On Wednesday, November 23, Robert Kingsburyperformed as part of the CSA Nooner at the University of Guelph. We asked him to describe his experience.
Robert: My first piece of choreography as an adult was site-specific. I was studying music at York University and in an attempt at taking dance classes again, I found myself in site-specific choreography. The class culminated in a showing that toured the concrete jungle campus, stopping in places that the students had chosen for choreography. In studying this type of work before entering the realm of formal dance & technical training, I immediately began to see human movement as part of a larger context and environment. In site-specific work, the choreographer seeks out places where they think that they can make moments happen. For the CSA Nooner, the location is predetermined and so it’s more of a case of bringing dance to an environment where it may be surprising.
Some people feel that to present dance in a public space tells people that they can look at art the same way that they look at a water bottle or shoelace. I think that the journey towards embodiment is accessible in every place, every moment and through any kind of interaction so this kind of work excites me. I feel as a choreographer a lot of my time & skill goes into sensing my environment. Through site-specific work I feel that my sense of being can be useful in having an affect on the space. For the Nooner I picked the flight of 6 steps facing away from the audience’s seats. To make choices that go against audience expectations is one of the first rules.
The piece that I remounted was originally presented in a parquette just north of Queen & Yonge, in Toronto. This was a place that reeked of urine and was not maintained. I took photos of all of the litter, printed them and put them throughout the space during our performance. As a trio, we did a half hour meditation that moved along the surfaces of the space in an attempt at bringing some gravity and thoughtfulness to the environment. People who frequented the space interacted by joining us in climbing the structures of the parquette as though it were a playground. A man peed in the direction of the performance, but did it in a way that said ‘this is what I do here’. We did not take offence, in fact a viewer cried at their perception of what seemed ironic and beautiful.
Needless to say the performance at the University Centre was less interactive. The students that I observed seem shy and in a rush. A little bit of this energy made its way into my performance too. I had set a strong intention to interact with the other dancers and be open to the audience, but felt a little less present than I like to be. Being raised above the audience disconnected me from them. In a theatre, they are usually raised above you. That day I was reminded of the frantic sense of disembodiment I experienced during University. This was for me, the major reason I started dancing again. Full circle.