bodies and writing

These are the notes from Emilyn’s session today.

Moving, describing, witnessing, noticing, interpreting, remembering, reflecting …

This studio-based workshop introduces different modes of writing from embodied practices. We will reflect on how interweaving interactions of writing and moving can initiate research themes.

writing is something profoundly more dynamic, active, fluid, and indeed mobile and ephemeral and uncontainable than it is usually perceived as being

– Allsop and Lepecki, 2010: 2

All tasks are intended as examples of how you might conduct/expand/challenge/navigate/change your own practice as research.

Task 1: Ten-minute physical warm-up


  • What did I do?
  • What happened as I did it?
  • What are some of the generic influences/sources for my warm up?

This task evokes a creative tension between doing and noticing what I am doing. How can I be present in the moment of warming up, while also aware that I am going to write about it?

Task 2: Noticing & Describing

  • With a partner (A&B).
  • A – walk, pause and walk again. Write the action of doing.
  • B – writes what s/he sees.
  • Compare writings – doing and seeing.
  • Try to be descriptive rather than interpretive.
  • Pull out the differences in the writing.

This task draws on the phenomenological practice of ‘bracketing’ (Husserl) and whether it is possible to describe what you see without bringing your own experience to the seeing.

  • What do I notice?
  • What do I notice this time?
  • How useful is this descriptive writing to me in my research?

Task 3: Interpretation

  • A – falls slowly the floor.
  • B – interprets in writing what he sees.
  • Change roles.

What do we each bring – cultural backgrounds, age, life experience, family… to our interpretation of the action? What kind of language do we use, poetic, performative, autobiographical, pragmatic? We never not interpret (Staemmler) – yet we can be aware of when we notice and when we interpret.

Task 4: No beginning, no end

  • A – tells a story, memoire, personal narrative based on a theme (e.g. stumble, smell of toast, rain).
  • B – listen and write what stands out for you.

Reflect on what you have written, draw out starting points for further research in relation to your own practice: choreography, performance, anthropology, dance history etc…

Look at all of your writings.

  • How do you present your hand writing on the page?
  • What choreographies are at play with your words on the page?
  • What kinds of movement phrases are your words displaying?

robert morris and expressing process

I’ve been talking with some of you about this complex question of how we articulate or express or make public the practice we are involved in. I liked this (highly reflexive) example:

He also made objects that literally express the processes of their making. In 1961, Morris built Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, a walnut box that contained a three-and-a-half-hour recording of the sawing and hammering sounds that occurred as he constructed the box.

– Larson, Kay. 2013. Where the Heart Beats. Penguin Paperbacks, p.395

He also made a work called Passageway (1961) in which a long wooden passage curved and narrowed gradually to closure. “Walk though it, you feel the compression; a body ‘doing what it’s doing’ soon reaches its limit” (Larson, p.395).

This seems to me to also be an example of practice that is able to articulate its own suchness (and I chose this example because of the compelling (corporeal) nature of the experience for the audience).


Image and other details:

You could also check out his work Column (1960) in which a simple column is made to fall (or act or move).

productive uncertainty

Uncertainty Is an Uncomfortable Position. But Certainty Is an Absurd One.

– Voltaire

This quotation comes the French philosopher Voltaire, who understood that you can’t ever really know anything. While the unknown may cause you discomfort, if you’re so certain that you never question anything you’re bound to run into problems.


I wonder what anxieties or uncertainties you might be feeling that don’t seem productive or useful? How might you change this, or stay with the uncertainties longer?

baz has gone missing

It would appear that Baz Kershaw has gone missing. Anyone seem him? He’s a lovely man, looks like this:


Seriously though, the reference is missing from key text section from library so apologies for this.

Kershaw, B. (2009). Practice-as-Research: An Introduction. In L. Allegue, S. Jones, B. Kershaw, & A. Piccini (Eds.), Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen (pp. 1–16). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

I’ll sort it out as soon as possible but in the meantime if you have one of the borrowing copies can you return it/them asap so that others can take a look?

up until now

An interview with Deborah Hay. I’m posting it here not so much because of Hay’s interest in particular kinds of practices but because of how central the principle (or perhaps concept) of practice is to her work.

We want to hold on, we want to know, if we do this much more … if you could just get it. What if we could learn not to grasp … or try and hold on …

two simple examples of practice

These are two things I am currently doing regularly, and I think they both constitute a practice that could become a project of some kind (although that isn’t why I started them):

  1. love letters
  2. improvising

Love Letters

This involves writing a brief (although sometimes they aren’t so brief) love letter – or reflection on love – every day (without fail). It takes 5 to 15 minutes. It doesn’t have an end goal, and is not directed towards anything. However, it is very direct. In other words, I understand what the activity entails, but not where it might end up. It is both i) internal: considering and practicing how my understanding of the nature of love might be articulated and felt; and ii) external: in dialogue with one key text: Badiou’s In Praise of Love.


This involves a brief improvised dance each day (although I am not as strict as with the love letter writing). It feels less clear, although it is very clear to me when I am doing the practice, and when I am not. Again, it takes 5 to 15 minutes each day. The external references are less clear but some key practitioners include: Meg Stuart, Eva Recacha, Kirstie Simson, and Deborah Hay.

In both examples this is what I think is important in terms of understanding practice-as-research:

  • the activity is clear (or has become increasingly clear through doing)
  • the activity is regular
  • the activity is done and not simply imagined (this would apply to philosophical, conceptual or written practices as well)
  • how they might be articulated/shared/performed/treated is open (that is, the endpoint is not yet clear), but possibilities are emerging
  • there is a sense or understanding of my interest in relation to how others consider or have discussed/practiced the ideas and practice

As with sitting cross-legged in Zen meditation, this kind of experience doesn’t happen through intellection. It won’t happen, in fact, without you being there. You are either there or you aren’t. And if you aren’t all you have is ideas. Showing up makes the difference. You give yourself to the experience and see what happens. You see what changes.

– Kay Larson. 2013. Where the Heart Beats. Penguin Paperbacks, p.342

a question about writing

From one of you:

What do you mean by writing critically about our practice in a paragraph? Should we cover sets of questions, concerns or ideas? And by practice, are you referring to choreographic practice only? Or should we write a historical timeline of past and present conceptual engagements?

And my response:

By your ‘practice’ I mean what you are doing as part of DPaR (either continued from before the module, or something you’ve begun just this week). “Critical” would mean to reflect on it, to articulate things that ‘came up’ for you, or that seemed important. To perhaps discuss what you might do differently, or what you’d like to do next, or what opens up as a result of the work.

There are no hard and fast rules – just make a small effort to do some writing about your practice – just brief brief writing. In a way then the critical thinking/reflection can become part of your practice (if it wasn’t already).

Also, I’ve updated this page to indicate that you should email me the writing in the body of an email:

Husemann, Hay, process and practice

Just thinking a little bit about process and outcomes:

Their aim is not to repeatedly improve a work until it has reached its final state and to defend an unfinished work against possible critique. On the contrary, these projects call for thinking in different categories, which does not focus on the aesthetics of a full-length evening programme, but which considers the working process as an integral part or even as the essence of the performance.

— Pirkko Husemann, The Absent Presence of Artistic Working Processes. The Lecture as Format of Performance. Here it is instead: f14_husemann_engl

And these were Deborah Hay’s precise words:

what I am learning is that my choreography is 90 percent the practice