By Anastasio Koukoutas
today I decided to start reading your book[i]; I had a mug of coffee and the cat sitting on my lap, some colourful markers and post-it notes to write down things that might develop later into a ‘proper’ text. But from page one, I realised that this was going to take the form of a diary entry, a response to your own writing. I decided, also, that I would try to include as much as I can my own intimate surroundings and thoughts―an aspect not always visible for someone who wears the hat of a dance theorist, which could mean, as well, to propose your methodology as a way to revisit my own writing. It could be a way to understand on a personal level some of the notions you bring up in your book―like ‘discomfort’ and ‘uneasiness’―, to filter them through my own embodied experience and maybe relate more openly to your approach of performance writing.[ii]
So, let’s say that reading your thoughts navigated me through my own corporeal absence/authorial presence, as these words were leaving my body to enter the page. Unlike the musicality of the words of the infant Kristeva refers to and whom you quote, I am, for now, muted (there’s strength and fear in that; strength just from knowing how close one could get to a reader’s inner ear and fear when facing the risk that you might not ever be able to be heard as a voice). This should somehow shift our awareness to the fact that there might not be (enough) authorial power in every voice, be it written or vocal, and that there might be other forms of political act, we don’t necessarily recognise as such. What are these forms of political act that might not be in the range of our own practice, gaze, knowledge? Not-knowing isn’t always about ignorance; it’s about being open to the radicality of the unknown.
Political (non)sense and sensibility; I relate to your agony to capture this moment of historical absurdity, to stay with your vulnerability―even though, as you mention, during the covid pandemic, vulnerability could not only bring awareness of the human condition but also of the political powers framing the very concept of existence. So, we learned rather explicitly, how politics and our lives are essentially intertwined. It is written on our bodies now, as it has ever been. And the story goes that we will still somehow try to decipher what is being written on them, elusive or permanent, legible or illegible, ours or not (I said I will try to reveal myself and I am already using plural pronouns to hide in a ‘we’ that might sound pretentiously imaginary or unashamedly fake).
I cry listening to music*, most of the times. I cried a lot while running and listening to music, during the pandemic. It was my heart beating wild that couldn’t really make any sense to me, a wildness I couldn’t entirely possess, a matter-reality of its own bringing me to discomfort and unease. Awareness isn’t about achievement or thought settling in our bodies (yet, I would still be reluctant to say what it is about).
*“The Dancer” by PJ Harvey (a song that I like to dance to).
There is (anchoring) stillness in our power only to contradict what Lepecki says about the “power in our stillness”―sometimes I blame us, theoreticians, for using movement metaphorically without questioning what our neutralising, self-reflexivity means, for whom, and on what terms? Since you happen to mention Karen Finley’s fevered ferocity among others, I do find crucial her approach to demystify herself while going through the process of exposure. I treasure her disturbing anger, her passionate nihilism, her unapologetic disgust towards commodity capitalism. She offers though no escape, other than that of being already consumed by the spectacle machine of our consumerist society.
Discomfort; to live with contradictions. Unease; to keep fighting to resolve contradictions. I found love during the pandemic and love became my zone of comfort and ease. More contradictions to come, more temporalities to adjust to, along with this poetic, uncompromising sense of being “briefly gorgeous” on earth. “Not to manifest mourning (or at least to be indifferent to it) but to impose the public right to the loving relation it implies” [Mourning Diary, Roland Barthes]. To read you felt so invigorating; it sustained my diachronic belief that there’s more to learning than teaching, unless we take teaching as a process of unlearning, take this intimate letter as something addressed to myself via you, but not as an act of self-care, more like a diaspora of the self, a call to inter-being, a rhizome in between things, feelings, senses, memories, losses.
I am being archived in your words, thoughts, unfinished sentences, dear Danae. I am now lost in a ‘landscape of gathered emotions’―yet another post-it with one of your fragments―, but maybe ‘-scape’ implies something already organised and taxonomized, a land sliced into recognisable pieces of knowledge, while, quite oppositely, I had no idea where this journey is going to take me. It felt like a dive, an awakening and a free-fall. I took your advice to the letter, turned off the lights and read the rest of the text only with my flashlight on (I cheated a bit; I had also the little flame from the gas heater, it’s winter but the cold still relatively mild). I lie on my back, a woollen carpet softens the surface of the floor, I feel comfortable, I situate the flashlight on my chest when a black page falls off the book. I pick it up and read out loud:
A performer is laying on the floor
Can you hear me now?
Sophia Danae Vorvila is a dance SNF ARTWORKS Fellow (2022) based between Athens and Brussels. As a performer, she has collaborated with several collectives and choreographers exhibiting whose practice is firmly rooted in contemporary dance, improvisation and performance. At the moment, she is developing her own choreographic work which oscillates between discomfort and pleasure, gathering fragments of memory and micro-histories and documenting everyday life through movement and text.
Anastasio Koukoutas is working in the field of dance theory, dramaturgy and writing. He studied (BA) Communication and Marketing at the Athens University of Economics, (MA) Performing Arts Administration at Accademia Teatro alla Scala (in collaboration with Bocconi University), Ethnomusicology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (within the e-learning course Greek Music Culture and Education). He has worked, in the publishing field, as a contributor and editor, for art institutions and organizations, such as: Athens & Epidaurus Festival, Stegi Onassis, Dimitria Thessaloniki Festival, Megaron — The Athens Concert Hall et.al. He has worked as a dramaturg in theatre and dance performances (Athens Festival, Stegi Onassis, Experimental Stage of National Theatre in Greece, Arc for Dance Festival, Porta Theatre — Athens et.al.). He writes frequently about dance for the websites springbackmagazine.com, artivist.gr, und-athens.com, and teaches Dance History at the dance college ΑΚΤΙΝΑ. Last but not least, he has worked as a performer for Denis Savary (Lagune –National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens — 2016), Virgilio Sieni (Biennale Danza / La Biennale di Venezia — 2016), Pierre Bal Blanc (documenta14–2017), Dora Garcia (Megaron, The Athens Concert Hall — 2018) et. al.
[i] this_is_a_never_ending_sunday.jpg book is part of Sophia Danae Vorvila’s artistic and theoretical research conducted within the context of the master’s program in Dance Embodied Artistic Research at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp (2019–2021). It is closely related to the homonymous performance and it has been carried out and supervised by Katleen Van Langendonck. It was printed in Antwerp, June 2021.
[ii] Danae’s diaries, notebooks, sketchbooks can be accessed via the following link: www.sophiadanaevorvila.space
*“The Dancer” by PJ Harvey (a song that I like to dance to).