Mapping the Unruly: Melinda Ring’s Impossible Dances
Responding to the many complexities involved in documenting, preserving, and historicizing works that come to life through unruly and ephemeral states of being, this project develops an experimental framework for the archiving of performance, focusing on choreographer Melinda Ring’s 1999 work, Impossible Dance #2 (still life) as the primary case study.
As one facet in a larger project, I invited Melinda Ring and Kai Kleinbard into residency at Bennington College to create photographic documentation of the transitional movements and objects that appear and disappear from this improvisational work. As part of curating the work in 2015, I wanted to revisit the site of Ring’s first performance of Impossible Dance at Bennington College in 1999, seeing if the memory of the original space might provoke any new findings.
Before shooting, Ring and I reviewed the method of documentation. After a few trial and error experiments, Ring decided to operate two cameras simultaneously: one from the object’s perspective, and one from her perspective. This is in keeping with the “dual mind” that Impossible Dance requires; it structurally asks the performer to engage a disruption of habits and impulses while simultaneously accessing a composer mind's. We both decide that a schism of multiple layers of attention occurring simultaneously is apt for the process of documenting—enacting the very embodiment that the piece calls for. During this process, I additionally captured audio-recordings from improviser and performer Kleinbard describing his embodied experience with the objects, representing multiple voices in a kind of polyvocality.
The first iteration of Impossible Dance #2 (still life) (1999/2015) was presented on December 5, 2015 at Danspace Project as part of the 2015 Movement Research Fall Festival, vanishing points.