jump in > danceyourselfloose…
Extracts and Abstractions From a River of Conversation between Ya Na & Katara Sedai.
practice as research / danceyourselfloose / jumping into the unknown / performance archiving / ritual transformation / community (re)generation / curature of the archive / artmaking methodology / experimental practice
“The only thing we’ve done is initiate an activity around a set of almost arbitrary parameters.”
– Katara Sedai
danceyourselfloose (dyl) is a Practice as Research project initiated by Katara Sedai and Ya Na during a forest walk in Spring, 2017CE. Seeking grist for the artistic mill, we discussed how we could support one another within a creative project that could easily integrate with daily life. This became a commitment to converse virtually through dance everyday for a set period. We did not know where this jump into the unknown would lead, but felt working in dialogue could strengthen our growth towards a disciplined creative practice. The cogs are in motion, and this transcribed conversation marks the second time we paused to reflect on our project – in terms of its physical, social and intellectual imprints.
What is it?
Every day an alternating participant chooses the song for the rest of us to improvise dance whilst recording the process visually. Preview clips of these performances, as well as the dancer’s subjective reflection on his/her/their process, are posted to Instagram – our process archive. This generates a data set that might feed us creatively and intellectually into the unknown future.
What else is it?
Why do we do it?
We want to generate an archive through which to observe the refraction of one song through subjective dance interpretations on a daily basis, for 100 days. We aim to create an archive of footage from which to reflect, theorise, curate, and generate new questions, fresh insights, and the potential for professional growth – in terms of performance archiving, curatorship and performance practice.
“I love the idea of exploring new forms of communicating the findings. My question is: how can one make [the experience] relevant and digestible… to make it say something, but in a way that doesn’t close it off? And to do so in a way that invites conversation and brings insight. That’s what I’m curious about!”
– Ya Na
jump between (frames)> explore liminal space
Ya Na (YN): One of the reasons we began was to generate an archive of performance for ourselves to work with, and study, over time. You say dyl is interesting for you because it constantly foregrounds a space where you’re negotiating between the concepts of Reality and Fiction, because of the specific addition of a recording medium into the space? Can you explain what you mean?
Katara Sedai (KS): Eye refer to a personal cognitive tension of negotiating the dynamics between two conceptual asymptotes: on the one side is the “reality” of the present moment in which eye am fully immersed in dancing, and the other is an awareness of the fictive qualities of the archive we are purposefully and simultaneously creating. The archive is actually an element of fiction: it’s a function of reality; but it never encapsulates the fullness of that moment in which you exist within the state(s) of perceptual immanence which is the traditionally intended subject of the archival fragment…. understanding that everybody else only has tangential access to the experience being referenced, through whatever lens(es) you (or the curator) are choosing to provide… Eye also point towards a state of being aware of the continuum of experience that exists between the two…
YN: Are you talking about a flickering in your experience [as dancer] between deep presence and external awareness [of the camera]… and the potential this has to detract from the truth?
KS: …essentially yes, and this also then unfolds at various levels, because as an artist/the person performing that dance in the space, you have the fullest capacity to be Presented… but we function as both artists and curators in this space of dyl… so then, as a curator, you have to make certain decisions in terms of “How do you provide access to the fullest expression?” knowing that, unless you are the person performing, you actually don’t have that much access… which is partly why it’s important to make it an open platform. …it’s a curatorial decision, in a way, to allow people who wish to engage the opportunity to experience the fullness of a refraction, even though it won’t be the same refraction as anybody else’s…
YN: Okay, I’m thinking about it in that way now… for me, however, that separation [of fiction and reality] didn’t exist so starkly before: As there is no other Present other than what is, when I set up the camera to demarcate the space I’ll be improvising within, that’s the field I’m jumping into… a present which includes the screen, as well as my awareness of the screen, and the way this awareness affects the dance. Even if it’s that I end up dancing with my own image as displayed in Photobooth (software), I am not taken out of the dance; rather, I’m given something to dance with….
You were also talking about dyl as an offering of expression to an audience, and questioning to what degree truth can be conveyed or lost through this process of accessioning into the Archive and displaying from there… But people are receiving the footage in myriad ways… Maybe they’re lying in bed at night avoiding going to sleep and watching these things. In any case, they are having an intimate experience of a truth we could never know – simply in their subjective receiving of what we’ve put out. So, beyond the point of upload, the truth of the process isn’t necessarily compromised – it finds a life of its own, while the refraction continues… In a sense we are dancing with people beyond our immediate reach – with their experiences, their expectations, their dreams… And the material, by sharing it on a public platform, opens up spaces and experiences for others, in ways that we won’t ever be able to quantify… But it’s doing something…
KS: It’s dropping a stone into the water…
YN: Yes! And for me, this is where the metaphor of jumping comes in. It’s the same thing – us at an edge, unable to know where or if we will land, yet leaping anyway so that our perceived horizons might shift, making new insights possible.
jump forward> expand into the unknown
YN: Trust and Jumping are like-
KS: – two together….
YN: And saying yes to the unknown…. having belief in its potential….
KS: Also, [Practice as Research and dyl] requires from us the willingness to face whatever reality is on the other side of the leap. …once embarking on a PAR cycle, and jumping off into that unknown: at least you are not in the same place in which you started… Which is already deeply true (in relation to dyl): we’ve started this process which is beyond my capacity to understand in this present moment. And there is this having to surrender to the fact that eye don’t have to process the experience to the fullest extent of it right now: this is material that can be reflected upon for years after. It’s like being underwater in a river (-presented, affective space-), and occasionally coming up for air and reflection, seeing where you are in relation to the shore (-theory/intellectual interpretation-), before diving under the water again. …and holding the balance of those two spaces…
YN: …and not getting stuck outside the river, trying to analyse the process so much that the memory of, and desire for, the river-experience leaves you…
KS: Ja, exactly!
“can i jump too?” > yes! the water is deep enough
YN: And also, it’s beautiful to keep some of the parameters open, so that it allows for other people’s reflections as well. What I’ve been loving is how other people have been writing to say how important the dyl space is becoming for them… …there are some really sensitive, profound insights coming through… it’s beautiful!
KS: And these are from people who aren’t necessarily sharing their dancing on the platform at all- it’s completely taken in faith that they’re actually doing it. But their transformation is being reflected outwards through their messages… And it’s also affecting people who are just observing it. Because that’s often how participation started: they’d come on board by saying “I’m just loving what you’re doing all the time, please can I get involved?” and that’s very interesting.
YN: Like, “Can I jump in too?”
YN: So it’s also creating something that other people can trust. So it is like saying, as Ya Na, I am going to jump. Then turning to others and saying “Cool, it’s deep enough! Come!” … it reflects that the space is safe… that it doesn’t necessarily sting to hit the water… And this reflects what jumping can do to open up potential for others…
jump over (your past self) > grow into something new
“…it doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be consistent. There’s something really beautiful in a simple repetition of something to create a pattern, which shows change over time.”
– Ya Na
KS: …eye think the possible failure [of the current academic paradigm, is] that the training takes us to an extreme of individualism and then doesn’t do the work of connecting the individual to the collective. But that’s what’s happening now naturally anyway.
YN: In general or specifically here?
KS: In general, in terms of the way people like you and eye are choosing specifically to practice. And we’re not the only ones… By our saying “Well, this is what we’re deciding to do- you can totally play along and see where it goes”. Which is why eye feel it’s so important to keep dyl as an invitational space. But then touching base with a holding frame, is important also….
YN: For sure, and we can think of ways to do that (maintain an open-door policy). Like saying, “Hey, we’re planning to do a live intervention somewhere- anyone who is participating, who is in?” Or “We want to submit to this thing- who wants to come with?” …We can keep inviting people…
KS: … but whether they come on board or not, and to what extent, is up to them. So in actual fact, it’s just that if you pitch up for it every day, you gain a sense of agency in the space because you’re a part of it…
YN: Because it really is quite interesting… As you were talking about earlier, there are so many asymptotic poles dyl moves and threads between – like some kind of bridging medium… And in terms of inclusivity, what I have been thinking about is how it complicates this idea, or this very real experience, that we have these days: of this separation and kind of diffusion of community into some virtual sphere… More and more we’re separated from one another: we drive our little cars, plugged into our phones, plumping up or caving into our image-selves… We have this atomised existence… much less visceral, much less human… But dyl worms into this dynamic, possibly facilitating connection across the void…
KS: … growing a community into that atomised space.
YN: Ja! exactly.
ju- > trust immanence
KS: That’s true. And eye’ve also been thinking when you mentioned it complicates the space, and how it creates a bridge… But it’s creating a bridge (through ritual activity) as an infrastructure to support a jump from one space into another. So it’s turning the jump more into a leap, without the sense of falling because there is something that is building constantly under you in a sort of immanent way to catch you when you fall. Which means that you’re never really going to fall.
YN: And (with Instagram and Whatsapp) we don’t have the same constraints that reality has: we don’t have the constraints of gravity, actually, or time, space… With a hashtag you can jump across the whole world in a second!
KS: We’ve just gone quantum!
YN: …it’s like a whole different world that we’re exploring and trying to reclaim agency within, as well, because you can totally be used by your social media addiction.
KS: Absolutely. And here we are producing content for it in a very systematised way.
YN: …that’s totally meaningful and generative, for us.
KS: …and creating meaning for others as well… That’s what’s really struck me: receiving those private messages from people I didn’t even know where watching… “Thank you so much for just getting loose in public!” And you’re response is “Cool, it feels so private because I do it from my bedroom”, you know?
Collages by Ya Na.
Ya Na is a dancer teacher mover shaker and Katara Sedai is (a) performance (he)art(ist). They are both currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow them on Instagram: @danceyourselfloose, @emerge_capetown and @katara_sedai.