It seems that contemporary dance is at a crossroads. It is continuing to find itself while also attempting to define itself during a time when more people are mediating culture through screens (often times in private), thus adding to the visual world where more is being seen and less is being holistically experienced.
Image credit: Ted Kerr, 2009
This comes at a time when some dancers and dance companies in Edmonton are figuring out how to allow the camera in, to be part of their process. In a way they are trying to figure out how to ensure dance continues to move with the culture.
Bringing the camera into dance is in part about the need to document but also the desire to create something less ephemeral, if only for funders and future generations.
For dance artist Kathy Ochoa, it seems to me as someone who has watched her work for a while; the camera also provides an opportunity to engage the audience. For Ochoa the camera often serves as another presence ‘on stage’ as well as a cue or reminder to the audience to consider process.
Process is important to Ochoa- in part one could argue it is Ochoa’s suggestion for how to make dance more accessible. By bringing the audience into the process, Ochoa’s seems to say, the audience gets a more connected idea of what is happening ‘on stage’ and off stage (thus finding value in dance). With this in mind it is no shock that her work has lead to considerations around collision.
At the heart of the issue of filming dance is the inherent male gaze that comes with the camera. The symbolic nature of a protruding lens following (often) young women’s moving bodies is not lost on anyone. This is not to say that all cameras – be them film, digital or moving- are being held by perverts, it is more to say that the feminine energy that is so vital to being part of a dance is lost once the form becomes 2D, commodified, more easily objectified.
Dance is a full experience- it is as much about the breath of the person beside you as it is about the breath of the dancers. The moment a dance becomes alive for any given person can be the way the light hits a dancer’s ankle or the way the score sounds coming of a the speakers. These are moments that might be caught on camera but never with the same back-story, intensity and organic arising as it does for a person truly in a space.
Having a chance to witness, and in a way contribute to the process of Collision, I see how this project is a departure for Ochoa but also in a way- a response to the question of dance on film.
There is an obvious fullness and femininity that is apparent in Collision. You can feel the softness in the flower references and the way the bodies move in seasons.
It is in this softness, in relation to the title of the work, and the work itself, that the coming together of dance and film can be understood not to be of just two solid forms figuring out how to relate but the delicate colliding and meshing of elements and qualities to create something new.
“It doesn’t have to make sense” is all she said to me and I believed it.
- T.K. Edmonton
*Originally published as part of Collison, a live human laboratory as presented by Azimuth Theatre and Expanse Dance Festival 2009.