Tracing my questions -about becoming a dancer

Being in control, technically excellent, versatile, intelligent, charismatic, creative, flexible,
communicative, beautiful. Being a great dancer.

The performer is a field within a field.

Contemporary dance performances often deals with subjects that
goes beyond the idea of the dancer as a virtuosic instrument that is
to be admired and idealized.

It has become more a norm than an exception that the performer is asked in various degrees
to produce hers/his own material, and actively take part in observing, discussing and
influencing the artistic development of the piece.

Still there are residues of old ideas of hierarchy in dance.

I want to express my belief that we shouldn’t seek to equalize the dancers/choreographer by
saying that the dancers are choreographing, but by expanding and defining the ideas about
how the contemporary dancer creates from the inside of the project.

In 2005, while in my 3rd year in PARTS,I was searching to understand more about my role as
a dancer.
Already at that time I had no desire to be a choreographer, but felt I lacked the precise
language to explain or even justify to myself and others why I felt being “just a dancer” was
more than enough.
I spent a month interviewing teachers, dancers, choreographers that were a part of my
educational environment at that time, about exactly this:
We talked about ideas like authenticity, presence, training, technique, all in all what abilities
to develop and what responsibilities one should acknowledge as an aspiring contemporary
dancer

This work resulted in a small text called “The Performer is a Spy” which was published in the
Belgian Etcetera magazine in October the same year. The ideas that merged and developed
from that text work, were the beginning of a process of expanding, and articulating the
language I use to communicate about my performing work.

I will use some of these statements from that text as starting points for this lecture.

They said:
“ But you know that there cannot be a base, right?
You are a field of constant shifting structures.
You might want there to be en hierarchy of knowledge.
But goals and truths can usually only stay in its original form
temporarily.
You need the stamina to work.”

Today I am going to talk about how I am using my language to
move.

Sometimes we talk too much, talk about unnecessary things, trying to impress, we make
excuses, defend or attack at the wrong moment, make ourselves misunderstood and
frustrated. But if we try to be precise, even about the moments we feel we are in
complete darkness, there are so many details and differentiations to profit from.

The colours of the words we use, make me aware of all the shades and nuances I both
observe and experience through moving.

They told me: “You need the stamina to work.”

I remember an experience I had in the first weeks of working with Hooman Sharifi and
Impure Company.
We were working separately on making movement material.
I realized then, when it came to focus on a singular task, I had the attentions span of about
10 minutes. Then I felt like I was done, empty. I took a break came back and tried a again;
10 minutes, blank, left the space again, cried a bit, returned: 10minutes of concentrated
work. I asked Hooman: “What do I do?!?”
He told me to stay in it. Stay in the not knowing.
I had to wait 3 days. Then came one thought: “Ah.. maybe I could try it this way..”

I try to look closely, stay alert in the darkness/allow silence, ask myself:
“What if I just do for a while? What if, I allow myself to not know, to stay in the feeling of
being lost?”
I try to pass through my boredom, it always comes at some point. Without becoming idle.
I know I will get impatient, I know I will try to find the “right” answer, and I will try to avoid
unpleasantness.
I try to accept that I might fail. I try to dare to be fragile, and find the strength, not the excuse
in being so. I try to observe every moment of a process with open eyes.

It’s not about being able to be smart all the time, but about training to not only speak when I
am sure it’s clever.
It is about starting to articulate, even just to myself, all the different stages I experience when
creating from the inside.

Sometimes it’s not even about speaking. But about attentive listening:
Where is this work right now?

Despite so many frustrations, I have realized that many things happen when I feel like I
am standing still.

I believe it is important to look beyond your ego and into the void, between yourself and the
others, that the performance will fill.
Where are we right now and how to move from this point?
Then, hopefully, we can allow the language to surface both in the physical material and in my
verbal articulations.

Dancing and thinking is the same, it might just taste different.

They told me:
“Try to go further than only trying to be good.
Try to get better at not being in control, and not only being good, but being skillful.
Go beyond the expectations of the cliché.”

Pushing and questioning the borders is a part of my work.
There is a fine line between becoming the masochistic dancer, and daring to change what you
think is your borders.
There are nuances of discomfort and there are different types of pain.

They said:
“Technical information should always be functional so that you can
learn how it works, how to help it, and make it stronger when
needed. Learn how to do it the way you do it.
You need to know how to be specific in your work, they said.
Be super precise, technical if you like, in what you do without being
limited by a style. Do as many styles as you can. “

How to train techniqually? what training is necessary?
As a part of our training we spend years on understanding how our body moves, and how to
move correctly, functionally. So sometimes the switch to working on concepts that go beyond
an idea of wrong and right, almost becomes unimaginable.
We still are often mesmerized by beautiful moving bodies.
Sometimes we confuse this with choreography.

There are many hierarchies of knowledge.
You choose what you make your body servile to.

One of the greatest things of being out of school, was to be able to choose my own
training methods.

At the same time, it puts another demand on you:
What does my body need to be able to work?
How does my body work?
How do I push it, continue to challenge and expand my skills?
Do I need to have a daily practice?
Do I need to do the same thing every day?
I believe it is favorable to be quite physically strong, have a relatively good stamina,
flexibility, coordination and an ability to concentrate for longer periods of time.
All of these elements are quite general and can all vary in their relations and importance to
each performer. But it will affect what you make and how you move.

They told me:
“Don’t be afraid to believe and dive into ideologies and
styles of working.Be a field of performing identities, not only a
single persona. Try to go further than only trying to be good. Try to
get better at not being in control.
You should look for the details and metaphors.”

A ballet class can be great, but it is not always the most effective answer.
I always found a lot of playfulness and curiosity when exploring different styles of moving.
And it can give more tools to play with if you are able to look at how the functionalities of the
body alter when passing through the different forms. Look for the details and metaphors.

A phrase I use a lot:
The same is never only the same.
By looking into the details of all my physical experiences, be it social interactions, gestures,
postures, facial expressions, different styles of dancing, moving, training etc there are
universal similarities and important differences.

If your mind is active in this way of looking, any situation can provide technical information.

“Learn how to do it the way you do it.”

When I was about 14 years old, I remember my first public jazz-dance performance: we were
dancing a number from “Grease” at the local shopping mall for the King of Norway. For this
show we had to smile all the time.
It felt very strange, and a little bit like I was lying.

How do I/do I not fake it?

When I entered the local high school dance-program, I was told that technically my levels in
dance where very low, but I was a good performer. I tried to understand what this actually
meant by retracing what I thought I had done in my dancing, so that I would be able to do it
again whenever I needed.
…This is one of my earliest memories I have of faking it.
I wanted to have full control of my own expression and the reading of it, and thus.. faking it.
We do these things all the time, and it is also from experiences like this we, for better or
worse, try to build our performing identities.
Today, I try to look at the concrete physical outcomes are from these attempts:
Ex: Standing and being “ present”: There can be a certain theatricality; stiffening of the
eyes, fixing my look, slight lift of the chin, a certain body tone. And/or: Invite being seen,
remembering to blink my eyes, noticing the distance between my feet, breathing through my
mouth or nose, going nowhere etc.

If I need to be real, how do I distract myself from the trying to be real?

Authenticity as a main goal is overrated. Authentic working is something else. I can’t make
you think I am being authentic, but it can be visible that I am working on something. And that
can at least be real.

They said:

“Don‘t only use your body (mentally and physically) only in what you are good at
– and don‘t let anybody else do it either.
You choose for what and to what you make your body servile.”

Being a dancer working for others, I am often confronted with the question of how to
negotiate my own ego. Even if I feel stupid, scared, unsure, even invisible, I doesn’t mean it is
not what the work needs. Even if I sometimes feel insulted or embarrassed, it might not be the
moment to try to excuse myself or explain my choices. Sometimes I am treated with injustice,
but sometimes not, even if I might feel so.

I really believe that being less visible on stage can also be a skill.

Versatility is overrated.
You can learn to use many different aspects of yourself, and thus be able to physicalize many
different ideas of a body. But in the end, you are still in the same body. With habits and
tendencies that can be challenged, but you will still be you.

Since 2007 I have worked with Impure Company, with more or less the same core-group of
people. What I have gained from this experience, is a certain relief from the pressure of
originality and the idea that anyone can or should making only “good” work. Despite our
hard work and efforts made to always re-question ourselves, and how and from where we
make our work, there are fundamental elements that never change. I have never been more
tired and frustrated with myself and the potentiality of my body. Working from such a fragile
and stripped down base, has opened my eyes to the nuances of work that can exist and grow
within such a “constant”.

Then again, the nice thing about doing more short-term projects with different people is:
It can feel very refreshing and enjoyable to change settings. It can be an exciting way to find
new influences and experience different sides of working and variations of involvement.
I often feel very new.
But I think is important to not be seduced by this.

When I was younger my belief in my ability to be different, was much more naive. But just
from spending more and more years in this body, I also have to learn to accept some of these
conditions in order to be able continue working.

My last year in P.A.R.T.S. the students had a workshop with Deborah Hay. I remember her
saying (slightly paraphrasing): “If I would walk into this room, as Deborah Hay, this 60-
something old lady with these beautiful young, capable bodies..I would turn at the door and
go back home.. Instead I think: What if my trillion billion cells could simultaneously perform
their dance?” (-I still find her to be a very beautiful dancer.) “

I know I am not that old, but I am still questioning:
How do I continue dancing in an aging body?
(When I was 17, nothing really hurt. Today; many more things hurt.)

What do I care about, what do I believe in?
I never enter a new working situation, expecting to have all my
desires fulfilled, and it is not necessarily my interest to only do things
I am good at. Whatever that means.

As a dancer I believe it is important to remember that we choose for what we make our body
servile to.

In the end I have to decide for what I care for, what I believe in, who I believe in.
(Even if it means to risk doing work others really dislike.)

The nice thing about working with Impure, is that it so clearly is both liked and disliked by
our audience. No matter how sincere our intentions or efforts are.
I again and again realize the banality of thinking that there can only be a singular
definition of what is “good” and “bad”.

As a performer and dancer, I don’t make work only in my name, and the working
constellations I operate from changes often. And within that, the sets of demands on the
dancer varies equally much.

It has therefore been important to feel I have a body of work that spans beyond the singular
project. That runs through all of the work I perform in and the classes I teach. I do it the way I do it.

One overarching interest I have had for many years, is trying to understand language.

Not only the “language of the body”, but letters, words, sentences we are using.

I have found that organizing my thoughts and experiences through writing and discussing
creates an anchor, which allows me to let go and be moved by all these bodies.

I am working with language as a dancer.

Sometimes people assume that becoming a choreographer is the next step after being a
dancer. I have been asked several times: “you have some time off, why don’t you make
something? Or: you’re a nice performer, why don’t you make something?”
But for me it is not the same.
When we, as dancers, start to articulate the many layers of our work, we also might inspire
people (both the public and other dance artists) to look differently at the dancing body.
All that it can be beyond the idea of the one SuperBody.
It can be about more than being seen only because you should be the best.
There is so much beauty in a body outside of the Super.
There are so many ways to work skillfully and with specificity.

I am a field that is in a field.

When we talk about the silent dancer, unable to articulate
her/himself, we mutually fooling ourselves: There is always language.
But, it isn’t always the right moment to speak.
Or moments you don’t know what to say.
But there is always language.

In the beginning of a creation, I sometimes feel like my body is a black hole for words.
Because all of me is so occupied, trying to listen and understand what landscape my body is
moving through and creating together with the others.

What changed since the text in 2005?
When graduating, I thought I had such a great toolbox to enter the world with. That I would
be a great manager of this professional package called “the performer and dancer Loan Ha”.
I thought that I could separate the personal and professional me with almost surgical accuracy.
That the shy, uncontrolled, silly, emotional sides of me could stay protected.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, trying to stay continuously in control, improving and producing
good work, have shown to be much more challenging, or even impossible, than I anticipated.

However articulate I try to be with words, my body still feels primal,
driven by emotions, instincts, and uncomplicated needs.
But as my language pass through my body, my body passes through language,
and this is the place from where I move.

Skrevet av Loan Hà, foredrag framført under Oktoberdans 2010