Month: March 2014

To move is to touch

Yet again something I wrote for the festival Dans ❤ Stockholm in early December 2013 – this time about On Orientations: Untimely Encounters by An Kaler.

There is a desire in reaching out to the world or letting the world come to you. It can be as great or as small as what we feel for a coffee cup, the caress of the wind or something half unknown. But this desire is also compulsive. But one that is also compulsive. We need points of orientation to move. Without knowing what constitutes space, the body or how the body moves in space, it is impossible to make sense of the movements, to tell the difference between point a and point b, to be able to distinguish the wind, the coffee and the rest. On some days, the necessity of expriencing the world through your body can seem excessively heavy. Why this particular body? Why this particular world?
In Untimely Encounters, one of several works in which Kaler explores orientation in various respects, there is an unusual ease in relation to the constraints of the points of orientation. Since the work comes into being precisely where the intention arises, in movements that precede touching, each direction retains more of its many possibilities. Where a completed movement always risks being tied to its meaning, culturally and relationally, the uncompleted movement leaves an openness as to where it is going. Is it on its way to a cheek, to a wall, into thin air? What will it do there, what will it create? It is undefined and therefore unlocked.
In some ways, Untimely Encounters is a duet – there are two bodies on stage, relating to each other. Disrobing the obligatory love story of the duet is no easy task. The very idea of two bodies on stage asks the question of how they belong together. But precisely because the work consists of a game of directions where the negotiation of each gesture is still open, where one’s own body or the other’s body, as well as the floor, walls and air, are all objects of the same open intentionality, it is also not a duet. The space and its attributes become an additional dance partner, appears in its own function as the bodies turn towards it. Distance and proximity become relative categories: Distance from what? Proximity to what?
These questions should not be mistaken for being an attempt by Untimely Encounters to disorientate the audience by assimilating the movements, rendering them meaningless beside each other. Rather, meaning is created in the relativity of direction. There is an intimacy in the incompleteness that invites those who encounter it to add bit of themselves or mirror a movement in order to understand it, to discover its origin. In this way, Untimely Encounters also involves the audience in the ostensible duet.
On certain days you can feel the friction from every direction taken. It is here the relationship between the body and surroundings is unlocked. The face touches the wind just as much as the wind touches the face, the coffee cup reaches for your hand just as much as the other way around. Such days do not alter the fact that all movement is conditioned by physical and spatial constraints. Yet, they can reveale how movements always touch something bigger than themselves, something that can never be fully overviewed, pinpointed or finished. Untimely Encounters could be an excerpt from such a day.

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Social and political soundscapes

I wrote this text (Niki Woods translated) to the festival Dans ❤ Stockholm in early December 2013, where Band by Ingri Fiksdal and Atlantic by Juli Reinartz  were performing in a double bill.

Fiksdal and Reinartz present two in many ways different works on the same evening. Band is a quartet, Atlantic is a solo. The dancers in Band are quiet with covered heads, while Reinartz turns to address the audience. At the same time, the two performances share a common theme. They both explore concert moments – not the type of concert moments that occur in controlled, bright, state-funded places, but those that happen in cramped and unpredictable club environments. Such concerts alter or direct a nocturnal collective state, injecting rhythm to social and chemical movements in people’s bodies.

Most of us – many more than those who have ever seen a dance performance on stage financed by public funds – have had such a concert experience. Some of us have also had pivotal political and social experiences in such rooms. Identity and relations may emerge in the fandom. And the darkness of the club incites stepping outside the norm, with the potential of both strengthening and undermining the prevailing order.

Fiksdal and Reinartz approach the concert each in their own way as a cultural artefact, relation and sensation. Reinartz’s work with the socio-politics of music forms a piece that likens a concert, not least in the way it paraphrases the “between-song banter”. But this talk is not there to provide an answer as to what the piece portrays. Rather, it aims to establish another type of presence among the audience, getting them ready for what is to come, from the dance or from themselves. Atlantic is on the cusp of the kind of concert moment where many different bodies find their own inner swing, together, and are surprised by it.

Fiksdal’s Band can be described as an almost silent psychedelic concert. The audience sit close to each other by the stage, mostly in the dark, inciting listening with ears and skin. How do the dancing bodies sound? How does the synchronised breathing of audience sound? How does the warmth that radiates from one body to another feel? In the darkness, with the rhythmic repetition of movement, the audience is given the chance to sink back into sensory impressions, blurring the contours of identity.

Band and Atlantic are being performed at MDT, a scene that incites other forms of existence than the singular, unpredictable pulse of the club concert. Nonetheless, this pulse is perceptible in the dance works, explored and offered both as a memory and possibilty for the audience.”And so, watching Band and Atlantic can be like seeing two dance works and two concerts at the same time, but it can also be way of finding new tools for interpreting the so-called regular concert happenings that break into our (night) life, move us and bring us together.

PS.
In preparation for the double-bill show, Reinartz and Fiksdal interviewed each other about their respective works. Their dialogue is published in the MDT program. Not to be missed by those interested in immersing themselves into the two pieces and learning more about the encounter between the choreographic domain and various concert experiences!

The Dinner Party Documentation

Middagsbjudningen is a reoccuring performance taking its inspiration from Judy Chicago’s installation art work The Dinner Party from 1974. Chicago set the table for 39 mythical and historical women, like this:

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Instead of inviting imaginary guests, the Swedish version invites people who are alive and kicking.

I was asked to do an artistic documentation of the performance Middagsbjudningen at MDT, Stockholm 30/11 2011. This is what I came up with.

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Ahpra Behn, spy and playwright who fought for women’s rights / Valerie Solanas, who would have enjoyed being in a room with only women / Hilma af Klint, one of the first abstract artists in Sweden / Alice Nordin, who fought for being a female artist around the turn of the century / Cipe Pineles, the first woman who had the title Art Director in the USA / Tove Jansson, because I always wanted to meet her / Sonja Åkesson, who wrote in a way that made illness less of a taboo / Fredrika Bremer, who was important for the women’s liberation movement and had many different roles in it / Anna Lindh who at a very young age stepped into a male-dominated political world / Margaret Garner, who did a terrible resistance through killing her own child when she was caught by the slave owner from whom she had escaped / Ayn Rand, because we could have a hot political debate / Grandmother, who was a strong woman and would have liked to have been here / Margareta Åsberg, who founded Moderna Dansteatern and fought in a male-dominated world / Medea, who knew a lot about rage / Queen Kristina, who was a strong personage in her time / Frances Farmer, a fighting film star / Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was punished for asking God why he never spoke to her / Salt ‘n Pepa, because a lot of my female role-models come from the male-dominated hip hop world / Patti Smith, who creates feminist utopias with her words / Leymah Gbowee, who just received the Nobel Price for her fight for peace in Liberia / Lynn Hershman Leeson, who made the film !Women Art Revolution that I want to show at the Museum of Modern Art because it’s so good / Robyn, because her music makes me strong and happy / Yoko Ono, because her art challenges everyday life / Moa Martinsson, to whom I constantly return / Séraphine de Senils, whose art made me start painting on my photographies / Narges Mohammadie who fight for human rights in Iran despite hard repression and a bad health / Susanne Osten, who – despite the fact that we often forget it here in Sweden – is an important person for children’s theatre internationally / A babushka who went through a lot / Rosa Bonheur, the artist who got a special permission to wear pants / Eva Dahlgren, who sang about being young and proud when no one else did and when I needed it / Madonna, who has been with me ever since I was a girl / My younger sister Josephine Blad, because she works against master supression techniques and for good political dialogue in the hallways of power / Isis in Top Model because she, unlike me, has been fighting actively for her right to be defined as a woman / Leslie Feinberg, because ze has the capacity to politicize our experiences of having our genders undone in a world of forced separatism / a newborn baby who is still like an empty page, who weighs 3500 g and who will grow up to be a woman / Romaine Patterson, who hid the aids-hating Westboro Baptist Church inside angel wings so that they were no longer visible / Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo, two tennis players who in different ways handled being lesbians in a world that often showed its disapproval / Elise ”Ottar” Ottesen-Jensen, who traveled around the whole country to talk about sexuality even though it was illegal / Edith Piaf, because she showed that one doesn’t have go be a good role-model to do something important / Virginia Woolf, because she has to be here when we talk about having a room of one’s own / Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, who made research on what a subject of knowledge is allowed to be / Simone Signoret, who was a political film star with rebellious female characters / Karin Mamma Andersson, because she is an important source of inspiration and I would like to speak to her about art
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Really someone should have brought Elin from Högkvarteret too / Just think of what she has done to create feminist spaces / There are so many who should have been here / Who made the food? / Disa Berge, she’s been going for three days non-stop / I understand why you chose her / How do you mean? / Well, I mean that she really knows how to do it / Wow this soup / Such a rich taste and still so spicy / You’re hungry now / Really hungry / So I’ve been hanging out with the horse girls / Interesting that you’re an architect! So is my mother. It’s an exciting world. / Yes, what are you thinking of? / Well, that it’s a world where a lot happens, but I’m also thinking of the fight against the old men there / Yes, it’s very male-dominated, and with the construction industry also, there are almost only men / Yes, in the end my mother solved it by no longer working with construction people, only with natural persons / I’m also doing quite specific things within the field / I understand why it can happen like this / But I think there are also other strong structures, around whiteness for example. Like, if you’re working in an architecture office you fucking have to talk swedish / I think I was the worst stablegirl ever / How are you doing with the documentation, do you follow? / It becomes what it becomes / It’s a shame that Athena couldn’t join, is she in Palestine already? / No, not yet, but there’s a lot of stuff to do now right before / I talked to Hanna, she said she got a poet that can’t even leave her area, so they’ll have to talk on Skype even when Hanna gets there. But I guess the connection is better once you’re there? / Well, I don’t know, I think they will travel around a lot. Right now they are worried that they won’t get in to Palestine or that they won’t be let out / But they will always be let out, right? / Well, you never know / It was fun lifting their big hooves / If I want to get an idea of Feinberg’s work, what should I then read? / I chose Feinberg primarily for the role ze played in reformulating the common notion of what a trans person is, but the novel Stone Butch Blues is probably what ze is most known for / It’s a strong text / It might not be the most highly renowned literature, but it sucks you in / How I cried when I read it / What is it about? / It’s a depiction of the femme-butch-community in the US working class during the time when it was common for the police to assault bars and beat people up and so on / It’s about a person from a working class family who absolutely doesn’t understand… / Well it’s a bit edifying, like, the main character realizes hir lacks and errors / Ze wrote a lot of other stuff too, about historical trans persons for example, this I haven’t read / What I wanted was to gallop bareback through the wastelands / So who is then this Josephine Blad? / Well, she’s my sister / How does she work? I got curious when you said that thing about that she’s working in a good way / She started her social engagement in anti-bullying-organizations in school and then it has somehow continued from there / How? / That she has integrity and always speaks up when there are strange things going on in conversations, this is strong I think / Mara Lee gives a speech about the creative space / Is Judy Chicago still alive? / Yes, she is! / Do you thing she would like to come to this dinner? / I don’t know, I haven’t met her… / But how is her dinner working, is it sculptures, or how are these women portrayed? / Well, they’re not there, the table is set for them with tablemats and a lot of femininely coded symbols such as flowers and vulvas / And every tablemat has its own design in some way, maybe a font of its own? / Did you see the piece? / No / I read of it when it got this permanent place, but nothing else / To be on top of a wild horse was my image of the Woman, at the age of eight / It’s so beautiful, I’ve got two of Natalie Barney’s tablemats as fridge magnets / Wow, that’s something one should have, Natalie Barney’s tablemats as fridge magnets / Or as tablemats / Do you have a strong relation to her? / Yes, she was a big part of my phd project, it’s not like I think of her all the time, but then occasionally she shows up / I didn’t like to go horseback riding in nature, I wanted to go around and around in the manege or whatever it’s called and be in full control / So what are you doing for a living? / I’m a freelancer in the field of performative arts / It can be pretty rough, right, not knowing if there will be any money the months to come / It hasn’t exactly been a problem getting jobs, it’s more a question of daring not to choose the boring things / But this thing with always being forced to choose, that also means that one sacrifices a lot in order to do what one wants to do, or rather, that you see exactly what you sacrifice all the time / Do you think that you were inspired by your mother in making that choice? / Yes, I do, I remember that we ate a lot of brown beans and pesto when I was a child and I asked “Are we poor, mother?” / What’s happening now? / It’s pretty much the same, which I chose actively. I got a permanent employment and a good monthly salary when I was 23, in computer business / Who has a good monthly salary by the age of 23? / After a while I felt, no, this is not what I want / Katarina Bonnevier gives a speech about the physical space / This ”Never trust the decor”, what does she mean by that? /What do you think? / I’m thinking of theatre maybe, that it’s what’s behind that is the most interesting / Yes, I think I do too, or that the world is a theatre and that the environments that we move through outside the theatre aren’t exactly creating a story that everyone can agree on as true either / Or maybe the decor might even be built against you and will stab you in the back / Yes, I don’t think one should underestimate the accuracy of such an interpretation. On her curtains, Barney had embroidered a quotation from Baudelaire: ”May our curtains protect us from the outside world”, that is ”Que nos rideaux fermés nous séparent du monde”, with a French verbe that actually means to separate, divide. So there was definitely a streak of strategical paranoia in her thinking / I always choose the unruly horse that never did what I wanted / But that the walls have ears, isn’t that the very foundation of theatre? / Why? / Secrets shared through a forth wall that is the reason for everything to happen, something like this / But not all theatre have a forth wall / I think the decor always triggers conversation, even if it can’t be trusted / like here, in this room, without it maybe we wouldn’t talk / or the pink wallpaper in Barney’s house, given by an eccentric person. They have a history that must be told / When you say pink wallpaper I think of yellow wallpaper / It was too time-consuming – “I can’t because I’m going to the horse” – I wanted to read a book instead / How are you doing this, are you recording it? / No, I’m writing it down. When I understood that was what the organizers had expected, rather than a transcribed recorded conversation, I thought that it will work that way too / Why did you want to record in the first place? / From the beginning I was asked to do it with Athena, and then there would have been an interference with my interpretation, we would have been two in the retelling. Without that I wanted another interference, so that it’s not only me retelling what I remember, but that all the hook-ups, repetitions and doubts that make a conversation are there too / But oh my god what a work it is to transcribe something word by word, we did it in a project recently – even though it’s fantastic it really is a hell / I’m thinking all the time that I’m gonna start horseback riding again, but it’s too expensive / It’s tricky with documentation, we have chosen to work with artistic documentation rather than a static “objective” recording device / At the same time it might be more honest. Now everything becomes filtered through my subjectivity even though these notes might help me a bit to remember other things than usually / Everything is anyways an interpretation, and an artistic interpretation can be much more interesting to take part of / For a long time we discussed how one can preserve literary saloons and such, if it’s even possible to do it well / So much has disappeared in time / It’s easy to think that all history is authoritarian and patriarchal, but we need counter histories, and to rewrite history demands accessible archives / Talking about what has disappeared, I’m thinking that documentation is a way to be loyal to Judy’s thought on the dinner / That women have to take space in history? / Yes

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I think I’ve gained twenty percent of my original body weight / Do you still feel that your body belongs to you? / No, really not. If I would have entered a room naked, normally I would have felt ashamed, but now it doesn’t matter, because it kind of isn’t me / Does it make you angry? / No. But I can’t run and jump and the dance flexibility of the body is gone. I always had it and I miss it a bit / It will come back / Maybe / It’s actually quite absurd, that someone can make space inside your body, inhabit it / Once a horse girl, always a horse girl / I think it’s peculiar with all these cultural workers that come from the North of Sweden, it’s like the province of population decline, but then if you look at the percentage of people from there living in Stockholm, there’s a lot / Weren’t you in my friend’s class at the writing school? / I don’t remember, I’m useless when it comes to names / It was the second year / Yes, during the second year we were more spread out / If you went to the Royal Institute of Art, you know several of my friends too / Wasn’t she the one who wrote that dissertation? / No, that was someone else / I’ve been horseback riding for seven years and I don’t agree / My father recognizes people by their voice, because it took so long before he got glasses / It’s interesting that stuff, there are also people who can’t remember anyone at all, they can never recognize a name or a face / That probably also has a lot to do with what we get to hear that we’re good at / Yes most definitely it is possible to reassure people that they are capable of doing what they never thought they could until they can / Like that classical example “guys are better at math”, but when you tell people that they are equally good then they become equally good / You do what you’re told / I remember when the dog died and me and my sister couldn’t stop crying – I think that was healthy, to get a feel for what death is / Were you a regular at Högkvarteret? / Yes, I must admit / How do you feel now that it no longer exists? / I’ve started to miss it more now, it was sort of the place where I always went when I didn’t know what to do. But in the beginning when it was over I thought there was a kind of freedom in that, people meeting in other places, infiltrating them so to say / What was free about that? / That people don’t assume so much about your desire, that it’s less predictable what can happen, there’s a freedom in that / But then again there is also a freedom in not having to explain anything, being allowed to feel evident / I never felt evident there / Vanja Hermele gives a speech about power and hierarchy / Why didn’t you feel evident? / I don’t know, it was never my place / It was like all other places, in all subcultures there are key persons and strong hierarchies / Yes, every utopia has it’s outside / I even felt like that when I was working there, that it was never fully my place, my room / Can’t you be a bit more clear about how these norms manifested themselves? / No, I don’t know, it was important that it existed, but it was never completely safe to go there, maybe it was only about me, I didn’t feel so secure / But is there anything really that is only about oneself / Therese Kristiansson gives a speech about the public space and the utopian space / I grew up with punk music in Umeå and found my way back to that just a few years back, like suddenly I felt safe and at home in that punk attitude that I had forgotten. It feels like it’s with me everywhere now, I mean, even when Högkvarteret still existed. I always felt safe there, despite the fact that I’m not a part of a queer community or anything, even though I might pass as belonging to the target group somehow / But maybe your non-identification with the queerness also worked a bit like a safety card when you entered? / The animal protection laws in Nazi Germany were very advanced, actually / I remember when I was at Högkvarteret one evening when the audience was very mixed, both regulars and people from the Finnish community who came there to listen to Finnish blues. There was something beautiful with that, those middle aged men who stood there stomping and keeping fucking calm although everything was happening around them. At that very moment, I think they let go of their barriers / As a young vegetarian in Umeå, they would give you that a lot: so it’s you and Hitler now, or what? / But seriously, I would really like to have a conversation about what was at the core of the insecurity in that room, is there any way of being more specific than stating that some had friends and others not? I don’t know exactly what I’m going for, but I kind of had a guess that it could be about femininity for example / Do you think so? Do you feel that you or others have been excluded there because of femininity? / Not exactly, though there are probably still some norms like that in that world, that femme becomes an acceptable exception. But how could I say anything about exclusion there, really? I always felt I was among friends when I came there, like I was in my own living room

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I’m thinking of this thing with homes and families, to suddenly find myself in a situation where I wonder how I could be so fucking stupid I didn’t realize this would happen, just thinking I could build my own world in there? I would really like to live in a collective house but my husband doesn’t want to, and I want to live with my husband. But it wears me down, all the demands we put on each other all the time. Finally there are only demands left, and I feel I would need to live in a world where no one else before me made the rules for how a family should look / But wasn’t that a question of creating contrasts, like the people we detest are going to have worse conditions than the animals? / I live with two friends and I love them, but sometimes in the middle of winter I feel that I’m only twisting and turning in my bed wishing I was alone. It’s so demanding being with people who come and disturb you all the time, I can’t ever calculate how things and people will move in my home / Once, I was working with a circus troupe in a refugee camp, it was about giving people tools to establish a sense of privacy in the crowd / I’m thinking of a lady who used to bring her little dog to political rallies, especially anti-racist and confrontative rallies / I’m living alone and that’s ok, but I’m thinking a lot of how Sara Ahmed writes about the room as a continuation of the body, the house as a second skin. And I let my own body be alone inside that skin and I mold my subject in its form. I can miss the unpredictable / she reckoned that this little dog always had the effect that even the toughest nazi let go of his façade / You’re always talking like that about your subject, you always want to be disturbed and pushed off balance. You always want to become someone else and that everything should be unknown. Aren’t you simply in need of a decisive woman that knows how to run the show? / I’m thinking of ravens and rats and that people wanted to carry them on their shoulders during the 90’s. They said they were so intelligent / I can’t deny that thought has passed my mind! But my experience of actually living close to authoritarian persons indicates that such a situation just makes me defiant and after a while I disappear. I also don’t think one should understand the need for disturbances as solely a private psychological or sexual need, but rather as an attempt to articulate what the material consequences of for example an ideological criticism against the isolated author subject or the “male” genius would be. I am attempting to believe in shared intelligence and thus in shared spaces / In baroque banquets they ate singing birds and vegetables that no longer exist, stuff like that makes me bitter / I was only joking / Now I’m gonna speak about what’s Swedish even though I’m not completely Swedish, but I think there’s also something about personal space that is negotiated on a cultural level. Sometimes I’ve been to places where people move around me all the time, and they don’t seem to be disturbed by that at all. They seem capable of thinking with others around, even getting energy from it / I don’t like animals in general or taking care of them, but there’s this cat that managed to charm me / Are you going home now? / No, I’m continuing from here, I’ve been going hard for several days, I can’t stop now. The idea is to party like feminist utopia was already here / So you’ve been living in a feminist utopia lately? / I was singing and talking and drinking all afternoon yesterday with a friend. Some guys we know came over and we gave them our wine and locked ourselves into our room / It’s the same for me but with a rabbit. I don’t like all rabbits, they’re pretty lame, it’s just this rabbit that I like so damn much because it’s very social / How do you feel now about the separatism? / It’s ok, I just get a feeling sometimes that people take for granted that I’m with them in every sense even though I might not be / Were you bored? / Not at all, it’s just this kind of context in general, that people assume that we’re having so much in common just because we are “women” when in fact I know that we don’t think the same about transgender questions, sex work, migration politics or paid housework / I have a friend who was given a goldfish, which originally he thought was great because then he had to go to school everyday to feed it / Yeah, I had a conversation in there with someone who thought it was really important to know if someone was a man or a woman, that was a bit like eeeh / that becomes weird for me, I’m not even woman-identified, haven’t been the last seven years although I of course have a lot of cis-privlegies / But everyone is really benevolent and they listen really well / Maybe I’m not, maybe I don’t want a united front? / But then it gave him anxiety and he started thinking a lot about how wrong it is to own an animal / For me anyway there is a relief in having a space free of desire in relation to men. I am a lesbian woman and have been understood as such the last ten years. Men are boring in my company or I am boring in theirs. I think it’s as unreasonable that I should question that or do any effort to desire men as it is unreasonable that some people get upset when someone wants to do a sex change / But is anyone demanding that you question that? I mean except mainstream society / Well not exactly / Then he was thinking of giving it back to the pet shop, to let it meet other fishes / I feel that my relationships to cis hetero men is always looked upon with suspicion, no matter the format of these relationships. To relate to such persons in any other way them very remotely simply doesn’t seem to be a part of the prescribed gender roles of our movement / Are you thinking of our home or what? / Among other things / But you know, that’s a lot of talk and not so much action, men are at our breakfast table all the time / I still think this lingo that takes for granted that we share a hatred for men on the exact same conditions is boringly flattening / But at that point the fish was too old or maybe it had some disease, so the pet shop didn’t want it / I don’t hate men, I just don’t want to meet them at the breakfast table all the time, it kills the appetite / Fine, people have a need for strategical separatism, so do I, but it’s a question of how this need is articulated by people in my everyday life and how I then edit the story about my life in specific ways when I talk to some of my friends / do you mean that you’re leaving out parts of the story? / Yes, or I put it out in a way that’s aimed to get around social repression, for example by suggesting a contempt that I actually don’t share / And now he only keeps it in a non-transparent plastic bowl in his studio, yeah there’s a lot of anxiety around that goldfish / People consider social connections as some kind of accessories, especially when it comes to sexual partners. Why is sleeping with people always so dramatized, as if there was an essential difference between that and having a coffee with someone? / I’d say I’m more picky with who I take a coffee with really / Yeah, me too. I’m thinking a lot about what it means that I, as a bisexual woman, when choosing to prioritize separatist spaces also start to marginalize men out of my desire. It’s like I’m thinking that you have to be so fucking advanced in order for me to even consider you. Who I’m sleeping with really doesn’t matter that much, but when it comes to the emotional part there’s so much I have to explain to men that I no longer feel that it’s worth it / I suspect that my dad prevented me from understanding death during several years through buying new goldfish every time the old one died, because he lived in Rotebro and I was only there during the weekends. Some day, I’m going to confront him / Of course there’s an insurmountable glitch between men and women, but isn’t that the case with all sociocultural and economical groups? Sooner or later, you get to the point where your experiences differ and where you can’t reach each other. That resistance is a part of becoming a subject in my opinion, and that process will always hurt / But for me there is an entirely different compliancy in my body when I’m approaching women. I thought for a while I would start to have calm relationships, mild and unstormy relationships – that went to hell, but anyway. If it was about men I would never have gone this far

The Fake Survey

More stuff on the neutral theme and The 90°! This was back in 2011.

In Mexico DF, we had the bright idea to make a survey with people to see if they felt the same as us about neutral:

We called it The Fake Survey in honour of Liz Lemon.

This is some of the results we got. We might fill in more answers later: they sort of spread themselves all over social media and international harddrives and were difficult to collect. All answers that were given in Spanish and Swedish has here very neutrally been translated to English.

The conclusions drawn from this survey are mostly that neutral varies a lot and that all of our friends disapproves of neutrality – it seems almost neutral to do so. Anyway, we disapprove, too, there’s no breaking out of this flocking exercise. And we had a great time reading these answers. Thanks everyone for answering!

Random answer outside questions
– I think neutral is that which makes no fuss, leaves no prints or impressions. Guess it has to do with impersonality and non-identification somehow. Thus it feels contradictory to *identify* something, such as a single colour (that is made up of a multitude of lights and such), and then point to it as neutral. If it makes sense.

– Somewhere after the first few questions, I started thinking pretty seriously about neutrality and I sort of realized that it’s a concept that doesn’t really seem feasible when I try to situate it inside of my perception of things. I don’t see how it’s possible to not take a position, to not be demarcated and cast into a kind of “otherness”/”separateness.’

What is a neutral colour?
beige
all other than white. if you mix every colour you see its brown.
grey
Black
White
White
Black
Grey
White
white or light yellow (hospital neutral)
A self-well-known one.
grey

What is neutral food?
non spicy food and poatoes
food speaks of shared memories. loose your sense of taste by smoking for several years, then swollow fast: its neutral.
porridge.
Hot soup. water.
Pasta, rise
water
Without salt
Rice and sallad grown by farmers with the help from EU-money and state funds.
carrot
mashed potatoe and brown sauce
Some that you pick yourself after patiently been awaiting (you) to do so.
rice or tofu
an apple
meat

Give an example of a neutral music score for contemporary dance performance (CDP)
c c c c
Brian Eno
arvo pärt.
Silence.
steve reich
silence
ambient sound
voices and noises
sounds without a melody, wind like
Accordning to question 1: (for me) Feist. Following the second question: instant music-making.
maybe one of Erik Satie’s furniture music pieces?

What is a neutral light setting in a CDP?
warms lights from the side
none?
sort of light everywhere on stage.
Frontal lights
Yellow or white light directed from above in different directions so that it doesn’t blind the audience nor casts sharp shadows on the dancer.
white yellow
natural light from above
rehearsal lamps
blue spots and cold white anti-shadows
Daylight.
i can’t think of lighting that would be neutral. maybe none?

What is neutral body temperature?
37 – 38
38 c
37.
37,5 celcius
35?
37
32 C. Nor hot nor cold.
Boring.
30
37 C
65 is the number that came into my head but it doesn’t make sense in either fahrenheit or celsius.

What is a neutral make up in a CDP?
foundation
none?
no make up.
No make up or make up that cover bad skin/pimples.
skin colour
no make up
mascara and red lipstick
black eyeliner
No make up at all
A smile of friend.
no make up, really. maybe some chapstick and foundation.

What is a neutral country?
one that others orient around? usa?
sweden.
a country not involved in a specific conflict.
antarctic
india
Switzerland
San Marino
Switzerland
no
A country that no one notice (could be a closed country as well, with a opressing leader. Hm…)
Unknown country.
switzerland

What is a neutral language?
a mix?
english.
english
english
english
silence
english
Sign language
English
A boring language
no such thing
spanish
spanish
spanish
spanish

What is a neutral first name?
kai
female names ending on an A.
An
“My name is nobody” – Ulysses
Juan
Juan
Maria
Ingemar
Luis
ben anna
A european wide name without provocative hints, as Anna or Maria or Charles
no such thing

– What is a neutral use of the space in a CDP?
non appearing?
To move and relate to the space as if it is up to me to create. To play with a high social status against the room, like the room is mine, not dangerous or otherwise charged. The room feels self-evident.
Black box
flying through it
Like in Italy
open space no wings or legs
the whole space almost all the time
An empty space
oh, i must sound like such a curmudgeon, but i’m not sure i think that neutrality truly exists (partly because i don’t think of things as existing on a linear spectrum). even defining a space is, for me,the act of taking a position/a side/stance and so it can’t really be neutral in that sense.

What is a neutral way of being on stage for a contemporary dancer?
To be yourself, be neutral to yourself.
moving sort of slowly, undesignedly
to breathe
in training outfit
no movement
in parallell
walking from side to side throwing castañuelas
Sitting
To have a conversation with the audience and to be open about what is happening
…a break? pause-alike turnarounds?
being on stage and having a body, for me, means creating a position in a very literal sense, but also in an interpretative sense.

What is a neutral way to use gaze in a CDP?
Gaze straight forward, about three meters ahead of yourself.
to look where one has to in order to perform the dance
sunglasses
a la brechtienne without any emotion
not looking at the audience
not sure if it’s what i really think, but the first thing that came to mind was a kind of blank stare where it would be difficult for the viewer to see what the dancer(s) were looking at.

What is a neutral way of standing in a CDP?
Parallell straight forward. perhaps legs a little bit bent.
feet down
just standing with arms along the sides
parallell feet
In parallell and a bit diagonally
Like a fox on it’s way to run

What is a neutral duration of a CDP?
60 minutes
a neutral risk
50 minutes
1hour
like Beckett did with theatre, “a breath”
a couple of weeks
25 minutes
20 minutes
not possible, since average durations of performances are so culturally and contextually variant that picking any length of time would either be understandable as conforming to some sort of norm (i.e. average lengths like 45 minutes, 1 hour and a half, etc.) or as deviating substantially from those norms.

What is a neutral dance technique?
shake your butt
contemporary dance
free techniques
Tai Chi
shake but whilst lifting the leg
Improvised

Explain the neutral feeling of a performer in a CDP.
like being dead
focused and relaxed.
light, sexy, able to move, very aware of everything
without intention
melting and floating
Muscle relaxed in hips and face, Deep breating, body ready, mind empty
no fealing
Curoius

What is a neutral shape?
sphere
always new, in motion
a square
a loose line
plie
circle
any form that is not mixed up with another form is neutral. A sole line. A sole circle.
circle
a circle, i guess, since it just continues and continues, never breaking up into sides and angles. although there is an inside and an outside of a circle, so i guess it’s not really
neutral/beyond ‘positions’ either

What is a neutral venue to perform a CDP?
a venue built for a CPD
theatre black box
in a building that wasn’t build for theatre purposes. a ols factory place out garage.
any stage
a square
An empty space without history or referencies… I don’t think it exists.
at home
any place that has a big floor and space for audience

What is a neutral age?
over 80 when you’ve done the earlier ones.
26
there is none
12
Stoneage
From 10 to 20
25
28,5

Give an example of neutral costumes in a CDP.
grey
sweatpants, t-shirts and hoodies
cotton
naked
Pants. Like I’m a dancer but not that much.
long sleveed cotton t-shirt and loose pants
your own normal clothes
T-shirt and different kind of normal trousers

What’s a neutral font?
times new roman
this one or times new roman
times new roman
Times New Roman
Arial
gothic
times new roman

What does a neutral contemporary dancer look like?
open spirit generous on stage, soft.
slim, white, young, girl, short hair
a dance that does not resemble any dance
without sweat or muscular pain
autistic
he/she is not very tall, has short hair and a small mouth
as if she or he is not a dancer, but maybe an art student

What is a neutral fund for financing a CDP?
Parents wallets
To work for yourself, not asking money by anyone
money from a university
a european based fund that takes a lot of time an effort to gain
any state-sponsored fund. Everybody = nobody = neutrality

When do you encounter the term neutral in your life?
never
never before!
in board games (neutral = unpassable square/zone)
Nothing is neutral if I think of it. Things that belong to basic physical functions feel more neutral, breathing, body temperature, drinking water and so on. On stage it would be what I don’t notice. Maybe I’m mixing it up with natural? Natural is also in the food store, advocating for good health, and in school.
9-5
The seconds after orgasm
When I have a shower
when I talk about yoghurt. otherwise never.
Unfortunetly mostly in a negative way. In a positive way about artists when they seem to be able to clean their own toilet.
I think I encounter it the most in discussions of contemporary US politics, where self-ID’ed political moderates claim their views are somehow beyond the polarizing discourses of the Democrats and the Republicans. Maybe this is why I am resistant/skeptical to the concept of
neutrality?

A Neutral Manifesto

The Neutral Manifesto was written in 2011 by Tova Gerge, Josefine Larson Olin, Magdalena Leite, Juan Francisco Maldonado and Helena Stenkvist as a part of the process with The 90° Project in Mexico City (see film below). Please use it to mess with dance. Thank you.

  • Neutral does not take sides, it is not a political statement because it only works with pure matters of fact. Artists are like activists but neutral. If they wanted to be political they would have chosen another field of activity, because what is political it is not really art.
  • Dance is the most neutral art form because its main means of expression is the body, and the body does not represent anything, it is just real.
  • It is neutral to have a body that is soft to hug, yet can make a handstand and an arabesque. A body that can mold into anything, but quickly return to its own neutral shape. Neutral is the open body school concept, the humble middle class, the body that has not been hurt or that heals quickly.
  • The neutral body has trained a lot of release technique, which is present in its appearance and in its calm, yet very hearable, breathing.
  • A neutral dancer does not exaggerate. S/he stays close to the point 0 in Laban technique and has the expression of a Berlin dancer.
  • A neutral body is clean, without tattoos, piercings or scars. Or if there is, it must be discrete enough to pass as a small variation from a clear standard. The body is often off-white, but not so blond, with the hair-colour cendré/gris. No make-up of course.
  • The body doesn’t need clothes to be neutral as long as it presents a clear gender without pushing sexual aspects. It is neutral to be a man or a woman, or everybody shave and wear all covering leotards.
  • Neutral dancers can also come like they are, in ponytails and a sloppy outgrown what-used-to-be a proper haircut for men, in white or off-white t-shirts, in the whole collection of Lacoste colors for t-shirts, in sneakers nikers and blue jeans because its the uniform of normality, because its the symbol of a casual imperium, and last but not least because its not what you would primarily choose to move in since the cloth is not flexible. This makes it more neutral: the dancer is just like everybody else, almost a non-dancer (but not quite).
  • Even a black dress can be neutral to wear. Everything goes with black; “the little black” is a manifestation of neutrality within the world of fashion since it impersonates the clean femininity without stating anything about class background, ethnicity or sexual preferences.
  • It is neutral when the performers fix the performance space by themselves while the audience is entering. The fixing should give an urban feeling.
  • The neutral space for theatre and dance is the black box, but used in a casual way, showing that the users are aware of the criticism towards it and thus entitled to keep it the way it is. After all, the least implying and most allowing space is the classical theatre space, since it has been used so many times it is practically emptied of meaning.
  • The neutral space for art is the white cube, and as with theatre, tradition has emptied it from disturbing political implications. The white cube is just a discrete institutional frame that makes art accessible as such. It is there in order to not create any misunderstanding about what is what, because neutral doesn’t like misunderstandings.
  • The neutral does not show any history. The neutral doesn’t express anything, but in a very clear way. It appears simultaneously as the first of something and as one in an endless mass. The neutral action is an action that has been executed so many times, ie. is so dense with history, that it cannot be distinguished as a specific historical phenomena unless if you watch it from some uncomfortable angle that no-one really wants to watch anything from.
  • Tasks involved in a neutral performance can be for example the neutral walk, the neutral position, the neutral water-drinking on stage or the neutral throw of a neutral ball; a throw that has no history and tells nothing about the thrower. On the level of physical engagement, this could mean relaxed hard work or hardworking relaxation, like having relaxed but working feet with no point and no flex.
  • It is neutral to be oneself, especially on at the front of the stage. To be oneself is to be neutral, staring into the audience with slightly horny ‘n cool looking gaze, expressing very little other emotion. It is also neutral to not exactly look but not exactly avoid them either, as if they where an unidentifiable wall of jelly.
  • It is neutral to find very organic movement phrases that are repeated without any fault, working in the oxymoron between robotic and organic: organic robot, robotic organity.
  • Making dances from the Fibonacci numbers is neutral, because it reproduces beauty that anyone can see, even if they do not know about the golden ratio. It is as neutral as it is natural, like shells and snowflakes. Consequently, it is neutral to canonize Rosas’ principles of work, but without letting it show in terms of repertory because you don’t want to be entangled in that dirty capitalist Beyonce Countdown conflict.
  • It is neutral to not feel anything specific or to not give any weight to whatever feeling might occur. To act neutral is to act without question or interpretation, postideologically and post identitically.
  • Neutral means no mysticism. There can be kitsch, but no belief in it. Charged symbols must be emptied before using.
  • Neutral doesn’t have climax, except in the case of playfully reappropriating Hollywood dramaturgy, but even then the climax happens more on the surface – the subjectivity of the performer is still kept safe, unmoved, untransformed.
  • A neutral lighting is a lightning that makes “everything” visible, yet not blinding. Just a general swash of white and yellow. It can also be neutral to let the light change in the rythm of sunset.
  • English is a neutral language and broken English is alright if it is not commented upon. It is neutral to assume that everybody speaks broken English. The vocabulary cannot include any patois, but possibly a bit of well assimilated slang. Neutral talk must have properly crossed the borders of integration: it resides where there is no longer provocation.
  • A neutral way to use English on stage is to call a practical instruction with a neutral voice tone. Like: “Jessica, can you put play to the sound? Thank you!” The sound that Jessica puts play to is hearable, still not dominating.
  • Silence can be neutral, but it is even more neutral not to insult people. The weather is the most neutral topic of conversation, it does not discriminate, this is why people love talking about the weather, they don’t want to insult anyone.
  • If there such a thing as talking neutrally to the audience, it should be done tenderly, as if the audience members were very close friends in an intimate moment. Being personal without being irreplaceable is neutral. There should be intimacy without implication, not stating, just saying…
  • The neutral performance starts around 7 pm. Welcome!

 

Burn After Writing

Burn After Writing



I write this text as a solo study for an imagined group piece that has the same title as an imagined exhibition. I also write this text as a piece for someone else, a performer, namely my friend and colleague Josefine Larson Olin. When she accepted to take on this position in my piece of writing, she also altered my modality of writing. Although I am still the author in terms of initiative, I cannot write without her. And although we will both take the consequences for how we structure our work, I am responsible for the outcome. One likely consequence of this is that people will perceive Josefine’s occurrence in the text as a vehicle for my thoughts and desires. Both of us can try to disturb this order in different ways, but it will still be my signature under the piece of writing, and her name in it.

The reason why I put us in this tricky relation is that I had a text commissioned by the master students of choreography at the Stockholm University of Dance and Circus. They asked me to write something about their festival Ok Show Kids Return (May 22-29 2011) that took place in four different locations around Stockholm. Six out of the seven performances in this festival were made precisely with the demand that they should function as solo studies for imagined group pieces that had the same title as imagined exhibitions.

With me and Josefine joining in, seven pieces out of eight now fill this criteria. The festival also goes on for a considerably longer period than originally planned – i.e., until this text can no longer be read. This modification of the format of the festival is our way of responding to the strive for prolongation that often comes with the wish to have someone write about or document live events. Instead of trying to capture, break down or by other means make these live events accessible after their disappearance, we wanted to address the very question of the ephemeral and the continuous in different kinds of performance. As our title Burn After Writing indicates, we are primarily thinking of the performance of writing and about in what ways the activity of writing could take on a value beyond the text that it generates. Of course, text and writing are then also to be understood as an analogy to choreography and dance, i.e. what value can the performance of dance have beyond the choreography that frames it?

Even though the seven other performances in the festival clearly influenced this piece – not least in its festival-infesting format – there are also other influences that made the theme of ephemeral writing particularly interesting to me. One is an unfortunate tendency to lose my diaries and never find them again. Another is my many experiments with creating text material through actively altering the rules that frame the writing – experiments that in their turn can be traced to a long tradition of scores for writing, most commonly exemplified by dadaist and surrealist poetry practices such as cut-up techniques and cadavre exquis.

Texts such as A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf or Queer Phenomenology (2006) by Sara Ahmed also play a part. From two different points in time, Woolf and Ahmed address how writers and thinkers challenge or confirm the limits for recognition by writing through and about material conditions that are not so easily altered. As both Woolf and Ahmed point out, the recognition of a text as a text is not only about the criteria of selection set up by different social or cultural institutions. The questions of readability start already before the process of writing has taken place, and questions of this character can of course also be put by, through and to choreography. Where are the social and spacial stages for the performances of writing and dancing? Where are the material resources? Where is the subject legitimized for an authorship within those fields?

Those who, for some reason, have sufficient resources to become recognized as authors can of course stretch the scope for recognition through insisting on leaving traces of material conditions that might not fit into all legitimate categories. They can also try to undo some of the readability of their authorship by willfully introducing an element of disturbance. The latter is one of the functions I imagine that Josefine could have in this text. This by no means implies that Josefine could stop me from making this text readable – I am too much of an author for that. On the other hand, not even the author in me can stop her presence in the text from embodying the idea that writers are also practitioners inscribed in a complex sociality, and that writing is an activity that always happens outside the text.

To embody the idea of the complex sociality of writing is of course also a function that the presence of Josefine fills in this piece. And yet, this is not a process diary where me and Josefine give an exact account of how we worked together with the text. Instead, I have covered all traces of my specific ways of working with Josefine, so that the circumstances of production of this piece are present mostly through their absence. The honesty of this solution is that it mirrors the power relation that we engage in as writer and performer, as well as openly admits to the fact that we are still prioritizing perfect form and clear authorship over the process of writing, even if we indicate a possibility of something else.

To speculate in what futures an ephemeral writing could have, i.e., what is to become of the imaginary group piece and the imaginary exhibition called Burn After Writing, is one such indication. To propose any exact protocol for the future is of course risky, since it must rely on the experiences of text and writing that I and Josefine already have and thus repeat the thoughts that we can already think. But even from this figuration of hierarchical power exchange and half-hidden contextual bodies that is ours, we will propose.

In this solo piece, I use Josefine’s unclear bond to the authorship of the text as a way of underlining that the idea of putting writing persons on display or making writing a part of a performative set-up is definitely not what I am after. How it looks when one writes says very little of what it does. Rather than imagining writing as a spectacular practice, I imagine it as a relational practice, whether or not the text that results from it is read by anyone else than the writer. Even to write something that is unpublishable – unsharable, unreadable, fragile in its to and from – is to simultaneously rewrite one’s position in the social. This not only because writing culturally represents a specific act of withdrawal (and this might be a point where the analogy between writing and dancing falls apart), but even more because the writing as such structures the experience of inner and outer worlds. Writing a memory note is not only about being able to look at it later. Writing a letter is not only about who receives it. The writing is a process of inventing binding notions between fragments, choosing experiences and framing realities.

Thinking writing like this gives an opportunity to imagine how it could have priority over text, for example in a group piece and exhibition named Burn After Writing. As this title suggests, immediate destruction is a possibly useful tool if one wants to isolate the practice of writing from the traces it leaves. The destruction of text is in this sense not necessarily a memory loss or a threat to shared intelligence (as in the culturally charged image of burning books), but rather a way of getting to know something about writing that the preservation of the text would not have allowed the writer to know. The written is thus in its destruction replaced by an affirmative loss, a loss that gives back meaning to an act of writing that is all to often co-opted by the text, just like dance is frequently co-opted by choreography.

Towards the end of this solo piece, Josefine and I keep insisting on the possibilities of writing and destroying the written as two nodes of desire that can overlap and constitute each other in ways that disturb the privileges of text. In this insistence, we simultaneously criticize and reestablish our positions as writer and performer. All this said, it is too late to burn this text.

By Tova Gerge with Josefine Larson Olin

The other pieces in the festival Ok Show Kids Return were:

40 minuter by Nadja Hjorton, Chrisander Brun, Cicilia Östholm, Per Sundberg, Emelie Wahlman, Erika Thalinsson Ranhagen, Anna Strand Andersen and Elvira Roos.

Burn Your Fun by Kim Hiorthøy with Ilse Ghekiere.

We Made a Piece from Thin Air by Stina Nyberg with An Kaler.

So What by Zoë Poluch & Valentina Desideri.

One on One by Juli Reinartz in collaboration with Liz Waterhouse with Linnea Martinsson.

Gear and Tactics, You Know What It Is What It Is When We Do What We Do, To Rely with Confident Expectancy, The Precious Moments Are All Lost in The Tide, Sidestep Translation, Again and Again and Again and Again, Metaphor Motion by Rebecka Stillman in collaboration with Ulrika Berg.

The Authentic Ludvig by Uri Turkenich with Ludvig Daae.


More dance and more fire:

 

THE 90° CLASS [CORNERING IT]

During our research period at Weld 2011, Bermudatriangeln (in this case me and Josefine Larson Olin) did a workshop in the form of a class, strictly ruled by a script. This class script contains methods for dealing with the phenomenon of the 90° leg within a class context. Through developing a class that anyone can do, we reappropriate the 90° practices. The class is thus free to download (bermudatriangeln.wordpress.com) with the freedom to distribute, modify and perform. The strict structure of the script originates from a strive to try out different strategies for cornering the 90°. We also wanted a script that could conduct the class instead of a teacher, thus facilitating a flat hierarchical structure. The strategies that we developed our methods from were for example appropriation, somatics, meditation, togetherness, everyday usefulness, ritual, revisionism (claiming that the 90°practice originates from something else than what history has told us, in order to have a history we like better) and  hanging out (Easy like Sunday morning). Please use it!

1. A 90° INTRODUCTION

The 90° class is an 8 step strategy for cornering the phenomenon of the 90° leg and aims to share and generate a potential context for a 90° practice.

The class will follow a strict structure, but ends with an open 90°-discussion-and-fruit moment.

“90° with the leg” in this class will have two different meanings. It can mean to aim for the actual angle 90° with the leg. It can also mean the moment where each one individually have their point of maximum resistance while lifting and/or stretching the leg. We will try to specify at every occasion what 90°-concept we refer to.

2. TAG IN 90°

This exercise aims to warm up. The game works almost like Tag, but you tag with your leg. When you think you are close enough to tag someone, you scream “90°!”, making everyone in the room freeze. The tagger can then raise their leg and tag someone who becomes the new tagger. Any of the two definitions of the 90° angle is valid. The game goes on for 6 minutes.

3. THE 90° SHARED ANGLE WEIGHT COMPANIONSHIP

We develop a companionship where we can meditate on a common relation to gravity and the 90° angle. The practitioners work in pairs or smaller groups, where one person in the pair or group lets their leg rest in 90° while supported by the other/s, who take on the weight in whatever way they please. The definition of 90° used here is the actual 90° angle with the leg (or something close to it), not the resistance-definition. The person who has the leg in the 90° can actually aim to relax as much as possible. The companionship can change form in terms of roles, positions, tactics and so on, but continues for 9 minutes.

4. THE 90° CONSCIENCE SYNCHRONIZATION EXERCISE

We here develop a 90°-conscience, to empower practitioners to act in the collective spirit of the 90°s and leave individualism and outer factors that initiate and conduct movement behind (except for this whole exercise instruction). We stand, walk or engage in any upright movement practice, while trying to remain attentive to each other. While feeling our togetherness we decide when to lift 90°-legs in any of the two definitions. The group may thus never lift their legs, but if they do, the idea is to do it within the same 90° definition and remain synchronized in the sense of timing, even though not necessarily in the same direction or in the same way. The exercise goes on for 9 minutes.

5. THE 90° MASSAGE

The aim of the massage is partly to give each other massage and partly to establish a different relation to massage, the 90° angle and to each other. We work in pairs or smaller groups. One person stands facing the wall, leaning against it. The other/s massage/s the standing person with their foot. The massage goes on for 3 minutes per massage.

6. DOING AND TALKING 90°

The aim of the exercise is to initiate a conversation about the 90° practice that we are engaging in. The practitioners talk while standing in a group where they can hear each others voices, trying to hold a 90° leg in any direction. The definition of the 90° used here is the one where everyone individually use their point of maximum resistance while lifting and/or stretching the leg. The talk goes on for 9 minutes.

7. ANCIENT WARRIOR IMPROVISATION STRETCH

The purpose of this stretch is partly to stretch. We propose actions to each other that we consider stretches, whilst telling in what way they have a meditative function for the ancient warrior culture that the 90° practice originates from.

8. EATING FRUIT AND TALKING 90°

The class finishes with the possibility to eat fruit and talk about 90°, both in this context that we have created together and in other contexts.