Words as footsteps

For me writing on dance has been a form of documentation. Each text is always an attempt to capture verbally something that has evaporated physically. The form’s requirement to be documented in writing is questioned by the visual access afforded by ArtStreamingTV’s live broadcasts of some of this year’s festival pieces. It does so in such a way that, bewilderingly, many can have a personal, yet mediated, experience of a performance. In such a context this technical milestone questions my job as a writer.

The most important moments of this year’s Spring Forward were the discussions I shared in-between shows – walking from Mercat de les Flors to Graner, say, or in the hotel lobby or the elevator. I felt a likeness between myself and other people regardless of their background. Discussing dance ultimately became about discussing everything important. Watching more than twenty shows in less than three days created a new routine of observation. I would sit next to another writer, viewing the show together without interacting. Afterwards we started talking right away, but usually not concentrating on what we’d just seen. Each piece of work was actually a platform for our thoughts about other things.

This new routine also exposed a new set of conventions. After talking to all the other writers it’s clear to me that critical writing on dance no longer gravitates around the critic’s subjective taste. This idea of a heightened sense of art has become contaminated by the shared interest to understand different viewpoints, and by a more basic need for discussion. We now have the choice to consciously document each piece from our own, individual emotional reality.

For example, Luís Guerra’s FOG was dramaturgically tiring to many viewers but I saw it as monumental. What I found remarkably beautiful in the piece some viewers felt was offensively arrogant. Expressing our differences on FOG sparked several conversations on dance conventions and aesthetics in general; we were no longer speaking about one particular work. Spring Forward also served as a necessary platform where it was possible to approach the artists themselves, who were always open to discussing both their own work and my experience of it.

For me watching dance is always an intimate experience. This feeling of instant intimacy is only intensified by Springback Academy, where fellow writers grow from strangers to long-lost friends. The camera might be able to capture an objective perspective on a performance, but it can’t document an experience. It can’t seize the discussions that gravitate around a work, slowly creating a vocal universe of its own. This is why writing is dance’s parallel lifeblood, and an expression of thought and emotions on everything.

Niko Hallikainen