Dance gave more of everything

My relationship with the arts is often a lot like my relationship with myself. Something intrinsic in me knows that we are both very valuable. Yet when questioned and put to the test by a procession of utilitarian and materialist delegates, chanting: “Why should I invest in you?” “What are your skills?” “Talents?” “Virtues?” “Why should I pick you for this job?” …self doubt and panic are never far away.

I came to Springback for many reasons: to put together my passions for dance and writing, to gain further knowledge of the European contemporary dance scene, to learn how to write dance reviews, and for the amazing prospect of doing all this in a city totally new to me. When I look back, of course all those things made my experience wonderful, but what I actually take away is a heartful of reaffirmation.

It isn’t a new concept that our perceived world lies somewhere in between the tangible-material world and the many cultural constructions we bring with us to interpret it. Art is powerful because it acts upon the second. I’ll argue by saying this: dance gave me more of everything!

After watching 20 performances over three days. I suddenly became alive to how much movement was happening all around me. It wasn’t that it hadn’t been there before, I just hadn’t been noticing it!

After Spring Forward everything in the scope of my vision, as far as my eyes could see, seemed to have been choreographed somehow. The activity in the street: people walking, a mass with a sense of direction, dissidents breaking the line, birds surprising from the skybuses rounding a corner, it could well have come out of Sync by Anastasia Valsamaki.

The Ryanair sequence of air security “To secure your seatbelt pull on the strap” “This air craft has eight emergency exits” executed perfectly and mechanically, could have been an comment on soulless movement, a contrast to the ecstatic inspiration of Emese Cuhorka as she reaches for the play button in Your mother at my door by Timothy and the things.
I became more aware of the structure of my body: I feel my head and can imagine a heavy skull, perched atop a spine, spindling around on my neck, when floppy with sleep and nowhere to rest it. Renata Piotrowska-Auffret’s Death. Exercises and Variations left its bony mark.

I also became more aware of light, since it was a trend in Spring Forward 2017. The way it filters through windows creating shapes and patterns of shadows, the way it moves with the sun and dances on surfaces, changing its texture with them.

I’m now more alert to the movement impulses coming from within. I believe my inner dancer (to quote Sanjoy Roy’s delightful video Planet Dance) has picked up some new moves and is anxious to try them.

And this new awareness isn’t only related to physical perception. Pieces like Woman by Himherandit and The rest is silence by Hege Haagenrud and Kate Pendry, made me feel the freedom of sexual identity and the entrapments of bulimia. And I am eternally grateful to have looked through the windows of those very personal houses, that I may become more human along the way.

I think there is something very special in the way dance communicates. It does so holistically. When we are in the presence of dance, it is not only the mind that engages in ‘understanding’ the performance. It does, of course, but there are so many other things happening more directly than that: the eyes see, the ears hear, the heart pumps with the beats, the body sees itself reflected in another, breaking down our protective barriers, connecting with a primordial empathy.

Ana Vallejos Cotter