INSECT COUNTRY F: STRUCTURED IMPROVISATION WITH DANCE AND POETRY
One common approach to joining poets and performers on stage is to have one party (the poet) recite previously written poetry, while the other party (the performer) improvises alongside. This strikes me as less generative than a true collaboration. Thus a central aim for this piece was to create a meaningful improvisation between poetry and dance, text and movement. The kind of dance was contact improvisation. The kind of poetry was not so much of the performative type, but poetry as words written down (or issued forth) by a poet. Setting aside issues of success or failure, my intention was to explore boundaries not only between two relatively incompatible genres (dance and poetry), but to work in the interstices of a process-oriented act (improvisational dance) and a product-driven act (writing a poem). On stage, the dancers danced and the poets (including myself) sat at a table and chair and wrote poetry on paper-or spoke into the microphone, directly addressing and questioning the dancers, or read from what we had just written down-or any combination and possibility of such, given the circumstances. The dancers responded-to the text, to the questions from the poets, and to each other. The bell marked time. The “insects” carved out structure.*
As a translator of experimental poetry, “untranslatability”-and what arises in its attempt-is something of great interest to me. This conversation, negotiation, and exchange within a seemingly non-conversational (i.e. untranslatable) context resonates with this in that the performers are constantly in negotiation with input/output via varying genres, in addition to the usual challenges of improvisation. At the same time, by bringing the act of writing poetry on stage, I questioned the boundaries around the writing, the completion of, and the presentation of a poem; around the beginning and end of a performance (the piece “ended” when all human performers left the stage, but “continued” as audience members engaged with the insects remaining on stage); and around the distinctions and connections between dance and poetry made in a simultaneous moment.
*Note: “Insect Country” is the name of an ongoing interdisciplinary investigation regarding insects and art, and was another organizing principle behind this work.