About Arch

... An exploration of participation, art and architecture in the city to inform a concept for engagement with the local community via artistic intervention... offering to our client a point of departure for the continuation of these ideas in their future work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stream of consciousness - thoughts from salsa night etc

"... a transformable, changing space for performance..."
Re-reading parts of Richard Sennett's book reminded me of the fact that the city can act as a backdrop to one's actions...the idea that one is an 'actor' in public space, and not entirely oneself.
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."
(Shakespeare, As you like it, 2/7)
This provoked several surprising thoughts - while many seem to feel the need to consume a few drinks before getting out on the dance floor, I am quite the reverse. The dancefloor is one of the few places where I feel I can truly be myself, without inhibition, and be 'fully expressive' -particularly with salsa. The 'performance arena' gives me the confidence to do things outwith my normal comfort zone; it provides context. Tuesday's session being a prime example, where I was much more forward than I would ever be in usual social circumstances.
The idea of 'usual social circumstances' is itself challenged by our public engagement in salsa. The class, albiet a formalised setting, is a meeting of strangers. Yet a sense of belonging to the group soon develops. Like at a bus stop, the common activity - of waiting, a shared moment/experience - or a clumsy move in salsa gives one a feeling of inclusion. The environment is longer a threatening room of strangers, but a bunch of friendly people who want to engage with one another. It is also interesting in the fact that it challanges the comfort zone of intimacy with strangers. A dance floor can be packed, forcing dancers within each others' personal space...I like the phrase, 'dancing on a postage stamp'...which can be very uncomfortable with a stranger. However, in the context of dance, I realised that it often feels more awkward to comply with conventional personal boundaries than to get 'up close and personal', at which point the movement usually becomes freer and the dancers connect both literally on a more intimate level but are also more 'in tune' with each other. The people who come to these classes are all there for different reasons, but the general feelings exuding from the group en masse on the dance floor were enjoyment, relaxation and a sense of fun... I think we may even get the more sceptical 'non-dancers' of the group up on the dancefloor next week!
Music, for me, is critical to dance. You can dance to 'silence', but I would assume usually there would be an internalised soundtrack for this activity. This rather raises the question of what dance would be without music. A decontextualised awkwardness of movement highlighting the oddity of 'unconventional' movement? What would a world be like without any music? Could we call the noises of the everyday the soundtrack to the city - a backdrop to its activities?
How does this relate to Trish's point of feeling one's personal space can be invaded by noise? It would seem to me that today's society is one that is rarely subject to complete silence - even traffic noises are probably continually supplemented by music as we all walk around with headphones jammed into our ears. Does this focus ourselves on the self and our own movements as we respond to the soundtrack in our heads, or is the reverse, that we detach ourselves from the physical realm, both other people and the built environment, true?
Who knew a night on the dance floor could bring out such deep questions!?!?

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