From the Mind of an Archer #3
Working on my own Movement and Expression both professionally and personally, I found that maintaining the tricky balance between a gradual process and a sudden performance is not an easy task and has very little reliable and formidable methods.
To put into words how I find this balance is a bit of a challenge, both for me and for you as a reader. The biggest tip for applying this challenge without getting lost in the abstraction is to use your own practice, may it be movement, art or anything else as a reference and make up your personal examples and analogies. It is indeed a text which I genuinely believe can help anyone interested in adding a certain creative edge to a process they have been going through, and therefore, I hope it will contribute and inspire you to see things which you already do a little bit differently.
Obviously, there are many factors we can not control regarding our ability to direct our practice. Usually many of those factors are circumstantial to our chosen activity and its customs. Let’s think of the combination of space, activity and customs as the context in which movement and expression can happen.
A context that is predetermined according to our goals will allow us to get used to similar types of challenges and to overcome them with time through knowledge acquired in our prior experience. An unfamiliar or unexpected context will hinder our freedom for developing due to the constant change of information and will push us to use immediate solutions that are often not linked to prior experience but rather reveal possible strengths we didn't consider.
In theory, the fundamental chaos that life throws at one's path will prepare them to adapt to unknown situations that will inevitably appear. But to use this as the foundation of a method creates a bit of a paradox; Trying to consciously produce a chaotic situation is a cliché and philosophically impossible since chaos is based on an unknown disposition, which means we can not think about or speculate on any aspect of it.
My alternative is to chaotically practice structured knowledge. In other words, to methodically balance between the graduality and the suddenty.
I propose that if this idea is considered patiently and playfully, it can serve as a springboard for new creative applications of almost any existing process. In the first version of From An Archer's Mind I wrote a short article and a video by the name of "From Form To Abstraction". The basic idea was to demonstrate how a practice of a simple and basic posture or position (form) can be the centre of an improvised manner of moving (abstraction or dance) while still maintaining a specific connection between those two seemingly paradoxical qualities.I believe that a chaotic manner of doing known things is based on a similar perspective.
Nurturing a skill includes the accumulation of sensual details and actions which over time, are being placed in a specific timing. This process supports the execution of the skill by the practitioner andopens the door to more applications. The process of refinement of details and properly transitioning between them is the essence of longevity of practice from my experience.
Deliberately practising in a chaotic manner would serve as a path to create a juxtaposition of the information (or elements) which has been gained in the process of refinement. In very broad terms, we can consider a particular type of drilling or repetition as a method for refinement and improvisation as a method for juxtaposition. But not any 'improvisation' will introduce a chaotic manner of practice, just like not any way of 'drilling' will actually create longevity. And our goal is to take good care of both.
As a student of Zen Buddhism, I very much like the idea of small changes with big impact. Following the small but impactful changes which are described often as realizations inseveral Zen schools, I would propose the following method:
Starting from a drill, through repetition shifting the drill into improvisation, and once the improvisation becomes clear, framing (or defining) it into a new quality of movement or expression. Since for me, the relationship with the physical space around me is essential both for movement and expression I will use a visual representation to describe the exercise (the paper represents space and the lines represent our movement and expression).
The word 'drill' can be replaced by any move or set of movements which has been practiced before. It should be repeated until the practitioner understands its frame and uses it as areference to do everything which is NOT this drill. Once consistent and conscious movement is achieved within the quality of ''not a drill' this way of moving can be framed as well. This is when the word 'improvisation' comes up and it actually serves as a reference to the unknown becoming known and the end of the exercise (and a possible new exercise which will start from drilling the word 'improvisation').
This way of working can also be used in contexts that are more goal-oriented than dance. For example; using the same method in a sparring context of martial arts where drill can be a certain technique and improvisation can be a style of fighting which is a consequence of studying this technique. In this case, one will start with trying to apply the chosen technique and then move on to keep the same fighting style that the chosen technique demands, but using anything that is not actually the technique they started with.
Clearly, this is just an example and the applications are endless and can be found within any context which leaves room for interpretation.
Lastly, I attach here an improvisation from a recent creation process I am going through. The old elements which I drilled can be seen easily and are mostly the work on the floor and close to the ground. The chaos is how they are being traced into something of a similar undefined logic on the feet. This is yet to be fully understood for me and the quality of 'improvisation' which I am looking for will probably develop further as the artistic process will go on and transform into a performance.
But for now, enjoying the creative challenge allows me to shed a bit more light on a process that is often slippery, dark and difficult to describe in words.
Try it! Take a piece of paper and write your drill and see how the pencil transforms it into chaos until it becomes an 'improvisation'. You will be surprised how clearly it translates into your body in your gradual movement practice and your sudden expression.
* Cover Image: Jakson Pollock - No 26A Black and White, 1948