth maen nhw'n ei wneud?

·     Pa fath o artistiaid ydyn nhw?

·     O ble maen nhw'n dod?

·     Pam ydyn nhw yma?

·     Ym mha ffyrdd posibl allwn ni gydweithio?

Mae hyn yn ogystal â'r ffaith bod y pwnc dan sylw mor eang – mae Trawsnewid yn bwnc enfawr.

Sut bydd chwe pherson sydd â dulliau gwahanol iawn o greu dawnsiau a theatr yn dewis man cychwyn?

Mae fel rhoi chwe phin ar fap o'r bydysawd...

Bydd rhai'n bwrw ati i ddilyn proses, bydd eraill yn pendroni, bydd rhai'n pendroni ac yna'n bwrw ati ac yna'n pendroni mwy, bydd rhai'n bwrw ati ac yna'n ystyried ai dyna oedd y lle cywir i ddechrau ac yna'n camu yn ôl i ddechrau eto...

Mae'r cyfnod preswyl cyntaf ar ben. Waw, roedd hynny'n gyflym. Rydyn ni wedi gorffen un rhan o bump o'r broses yn barod. Mae'r gwaith yn symud ymlaen. Mae proses newydd wedi dechrau, ac mae'n gyffrous.



Reflections in Hong Kong, August 2018. by Israel Aloni

Jacqueline Wong, iCoDaCo producer in Hong Kong wrote on the 17th of August:

Before the first open rehearsal taken place, I was hesitate to predict what reactions would come from the audience. Though the residency in Hong Kong was the first encounter of the collective after 8 months of online communication, the first open rehearsal was taken place on the fourth day of the residency which implied that we could expect very few to share with the audience. Surprisingly (at least to me), the audience has shown tremendous concentration and stayed curious throughout the one-hour-sharing, which started with improvisation by the collective and followed by a session led by Weronika that was inspired by the politically related statues of Poland.

Wayson Poon, dancer from Hong Kong

Wrote on the 20th of August 2018, in reflection on the iCoDaCo work in progress sharing in Hong Kong:

Simple yet decent, the ambience in the room was one of the enticements to the audience. The immense possibilities created by the collective, of which each member comes from a unique cultural background, dance training and practice, made me curious for how the work will be developed in the following creative residencies in other countries.





Marta Wołowiec after the 1st residency in Hong Kong. Written 27th of August 2018 by Israel Aloni

I didn’t suppose the collective work can be so difficult.

It was very interesting to observe the artists’ work. Their struggles, feelings and communication. Can’t wait to see what will happen with the process and creation in the next residencies.  

Today, after two weeks I have some doubts if democracy is the best system for cooperation.

I hope to think differently after two years of the whole project.



Notes by Imre Vass from the 28th of August 2018 by Israel Aloni

22 hrs after a deadline, 40 minutes before take off sitting in front of gate nr. 161.

Wednesday, 8th of November 2056.

Date of my departure from this 3D land, the interweb says so.

I am checking another site, the result is: 29th of June, 2047. I stop checking.

Stretched between data, numbers, characters, symbols, information I am aware of the need of locating oneself in the spacetime fabric. 

I am aware. But am I interested in locating \ defining?  

Transformation happens on it's own accord. I respect that. The universal machinery just works fine. Doesn't need me to fix things or to improve stuff. But I am happy to do the daycare, to change diapers, do the shopping or art. 

Observing the air passing through my nostrils, the skin of my palms touching and sensing the plasctic chair, my back giving its wait to the backrest. Am I being autistic or somatic now?

My body has to be transported now elsewhere... it is boarding time.


From Edinburgh by Joseph Lee, written on 16th of August 2018 by Israel Aloni

As I was performing in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I couldn’t physically be present in the first residency in Hong Kong, but then I came up with an idea of conducting “workshop” from afar, with the help of another local choreographer, Cherry Leung, in light of putting idea of transformation into the process of creation by passing on my initial ideas to another artist and see how that will change the expected outcome, or even the process itself.

It turned out to be interesting enough as she was not in the discussion process beforehand, so she only knew little about the theme of the project except the bits that I’ve told her, and that actually allows her to change the structure of the workshop according to what interests her at that moment under the notion of “transformation”.

Hopefully I will get to see that live soon and be involved in it, so see you all in Tanzmesse in two days!!

Wales, 9-15 September 2018 by Joseph Lee by Israel Aloni

It has been an intensive week!
The first time really sharing the space with 4 other collective members in the creation process is definitely nothing I could imagine before. It was full of surprises, sometimes frustration, overwhelming, yet exciting. It was not an easy process to keep generating new ideas, and each artist takes on very different path of creation. I am looking forward to what might come up at the end of the week!

Key words of the week

Before & After
Transformative moments in life
Anchor point
Direction of transformation
Past
History
Time
Efforts

10.9.2018

“Transformation is about how you adjust yourself in the current situation.” Weronika said. And that she actually takes on as her strategy to different tasks proposed by other artists this week--adaptation, adjustment, be present.

11.9.2018

I led the open class with the collective together with local dance and performing artists. Mainly focus on sharing my practice on movements these days and it was so lovely to see how they take on the tasks and physical ideas. It offered me another angle to look closely at the collective as well as the other artists in the space.

Afternoon was my research on personal history, together with Simon and Kathy, who are the set and lighting designers of this production. We had some deep talks after some try-out on the visual ideas and possible way to research further. Totally burnt out from whole day of work, but the beautiful input of the collective made it worthwhile.

12.9.2018

In the morning, the collective went on to take a Gaga class with Natalia Iwaniec at Rubicon Dance, which is one of the important dance venues in Cardiff. Trying to build up connection to the local community from a different approach as well as warming up our own bodies for the day ahead.

We started our process in the afternoon by writing upon our personal transformation. Sharing of stories, different trials on texts till 8pm today, definitely a LONG day.

 Exiting the Rubicon after morning Gaga class

Exiting the Rubicon after morning Gaga class

iCoDaCo 2018 - 2020 in Cardiff September 2018 by Lee Brummer by Israel Aloni

 iCoDaCo 2018-2020 arrived in Cardiff. Multilingual bathroom shelf.

iCoDaCo 2018-2020 arrived in Cardiff. Multilingual bathroom shelf.

13 September 2018

One step forward, 1 step back, 1 drop to floor
In hebrew we say “things that we see from here you can’t see from there” it doesn’t translate that well, yet the essence remains. Step back, step out and you will see things from a different angle and discover something new. Sometimes seeing something from up close make it blurry.

Today I unfortunately sprained my ankle. In an ecstatic attempt to sweat my heart out, exhaustion kicked in and I lost concentration for a moment which was long enough for me to go over my ankle and hit the floor.

*enter frustration

*enter sadness

On the upside, it was incredible to witness what was going on from the outside. Eddie had an idea for which we needed to collect sweat in jars, I will not expand on this due to potential spoiler... but for this reason the collective needed to produce large amounts of sweat (Joseph excelled at and won this task). It was incredible to see the focus, determination and also fun in the room during the morning sessions. There was a light heartedness together with immense will power. Everyone dressed in bin bags (we found this produces more sweat) working towards the same task, even if in their own way. The clear goal, and product that we were trying to achieve made the journey pretty mad. Each individual brought their strength and their support for each other into this task and it was quite touching to witness. This may have been the first time we were all totally on the same page.

Sad I had to watch it from the outside.

 My foot after the fall

My foot after the fall

 Collecting sweat.

Collecting sweat.

 … and more sweat.

… and more sweat.

15 September 2018

One of these weeks, where the beauty and struggle of creating a collective work, has shown

its 2 very different heads. Often in collective processes I feel conversations become like mini peace processes. Diplomatic, but with an underlining of frustration when people want different things and are trying to uncover the common ground with hope that it is wide enough for both, or in this case all, sides to stand on.

As time goes on we discover more and more the commonalities within the collective and also, our differences in volume, in tone, in the filters through which we see things, our attractions and our ways of communication.

The moments we see eye to eye our magical. From the moments when we don’t, we learn and grow the most. We are challenging each other and through this challenging ourselves.

We are still getting to know each other on so many levels. What are the other interested in?

What is their process? How do they touch? Whats on their shelf in the fridge?

The journey continues...

 Learning about one another.

Learning about one another.

18 September 2018

Progress has been made,
Memories,
tracing memories,
tracing thoughts,
undoing patterns.
Understanding.

Not understanding.

Try again,
try different
just try.

All for one
one for one
one for all.

Project on something
project on someone
project

Replay
retry
Say it the same
say if different
say something.

Make it loud
make it meaningful
be aware
make it work

 Weronika and me, communicating.

Weronika and me, communicating.