Sunday, September 5, 2010

Movement Research

One of the inspirations for my current research and pursuit of a creative methodology that links historic visual artists to contemporary performance art, stems from my study of Mondrian, a Dutch Painter and member of the early 20th century De Stijl art movement. Mondrian’s striking geometric grids seem to elude foregrounds and backgrounds and produce a sort of optical flickering in the eyes of the viewer. Many theories exist as to the source of inspiration for Mondrian’s unique perspective and definitive contribution to abstract painting. However, the biographical fact that caught my attention in this debate is that Mondrian was an avid social dancer.
(I followed this fact into a considerable research project in 2009, the results of which were presented at the 2009 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference in a peer reviewed paper; “The Intimate Space Between Abstraction and Reality: Mondrian’s Neo-Plastic Dance”)

As someone who has been teaching various forms of dance for over a decade, often to non-dancers, I am extremely aware of the dramatic shift of perspective that comes with kinesthetic engage of the body. Whether the mover is new to yoga, Graham technique, or a social dance form, the awareness of one’s breath and heartbeat that comes from physical exertion, inevitably inspires a new awareness of the potential of the body in time and space. If pursued, this recognition of the relationship between matter and energy that underlies all physical movement forms, can enliven one’s perspective on all matter, be it flesh, a landscape, or paint.

As a Black Belt 4th Dan in Judo, Klein is an intriguing subject for this line of inquiry. In his efforts to embody infinite space and energy in his paintings, music, and architectural designs, he refers both directly and indirectly to the potential of levitation that he felt from practicing Judo throws. The substantial quality of empowerment that also comes from physical practices also undoubtedly infused Klein’s character with its relentless curiosity in pursuit of the Void.
Klein’s work was inspired by the idea that color has the power to infuse or impregnate space, and that “Space is spirit in its attenuated form.” (The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception by Max Heindel p247). He saw his calling as an artist to illuminate the perception of the viewer in order to facilitate their awareness of this fact.
Klein was an adept student of the occult, (He stumbled upon the Cosmogonie des Rose-Croix in 1948 and studied the teachings regularly for the next five years.) but his physical movement practices also powerfully affected his sense of the relationship between the matter of the body, the energy that animates it, and the space it moves through.

I began to study Judo this summer. At my first class I was struck immediately at how close the drill position is to a social dance embrace.
Here are some masters to watch. Sorry about the corny music.

Klein also loved jazz music and was an avid Bebop dancer in his youth. (Bebop is an American style of Jazz music, however in the early 50s Parisian Swing dancing was also referred to as Bebop.) When I began to look at Ariel Swing I realized that the body mechanics from embrace to lift were often very similar to the body mechanics of an “Ipon Seoi Nage” Judo throw.
For example, see the lifts towards the middle of this Bebop dance video.

The main difference between the Swing lifts and the Judo throws, it seems to me, is the destination of the partner. Does the thrower want to put them on their back or on their feet? I am exploring the interesting overlap of body position, momentum and leverage between these social and martial forms as a launching pad in order to explore these two physical influences in Klein’s life. Infusing these intentions and qualities with my own contemporary dance vocabulary made for an interesting first month of rehearsals.

“I believe that fire burns in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man.”
-The Chelsea Hotel Manifesto- Yves Klein 1961

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