Movement Research Town Hall Meeting


Movement Research Town Hall Meeting. Tuesday September 21 at 8pm, Judson Memorial Church

Join Movement Research and its Artist Advisory Council as we revive the Movement Research Town Hall Meeting. 32 years since the founding of Movement Research and the coining of its name, we invite our whole community to come together to discuss what the concept of ‘movement research’ means to us today. What are we researching? What is the form of that research, what does it require and how is it shared, accessible, or made legible? Panelists will kickstart the evening by introducing sub-topics related to dance, movement-based performance, and choreographic practice as research. Please come share your ideas.

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photo: by  Martin Lanz


  • I reply to myself. How I love the practices I have learned through my movement research.

  • Last night at the Town Hall meeting, Tere O’Connor spoke about his own process of research. One thing he does is ask himself the question “What am I doing?”.

    During the course of the evening I heard different people describe what they do as they attempted to understand the word research and its relationship to movement and to knowledge. I found myself thinking many things, including “Why are we (am I) doing the research?” and “Where am I now (with my research)?”.

    Panel discussions are always way too short for me. Just when we are starting to break open many of the topics that have surfaced from minds to spoken words, we have to end and are told to continue the discussion in our own ways and in our own time as it “never ends”. Sure, I went out with a few people and we did keep it going, and I would also love to hunker down inside one place with these smart and feeling thinkers for a lot more time.

    Nevertheless (all the more), I wanted to speak (through my fingers – different then the search for the words in voice) (oh, so this now is a re-search) some of my thoughts that began to formulate last night.

    I came to the Town Hall with some questions about the necessity for community and about the continuity of dancers who have passed through different modes of research through time. I was reading in Susan Foster’s book Dances that Describe Themselves, about Richard Bull’s move into his loft in 1978, a time when different groups that had formed themselves around “communitarian ideals of the relationship between individual and group” (S.F.) was starting to end, yet it also the time Movement Research was formed to create a place for inquiry into newer practices such as Release and Contact Improvisation and what became New Dance, as well as voice and theater.

    These practices have become techniques that are taught for the contemporary dancer. I agree with Luciana Achugar about how often these modalities have become a style to enter rather than an entryway to research (my translation). She spoke about hearing Steve Paxton speak about contact improvisation having become “vacuous”, which I think she means to say it is lacking in its original intention. I agree with this in many ways, being a teacher of contact, and a practitioner for many years. Often times I think students come to do what they expect from it, rather than see where the physics of the form through improvising takes them. I also am not so interested in it the same way as I was when I felt I was researching what it was as I trained in it. Yet, there is a truth that I can now share a form that has developed over the 38 years that contact has survived, and also see it and myself in it as a reflection on it and my own evolution of a form.

    Steve was looking at the pure physics as he explored what became contact. (funny how sometimes I capitalize the word, and sometimes not – that says something). It wasn’t about personalities; there was a need to let go of social interactions in order to give oneself to the mutuality of touch in service to the dance that would be created. And inside of that dance were many journeys that would surprise and delight. I can say that I actually found my dancing body for the first time after years of traditional dance through being actively met by another’s physical action. This was truly profound for me.

    I felt that way about a lot of the work that Movement Research offered to me when I found improvisation including Release work and other somatic practices and ways of improvising. This was in 1981.

    In 2010, many of these forms that have been my practices for a long time have created in me an ease and efficiency of movement, a familiarity with disorientation, a facility with connection and integration in more than just body movement and in dance. I am appreciative of my teachers and the work I have explored for these many years. I love what I do, in my work, as a teacher.

    I am also unsatisfied. I realize more and more that this dissatisfaction is a necessary step for continuing my research as a dancer, as an artist. As a human being. Do I need to make that clear? That I am a human being as well? The topic of neutrality through somatic training came up a couple of times last night at the Town Hall, and I see that as part of my own “vacuous” relationship with movement. I feel empty inside my efficient body and I watch a lot of dance where I am only watching this facility and wondering who is there inside of this endless flow. Of course, not all dance is this, and I am always amazed when I see something that defies this thought.

    I was struck by Ben Spatz’s question about what might be the difference between theater research that is happening more in Europe and movement research that is happening in the U.S. I have been actively pursuing training in different acting and theater techniques over the past few years, and I realized with more clarity that I go to these techniques to continue my research in movement. It is a strange and fruitful study of myself through entering into someone else’s words, and to find myself through a character who is not me. I have found in acting classes a burgeoning fearlessness with confrontation and struggle that my teachers model and demand from me that allows my released body to flesh out and meet the challenge.

    I will continue to research my movement through my teaching of the forms that I love from which I have gained experiential knowledge. I was at the right place at the right time in my training to stumble upon Movement Research in the early 1980’s. I hope that dancers now can continue to come to MR knowing that they are doing more than just acquiring the necessary tools to dance but to find something they did not expect. I like Tere’s idea of “poetic science”. I also find myself now wanting to insist on another kind of focus from my students and myself that pushes us into seeking not how we fit into a community but how we create a frame for even more research as to who we are.

    The panelists all spoke about the varied way in which we as dancers and artists research. That our “communal consciousness”, as Tere said, is important so that we can see and hear that there is a lot more inside of what we are doing to discover than just fulfilling a contemporary model. And that we have these forms to push into is truly a wonderful legacy to continue to evolve.

    Not set in stone,
    K.J. Holmes

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