You are on page 1of 11

BEFORE YOUR EYES Seeds of a dance practice 2003 Lisa Nelson I think of the eyes. Many moving parts.

I think of seeing. Theres more to it than meets the eye. I think of vision and movement. One gives rise to the other. Dialogue comes to mind. Thats how I experience their wedding. And how I experience my dancingwithin my body and in society with people, things, and space. Now comes survival. Finding ways to continue to dance through the years has been as basic as that. And I am indebted for the initial inspiration of my work with vision, video, and dance to a question posed by Steve Paxton when he (I quote) pointed out Contact Improvisation in 1972. He asked, What does a body do to survive? In the midst of a dilemma about leaving or staying in the field of dance, a question arose: What do we see in a dance? To get to the bottom of this, I found myself reverse-engineering both the composition of my movement and the composition of my seeing. The following writing marks some of this journey. We are experts at reading movement. We depend on reading the details for our survival. The raising of an eyebrow embedded in a riot of minute shifts and holdings in the body means something to us. We even read actions before they appear. With an imperceptible glance, we can sense that someone whom we dont want to see us is about to turn to face us. Before we know it, weve composed our body to be invisible, or composed our eyes to be elsewhere on the chance that well be overlooked. We are constantly recomposing our body and our attention in response to the environment, to things known and unknown. This inner dance is a most basic improvisationreading and responding to the scripts of the environment. Its our bodys dialogue with our experience. With this natural fluency, the shift from reading movement to reading dancing might seem simple. Evidently, for many people, something intervenes, some other expectation comes into play. Communication, perhaps What do we bring to reading that? I am reminded of the movement of peoples eyes during conversation. With this flickering idiosyncratic dance, we show each other our attention, and intention. The listener juggles two balls, composing her body to hear and to appear to be listening at the same time. While the speaker juggles fourcomposing her body to think, to route her thinking to her tongue, and to see and be seen. This is a tricky negotiation between the design of our senses, our physical skills, and the rules of our culture. A performers juggle is much like the speakers. Then what of the spectators? In the dark with one ball? To my eyes, a person dancing is the news, hot off the press. When a dancer pops into view, what do I look at? Light allowing, I look at what he looks like. I am curious about the appearance of human beings. Then I look for his eyes. Im curious what hes thinking, where he thinks he is, where he thinks hes going. Even at a distance, I read a lot from the eyes of a dancer. I see their aliveness. And they point my attention. A dialogue begins between my reading of the dancers intention and my own. Editing on the fly to make meaning from whats before me, I am also looking through my taste. 1

I wonder what people like to watch. I love to watch people sing. The way the face moves to tune the sound. The eyes look out, then in, then out, then somewhere I-dont-know-where. I can see the feedback looping from throat to ear to throat and back and forth. Sometimes the face seems to turn inside out. Sometimes it floats on a still pool of vibration, small shapings of lips, a glimpse of tongue. I see the sound shape the singerthe ear tuning the body as the body tunes the sound. When I watch this tuning, I see what I want from dancing. How is tuning an analogue for dancing and seeing dancing? First, it is physical tuning is an action. It moves my body, my senses, and my attention. Its also sensual I can feel it happening in my body. Its relationalits the way I connect with things. And its compositionalit puts things in order. Granted, theres more to dancing than this, as theres more to singing. Yet I was moved to translate the mechanics of tuning into a dance practice because I was curious, and because I could. This has illuminated many things, leaving the mystery of human expression intact. The body is a tuning instrument composed of finely differentiated antennae. These are our senses, and they measure change. Soon after birth, we learn to focus our senses on what we need to survive. Culture adds a layer of instruction for constructing the perceptual filters it expects well need to make sense of the world. Ive been startled by the wide open gaze of small children before theyve learned to compose the small muscles around the eyes, the rhythm of look and look away, the proper distance between their face and mine. Our sensing behaviors are edited from a genetic palettehow our eyes detect light from dark, our ears locate the source of sound, our bodies move to explore by touch, our nose positions itself to smelland we move to satisfy our curiosity about the world. Throughout our lives we draw from this pallette to compose a repertoire of responses to constantly shifting internal and external environments. These patterns underly our choices and shape our opinions and appetite for movement. They give body to our imagination. Ive long been enchanted with dancing. Not just the broad gestures, the painting in space, or the visualized music. But the details of an extruded inner life. When I appeared in the dance scene in New York in 1971, I had already shifted from years of crafting choreography to crafting improvisational performance. I came there to join Daniel Nagrins improvisation company, The Workgroup, and I brought with me my imagination and the movement patterns of my training. As for my own work, the prospect of creating frames to make my peculiar movement forays meaningful on the NY stage was daunting. Although the dancers of that time were temporarily cut loosesweeping the movements of daily life, natural movement behaviors, and athleticism onto stages and proposing new frames for looking at danceI yearned to see something else. Something underneath the dancers interaction with each other and the architecture of the space, something of the dancers interaction with herselfthe internal dialogue that shapes the surface. I noted jealously that the audience for animated film, where the human figure (and space itself) are mercilessly morphed, expected to have their imaginations poked and to 2

read between the lines. Feeling that boundless physical mutability was dances natural territory, I wanted dancers on stages to claim that spaceto articulate the once-magical dialogue with the physical world our culture carves us out of then bids us forget. Consumed with the desire to reveal this in my own dancing, I felt the filters of my training clouding my vision. Not knowing what else to do, at 24 years old I stopped dancing. By chance, I picked up a portable video camera and over a four-year immersion I found my way back to dancing, through my eyes. Perhaps because the body is simultaneously the medium and the product of dance performance, I slip from one side of the mirror to the other, back and forth, from considering seeing it to considering doing it or feeling it. Shooting and editing video placed me on both sides of the mirror at once. By making me a spectator to my own seeing, video was a catalyst for inverting the inner dance of seeing into the space. Eventually it became a model for exploring with others how we make meaning out of dance, from inside and out. Though we use our eyes differently while dancing than while learning or watching dance, they play a central role in each. While dancing, the eyes, whether open or closed, function to balance the bodys movementgood reason for their design of extreme mobility. When open, they are our first defense against the futurethe quickest sense to discern obstacles in our path. While observing, the eyes are the window to our kinesthetic sensethey take the dance in. Dance, not incidentally, is a visual tradition. We learn it, for the most part, by looking and imitating. For dancers, it is both a blessing and a curse that we are genetically wired to imitate the movements we see from the moment we are born. The blessing is a world full of free performances. A toddler with a paintbrush, people in a crowded subway car, starlings exploding off a treeno lack of models to observe and embody. The curse is that this reflex is hard to control. We are as helpless not to duplicate the dance models on our stages and classrooms as we are to avoid picking up mannerisms from people we know. Yet there are mysteries in this mechanism. Why does one child embody the limp of her father and her brother the perpetual smile of his mother? Somehow we choose. Ive been surprised by my own choices. Working with video showed me that mirroring the content of what I saw was only part of the story. It became apparent that minute movements within the mechanism of the eye exerted profound influence on the movement patterning of my body. In the 70s, video-editing technology was more physically interactive than now. For some years, planted in front of two video screens, sitting almost preternaturally still except for button-pressing fingers and ping-ponging eyes, I made split-second insert edits of single phrases of movement, patching and folding bits of the phrases into themselves. Over time, a quality of seamless but abrupt transitions, like jump-cuts in film, infused my dancing. Though not unwelcome, this learning from visual repatterning and its application to my dancing were unintentional on my part. Its important what we feed our eyes. In other cases, the repatterning was not intentional, but my application was: I had become intrigued with the idea of the moment before action during many years of videotaping movement educator Bonnie Bainbridge Cohens work with braininjured infants. At that time she called it pre-motor planning. With the lens-cup fixed to my eye, my body filled with the image of a babys face, very close. When Bonnie offered 3

him a toy, I could see minute shifts of attention in the focussing of his eyes and, I thought, in the tone of his skin. It seemed I entered his nervous system, behind his eyes, or his entered mine. I could see his desire when, with Bonnies helpful touch, he marshalled his nervous system to reach for the toy, and I saw his eyes come into focus before he reached. Somehow, years of observing this pre-motor planning in the eyes of the babies gave me access to my own. The first time I reversed my movement, it came unbidden while dancing. It was a reaction to recognizing that an action Id just made was a habitual pattern irrelevant to my current circumstance. Suddenly I found myself reversing the action as if I could take it back, undo it. Then, as soon as I realized Id begun to reverse, I was helpless to keep from reversing back again, caught in an existential groove. However funny this felt, it clued me in to the fact that my body was recognizing its behavior a mere split second after an action began. If I could roll back my awareness just another split second, I might recognize the moment of organization before the action blurted. So I reached to feel this moment behind my eyes, as I had perceived it in the babies. I made a practice for myself to redirect the shaping or intention of an action before it appeared, the instant I felt it become organized in my body. The result was as surprising as falling down a rabbit hole. This became a personal technique for provoking new movement patterns and a useful strategy for repositioning my imagination. Video combines two powerful learning tools: a mechanical eye to dissect the moving parts of lookingfocussing, panning, tracking, zoomingand instant playback to show the cause and consequences of your actions. It set me up to explore how the body composes itself: first to focus the senses, then to orchestrate its movement around its imagination and desire for meaning. It was a small step to translate my learning experiences with the camera into working with my senses in the environment, and I did this along the way, integrating them into my daily life, teaching, and dancing with others. In the beginning, I had nothing to guide me but my body and the tool itself. Placing the camera over my eye magnified the sensations of looking and the movements my body made to support my seeing. The physical disorientation was as extreme as learning to drive a car. I watched my body tune its shape to the handheld camera like a babys hand is shaped by the cup. It took new instructions for movement and stillness from its dialogue with my desire to see. Satisfying my eyes involved my whole body and all of my experience. To support my new eye, my body assumed stillnesses it hadnt experienced before. Though the viewfinder was barely three inches from my eye, I could feel my focus anchor me in the actual space beyond it, while what I was looking at funnelled deeply into my body, seeming literally to hold it up. I entered a dialogue between my attention and my physicality. My interest in what I was looking at either held them in counterbalance or swept me off my feet. In the act of shooting, every movement I made altered the movement I was looking at. When I turned my head, the edge of the frame seemed to push, follow, pull, or lead my subject through space. Against a textureless background, tracking a jump in the direction of the jump erased its movement through space. My own speed could overwhelm the speed of the subject. The familiar principle that the act of observing changes the observed was evident and the inverse was as palpablewhat I observed 4

changed me. Most compelling, I came to see, was that how I observed changed both me and what I was looking at. Which was the figure, which the ground? When my eye explored something still, the movement of my seeing was the figure. When both my framing and the subject were moving, however, it shifted back and forth. This was most interesting. While dancing, figure/ground translated to mover/environment or moving/being moved. Which was which was determined by how I directed my sensing. In stillness or movement, when I thought I was touching a wall, I was the figure. When I perceived the wall touching me, I became the ground. My body became the environment of the space. I felt my movement reorganize around these perceptual shifts and change quality, building new inner templates for my dancing. Looking through the camera, what was leading me? Sometimes I followed my eyes appetite. This experience was the most sensual, as my eye tracked the seductive edges of light and dark, unconcerned with naming, playing with rhythm and pattern. Sometimes the content within the frame captured my curiosity and I would organize the movement of my looking to make sense of it. Intermittently, my bodys needs became the director, when Id sneeze or abandon looking to relieve a cramp in my foot. Sometimes my eye followed my ears, or my attention wandered to recuperate from the ferocity of my focus. The leadership shifted constantly from sense to sense, from what was before me to what was inside me, from sensing to making sense. This phasing of attention was equally evident while dancing and observing with bare eyes. Often I retired the camera. I observed my eyes activity while eating, laughing, thinking, walking through familiar fields, down foreign city streets, dancing, and watching anything. Noting their patterns, I played with altering them. On entering a crowded room, I observed my eyes instantly seek out the empty spaces, safe paths to navigate through, a pattern I forged when very young. When I redirected them to focus on people first, the muscle shift was tiny, but my future in the room was profoundly changed. Left to their own devices, as they are in Western dance, the eyes move automatically to counterbalance the movement of the body. When I inverted that relationship by redirecting my eyes in the midst of dancing, I was astonished by the power of two small balls of fluid, moved by twelve small muscles, to draw my 110 pounds through space. I looked at micromovement patterns, like the composition of my eyes movement and the posture of my body while walking backwards. Sustaining that organization while walking forward did more than provoke funny walks. It made a creature out of me, showing that how we tune our senses is at the root of character, and transformation is easily accessible through recomposing the eyes. Playback made apparent that every movement of the camera was a choice, conscious or not, whether from the physiological desire or habits of my senses, my need to make meaning of what was before me, or from my bodys circumstance. When I viewed a tape right after shooting, I could remember what caused the shifting of my attention in and out of my body and see the consequences. I came to recognize distinct qualities arising from each of these organizing principles, and noted my preferences. Sometimes I saw things on playback I hadnt noticed while shooting, but on second view had clearly guided me. Evidently, my movement was shaped by reactions to 5

signals from the space that were invisible to me. This cast a light of doubt on the idea of spontaneous movement impulse. And changed my perception of space while dancing: I was swimming in signals. Operating with open eyes had kept me at a distance from my environment. To bring the space closer, I needed only to close them. New instructions for navigating through space arose from touch and hearing and reinformed my dancing with eyes open. To read space this way imprinted it on my body, made an impressionist of me. And the inversemy movement held a mirror to the space, making its hidden life visible. In watching dance, as in watching anything, an image is built from the input of many senses and each measures time in its own way. With eyes closed, it takes a long time to learn a movement from someone. The imagination inserts itself into the flow of time. Relying on touch and hearing, odd physical predicaments arise, calling up memories of interactions with the animate and inanimate world as I flip through the whole of my experience to make sense out of whats in my hands. Sometimes what I remembered savoring while shooting was not visible on playback, or barely so. The time it takes to see is a factor. Time passes differently in a small frame. I recall my irritation during live performance when complex movement streams by faster than I can read it. My senses reach for a richer involvement, perhaps to reading the negative space or the sound; or they take leave of the theater for my thoughts. The hierarchy of the senses is another factor. When there was music around me while shooting, I saw on playback how my eye entrained to it, either blinding or drawing me to the details of the movement before me. Video is a time machine. A recording facilitates memory and mimics its imperfections. The idea that a recording is fixed has been of little use to me. I see something different each time I watch. Whats more, the recorder puts time in your hands. An event on tape has plasticity. You can make it go backward and forward again. You can go faster, condensing form. Or slower, stretching the tissues of content. You can leap randomly from one moment to another. Begin anywhere, end anywhere. Within the body, these operations gain complexity. Moving with or without a camera, when I ask my body to reverse its journey as far as it can remember, mnemonics arise spontaneously, in no particular order, from many sourcesfrom my physical organization, my relation to the space, my sensations, or my thoughts along the way. As I tune my attention into the recent past, I travel through time in two directions at once, following my body to where Ive been while meeting myself where I am. This is not so much a test of memory as a question of awareness. Where have I been? What did I taste there? When someone observes my efforts or I watch theirs, we can compare our memories. Ever curious to know how dancers look at a dance, I ask them to assume the role of the video recorder with their bodies. We watch a dance, then a group of us, all at the same time, immediately show what we have perceived to the performer(s). To accomplish this playback faithfully, we access all our physical skills and all our experience. What each watcher has found notable in the dance is placed before us. Some have been drawn to the design in space, some to the relationship to the architecture, some to the psychology, some to the quality of movement, some to the action, some to what they imagined while watchingwhat they wished to have seen. What is pictured is a collective perception of the dance, a dance of opinions. 6

Watching these second-generation dances is like watching the sky. We invariably take note of peculiar manifestations and the broad form over time. Points of consensus among us are striking. Yet there are no conclusions here. This exercise of perception leaves the question What do we see in a dance? open. Its a seed that puts vision on the line and in the field of play.

A version of this essay was first published in French translation in Vu du Corps: Lisa Nelson, Mouvement et Perception, Nouvelles de Danse #48-49, Brussels, Belgium, 2001. First published in English in Contact Quarterly Vol 29#1, S/F 04. To contact the author: Lisa Nelson, P.O. Box 22, E. Charleston, VT 05833; poof@together.net.

Ante tus ojos de Lisa Nelson Semillas de una prctica de danza Pienso en los ojos. Tantas partes mviles! Pienso en ver. Hay mucho ms ah que encontrarse con los ojos. Pienso en la visin y el movimiento. Uno le da empuje al otro! El dilogo llega a la mente. As es cmo experimento su boda. Y cmo experimento mi danza: en mi cuerpo y en sociedad con la gente, las cosas y el espacio. Ahora llega la supervivencia. Encontrar caminos para continuar danzando a travs de los aos ha sido tan bsico como eso. Y estoy en deuda, por la inspiracin inicial en mi trabajo con la visin, el video y la danza, a la pregunta planteada por Steve Paxton cuando l (cito) seal el Contact Improvisation en 1972. Pregunt: Qu hace un cuerpo para sobrevivir? En mitad de un dilema sobre si abandonar o continuar en el campo de la danza, una pregunta se alzaba: Qu es lo que vemos en una danza? Para llegar al fondo del asunto, me encontr a m misma desarmando ambas instancias: la composicin de mi movimiento y la composicin de mi vista. El siguiente escrito remarca algunas cuestiones de este viaje. Somos expertos leyendo el movimiento. Dependemos de la lectura de los detalles para nuestra supervivencia. El movimiento de una ceja alzndose, incrustado en un tumulto de diminutos desplazamientos y detenciones, significa algo para nosotros. Incluso leemos las acciones antes de que aparezcan. Con un atisbo imperceptible, podemos percibir que alguien a quien no queremos ver est a punto de girar la cara hacia nosotros. Antes de saberlo, ya hemos compuesto nuestro cuerpo para hacerlo invisible, o compuesto nuestros ojos para que estn en otra parte, y tener la posibilidad de ser pasados por alto. Estamos todo el tiempo recomponiendo nuestro cuerpo y nuestra atencin, en respuesta al comportamiento, a las cosas conocidas y desconocidas. Esta danza interna es la ms bsica improvisacin: leer y responder a la escritura[1] del comportamiento. Es nuestro cuerpo en dilogo con nuestra experiencia. Con esta fluidez natural, el cambio de la lectura de los movimientos a la lectura de la danza podra parecer simple. Evidentemente, para muchas personas, algo ms interviene, algunas otras expectativas entran en juego. La comunicacin, quizs Qu es lo que aportamos cuando lo hacemos? Esto me recuerda el movimiento de los ojos de la gente durante las conversaciones.

Con esta danza idiosincrsica y parpadeante, nos mostramos unos a otros nuestra atencin e intencin. El oyente hace un malabar con dos pelotas: componer su cuerpo para escuchar y para mostrarse escuchando al mismo tiempo. Mientras el hablante hace un malabar con cuatro: componer su cuerpo para pensar, para conducir su pensamiento a la lengua, para ver y para ser visto. Este es un truco de negociacin entre el propsito de nuestros sentidos, nuestras habilidades fsicas y las reglas de la cultura. El malabar de un performer es mucho ms parecido al de un hablante. Entonces, qu hay del espectador, en la oscuridad y con una sola pelota? Ante mis ojos, una persona bailando es la noticia, que sale caliente de la prensa. Cuando un bailarn salta ante la vista qu es lo que veo? La luz se da lugar. Yo miro cmo se ve. Siento curiosidad por la apariencia del ser humano. Entonces busco sus ojos. Siento curiosidad por lo que est pensando, dnde cree que est, adnde cree que va. Incluso a la distancia, puedo leer un montn en los ojos de un bailarn. Veo su vivacidad. Y eso llama mi atencin. Un dilogo comienza entre mi lectura de su intencin como bailarn y yo misma. Editando al vuelo para generar un sentido de lo que est ante m, estoy tambin revisando mi propio gusto. Me pregunto que le gusta mirar a la gente. Yo adoro mirar gente cantando. El modo en que la cara se mueve para sintonizar la msica. Los ojos miran hacia afuera, luego hacia adentro, luego a un lugar quien sabe dnde. Puedo ver el bucle de la realimentacin entre la garganta y el odo y la garganta, ida y vuelta. A veces la cara parece volverse para adentro. A veces flota en un estanque quieto de vibraciones, pequeas formaciones de los labios, un atisbo de la lengua. Veo el sonido dando forma al cantante: el odo sintoniza al cuerpo tanto como el cuerpo al odo. Cuando observo esta sintona, puedo ver lo que quiero de la danza. Cmo es sintonizar una analoga para el danzar y el mirar danza? Primero, es fsico: sintonizar es una accin. Moviliza mi cuerpo, mis sentidos, mi atencin. Tambin es sensorial: puedo sentirlo ocurrir en mi cuerpo. Es relacional: es el modo en que conecto con las cosas. Y es compositivo: pone las cosas en orden. De seguro, hay ms que esto en la danza, como hay ms que esto en el canto. An as, me sent movilizada a traducir la mecnica de la sintona en la prctica de danza, porque tena curiosidad, y porque poda hacerlo. Esto ha iluminado muchas cosas, dejando intacto el misterio de la expresin humana. El cuerpo es un instrumento de sintonas compuesto por finas y diferenciadas antenas. Estas son nuestros sentidos, y los sentidos miden los cambios. Rpidamente, luego de nacer, aprendemos a enfocarlos en lo que necesitamos para sobrevivir. La cultura agrega una capa de instrucciones para construir los filtros perceptuales que se espera que tengamos para dar sentido al mundo. Yo he quedado sorprendida ante la mirada ancha y abierta de los nios pequeos, antes de que aprendan a componer los msculos alrededor de los ojos, el ritmo de la mirada y la mirada hacia afuera, la distancia apropiada entre su cara y la ma. Nuestras conductas sensoriales se editan dentro de una paleta gentica -cmo los ojos detectan luz en la oscuridad, los odos localizan el origen de un sonido, los cuerpos se mueven para explorar desde el toque, la nariz se posiciona sola para oler- y nos movemos para satisfacer nuestra curiosidad ante el mundo. A lo largo de nuestras vidas, dibujamos con esta paleta, componiendo un repertorio de respuestas, para los constantemente cambiantes medios interno y externo. Estos patrones subyacen a nuestras elecciones y dan forma a nuestras opiniones y apetito de movimiento. Dan cuerpo a nuestra imaginacin. Estuve largamente encantada con la danza. No tanto con los amplios gestos, la pintura del espacio, la visualizacin de la msica. Sino con los detalles de una vida interna extrudida[2]. Cuando aparec en la escena de la danza en el New York de 1971, haba ya estado cambiando durante aos del oficio de la coreografa, al oficio de la performance de improvisacin. Fui all a unirme a la compaa de improvisacin de Daniel Nagrin, The Workgroup, y llev conmigo mi imaginacin y los patrones de movimiento de mi entrenamiento. En cuanto a mi propio trabajo, la perspectiva de crear marcos para hacer que las incursiones en mi peculiar movimiento tuvieran sentido dentro de la escena newyorkina, fue decepcionante. Aunque los bailarines de

aquel momento estaban eventualmente ponindose distancia -amplindose hacia los movimientos de la vida cotidiana, las conductas de movimiento natural y el atletismo en los escenarios, y proponiendo nuevos marcos en los que investigar la danza- yo anhelaba ver algo ms. Algo debajo de la interaccin de los bailarines unos con otros, y la arquitectura del espacio. Algo de la interaccin de los bailarines consigo mismos: el dilogo interno que forma la superficie. Not con celos que, el pblico de films de animacin, donde la figura humana (y el espacio mismo) estn despiadadamente transformados[3], tena por expectativa mantener su imaginacin brotada y leer entre lneas. Sintiendo que esa infinita mutabilidad fsica era el territorio natural de la danza, quise bailarines en el escenario que reclamaran ese espacio: para articular el mgico dilogo con el mundo fsico, nuestra cultura nos forja en ese mundo, para luego pugnar por su olvido . Consumida por el deseo de revelar todo esto en mi propia danza, sent que los filtros de mi entrenamiento me nublaban la vista. Sin saber ms qu hacer, a los 24 aos dej de bailar. Por casualidad, me hice de mi video cmara, y en una inmersin de cuatro aos encontr mi camino de vuelta a la danza, a travs de mis ojos. Quiz porque el cuerpo es a la vez el medio y el producto de una performance de danza, resbal de un lado del espejo hacia el otro, de ida y vuelta: de considerar ver, a considerar hacer o sentir. Filmando y editando videos me ubiqu a los dos lados del espejo al mismo tiempo. Al convertirme en la espectadora de mi mirada, el video sirvi de catalizador para invertir la propia danza de mirar en el espacio. Con el tiempo, se transform en un modelo de exploracin conjunta, de cmo creamos significado fuera de la danza, desde adentro hacia afuera. Si bien usamos de modo diferente los ojos cuando bailamos que cuando aprendemos u observamos danza, ellos juegan un papel central en cada accin. Mientras bailamos, los ojos, ya sea abiertos o cerrados, funcionan para equilibrar el movimiento del cuerpo: una buena razn para su diseo de extrema movilidad. Abiertos, son nuestra primera defensa contra el futuro: el sentido ms veloz a la hora de discernir obstculos en el camino. Mientras observamos, los ojos son las ventanas a nuestro sentido de sinestesia: ellos alojan la danza. No accidentalmente la danza pertenece a una tradicin visual. La aprendemos, en su mayor parte, a travs de la observacin y la imitacin. Para los bailarines, es al mismo tiempo una bendicin y una desgracia que estemos genticamente sujetos a imitar los movimientos que vemos desde el momento mismo del nacimiento. La bendicin es un mundo lleno de performances libres. Un niito con un pincel, gente en un subte repleto, estorninos explotando desde un rbol: no faltan modelos que observar y encarnar[4]. La maldicin es que este reflejo es difcil de controlar. Somos incapaces, no de duplicar los modelos de danza en el escenario o el saln de clases, sino de evitar que se nos peguen los manierismos de las personas que conocemos. Hay an misterios en este mecanismo. Por qu un nio encarna [5] el tranco del padre y su hermano la sonrisa perpetua de la madre? De alguna manera elegimos. Yo he quedado sorprendida de mis propias elecciones. El trabajo con video me mostr que, reflejar el contenido de lo que vea, era slo parte de la historia. Se volvi obvio que diminutos movimientos dentro del mecanismo del ojo ejercan una profunda influencia en los patrones de movimiento de mi cuerpo. En los 70, la tecnologa de edicin era mucho ms fsica e interactiva que ahora. Durante algunos aos, plantada frente a dos pantallas de video, sentada casi preternaturalmente quieta, excepto por mis dedos aprieta-botones y mis ojos de ping pong, hice con injertos de fragmentos de segundo, ediciones de frases simples de movimientos, conectando y plegando pedazos de frases dentro de s mismas. Con el tiempo, una calidad de transiciones abruptas y sin costuras, como saltos de montaje[6], influy en mi danza. Si bien no lo rechazaba, este aprendizaje del reamoldamiento visual, y su aplicacin en mi danza, no era intencional de mi parte. Es importante aquello con lo que alimentamos los ojos. En otros casos, el reamoldamiento no era intencional, pero mi aplicacin s: me haba llenado de intriga la idea del momento anterior a la accin, durante mis aos de trabajo filmando videos para la investigacin de la educadora Bonnie Brainbridge Cohen , con nios con lesiones cerebrales. En aquel momento ella lo llamaba planeamiento premotor. Con la lente pegada al ojo, mi cuerpo se llenaba de la

imagen del rostro de un beb, muy cerca. Cuando Bonnie le ofreca un juguete, poda ver diminutos cambios de atencin en el foco de sus ojos y, crea yo, en el tono de su piel. Pareca que haba entrado a su sistema nervioso por detrs de sus ojos, o l haba entrado al mo. Poda ver su deseo cuando, con la ayuda del toque de Bonnie, el niito armaba su sistema nervioso para alcanzar el juguete, y yo vea cmo enfocaba los ojos, justo antes de alcanzarlo. De alguna manera, aos de observacin de este movimiento premotor en los ojos de los bebs, me dieron acceso a observar el mo. La primera vez que revert mi movimiento, lo hice inesperadamente mientras bailaba. Fue una reaccin al reconocer que una accin que acababa de hacer, perteneca a un patrn habitual, irrelevante para esa circunstancia actual. De repente, me encontr revirtiendo la accin como si pudiera volver para atrs, deshacerla. Entonces, tan pronto como me di cuenta de que haba comenzado a revertirla, fui incapaz de reprimir el revertirla otra vez, atrapada en una ranura existencial. Por ms divertido que se sintiera, esto me dio la clave para entender el hecho de que mi cuerpo estaba reconociendo su propia conducta un msero fragmento de segundo despus de que la accin comenzara. Si yo poda remontar mi conciencia otro fragmento de segundo, entonces podra reconocer el momento justo de organizacin de la accin, antes de que la accin se desatara. Fue as como llegu a sentir ese instante detrs de mis ojos, tal como lo haba percibido en los bebs. Cre entonces una prctica para m misma, que redireccionara la formacin o la intencin de una accin, antes de que apareciera, en el instante en que comenzaba a organizarse en mi cuerpo. El resultado fue tan sorprendente como caer en el pozo del conejo. Esta prctica se volvi una tcnica personal para provocar nuevos patrones de movimiento y una til estrategia reposicionar mi imaginacin. El video combina dos poderosas herramientas de aprendizaje: un ojo mecnico para diseccionar las partes mviles de la mirada el enfoque, el paneo, los zoom- y el la reproduccin inmediata para mostrar las causas y las consecuencias de tus acciones. Esto me lleva a explorar cmo el cuerpo se compone a s mismo: primero focalizando en los sentidos, luego, orquestando su movimiento alrededor de la imaginacin y el deseo de significado. Este fue un pequeo paso para traducir el aprendizaje en mi experiencia con la cmara a mi trabajo con los sentidos en el entorno, y lo hice a lo largo del camino, integrndoles a mi vida cotidiana, enseando y bailando con otros. Al principio, no haba nada que me guiara, ms que mi cuerpo y las herramientas mismas. Ubicando la cmara sobre mis ojos, magnificaba las sensaciones de la mirada y los movimientos de mi cuerpo creados para dar soporte a la vista. La desorientacin fsica era tan extrema como cuando aprendemos a manejar un auto. Poda observar mi cuerpo sintonizando su forma a la cmara de mano como la mano de un beb se forma alrededor de un vaso. Registr nuevas instrucciones de movimiento y quietud, del dilogo con mi deseo de ver. Satisfacer mis ojos involucraba todo mi cuerpo y mi experiencia. Para dar soporte a mi nuevo ojo, mi cuerpo asuma una quietud que nunca antes haba experimentado. Traduccin Mara Cecilia Perna para uso interno del Taller de Impro en danza y danza teatro.

[1] Script, es primero escritura o escrito, pero tambin, claramente guin, el utilizado en cine, video o televisin. [2] Del verbo extrudir: dar forma a una masa plstica, metlica, etc. hacindola pasar por una abertura especialmente dispuesta a tal fin. Extruded en el original [3] La palabra en el original es morphed y es una palabra tcnica, sin traduccin al espaol, que remite a un procedimiento de FX en la que dos imgenes distintas se

10

montan para dar cuenta de la transformacin de un objeto en otro. La transformacin de un hombre en lobo sera un caso paradigmtico en el que se puede utilizar el morphing. [4] En ingls embody, ms que encarnar, literalmente encuerpar hacer entrar en el cuerpo. [5] Idem 4. [6] El trmino tcnico en ingls es jump-cut.

11