“Transfer of corporeal knowledge ” – Gido Broers
Last week I visited a rehearsal of the performance of WIEK, which was originally created by Boukje Schweigman in 2009. In this performance, three performers move in interaction with a moving object which has the shape of three wings of a mill (see the picture above). This performance will be performed again next month, with three new performers. The interesting thing about this rehearsal, was the fact that one of the dancers who performed in the original version – Swantje Schäuble – was now transferring her knowledge to the new performers (I’m not sure if I could call the performers dancers, since this performance is not a dance performance in the traditional sense – one could consider this performance as physical theatre or mime). But how to translate your own physical experience to those new performers?
In her lecture about corporeal literacy, Maaike Bleeker discussed, amongst other things, the relation between a way of thinking and writing as mentioned by Walter Ong in his book Orality and literacy (1982). Ong explains that writing transforms the way of thinking because it is not merely a recording of something that already exists; it is something enactive. This notion of writing seems, in my opinion, closely connected to the difficulties one encounters when giving words to dance or transferring corporeal knowledge through language to someone else. Writing is enactive and creates something new, as is the case with language in general. In the rehearsal I attended, this came to the fore when Schweigman asked one of the performers to dance a bit more ‘soft’. ‘Soft’ is not a word that has one single definition in relation to movement, which caused some confusion because the performer had no idea how to dance more ‘soft’.
After the rehearsal, I asked Schäuble how she deals with those situations in which language seems insufficient to describe physical activity. She answered me that it is important to stay away from telling the performers what they should feel during the performance or during a certain phrase. What she tries to do is to train the performers in such a way, that they can bring themselves in a state of being which they can use as a starting point to explore themselves what they can experience. So it is not about giving words to a specific image or movement (the end result), but rather explain how one can find their own way towards that end result, by exploring one’s own physical possibilities. This example shows how thinking is not only a linguistic act, but that this act of thinking can also take place on a more physical level. We also think through our body.