“Where have you been?” was the question projected on the upstage screen when we walked into the space for the performance of This Desiring Pony at Dancemakers Centre for Creation. Schpando, the alter-ego that is Toronto-based choreographer/performer Andrea Spaziani, shuffled behind the three, sheet-like screens hanging along the outside parameters.
As the crowd gathered slowly, it was our pace that determined Hers; Schpando refused to enter the space until we did. Hesitantly slumping at the semi-permeability of our presence, Schpando made her way into shared territory with her body rhythmically pulsing from its slow slouching state into an uprising whole. Her movements were not isolated, but were in fact accompanied by a Voice. Schpando pulses to a sound. The Voice began with one word and continued with a concern, a command, a conclusion – some sort of guidance perhaps. Something that was calling to be listened to, something that begged me to question – what does it mean to move while being spoken at?
To hit, to pat, to tap the body: Schpando thrusts, flashes, encounters herself at the sound of her own commands. Her conscious movements were a response to this unconscious source that mirrors and doesn’t mirror the quick intensity of the moment. As her body rose in a movement innately tied to the speed of sounds, I began to wonder if the questions and commands were for me too. I began to wonder if the space of contemplation was not just for Schpando to question the affective happenings of her experience, her surroundings, this world, but for me to access a point of oscillation in which my personal experience became magnified.
When the body moves, it doesn’t stop moving. Certainly something is being transported, transmuted and transformed as Schpando corporeally maneuvers her first vibrant thrashes into soft inner waves. Transformation seemed incredibly key here, as the potential for change not just in the content of performance but in the means of performing. Through the performance, Spaziani brought together a multiplicity of sound, movement and technological encounter. From interactions with objects like a pair of boxing gloves and two number three–shaped balloons, to browsing the Internet while sitting at her laptop stationed downstage centre – the state of flow was a character in itself under constant surrender to the moment. When the moment called for change, the dance became not just movement across the floor but a landscape of technological projections on the upstage screen, rendered through the courage of delicate fingers typing a choreography of thought.
Where does courage lie but in the most tender parts of the body? When accessed, what arises? For when Schpando typed she unabashedly birthed herself: at each Google image of an intimidating bee, or blissfully upbeat pug; at each Google search of ‘emancipation’, of ‘self-effacement’, of ‘Mariah Carey’. She showed her erasure as the info-void transported us from words like ‘eyeballs’ to ‘presence’ to ‘particles’ and it was clear that Schpando types to untype. Schpando is the process of the great unconscious drama that reveals herself in the midpoint. She types to untype and deletes browser tabs only after having explored them. Her question is one of an inner movement and, on impulse, she choreographs data to attend to the present.
It’s a strange thing – the present. For when we get there how can we stay? Should we stay? What is there, who put us there, and what becomes of this? If I feel myself leaving, must I hijack the moment again? These questions were almost grappling with each other and I found myself feeling the incentive of a wrestle. Schpando, too, moved from the info-void to a ploy of wrestling with a silver helium balloon of a massive number 3 floating above another deflated balloon of the number 3 acting as its reflection. She held it, stepped in its place, and moved with it. And perhaps the access to presence, the access to the present, is a means of listening to a thought, stepping in its place, and moving with it. Is this courage? Is it courage to hold the 3 in one’s mouth, to allow it to cast a shadow and to question its position in and with one’s body? Might it be courage to confront the 3, to weigh it down, to balance it again on the delicate nape of one’s neck? Does the balancing act require negotiation?
Does dance, when it encounters words, require a negotiation?
There came a moment when Schpando engaged fully with herself and her form. She enacted a moment that didn’t need the material of language, yet referenced gracefully a quote mentioned in the text she projected earlier. It was in this moment that Schpando appeared to be “in-bracing a feeling; a strong urge not directed at anything specific but still present.” With boxing gloves on her hands, graceful, billowing, circular swishes of intent directed her body in succumbing to the space. At each moment there came a desire to swing, and then the desire expressed, in its full rotation.
When language returned at the end of Schpando’s moment, it took the form of negotiation. She collapses to her knees, hands underneath, attempting to hold her body aligned, balancing on time, adjusting to the repetitive projection of her unconscious Voice saying “I can’t …. but I can…”. Her body shifted again and again, with weight, with thought, with the idea that negotiation is indeed a balancing act. To be in the world is a balancing act; to be in the body is a balancing act. This Desiring Pony was a call for embracing (or rather “in-bracing”) vulnerability, feeling, sensation. It was a call for presence and a moment of courage to ask how can I listen in a space so filled with noise? An incantation: how does one step certainly, into uncertainty?
This Desiring Pony ran on December 15 and 16 at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in Toronto where Andrea Spaziani is local resident artist.