Rudi Laermans: The Name Contemporary Dance

Image credit: Rudi LaermansImage credit: Rudi Laermans

I love that there is a talk about what it is that is happening in the festival. We are given a framework for watching, tools for watching and then we are let loose and we watch with these things at the forefront of our minds. A good way to begin.

In answer to a question from the audience Laermans said, “I need another hour at least in which to delineate the frame in which we could have this conversation” (he was asked something about dance politics). This was great. So much of the time communication is at cross-purposes and it is so important to attempt to establish a clarity or commonality before it is possible to discuss anything. (I wonder, does a shared understanding lead to a shared opinion? I think about the contemporary dance canon, the history we are taught which begins to turn into myth and the potential power held by someone in a role like Laermans’.) There was an example of this misunderstanding in the talk, someone asked something about Laermans’ thoughts on Live Art (or live art) and he spoke with the understanding of live art as things like pop concerts. I remembered that in different places these terms mean very different things. A feeling of frustration. If we are continually re-defining these terms or making new names for genres of performance that are not global (Western, whatever, global within the local dance world perhaps…) it becomes very difficult to talk about things without continually explaining what we mean when we say ‘Live Art’ and this is not the issue of interest but spirals back in on itself.

I enjoy talks, this one was too short. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I checked out the audience, spent some time thinking about PowerPoint. Laermans had very particular taste in PowerPoint presentation layout that surprised me.
He spoke about the inevitability of becoming a representation on stage. Right now, I am wondering about becoming a representation of myself here, through this disembodied language. He said the dance is what happens in-between. He said the contemporary can be defined by the provocation of the question “Is this dance?” in the happening of the thing. Dancing, contemporary dance, then feels always at a distance in order to be of the now. I like this, if it is familiar it is of the past, if I recognise it then I knew it before. I would like to go to shows and extend my hand and say “so nice to meet you” and have the watching bridge this distance. I like that.