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Notes on Dancing, Decomposition and Prophecy by SERAFINE1369

Photo Credit: Katarzyna Perlak 

SERAFINE1369 is an artist, dancer, writer and body-focused researcher working with dancing as a philosophical undertaking, a political project with ethical psycho-spiritual ramifications for being-in-the-world; dancing as intimate technology. Here, they write for Run Riot about Dancing, Decomposition and Prophecy ahead of their new show IV at The Yard, from 25-28 April.

Are we obsessed with fungi and mycelial networks because decomposition is what the times call for?

Lying in my garden, in the miraculous heat of the spring of 2020, sun, panic, death and contagion out front, but bliss and that strange obliteration yet absolute presence that the sun’s heat brings out back. I thought - or more I felt - a lot about what the hell I’d been doing with my life. Processing and clearing and having some kind of juddery reboot. My body trying to grab on to an opportunity to recover whilst the world peeled off its flimsy mask and showed its true face full of lies, opportunism, surveillance and dysfunction, amidst a landscape of fear, division, mental health crises, call outs, cancellations, death, grief, fires, floods and fucking zoom. 

I noticed many people reading ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ - my neighbour would talk about it, and her healing journey, loudly in the garden beside me as I tried to meditate. Many of us were looking for guidance in a moment where all sources were fallible, all systems dysfunctional and you couldn't even rely on touching someone to forget the mess we were in.

It felt as though the pandemic alerted people to the fact of their embodied situation in such a way that these bodies, our bodies, could no longer be ignored. That it isn't common understanding that our bodies carry and are shaped by our traumas, told me something about the urgency around being more explicit when I write about and speak about dancing. There is so much that dancing has to teach that is so available, accessible, and I would say, vital.

I often think about art aesthetics as our individual technologies for survival, emerging through coping mechanisms. Making work is part of how I learn, how I work to balance myself, to practice and grow awareness. Dancing is navigating this tricky place where you expose yourself to other people’s judgements and fantasies about you, but to do it well, you have to surrender, you have to work to release all your cringe, all your flinching, all your shame and self-hatred. A friend made a work that has the title 'Can you move towards yourself without flinching?' and I often think about this question in relation to dancing. There is so much to feel, and all feeling is the result of relationship. We hold multitudes, many tiny creatures and encounters combine to create the eco-systems of our bodies. 

I’m currently working with three other performers to create IV. We work on practices of sensing, opening, and tuning to the things that are already here, invisible, in-between the structures and systems of time, the binaries of self and other. We work with stillness as a container that might enable us to frame the resonance of an encounter and figure out the different meaning(s) we find there. 

Photo Credit: Amy Gwatkin

I think about the process and practice of live decision-making in improvised performance as an oracular practice, personal, prophetic meaning can be interpreted in the playing of the cards of the score. Together, we, as performers, enter into a kind of mediumship that becomes manifest in the tensions between our decisions and the unfolding of time. The audience are the card readers. We work to dissolve the idea that the performance has a specific location within the body of the performer, around the body of the performer, in the space between performer and the other performers, in the space between the performers and the room, in the space between performers and audience, in the body of the spectator, in the imagination of the spectator.

With IV, the overall shape of the work set - an architectural proposition - but we don't know what happens inside that space until it's happening. We think through relation and understand through sensing atmosphere and body weathers and the clock, announcing each minute. We work to be present enough to feel and to be able to stand ourselves enough to feel others, to feel the space, to be there with whatever comes.

At the moment, I'm thinking about choreography as the skilful manoeuvring of invisible things. I am thinking about heart frequencies and how these vibrations extend beyond our bodies into shared space, about the intimacy of just being in proximity. Nothing ever really goes away, and everything is a continuation of something. We are in this constant forming and re-forming, creating and decomposing. I describe my choreographies as ‘decompositions’ because they want to be studies of this state of contracting and expanding. Which is essentially breath, life, connection, relation…trying to rethink loss, the presence in absence, the haunting.  I wonder if apocalypse is what happens when things can no longer decompose to become something new.

IV from SERAFINE1369 is at The Yard from 25-28 April as part of NOW Festival 2023. To find out more, head here. 

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