I thought I’d take a moment to update you all on how the new piece is going. If you missed my last blog about it, I’m choreographing a piece to Carl Sagan’s & NASA’S 1977 Voyager Golden Record. If you’re not familiar with the project, it is in short, a record that contains sounds and images of human life, sent out in hopes of one day finding alien life forms that might be curious about the Earth circa 1977. It is a time capsule of sight and sound trying to explain Earth from the perspective of the United Nations, NASA and philosopher Carl Sagan.
As dancer and choreographer, we are very much dealing with the idea and the problem of time capsuling. What does it mean to try and capture a time? What does this attempt say about us specifically and how does dance both defy and participate in this desperate need for footprints?
I could go on for days about the questions that are driving to make this dance, but instead I’ll give you a couple and move on to the more meaty descriptions of what we’re up to in the dance studio…
Much like the record, we are jumping around from Beethoven to Chuck Berry and feeling the confusion and delight in the space between the two. So far, we have set movement to a Bach Gavotte, a speech by then Secretary General of the UN, Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, some wonderful Senegalese drumming and started to dive into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. In other words, we have our hands (and our brains) full and we have only just begun.
The constant struggles are obvious. How do you illustrate time capture in live dance? When we dance, as soon as we move, the movement is gone. As Peggy Phelan says, dance is defined by its ephemerality. I’m starting to think that what she meant was, human bodies are defined by their ephemerality. All of the working against this, the Golden Record as a prime example, is a strange contradiction that is human nature versus human physiology. Our desire to monumentalize is difficult to ignore – however desperate the attempts.
I am also finding myself working through the idea of translation and language. There are hundreds of languages represented on the record, most of which I don’t understand. I think most people feel that way about watching dance. Maybe through some of the absurdity that is this record, some audience members will feel a little less intimidated by modern dance. It is after all, just another language. And just like I can pick out bits and pieces of French or Spanish, or even Italian if I listen very closely – dance can be discerned similarly and the meanings aren’t that foreign after all.
Ok, enough of a rant for today. Please visit our Facebook page and continue this conversation. I’d love to know your thoughts or share more ideas with anyone who is as nerdy about dance and philosophy as I am.
photo by Matthew Murphy