This is Ning 王甯, a contemporary dancer and choreographer who was born, educated, grew up and now still lives in Taipei. I started learning dance when I was 4 years old and graduated from a dance university in Taiwan. I’ve identified myself as a Contact Improvisation (CI) practitioner since 2015. I am still working on it. Recently, I tried to take the philosophical thinking from CI into my current choreography practice. It is not only about dealing with the relationship between diverse human beings, but also questioning the relation from moving bodies to cameras. The “camera” I am talking about here might refer and relate to the digital, technological and even the visual culture nowadays. In Connect with South East Asia 2.0 (gender and sexuality) online and on-site residency project, my partner was Ayu, an Indonesian dance background artist. I was her facilitator and she was my dear artist. The following article I would like to share with you is the collaboration process between Ayu and me. It’s about how we work and “dancing” together through this digital format. Based on my dance background, I would love to start this journal by describing my dancing experience as a metaphor about our journey.
WALK into a SPACE
RECONNECT with the FLOOR
to INVESTIGATE, MEASURE, and NEGOTIATE the RELATION between floor and us thru SHAKING, ROLLING, or FOLDING/UNFOLDING our BODY
ACTIVATING all our PERCEPTIONS
probably after a FALL
we realize FLOOR provides SUPPORT
makes us feel SAFE
then we can start our own dance by SOLO
or DANCE with other PEOPLE
from a small TOUCH to CONTACT with our partners
LISTEN to the FLOW in between
to COMMUNICATE and NAVIGATE the direction TOGETHER
All of the above happen almost everyday when I enter a studio. This procedure is quite like a guidebook or an instruction for my arrival. Arriving here, I’m at the actual position of where I am standing. Then we dance, physically interacting with whom I meet in this room. The floor here might refer to any kind of space: a studio, rehearsal room, stage, public space, street, neighborhood, city, country, island, or even this world. A ground supports us to communicate with anyone different from ourselves and to explore any issues with diverse perspectives. Along with globalization and the rapid development of digital technology, the internet creates a virtual space allowing people to interact more infinitely. But the problem here for me is how can we get back the intimacy as usual, like physically showing up in the same studio to start a real and deep conversation? Since the global pandemic began, it has even hastened the situation. The Connect with South East Asia 2.0 (gender and sexuality) online and on-site residency project was quite under this context. How can Ayu and I, two dance background artists, find our floor through this digital format to build up the trust and discuss our research, choreography practice, personal and life experience, or probably any issue toward gender?
Having all these thoughts in my mind, I remembered it was our first meeting on zoom and I proposed to open a Google Drive file. In that space we could upload and put on anything we wanted as long as it related to this project. Ayu and I were the co-editor. All the materials on it may help us to understand each other more. Besides the four-time zoom meetings, we still had this Google Drive as a sharing space (actual and virtual) to extend and deepen our discussion. The documents up there included our zoom meeting recording that we could review anytime again and again, two of Ayu’s previous works with a similar research background to this time, her ppt files that explain the historical context about Lampung Pepadun culture, her interview sources about Cangget Night with her neighbor village, as well as lots of forms of her exploration related to this project, like photos, writings, drawings and videos. I did also respond to some of my questions or curiosities to her, such as my extended research which connected to Islam culture that I knew very little before, a Netflix series I saw before and some associated ideas that inspired by what she shared with me. In some ways, our Google Drive file had become a floor where we could share our “weights” and thoughts together. This space (Google Drive file) not only supported parts of us and let the two of us have a base to support each other, but also created a safe place to speak.
Fast forwarding to the presentation day in late June, I remembered all of the participants were asked one question about what was our challenge or difficulty in this residency? “I won’t say that was difficult, but maybe it was my unnecessary worry in the very beginning...” I responded. Since Ayu and I were paired up together, I had been a bit concerned about our similar background in dance. I was afraid that I couldn’t effectively give her a new perspective if I did not have a different disciplinary background. But this worry suddenly disappeared after our first meeting. Ayu was really sincere and generous to share all the packages about what she was facing in her context, including education, family relationship, the evolution of social structure and customs in Lampung Pepadun tribes, the influence of her religion, the Islam culture, and so on. All these aspects made me realize that we were literally different individuals. The following task I needed to do was just to listen and to keep my curiosity during observation. There must be a moment and a gap to come. Then I could give any aspect of propositions to exchange with my partners.
After almost 2 months immersing in this project, I really appreciated the chemistry between Ayu and I. Even after the whole project we didn’t meet up face to face, I still felt that we really created an intimate relationship and a strong connection through this digital format. I’m sincerely looking forward to someday we can physically meet and connect with each other very soon. The last thing I would like to share is about this journal. It’s quite like a reflection on the end of this residency. I attempt to let my writing link back to my knowledge from CI. The exchanging process itself and this article writing have all become parts of my choreography practice. I am still dancing as usual but in a different form.
* I would like to add three further readings below. All these support my thinking, not only in this residency, but also all my practice in dance and in life. The second book provides knowledge that makes me see that a “relationship” is not a solid situation, but a fluid movement in between. The third one pushes me to contextualize my position, to think, to speak, to take action, and to live.