INVOKING THE MUSE
A controlled the bend of the arm. A straight leg extended to the side with foot and toes extended to form a perfect line. Four bodies in close alignment, not moving from their spots, with their arms snaking and torsos shifting like an anemone swaying with an ocean current.
Dance communicates its words and phrases through action. Movement contrasted against stillness. It blossoms when it acts and just like a flower, its beauty is fragile. It is filled with what the Romans called lacrimae rerum, or more specifically, what the Japanese term mono no aware. It is a notion of impermanence in beauty and the melancholy that fleeting moments elicit.
In this sense, dance shares an undeniable bond with music, itself an artform at the mercy of time, and perhaps that explains why one complements the other so well. Each seems to give form to what the other implies when presented individually. Onstage, when the music starts and the dancer moves – or doesn't – there is an inevitability to that moment. It must happen.
Of course, the performed piece does not just happen. It must be made before it is performed. Something must sprout from nothing and there lies the majority of the work. In the studio, choreographer and dancer chisel and chide a piece into existence. Countless hours go into the creation of a three minute piece.
After the human mind and body, the mirror plays a central role in the creation–rehearsal process. It begins to take the form of the dancer's omnipresent and insatiable taskmaster, demanding so much while conferring just enough to ensure the dancer's return.
And as the dancer stares at her conjured twin, studying a body that is herself yet not herself, she plunges headfirst into a state of existential flux. In order to analyze her movements, she must first confront herself as object, displacing the subject she exists as when not in front of the mirror. She enters a state between life and death best encapsulated by Barthes' description of a person sculpting their pose for a photograph. The dancer is "neither subject nor object but a subject who feels [s]he is becoming an object." In the process she "experiences a micro–version of death," since the only time a human being becomes an object to herself is when she is dead and her subjective consciousness ceases to exist. In this sense, each rehearsal and subsequent performance represents another iteration of the dans macabre.
A piece performed on stage before an audience represents an illusion of sorts - a return to the Funhouse - where only the finished, polished product is on view. It appears from the ether. It is instantaneous and immediate. Yet, it comes at a cost. The sacrifice a dancer makes not only entails the physical and mental, but also the spiritual. In that sense, something does not come from nothing.