SEAD portraits of modernity 3: ‚Free‘ dance

In the framework of the series of History of Choreography workshops taught at SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) by Anna Leon, students consulted images of dance modernity drawn from material/books available in the Derra de Moroda Dance archives and created contemporary versions of them. This third selection of their works proposes three responses to an image characteristic of early 20th-century ‘free’ dance: Gertrud Leistikow dancing in a field near Ascona in 1914 (in DdM 9919).Based on this image, Charlotte Chiarelli & Siel Van Dingenen interrogate the extent to which the freedom of Leistikow’s pose can still be found in contemporary dance and its corporeality. Prunelle Bry & Tristan Bénon oppose Leistikow’s natural, organic, flowy position to a body finding harmony with a contemporary urban environment. Delphine Mothes reflects on the framing of the nude body by transferring Leistikow from her natural surroundings to the contemporary stage, its performance aesthetics and practices.

Charlotte Chiarelli & Siel Van Dingenen

“For us the greatest aspect of the original picture is the freedom that it shows. The jump in a curve, chest facing upwards, gives a feeling of relief and is breathtaking. Also its location is very important: an open field with mountains in the background, which make that opening of the chest look even bigger and the feeling of freedom greater. […] What we created with our picture is the opposite, but still with the some resemblances. The curving of the back, not upwards, but slightly to the side, gives a cramped feeling, as if you were a prisoner in your own body. By only showing the back of the body you still have some mystery, absent in the original picture. The forest gives a more narrow impression; it stresses a suppressed feeling instead of freedom. This is something that we see more and more in contemporary dance: the mystery and closed body, but also the opposite which is still there.” Charlotte Chiarelli & Siel Van Dingenen 

Prunelle Bry & Tristan Bénon

“In our contemporary vision of this picture we wanted to show that the research of harmony with the environment is still something important but the difference is that people try to find this harmony inside cities. They tend to appropriate new spaces in cities. With the development of urbanism, movement can be less organic, more square, as in break dance, popping and street dance in general […] A body in our time and urban context does not have to be naked to feel free, but rather fitter, more sportive, more in shape. The shape is important. To illustrate our thoughts, we staged a young lady with sportswear on a roof of a house surrounded by buildings. The pose is squarer with lines and directions.” Prunelle Bry & Tristan Bénon

Delphine Mothes

“Nudity and nature give the impression of a timeless situation […] Indeed, the aspects of dance and nudity suggested in the picture are part of the preoccupations of dance and performing arts nowadays […] 
In order to transform my picture so that it looks contemporary, I searched for elements related to present-day stage aesthetics. I decided to place Gertrud Leistikow on stage […] To refer to the tendency of floorwork, I found it interesting to place Gertrud Leistikow on the floor, in a position that looks a bit acrobatic. She has few points of contact with the floor; she could be exploring her physicality on the floor playing with the support that it offers for the whole body. Next to the dancer, I placed a microphone, with which the dancer will be able to talk […] the medium of voice gives an interdisciplinary character to the performance.” Delphine Mothes

2 Gedanken zu “SEAD portraits of modernity 3: ‚Free‘ dance

  1. Tanzfotografie – als Metamorphose einer Bewegung

    Versucht man den Tanz in ein Foto einzufangen und anhand dieses Bildes wiederrum eine tänzerische Arbeit entstehen zu lassen, inwiefern wirkt sich diese Aktion auf die „Freiheit“ von Bewegung aus? Ist es möglich, die Intention von Free-Dance („Freiem Tanz“) zu gewährleisten, wenn dieser Tanz (bzw. ein Ausschnitt, eine Pose daraus) in einem Bild eingefangen wird? Es spielt stets eine Rolle, wie die Idee eines Tanzes transportiert und transformiert wird, denn anhand der spezifischen Re-Präsentation von Bewegung im starren zweidimensionalen Abbild, geht ein wichtiges Moment verloren. Vielleicht jenes ephemere Moment, welches das Medium Tanz erst auszuzeichnen vermag.

    • Hello Marianne,
      Thank you for your thoughts!
      An image does consist in a stable (non-movement-based and non-time-inscribed) representation of dance; as you say, the dance is transformed by the medium of the photograph, or at least presented in certain of its aspects only. At the same time, images don’t necessarily aim to ‚capture‘, or fully grasp a dance event/movement: they can have functions of documenting, commenting, staging, representing (…) without being in any way capable of replacing an event. It is as elements of documentation, with their specific particularities, that images attracted me in this project: in relation to free dance in particular, the capacity of the image to also stage ‚freedom‘, to become part of a not-only-verbal discourse about this vision of dance…
      I found your comments on the ephemerality of dance very useful. This ephemeral character is particularly stressed in modern portrayals of dance. Through your comment connecting ephemerality to the ‚freedom‘ of ‚free‘ dance, we might be able to sketch out another way in which such dance illustrates a modern mentality in the making.

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