The Holy Grail

As I watched Necessary Beauty I held in mind a conversation I had with Bebe last week that included her pressing me on my admiration of the “look” of improvisation: What is the aesthetic quality of improvisation that indicates to us something is improvised versus set, and, What is that pleasure we get in it–”it” being what Bebe called the “holy grail”–choreography that appears improvised? As I watched Necessary Beauty this aesthetic question was in my mind: is this “set” or is it improvised – or how much (I am setting aside the everything-is-improvised if you can minute enough principle).

This feels parallel in question to the virtual reality v. “real” debate. When Jimmy Fallon appears “live” on stage and then he goes “back stage” and the screen cuts to a “live” video of him backstage, we decide whether to place this image as live or as recorded. (Though again, the “live” itself is recorded, or even if not there is a delay to accommodate the censors.) This all brings me to the nature of reality; we are continuously deciding what it is we’re seeing before us, and our decision, as we watch dance, of whether something is improvised or choreographed tends to alter the [my] pleasure quotient. The spectacle of sudden unison is one of my favorite elements of the Batsheva Dance Company’s work, and of the moment here where Kathleen Hermesdorf and Angie Hauser, just after Angie’s entered, both fall to the floor.

(Above is a series of excerpts. I was able, thanks to Bebe’s generosity, to see the whole thing this week on-line.)

I fear as I write that Bebe is asking a lot more of me to answer that question than I seem currently able to answer. I am clearly avoiding it by writing it out: What does improvisation look like? And as I admit pleasure in that “look,” why is it that I want it? How do I make it? And if I like the look of improvisation so much, what is the worth of choreography instead? I keep coming to timing: the improvisation is a newer timing–though I’m unsure why I’m drawn to the word “new.” A timing that is virtually “impossible” when we are tracking and remembering in order to replicate. Impossible? Perhaps possible, as I’m finding so challenging with this current charge to create a 3 minute solo addressing weight at risk. My development of memory and setting is taking longer than anything. I resist it. I think that’s a good sign of something to keep doing.

Back more specifically into Necessary Beauty–I have this sense of allowing. Of a Susan Rethorst-like(? I know her through composition class more than her concert work) allowing this to follow that, because there’s a feeling that it feels right. In other words … In other words, I don’t have any predictive sense that now that person is going to sit in that chair, or that they’re doing to circle each other, but once they do I feel this miniature nod of yeah-that’s-right. I think I feel this way with excellent live jazz music.

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