“Reaffirms the idea of dance as a healing practise”.
“Liberating and relaxing. It gets to a point where you begin to throw away your safeness, the safe moves, the self-awareness”.
“I do not need to dance as an artist. I just need to dance”.
“Bye Bye! Have a good trip!”
– “Alone, but together”.
Go on a trip is always a great experience. Especially with good company. Especially in wonderful places. Like Southern Italy. Where Maristella Martella, among other participants, invited me, and where I had two wonderful evenings exploring ancient and powerful traditional dances and rituals. On the 19th of June, an exciting journey began. Zoom windows opened and eyes, pupils, lips, hands, and feet were vibrating on the screen. This vibrating continued, even intensified on the following evening, the 20th of June. It did not even subside when Maristella stopped dancing for a few moments and sat down. The participants continued to turn round, and round and I do not think that at the end of the workshop, with Zoom closed, the windows would have closed for good and stopped vibrating.
“It is always about love, to be together”.
During Maristella Martella’s Taranta Atelier workshop, I realised that I never thought about how many ways I can sit in front of my laptop. That I can sit behind it and look upside down into the camera. Or that I can not only sit but dance. And when I dance how the others see me? I mean, all they see is what I am showing them, which fits into this little square or window here on Zoom. Of course, if I go farther from the camera, they will see my whole body moving, dancing, and enjoying the music. But what if my room is not that big? If I do not fit into that little square, if the others cannot see me properly?
Then I realised that I did not need to see the presence of the others to feel it, to know that we are dancing together, that we are listening to the music together. When I was spinning, and the others were spinning with their laptops and phones as well, I felt that the whole Earth was spinning, because we were dancing together on different continents at the same time. We went on a trip together indeed.
“Bring yourself and your heart! And perhaps a foulard!”
Together, but each of us created our own ritual. At our own pace, with our own feelings and our own foulard. In a room, in a rehearsal space, in a workshop, on a table, or the floor. So, Kerensa Dewantoro – teacher, and theatre-maker from Indonesia, whom I asked about the trip from the perspective of her own window.
Before the workshop, have you had any previous experience with Tarantella or any ancient or traditional dances and rituals of Southern Italy?
No, I did not know of it. Though I grew up with an aunt who was part of the Garabandal movement where little girls went into trance when they saw the Virgin Mary. That is what it reminded me of. Absolutely fascinating to discover and I think that I do it in my daily life. Reaffirms the idea of dance as a healing practise.
Did you have any concerns that this dance/movement workshop will take place on Zoom?
Not at all. I have done many workshops on Zoom. In a way dancing in your own home can be quite freeing compared to dancing in a real space. Though I miss it. There is something liberating about dancing in the space you usually dance in. For me, this is the space I dance and create in, and even perform in. Everything is there for me.
How did you feel before and after the workshop?
It was extremely late in Indonesia. Which is good and bad for me. It is hard as a single parent with all the goings-on of daily life to steal time, so dancing in the middle of the night was perfect, and quite liberating. Though I did not realise it was so long. Towards the end, about 12.30 am I started to feel tired.
Did you dance alone or with the others?
Well technically alone, but I did not feel alone on Zoom.
What about the real presence of the participants and the empathy created by them at a proximal movement workshop? Can such an atmosphere, some sort of unanimity, a field of action and reaction be created during an online dance workshop? What is your experience regarding this?
It is human nature to adapt. Many of the concerns theatre has had (lots of discussions in Indonesia on this regarding the change to online platforms) are irrelevant. The real theatre will come back and online will still continue. The big problem with online performance here is that people treat Zoom as a documentation tool rather than as another performer. Things change. The biggest thing missing is the touch the facilitator might have given, the smell of others in the space as they sweat, the out-of-body experience or two-body experience of being frenzied but being aware, the whispers you might make to someone because you like what you saw. But I am less judgemental of myself in an online workshop. I take what I can take for later use and practise. Sometimes in group workshops, and it is good and bad, I more judgemental, place more pressure on myself, I am aware that there are others better than me and this is truly an unhealthy mindset to be in for creating. But also, I really do want to note, that as I live in a developing country, financially the benefits of doing it online far outweigh any negatives, and the training and the inspiration still remain just as important as in real space. I am pretty certain that for the facilitator, there are a lot more doubts. People have not learnt to adjust expressions when watching the screen to give energy to the facilitator. Faces often look blank (even though they are thinking). I have been teaching on Zoom for 1.5 years, doing other workshops, and have really appreciated animated people, smilers, etc… which is why I am so animated. It is just habit.
How much were you able to focus on yourself, let go of your conscious and immerse yourself in the dancing while tiny windows were vibrating in front of you on the screen?
Like I said it was late, so noise was a factor, then I had technology issues. This was the distraction. I am very aware that when one device dies that maybe the facilitator might be worried I left and that opens up a whole lot of reasons and doubts. That was my distraction. I did not feel watched at all though I suspect that others did watch as I sometimes did too. I loved to see other people’s places, stories, and then what they come up with. It is a great pleasure for me – I am always fascinated by the life behind the artists/ performers. When I found myself too distracted or doubtful at moments, I was doing the right thing, I just turned away and got back into myself.
How did you experience Maristella’s presence and energy?
She was great. Maristella clearly has a sense that Zoom is her friend/another performer rather than a camera for documentation. She worked with it and her energy came through – whether it be hands, feet, eyes, or talking.
How did you find the dancing physically? Was it liberating, releasing, enjoyable, or a little bit difficult, maybe exhausting?
Exhausting. I love dancing, but since I had been working hard all day, at that two hours I felt tired. But at those moments I either slowed right down and could just see ether dance in my mind or took a second to watch which was a great pleasure.
And how did you find it mentally?
Liberating and relaxing. It gets to a point where you begin to throw away your safeness, the safe moves, the self-awareness.
Did you have a favourite movement?
Shaking my head and neck. That day I spent a lot of time editing and had horrible knots in my neck. I also love the rush of blood and dizziness. It is very childlike.
Do you think you will apply this move, or together with other elements of the Tarantella, in the future?
To be honest, I think I was already doing the Tarantella in my own way. I dance like crazy most days. (I am a Balinese dancer and that is not so free). I have also spent a year in lockdown developing dances and making Corona Dance Videos as a diary of my time in lockdown. I want to dance everywhere with anyone and everyone. I spent a large part of my life up until about my 30s being stuck, being afraid to move even though I have always loved dance. And it has been a slow process to free myself, to not care about the ideas of what it means to be a trained dancer, to have technique. I dance all the time; I make these corona dance videos and I am not trying to be anything. They give me pleasure, from creation to exploring, to editing. This year in lockdown has been liberating and the workshop ‘Taranta Atelier’ really has just reaffirmed what I do and the path I am on that moment. I do not need to dance as an artist. I just need to dance. And my son dances all the time too.