I am at home, I am writing, and between lines and lines I remove the dry leaves from the azalea, I water the basil, I pull the curtain so the sun can reach the plants and reactivate photosynthesis. The division of all the areas of my life seem to have been blurred in these times: cooking, writing, dancing, talking to my mother in Argentina: everything seems to share the space, questioning any prior imposed hierarchies.
Intimate acts of caring for others, for plants, for animals, for neighbors…these acts of the domestic space, historically invisible and confined to the “private” world, seem to take on another dimension these days. Argentine anthropologist Rita Segato writes that this is part of what a politics in a feminist and decolonial key could be (but we’ll talk about that another time).
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I remember feeling alarmed and disoriented by the sudden obligation to keep distance, by the impossibility of contact. I asked myself not only what implications it had on my practice as a choreographer and dancer, but above all, what it implied on our way of life, on our way of encountering one another. I couldn’t stop thinking about how hypersensitivity to the risk of being close, of contact between bodies, was simultaneously evidence of its potentiality as a field of “reciprocal affectation”. It is because what happens in contact is so powerful that it is also so risky!
I think that every moment is possible to be perceived and considered from different logics. Speaking of the processes of creation, performance artist Nahuel Cano (with whom I have had long conversations during these times) says that there are at least three logics: the first is based on scarcity, which would be to continually observe what is lacking or missing in relation to a predesigned model. The second is based on speculation, meaning to observe and not to see, directly projecting something else onto it. And the last is based on potentiality, to observe by warning of what is there, and its possibility of unfolding. All of these logics can blend together endlessly.
As a choreographer I have been concentrating on the last one. My creative practice consists of observing what is present in bodies, and from there proposing possible paths, in a constant dialogue with that which is appearing. I do not teach movements that I would like to see or that I already have in mind, but I work with what is there, generating maneuvers that could open up to unimaginable realms. And, since there is always something, in every body, in every space, in every matter, for me there is always a possible dance.
I try to bring this strategy of practice as a choreographer, to reflect on the moment we are living. Instead of paying attention to what is missing—we cannot touch each other, we cannot hug each other—I try to observe what is there, what appears and its potentialities.
The space that connect us
I meet Lidy in the park, and it is our first meeting since the pandemic began. Emotion rises up in me, we get closer and my whole body anticipates a hug, because we always hug when we meet, and in that hug we express everything that we could not say otherwise. Yes, my body prepares for the hug but at that moment, we quickly remember and we stop, in an intuitive calculation, inventing a “meter and a half” of distance. We extend our arms and simulate a hug. Then we walk through the park, where many other people who, like us, walk while making calculations, inventing distances, generating unthinkable choreographies, curves, suspensions, hesitations. I realize that it is no longer possible to walk in a straight line, straight to a destination, by the shortest route.
We talk, and while we think about how we will resume our project in Utrecht, while we talk about the “dances in reciprocity” in Den Dolder, I also think about these other things: how some choreographies of life are de-automated, unscripted, and how other choreographies appear.
We keep walking, side by side; we also hesitate, we slow down, we curve to one side, each person with whom we share the space appears in our perception, defining our path: our peripheral vision is hypersensitized! We talk about how difficult the situation is in this moment, in the contexts of psychiatry and imprisonment, since activities and visits are restricted, how this affects health, how it increases stigmas and strengthens boundaries. We talk about her mother and my sisters; now, everything blends into the other! We can no longer pretend that affective life and the world of work are completely separate spheres.
When we are about to say goodbye, we stop in front of each other, and we have a revelation: this “meter and a half” that we thought was keeping us distanced was actually keeping us connected.
We will probably have more times of strange choreographies, full of curves and suspensions, with intermediate empty spaces and queues. I wonder if we will manage to make the construction of that choreography a collective gesture of care and solidarity—a dance that we create together—and not just leave it at the will of protocols and arrows on the floor.
I wonder if we will manage to perceive that space “in between” as a space of connection, if we will manage to take advantage of those curves in the road, those indirect paths and unexpected suspensions as opportunities to look at the world from other angles, to discover other things, other beings that are there, that seemed invisible before.
I wonder if we will manage to turn this moment into an opportunity to question the idea of “normality”, if we will manage to “stay with the trouble” as Donna Haraway says, and take advantage of this state of de-normalization, to train other modes of relationship, to learn from other proximities and feel the contact of the world in which we are co-implicated, humans and more than humans.
Amparo González Sola
Amsterdam, July 2020