9:00 – 10:30 - WARM – UP. 10:30 – 11:20 - FEEDBACK FROM NAKUMATT PRESTIGE PERFORMANCE.
The participants occupied and performed in different spaces at the Prestige mall on Saturday morning. The preparation was different based on the different spaces that were being used. The purpose of the exercise was to work on/experience
The spaces were:
The place was strategic. Right now, there is a shortage of coins and you must wait for coins. When running the piece the sound of coins even had the tellers looking. There was also an M-pesa promotion (mobile money) going on. So playing the piece between the sound of money and mobile money was interesting. At some instance, one of the guards commented that they should consider approaching me and exchanges the coins with notes.
'I had a brief tag of war with the security guard at some point. It was a bit confusing but I eventually got creative and used him to improve my piece instead.'
One of the challenges that came my way was how to involve the audience by participation. So I chose role-play and surprisingly, it worked out well. At one point I the audience became an hindrance but there came a time when you could ease things for the customers. I could notice during this brief moment that I managed to make eye contact with the audience. It was interesting to note that we had three types of audiences – those entering the market, those leaving the supermarket and those going about their business. Mentor comment - it is important to relax and stay true to your character. It is also equally important to interact with the space you are using. Mentor comment – You don't have to do much. The image continues even with minimal movement. Mentor comment - It is more interesting to do something different then to do the expected – go in the same direction. Mentor comment - Things should be enigmatic. If you are in a space, where people are moving – do not move.
When they were about to rehearse security was reluctant. Mentor comments - it is important for people to know what you are doing. At some point, the security guards begun taking strategic positions (I think there was some money coming in. The security guards saw us as idle youth pulling funny moves and were suspicious of us and kept pointing at us and talking to each other. During performance, the shoppers who were arriving did not know what was going on and at one point; it became a game between us and the drivers. Some of the people from the audience chose to totally ignore us. Other looked on and off while others especially children bust up in laughter and enjoyment. I noticed an interesting interaction between the audience and I, the performer. I decided to try flag down a matatu and it stopped and waited. When I indicated, I was not going the drive pointed a finger at me and drove off. This clearly indicated that we an impact in terms of the distance and attraction. The performance was quiet fast and catchy. The attention was instant and distance really didn't matter. We got them.
Mentor comment – it was too much of a dance. Mentor comment – It was interesting panoramically. There are two tendencies either towards dance or towards narrative. The bridge leant itself for dance. While the lift – where there was something about a couple - worked for narrative.
Mentor comment - Lady undressed without undressing. It was visually interesting. A lady walked it and "decided not to see us".
Bizarre. Interesting use of sound – laughter. Shocked and surprised. Mentor comment – people understood that something strange – not something serious was happening. You hide it so that people "see" it – imagine it.
The security guy moved from inside to outside.
When we went up people stopped eating. Mask idea – we wanted to extend the idea of the mask which is normally used to communicate messages so we asked ourselves – in Nairobi, what would be a mask and decided on billboards. Mentor comment – It is good to note the difference in reaction when an audience is expecting a performance and when an audience is surprised by a performance.
At 09:00 we are at the shopping mall. The dancers are divided in 5 groups. They have two hours time to choose a space in the shopping mall, how they will perform there and address an "audience", which are basically the people going to the shopping mall. It's a way to confront them to a real audience, even though this audience doesn't come specifically for a performance. It's also a way to push them to pay attention to a context and adapt their project to it, and to decide the relation they will have with "real" people. The presence of spectators is no longer a fiction. At 12:30 they begin to perform.
The first group is kind of playing with the code of the customers coming to shop. They walk in the pathways between the shops, in kind of a theatrical way, some with caddies. The attitude of the dancers is different from one each other. Some are really open to people, in an appropriate way, so it works quite well, people understand what is happening, don't feel aggressed, and play with it. Others dancers are more focused on themselves, self-centred, and their performance becomes quite theatrical, but not in an interesting way.
The second group performs in front of the supermarket, in between stands where money is the key point. One dancer is standing on a wooden cube, like a statue in movement. He is performing on the sound of coins falling on the floor. But there are no coins, just the sound of coins. Kind of a strange mirror with what is happening around in the supermarket. People passing by, paying at the exit of the supermarket, are focusing on Adam (the dancer) at the same time. They don't really stop their activities, but watch, passing by, this strange intervention.
The third group is in the parking. At the beginning of their intervention, their energy is quite closed on themselves, but after a few minutes, they find a way to play with what happens. Cars are entering in the parking, and they start to stop them, and guide them, through dance. It becomes quite interesting, as the cars and their movements are becoming part of the performance. Such a game is complex as you cannot interrupt things, people coming to park, so you have to find a way to occupy the interstices. In a second part of the performances, they go to the first floor and perform on a bridge between the shopping mall and an upper part of the parking. The spot is interesting, for me the dance or the movements of the performers is too exaggerated, but at the same time, they have to be seen from far, from down, and their position is interesting as they ask people to watch up.
On the back of the bridge there is transparent elevators. They also become a stage, one couple and one woman, imitating the gestures of a sex affair, and of a strip tease, but just suggested movements. We can see them from down and it becomes very funny as they appear and disappear as the elevator climbs and descends. And also because customers the elevators, get surprised, and become suddenly visible from down, as audiences.
The next group is performing at the entrance of men's toilets. Their performance is almost invisible, as you would have to enter in men's toilets, and people don't do it. But through the door, which opens and closes, you can see some elements. The dancers queue to enter, and then perform. It creates kind of a rumour outside, which is quite an interesting moment on the side of the audience. We see nothing but we wonder and we speak about it.
And then we go on the rooftop parking. Some dancers are trying to address people in the street, using the parking as a balcony. They don't dance, and their gestures are quite invisible from down, just some quite excited people, trying to capture attention of passers-by in the street. We suggest to them to dance, as this balcony can be used like a stage.
The final group is performing in a restaurant. Their intervention is quite strong and breaks partly the tranquilité of the customers, eating there. Breaking things is an option, but at the same time you have to address it, and not put people in an embarrassing position. Which happens partly, as people are eating, they hesitate to shift their attention to the performers, and the performers don't really find a way to involve them, and make understand what happens and what is their position. But all this experimentation is about that, how you stage something, how your position, as dancer, as performer, builds the one of the audience. Many options are possible, but you have to be very clear, and ethical about it. That was a major challenge in this experimentation. And also the challenge was about the context, how you consider it, and play with it, be able to read it and use it as it suggests options, it suggests the way you will intervene. A performance is not only something you build in your bedroom, but something you build in interaction with the context where you perform. If you are able to do so, you can do it everywhere.
Morning : debriefing about Saturday. We react and comment what we have seen. We come back on the notions which are structurating such an experience. Opening to an audience, ethical dimension, analyse of the context, décodage, and how play with it. Intervening quite discretement, by involvement in the context, or at the reverse breaking the ongoing process of things. And how to shift daily life movements of people to be seen as theatrical by the audience, through performative interventions in the middle of people.
After the debriefing the dancers go back to their projects, as they didn't present them to us last Friday. We give them 1 hour to prepare, and then to perform. After these presentations (8 projects), we meet, Opiyo, Yann and myself, in order to select the six projects which will be finalised in Ouagadougou. The point is not to necessarily select on what we saw, but on the interest of what is on the table, as ideas, as personal involvement and on the potential of development of propositions. It's also about the fact some dancers are potentially choreographers and some others are not, or not yet.
In the afternoon we announce the 6 selected project, or more exactly 5 of them. For the 2 others projects we ask the dancers to continue their process, as we are not sure yet, and the decision will be taken by the end of the week.
I give my final lecture. With Opiyo Okach we decide to speak about Shift/Centre, a choreographic project we did 7 years ago in Nairobi (and which toured extensively) and which is about multi-focality and freedom of the audience's experience. This is also a way to put images and spaces on the concepts around space and audience, as we'd spoken about this for quite some days, but without really showing concrate dispositives.
I hesitate to speak about the notion of dispositive (In reference to Agamben and Deleuze, both referring to Foucault), as it is about bringing a new level of complexity in a very short time. The word strategy seems to have a strong impact on the dancers, as they use it constantly in many situations, in work or in others moments. They play with it, which means this term takes them somewhere, they interrogate it, it challenges them. I'm about to finish my presentation and Yann Leguay is going to speak about the way he uses sound in a theatrical space, when a dancer asks: "What is a dispositive "? I have to answer. And explain how it is a way to, at the same time, unpack what you pack, how you have to take the power and clearly stage something, and assume it, but how a dispositive is also about the way, addressing something, you break it, you complexify it, you hide it. You keep it and at the same time open the possibility of ruptures, of it's own destruction, maybe open a space for madness. Of course suddenly the dancers are a bit confused (as until now, Strategy was about clearly staging something, and now I speak about breaking it), we speak quite a lot about what I stage, but the important point is for them to understand the fact having a strategy is not only about addressing something, saying something to people, to an audience (It would be too simple, and boring), and that creation is a space of freedom in order to interrogate people: and this, interrogating, opening spaces, is not only about being evident, but also about poetics, about sensations, and many others levels of experience. And a dispositive, especially when created by artists, is about that, about the codes, about the languages, about the sensations, about imaginary, about politics… and the way to map them altogether.
In continuation of the discussion, Yann Leguay shows many ways, through sound, to work with the idea of a dispositive.
1. 2/3 weeks time is short for such process working with quite young artists (in terms of experience), with quite little background around performance, and all it's implications. In two weeks you can semer in the heads and hope things will grow. But there is no real time to enter in details, to deconstruct and reconstruct ideas together. As in order to do this, you first have to take people to a certain point, a certain level of maturity. But such a process is also very important. And the dancers know it. Not so much in the way they formulate it, but in the way they accept the process, they jump into the experimentations, they are not shy, it is visible they want to discover, and that they grab the opportunity.
2. Also, such an approach about space and scenography, is quite important as it contourne, a more classical approach which would more focus on theatrical spaces and the way they work. These theatrical spaces are complex to deal with for young artists coming from the African continent, and more generally from non-European areas. As their dimension of power is still very strong, and a form of memory of the past (colonial in a large way), is still hidden i corners. Theatrical spaces, especially the frontal one, are not part of an old history for the young dancers we worked with. But they have to deal with it when they tour, when they perform especially overseas. The point so, is to help them approach it with a bit of distance, and become able to perform in such spaces without being under it's weight. How to perform on a frontal stage by focusing on the people in the audience and forgetting the place, how to be alone on a stage and feel you are in the middle of the audience, how to position your body in such a space in order to question it, to negociate it? Next to the door? How to be on a stage an feel you are in a library?
3. The question of emancipation, as staged by Jacques Rancière, is also crucial, as it deconstructs the clichés of "non educated" audiences. On the African continent, so called "non educated" audiences are the majority. And addressing creation, performances to theses audiences, which are basically THE audiences, is the real challenge, for the dancers we are working with in this process. This is a large space of freedom, of experimentation, if you understand the fact such a way of thinking, like "being educated" in order to understand a certain level of complexity or abstraction in art, is not the point, at all. Othewhise, artists are mostly stuck in a relationship with very conventional and limited audiences, and most of them (authorities for instance, especially as described by the dancers during the talks), are clearly not interesting as a dance challenge. And even though it is crucial to travel and perform overseas, it cannot be the only space in terms of audiences.
It was interesting because for the first time they had not an audience but real people who were surprised to be suddenly an audience but they had people to address so it was interesting. The question is; how they deal with that and how they perform in such a context. It's about how you position yourself in such a context and how you either completely disappear or decide to disappear even through dance and do little things in the middle of people day to day life which are kind of a live action or either the reverse and to suddenly do very visible thing; dancing or theatrics or noisy things and at the same time not to put the audience or the people in a kind of danger or situation that is a bit scary for them.
We have a lot to give them in terms of feedback. It was not kind of the first time for some of them but it was the first time for many of them. I will be leaving soon but Opiyo will continue with you. It's a very good training and very good space for experimentation for the dancers.
Not really but there are moments, I have moments which I was really interested in or some performances which were really opening themselves to what was happening and then suddenly there was really an interaction with the people the cars, the money piece was interesting and had a real interaction with the environment.