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Tanz-Zen Wie ein Netz wirkt the violence of repetition open doors to anywhere






lecture demonstration



The Violence Of Repetition
Diese "lecture demonstration" entstand für die Konferenz des INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE NETWORK im Oktober 2001 in London, Chisenhale Dancespace. Ich habe sie bisher nur in Englisch gegeben, deswegen existiert bislang keine deutsche Fassung. Der Text allein kann leider nur einen unvollständigen Eindruck von der Aufführung geben, die von illustrativen und kontrastierenden Aktionen begleitet wird (z.B. einer "Papier-Falz-Maschine", spezifischen Gängen und einem Bewegungszitat aus Indischem Kathak Tanz).

The Violence Of Repetition

I welcome you to our afternoon-lecture demonstration
>the violence of repetition<

It will take some time to get to the heart of the matter, to the violence of repetition. Because now we find ourselves on the opposite end of what makes repetition. This exact situation hasn’t happened before. Here we find the curiosity and promise of a beginning some skepticism, and a probably high grade of alertness, to drop the subject or leave the situation, if it doesn’t please us.

So let’s start from the opposite :
I will do an action as if it were the one and only time :
XYZ (a simple chain of actions) – was that spectacular? ... , because mostly when we speak of singularity, we expect exceptionality.

Bearing this in mind, I will execute another action one time only :
X (grand plie) – so was that exceptional?
Many of you recognized the form as a common bit of vocabulary taken from dance-training.
Do you agree in that it was less complex as the first?
Simplicity tends to be more satisfying to the person doing the simple action than to the watcher.
What I just did, was totally fine with me.

So, I give you one more for only one time: Q (simple, original) impressed?

Anyway, this one was probably somewhere between the first and the second in terms of interest – as it was not taken from a common repertory of movement – and not as ”complex” as the first one –
And to tell you the truth: I have been doing this one more than one time before. - - -

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

anyway, what happened now so far?

I built /you witnessed a small structure of cycles:
I did three different things, but introduced them with one of the common aspects about them:
that they’d be done only once. Other aspects of repetition in here were: always the same person doing it – doing it on the same spot – entering and exiting in the same way

You started to recognize the form and got used to it, maybe even comfortable with it.
So as a side-product of this introduction to our subject you got to know some of me: my voice, my way of speaking, my way of moving and a cue about the situation you’ll find yourself in for the next 25 min or so.

The newness is somewhat gone.
Now let’s move on to the theme.
x times:
* * * * * * * * * * * *
start paper folding machine
* * * *
there are no two things ever alike.
to be able to distinguish very similar things, needs a training in differentiation. People without that training will most likely not find the difference – and it won’t matter to them either.

Interest has to do with what one knows about what’s going on. Boredom or frustration appears, when one doesn’t have any key to enter the situation. Thus one can‘t grasp the complexity of what’s going on after a while: boredom is a problem of the mind.
The body only knows exhaustion.

* * *
when I first considered to do a research on ”the violence of repetition” I was in my last year of studies at the EDDC, six years ago. In the lunchtime I spoke with a friend about it. He is a British-native-speaker, and he asked, whether I was aware of the term ”violence” that I wanted to use. He said in English you cannot say ”violence of repetition”, it makes no sense.
He asked: are the seasons then violent? is the Spring violent?
(hands down) and how about walking?
***** start walking pattern ****

(whilst walking pattern)
is breathing repetitive?
are there two breaths ever alike?
simple things are more interesting to the person doing them, than to the person watching
”boredom is a problem of the mind”

* * * *
In simple terms, violence means, that something hurts the body or that it hurts the mind or that something gets mistreated or destroyed. Repetition has this aspect of penetration, that easily starts to hurt. In ancient warfare they used to run against the city gates of the enemies with a rammer until the gates finally gave in.
In German there is a saying:
”Der Krug geht so lange zum Brunnen bis er bricht” –
translated it means something like:
”the jug goes as many times to the well till he breaks”
In this case not the ”gate” gets broken but the instrument of penetration.
But neither can persist forever.

Repetition is destructive on a physical level when you overdo something, especially when you are not trained to do it. It can easily cause damage to your body, or at least a passing pain. The mind faces more the problem of getting bored by repetitions, but damage can still be done to it with ”mind-washing”. In torture repetition and the fear of the repeated painful experience is one of the major elements used.

* * * * * * *
My deepest experience of repetition in practice I derive mainly from two disciplines:
Karate and Indian Kathak Dance.

* * * * * * * (do Tatkar in front, whilst talking) * * * * * * * *

From the first lesson on you understand, that there will be countless repetitions of the same elements. Repetition is such an intrinsic part of the discipline itself, that there is no way to question it. And repetition is such an essential part of the practice, that sometimes you leave the class and the only new thing that you’ve learned is something that you found while repeating an old pattern.

Both disciplines are merciless in their demands for concentration. You have to discipline your mind at least as much as your body. You are asked to stay fully present, to keep your interest, attention and motivation in every cycle that you repeat. One thing, that helps me, is to keep sharpening my senses for differences within the repetitions.There are no two movements ever alike.

Another key is the grouping of smaller units into bigger chunks and the recognition of cycles.
To identify cycles means, that you start seeing the bigger context of the whole thing.
To be working on a little step, if one is aware of it being part of a great universe gives this detail value.

To be working on a little step, if one is aware of it being part of a great universe gives this detail value.
To be working on a little step, if one is aware of it being part of a great universe gives this detail value.

* * * * * *
Cycles are also interesting, because they offer a timeframe to what’s going on. You know, that there is a certain time for doing it /or it happening – then it is over – then it starts again.

Why seasons are not getting boring, is that they have very long cycles, – in relation to our human lives – that the smaller elements that make up the Spring: – months, days and nights and hours ... – are ever changing.

* * * * * *
If the units of the cycles are very simple and short it is much harder for the mind to stay interested in them. The mind loves complexity and it loves learning and change.

To discipline the mind in order to stay awake and active in every single repetition even if the units are tiny, one needs motivation, creativity, trust in the depth of the form, - and has hopefully a good teacher. When one is continuously searching for the roots and context of the whole field, practice will be easy to maintain. Every repetition of details provides then deeper understanding of the field itself, and all the time spent weaves a growing net of commitment.

I quote from the beginning:
”Interest has to do with what one knows about what is going on. Boredom or frustration appears, when one doesn’t have a key to enter the situation.”

In repeating one is defining the subject over and over. ”Mistakes” have the power to question or assert the form and can lead to a deep change of perspective on it. True violence of repetition you’ll find in mechanical tasks, in surroundings, where one has no freedom of choice, no influence on the rhythm, no overview of the complete picture.
Slavery, torture, drill.

If there is no personal challenge beyond the pure execution of the repetitive task, no own motivation behind it, repetition becomes painful.

In the less severe cases of neurosis people feel forced to re-act in always same ways – They overdo certain things, do involuntarily too many repetitions –

This leads to an extremely interesting question:
when is it too much?

* * * * *
There is joy too.
One can feel at home within a form – it reassures you of your identity. Repetition has the power to build identity.
You become, what you do.

© Eleanora Allerdings, October 2001

Again on invitation of the International Performance Network
I performed this lecture demonstration
at Chisenhale Dance Space in London in October 2001.