PHYSICAL DISOBEDIENCE - GROUPE
Supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as part of NEUSTART KULTUR.
TAKEHEART Residences hosted by Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf.
with the support of the residency program Tanzatelier 0.10 in Quartier am Hafen
GROUP RESEARCH MARS-APRIL 2022
WITH AND BY CÉLINE BELLUT, YING YUN CHEN, ALEXANDER ERSNT, PETER HAAS AND JORDAN GIGOUT
The core concept behind "Physical Disobedience" involves exploring the idea of disobedience within the context of movement improvisation. It consists of a structured routine comprising various precise improvisation tasks.
The primary objective of this method is to challenge the decision-making process during the creative act. By deliberately defying initial creative impulses, dancers aim to enter deeper and more authentic sources of energy and creativity. Through this deliberate disobedience, the intention is to access decision-making strategies that remain untainted by social conditioning, fear, education and self-judgment.
The routine consists of seven distinct improvisational tasks, each building upon the previous one. Initially, it focuses on preparing the mind and training the body to embrace its impulses, heavily drawing inspiration from "authentic movement techniques." Subsequently, it encourages participants to mirror and reflect different facets of their experience of disobedience, including opposing, resisting, frustrating, negating, and ignoring, among others.
It's crucial to emphasize that this improvisation method is not designed to generate choreographed movements or commit them to memory. Instead, its purpose is to enable professional dancers to break free from established movement patterns, societal constraints, and limiting thoughts. Furthermore, it's essential to maintain the framework of improvisation, where the objective isn't to replicate the same experience and shape consistently. The final visual outcome is of secondary importance; the primary focus is on sensation, emotion, and the richness of the experiences themselves.
This improvisation technic was the starting point to the production “Suddenly, a sloth crosses the street” premiere in 2023 in Tanzhaus NRW Düsseldorf.
VIDEOS OF THE PROCESS:
Definition of “Impulsion” from the Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012
An abnormal urge to perform a certain activity.
Blind obedience to internal drives, without regard for acceptance by others or pressure from the superego; seen in children and in adults with weak defensive organization.
DISOBEDIENCE IN BOARD GAMES AND THE NECESSITY OF A COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT
EXTRACT OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN PETER, ALEC AND CÉLINE
FROM THE 18TH OF FEBRUARY 2022
Peter - My question was, when you talk about a certain resistance to the competitive moments of board games, and you say I don’t play for winning. How do you relate it to sports? Because you practice combat sports. How is it there?
Alec - I don’t know… I just think out loud… So the thing is with board games I really feel ashamed to have this drive, to take something serious, also wanting to win or even wanting something and being clear about it, is something that is deeply attached to shame in my personal life.
P - You mean, to show that you want to win?
A - Yes exactly, you should not show it, but get it anyways. This is just for me personally, it is connected to things I personally try to let go and try to go in this really intrinsic philosophical “I don’t need anythings, I’m antarque, it’s okay blablabla, I don’t want a career blablabla” but on the same time it is so forced by society to me that I have a career.. and somehow in my sens board games are the condensation of exactly this drive for winning i am trying to avoid.
And even if it’s a game and a safe place to show or experience this drive in a healthy way… or is even a catharsis, I never went into this. But with combat sports, I actually feel like playing. Also it’s really, it’s a different room you know… it’s totally a different room, it’s not your apartment, it’s not the table, it’s not the kitchen, it’s not the social people you usually interact with. You meet especially for this in a special room.
Céline - But with board games also. Board games have their own rules and rooms… I mean I am a gamer, when I play it is my life, it’s the moment it’s the game that matters. And I really have issues with people probably like you (laught) that don’t play the game but play “playing the game”… I find it a pity because the board games offer us the possibility of being inside another reality that is the game; so you can relax inside the reality of the game. But if you don’t follow the rules of the games, or if you don’t take this reality seriously, then you can not gain from the game. It needs a kind of obeying the rules to enjoy the game.
P - You can also not win. When I play a game, I really want to win, and if I play a game and someone doesn't respect the rules and lets me win, then I don’t really win.
A - (laught) I’ll never let you win!
A - The thing with the combat sport, it is different, it actually feels like playing, as for the board games there is luck involved.
P - In sport as well there is luck, sometimes you wake up with a strong body, you wake up with a weak body, there is also a lot of luck in it.
A - Yeah but also you go combat sport and it is not always about winning necessarily, it’s about you setting a goal for yourself and then you try to ketchup with it. In a way, and it is surprising to many people, combat sport is also a team sport. Of course you are in a constant competitive situation but you try as a group to develop and go somewhere and you help each other to go there…
P - I think we all have different individual interests in group games. I think what these situations for board games of combat sports unite : is that there is a sort of group situation, where we have an activity with a lot of people; there is a space, in a board game there is also a space, a really clear space on the board. And then, when you enter the space there are rules, of course there is this attitude about winning the round maybe, but there is for me also this element of learning constantly. I used to play this traditional German game SKAT with my parents, and if it was just about me getting better, I would win all the time. So in the end, there is the momental winning that gives luck, only gives luck if I lose a couple of times and only gives luck if we all grow and get better when we do it, so if we dedicate ourselves to play the game. And not only playing but analyzing it, reflecting what we did and what we can do better. I can imagine this is similar to combat sports.
P - Some board games are very much about luck, some less, some are even about faking luck like Poker, so all this elements come together in a setting where you have rules and you play with the rules, because you can also always break rules, there is also games that provoc breaking rules but you have to hide it.
I think when it comes to the topic of Disobedience, it is interesting to think about board games because it’s actually only fun if everybody obeys the rules. Of course it can be fun to cheat, but if people realize the game is over, then you can cheat but nobody knows. So to cheat is not an act of disobedience, it is still obeying the rules of.. keeping it secret.
A - not getting caught
P - Yes, the person who would disobey the game would be the one being like “fuck this I’m gonna go away, this is bullshit i’m angry now” So why are you disobeding, is because you are not happy with the situation. So I think the impulse of Disobedience in a group game is this feeling that you are not happy with something that is happening there. Because as long as you are happy with playing the game, you are absolutely willing to obey the rules.
DISOBEYING AN IMPROVISATION TASK - FIGURING OUT HOW TO FORMULATE OUR IMPROVISATION TASKS
EXTRACT OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN JORDAN AND CÉLINE
FROM THE 10TH OF FEBRUARY 2022
5min IMPRO : YES TO “TRASH IMAGINERIE”
Jordan - Movement is not the first thing that comes to me, when someone gives me a task, I don't say to myself, I'm going to do this kind of movement quality. So when I say “yes”, I find myself doing something that I don't necessarily feel comfortable with, so I feel like a stereotype in “yes”. In the “no”, there's this thing where it's maybe just my head that's running, I'm not necessarily paying attention to what's going on with my body. I say to my body "I would like you to do that", and my body sometimes says yes, sometimes no… So when we do the “no”, I don't pay attention to what is happening with my body. So when we do the “no”, I have a real conversation with myself and interesting movements come out, while when we do the “yes”, it's usually not interesting what i do.
Céline - Because it remains cerebral in the “yes”?
J - Exactly
C - But couldn't you try in the “yes”, that it's not a yes to the task _in the sense that you have to "answer" intellectually to the task_ but that instead it's a yes to the impulses provoked by the task, here "Trash imaginerie". So there is no longer this judgment of having to perform this task, but it's more like telling the body "well go ahead and do what you want". But then of course since it's a "yes" there is always a good answer, whereas when you do the “no”, there are an infinite number of possible, let’s say “wrong” answers, so you have a lot more choice and freedom.
J - That's exactly what I told myself when I did the “yes”, I already know there is a right answer. And so I lie to myself with the “yes”, I cheat. You see with what we did before "move or being moved" in “yes”… well, I didn't want to move, but I danced anyway to do the task.
C - But if you didn't feel like dancing why didn't you do what you wanted to do?
J - Because I didn't want to do anything. But you're looking at me, so I still have to do something. So it's good that we went on, but at first I really didn't want to do anything. I thought, okay so I dance, but I'm not going to like what I'm going to do, well there's still someone watching me. So even if I don't know what you're waiting for, if I consider you as a spectator, you want to see something… Maybe you want to understand what I'm doing. So it becomes a job, because I am just delivering something.
C - Because you do what you think I expect from you?
J - Yes and so I disobey myself, because I don't do what I want to do…
Can we do a “yes” impro again to "move or being moved"?
C - Let’s go
5min IMPRO : YES TO “MOVED OR BEING MOVED”
Jordan - So the first thing that came to me was "okay this has to be a good start" I wanted to start doing something, and I thought not this, I've already done… this no… this no…
Céline - But why did you say no? When you were in a "say yes to" improvisation?
J - Well, because I wasn't moved… I'm almost afraid of this task, because there's this pressure in "moved or being moved" that's too high… it's impossible to be right…
C - But this is with all tasks, if your goal is to obey properly what the task says, there is always a pressure of "this is the right way to do".
J - Yes of course, but this one more than the others.
C - But that's because you want to do that task too well in something right. But what happens if instead of wanting to do this task right, you make it your goal to follow and do what you feel with this task? And then what becomes right is your feelings about the task, and not what the task means or implies.
At one point I felt like telling you “it's okay to be upset”. If the task makes you angry, then say yes to that emotion. And it's very interesting, I can relate to what you say with the education I had as a dancer, to what we've been taught.. Without directly formulating it, we have this pressure that makes us understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to answer a choreographic or improvisation task, and this installs a constant self judgment, a constant looking at yourself from the outside.
Here for this research we are not looking for a true truth, or to do the task in a universally right way, especially with a task like "moved or being moved" there is not a ghost that will come and move your body… (laught) So what happens if you just say yes to whatever is on your mind, just say yes to how your body reacts to this task. You know what I mean?
J - Yes, but I'm not sure I agree with that…
C - I mean it’s not about agreeing or not, of course it's not a universal reality that we're doing here, it's just that we're trying to see how we can use these tasks from Yvonne Rainer's No manifesto to see what they can bring us, we use them in a certain way, but of course it’s not the only possible way to use them. At the end we don't do it for the tasks, I don't care if you're "moved" or not, I'm interested in you experiencing a certain body-mind obedience or disobedience that brings you somewhere in your dancing body.
J - Yes of course and that's what's interesting. Now, in the process of saying “yes” to “move or being moved”, something happened and I really didn't want to move. I really wanted to disobey, but not only to say “no” to “move or being moved”. I really wanted to disobey the concept of this task. The very idea of it… of what she wrote…
C - So then, what would you have liked to do? There is the question of this research, when you don’t want to obey the task, then what do you do?
J - Well it depends on the moment I guess, I mean I could have gone outside to smoke a cigarette…
C - Yeah but there is the problem, we talked about this already many times, but then, at the end we still want the performers to come the day of the performance… So the question is what kind of mindset we can have so the idea of rightness is not here, and the performers can find freedom in disobeying a task, or following other impulses…
J - Wait, I have an idea, can we do : “yes” to “moved or being moved” and “no” to the idea of disobeying “moved or being moved”. Because the problem is when I think about disobeying, there are so many possibilities of things I can do instead of doing the task… I don't know… we need to formulate it differently. So when I do “move of being moved” the only thing I want to do is to disobey the task, but I need to choose how I will disobey, because I could just have a cigarette, not come, have a monologue, I could do everything except for the task… that is so not interesting and we go nowhere, but, if I get the quality of the “no” and apply it to the task then… I don”t know… let’s try…
C - Okay so you have “yes” to “moved or being moved”, but you refuse to disobey the task… no wait it’s not that you refuse to disobey, it's that you refuse to ignore the task… so you disobey the task because you don’t like it but you also refuse to ignore it…
5min IMPRO : NO TO, BUT REFUSING TO IGNORE “MOVED OR BEING MOVED”
Jordan - Okay it’s really absurd and illogical… the only moment of got really pleasure it’s when I was so frustrated that I did not realized anymore what I was doing, and then when I realized where I was, I was actually doing the task, I was “moved”… when I managed to used all the possible strategies to not make the tasks, to disobey the task, then the only thing I had left, was the task… Sometimes I just realized I was moved…
Céline - Yeah and I think it is this particular task that creates this possible reverse psychology, because the task itself implies an outside force, so the only way to access it, is to lose control… so it fits perfectly with what we are researching here, because we lose control by trying to counter to an extreme and imposible point our impulses…
J - This task is super hard for a dancer… I have this feeling sometimes when I am on stage, I feel like I'm not being honest… it’s like you always have a filter on, you perform… I don’t know… sometimes I feel I am lying, or I perform my own honesty… because with time and experience, you know how things works, what will work, what will look interesting, so then I can hide the fact that I have no clues what I am doing, or that I really don’t want to do what I am doing… So here it’s nice because I can not use these tricks since I have no clue what I look like, I can just focus on my inner dialogue between my mind and my body.
FRAMING OUR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT - THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISOBEDIENCE AND RESISTANCE
EXTRACT OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN PETER, ALEC AND CÉLINE
FROM THE 18TH OF FEBRUARY 2022
Alec - So it is about the physical disobedience being in the impulses of my body, or on the meta level where I say no to all the research? So if we would as a group decide it is okay to say no on this meta level, this would have been an agreement on the meta level, you can not question it anymore.
Peter - But we can not do it as a group anymore if there is nothing else than the group, because a group of people can only disobey against a bigger group.
Céline - So you saying you can not disobey your own group?
P - without individualizing yourself, no. You can not collectively agree to disobey. It needs to be towards something else, towards a part of the group that obeys.
C - I think the important question here is, what do we gain from disobeying? I mean in the context of this research, what would we gain from disobeying on the meta level to the research itself? to the fact of even researching? We had this conversation with Jordan when we were just the two of us last week, I gave him the task first to obey to a point of the Manifesto*, we did “move or being moved”. And he really did not want to say yes to this, so after we did the disobey “move or being moved”. And we had the same conversation he said that he did not even want to try to say no to the task, somehow he was questioning, should I just leave the studio and go have a smoke, and this would be his answer to disobey “move or being moved”. And so after the all question was, if you do that okay, but what do we gain from it? so of course we can just all disobey the research and not come, but then what? We made a point, but what did we gain from it? You know, so it is the same for me, this is why I like board games a lot, because they give us a lot of freedom, and somehow by collectively agreeing on something, or even individually, me myself when I do the improvisation about saying no to a task, I still agree to set rules on how to say no, so it brings me somewhere… because if I just say no and sleep in the studio, then what do I gain from it? So it is about setting rules that we agree to obey, so we can find this small path where we follow what disobedience can bring us as new movement qualities, because at the end this is what it is about.
P - This is also the aspect of the group, for me a group always forces you to do something, but always you’re able to learn within a group. For example I could say, okay let’s work on disobedience, and with all the dancers in the group, it is kind of clear they will want to move physically, but I feel more fluid in intellectualizing things. So this also, we did not openly agree on, but it is clear, it is a dance project form, so it is already a not spoken rule that is going to be physical, of course we talked about it, but not in this kind of.. so of course we dance, and in a way it is forced, and of course I can just not do it, but I am also curious. So there are these different forces in the space, there is curiosity but also you have to obey the majority to have access to common shared practices.
A - There was another thing I was thinking when you talked about Jordan going out and having cigarettes. This is not disobeying, this is having a break.
C - Okay having a cigarette was not a good example.
A - No, it is not about making an opposition. Just when you said that, it was for me like, yeah but disobedience is work. It is not done by itself, “I just sleep” is not disobedience towards anything.
C - Okay pardon, I frame it differently, because the conversation with Jordan was wider. In a frame where we put this on stage, let's think I ask Jordan to perform on stage an improvisation about disobeying this “move or being moved” task. If he would not come to perform and have a smoke instead, it would be disobeying, because there is this agreement that he needs to be on stage, and he needs to deliver something, so in this sense, not doing it would be disobeying it, and where is the interest in this? I can't find it.
A - So in a way, thought this practice that you tried and he was not connected to this, it was more like, “ah shit I lost motivation”?
C - Not really, I mean we talked a lot about what it means to disobey a task in general. When I give the task to disobey “move or being moved”. Disobeying can have so many outcomes, it can mean so many things. It could be that Jordan goes on stage and reads the Bible, he disobeys “move or being moved” because he does something completely else. but we agreed that it is not interesting for us to just do something completely else, but rather to stick with the taste and see how the disobedience of this task can bring us something.
P - I think something that can be interesting to think about for this research is the difference between the act of disobedience and the act of resistance. So in a group situation where there are rules, and I don't want to follow the rules, then I have several sets of possibilities : I can resist, I can leave the situation, I can ignore the task, I can disobey the task. I think when I look culturally, when I see something in use, in politics, in History, when there is something seen as an act of disobedience? In German there is the word “ziviler Ungehorsam” it implies that the person is not only not acting as supposed to, but is giving a specific gesture. You spit in front of a police officer, this is a specific gesture, I don't know if Jordan has to dance Swan Lake on stage and instead goes there reading the Bible, it is also a specific act of disobedience. I think to understand disobedience it needs to become an image, it becomes an act, it becomes a gesture, that turns into a moment. So when Jordan leaves the stage to have a smoke, it is not necessarily seen as an act of Disobedience, but nevertheless the act on its own is so at the opposite of what is expected from him that it becomes an act of disobedience.
(...) Also I think it is important to say, when you disobey you provoke a reaction to what you do. it is something else than just leaving a situation. If he goes on stage and reads the bible, Jordan is really aware that he will provoke a reaction. I think this awareness that you are doing something and it will be an answer to it, make the act of disobedience more specific than the act of resistance.