>Odd Encounters

>By Alice Sheppard (of AXIS)

The performances are over, but somehow the collaboration between AXIS, inkBoat, Joan and Dohee has not left my life. I still have an acute muscle memory for some of the newer moves and positions. Some movements have become expressions in my daily life. ODD has changed my understanding of performance: I am accustomed to talking about process as the way in which we make pieces. Then, there’s the actual performance. Dancing before an audience starts a new process, of development and growth within the piece. I am not used to that growth infusing my off-stage out-of-studio life.

Then again, if any piece were to resonate deeply in my body, it would have been ODD. When I saw the pictures, the terrain of bodies and ground were familiar. They were provocative realizations of a landscape I had first encountered studying Old Norse-Icelandic language and literature. It is not surprising to me that I still find myself singing excerpts of Joan and Dohee’s music; their collaboration was not an accompaniment to the movement; it was as essential an element of our performative landscape as the movement. I would listen to them, waiting, accelerating, slowing, hovering, driving until somehow, silently, we mutually recognized that we were ready to take the next step together. I feel their music rising sometimes as I stretch out a hand; I smile at myself. The performance is over, but the piece has not yet gone.

I am glad there’s something left. Many of the creative processes I have been in have required improvisation; we have improvised movement and I have come to understand it as the movement takes root in my body. This time, we often had a known concept to work from — realize bird, rock, find cloud in your movement. I would often feel that I would never succeed. I could create movement, but I was not always convinced that I could communicate. Shinichi would say that these were lifelong endeavours–processes–but I could feel the approaching date of performance. I did not know how I would actually do what I was supposed to.

As the performances drew near, I felt unready to move from “exploration” to “performance.” I had not been able to find the kind of surety that I call “rehearsal:” For a piece that started so much with the terrain of the paintings, I wanted more time to find personal ground. At the same time, though, I wanted to do this thing — to discover what else I had to learn from this complicated piece. My own learning curve was steep, but I also felt that with each performance the work revealed a different aspect of itself. There were different questions; I learned to feel OK with not having any answers. Now, several weeks later, I wish more than anything I could have been in the audience.

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About AXIS Dance Company

AXIS is one of the world’s most innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. Here you get a behind-the-scenes look into our world and stay up to date with AXIS. www.axisdance.org
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