In calling forth the future of dance, the first About Dance forum included six speakers, Zooming in from six distant locations — oracles, if you will. The forum’s moderators and participants responded to the speaker’s pre-occupations through live and online conversations, weaving together a tapestry of concerns and hopes central to the fields of dance and ecology. As a matter of fact, we might think of About Dance, Volume 1, on Ecology as a deck of tarot cards, providing themes and symbols to nudge us towards critical thought.
This speculative tarot deck comes complete with a Minor and Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana consists of over 550 cards — the participants — including the several hundred who joined the forum online, a live audience of nine professional artists, a four-person Lake Studio organizational team, and the two forum moderators, Mårten Spångberg and Alex Viteri. The Minor Arcana’s purpose is to process the forum’s presentations and further our collective knowledge-making on dance and ecology.
The Major Arcana comprises six cards, to wit, the Forum’s invited speakers. Let’s interpret each of the Major Arcana using A Non-definitive Guide to the About Dance Cards. This non-definitive guide draws on conversations and feedback from many of the forum’s participants. Do keep in mind, there are as many interpretations of the Major Arcana as there are individuals who listened to the presentations. Feel free to write your own guide to the cards (and share it with us here at Lake Studios Berlin).
The Major Arcana Cards
I The Nina Power
PICTURE: A small stick
CROSSINGS: Technology, Health, Public Space, Degrowth
ADVECTOR: Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality
We could eliminate all technology, erase it from humanity completely, but somewhere, someone will find a stick and pick it up. They will use the stick to reach fruit in the high branches of a tree. Someone else will observe this behavior and mimic it, perhaps take it a step further by attaching a heavy rock to the stick and using it as a projectile to reach even higher fruit. This play between individual discovery and collective innovation will continue, on and on, until we arrive once again to a world where “Zoom fatigue” is a thing.
The Nina Power card is not saying we shouldn’t use technology, but rather encouraging us to be acutely aware of the metaphysical impact that technology has on humanity.
This card represents a return to public space as a realm of generative potential.
As a “blockage” card, The Nina Power warns you not to get locked into a set identity. As a “you now” card, it encourages you to have some fun with your artist biography.
In a “future” position, this card says:
“Nature will be the new punk”
II The André Lepecki
PICTURE: A dismantled doomsday clock
CROSSINGS: Ecology of Ideas, Ecology of Time, Rock Formations
ADVECTOR: Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind
The André Lepecki is an intricate card that questions the category of time by drawing on phenomena ranging from the way humans propagate error to the spurning of nostalgia to the study of rocks. This card counsels you to look forward by looking — or better said, listening — back.
In looking back, The André Lepecki highlights the value of work in art and adjacent spaces carried out between 1968 and 1977. The artists, philosophers, poets, musicians and filmmakers of this period did not write for their peers. They made work for us. For you. Right here and now. If we bring their voices together, we hear a collective choir, a pack of dogs howling at the moon, singing a warning for the future. The André Lepecki card is telling you to listen to the howls of the past.
How to listen? Grow ears on your spine and climb some rocks.
Your task as artist? Keep singing the song.
In a “you now” position, this card speaks best through an online participant, Eleni:
“I … attempt to express various qualities in one form, combining the impression of the solid skin of the stones, with the softness and elegance of tiny flowers which grow on them, and light insects flying around. I see the elements as a unified entangled system, similarly to how Andre explained our inseparability from the stones.”
III The Jota Mombaça
PICTURE: A black space
CROSSINGS: Opacity, Colonial Critique, Migration, Speculative Fiction
ADVECTOR: Édouard Glissant’s theories of opacity
The Jota Mombaça is a potent card. The first thing to do when you draw this card is turn off your camera and listen. The Jota Mombaça speaks to you through sonic fiction, narrated by a telepathic shape-shifter who, confined in colonial language, is attempting to navigate from a state of terror to a place of thriving.
Some are frightened by the witch-like nature of this card, but do not be deterred. When you recognize the potential in words, re-embody the force fields of language, and slip through the cracks of poetry, then you find an opening to reclaim your power. This card is about finding your own fluidity as a survival strategy — a way of slipping through the cracks to your own rebirth.
One live participant put it this way: “Though I am listening to a story, I feel it physically – my body is contracted and expanded all at once.”
As an archetype,The Jota Mombaça asks you to think about what you bring to the conversation of cosmic dance.
In a “future” position, this card says:
“Babygirl, be open to surprise.”
IV The Jana Unmüßig & Miriam Jakob
PICTURE: A series of islands in a blue sea. A small boat floating between the islands
CROSSINGS: Choreography, Research Methodologies, Breath
ADVECTOR: Lisa Densem: dancer and breathwork practitioner
The Jana Unmüßig & Miriam Jakob is a soft card — it has no single agenda and is open to many interpretations. The islands pictured on the card represent the many destinations to which the small boat might orient. There is no map and no set pattern. You may meander from island to island, charting a different course each time you set sail. One island might introduce you to a performance artist working with screaming, another might present you with reflections on writing from the breath, another with anatomical drawings … The most important message of The Jana Unmüßig & Miriam Jakob card is that wherever you go, and in whatever order you go there, always remember to breathe!
As a “destiny” card, The Jana Unmüßig & Miriam Jakob point you towards fractional knowledge and performative publishing.
In a “Jorge” or “Sidney” (online participants) position, this card asks how one shapes the freedom of user/audience experience digitally, and how meandering might function when one is at an impasse.
In a “future” position, this card says:
“knowledge is a process”
V The Julian Reid
PICTURE: A screenshot of your Amazon.com purchase history showing five self-help books, three different massage tools, and one Romantic Comedy movie rental
CROSSINGS: Resilience, Security, Neo-liberalism
ADVECTOR: C.S. Holling’s theories of ecological resilience
Have you spent the last year building up resilience to an unpredictable force of nature that might rise up out of nowhere and blow you over? As an artist, have you always possessed a certain resilience against struggle, scarcity, criticism, and/or insufficient resources? If you answer yes to these questions, then do you celebrate your individual pliancy, or do you ask, “Why must I alone be responsible for my own fortitude”? The Julian Reid card says it is time to examine Resilience with a capital “R”. For contrary to what we have been led to believe, the resilience we pride ourselves on can indicate the opposite of security.
As a “society” card, The Julian Reid encourages deeper critical thinking around common conceptions of ecological and human justice.
This card is meant to challenge you intellectually, and as one live participant put it “turn your thoughts upside down”.
VI The Filipa Ramos
PICTURE: A figure, fallen on ice, laughing. In the corner, we see an ancient hand reaching in to help the figure to their feet
CROSSINGS: Art, Film, Nature, Animals, Joy
ADVECTOR: Simone Forti: artist, dancer, choreographer and writer
The Filipa Ramos is a beloved card in the About Dance Tarot deck. As one live participant describes this card, “it invites you in”. This is a joyful, playful and kind card, symbolizing the rich history upon whose shoulders the current field of dance stands. It is about the depth of character, sense of curiosity, and attunement to the natural — the edges and the fringes — that make for a well attuned, hybrid artist. The Filipa Ramos demonstrates how art can question the exhibitionary apparatuses of nature and helps you rethink how you might frame ecology in your own dance practice.
This card says enough of the talking, it is time to go forth and dance with confidence, for you are now a bona fides part of About Dance: Forming Futures!
As an “advice for the future” card, The Filipa Ramos keeps it simple and quotes Simone Forti:
“Be a being among others”
Mårten brings a riddle to the forum: are we looking at “dance in relation to ecology, or ecology in relation to dance”?
Jota might respond with their own twist of words: “the dance is the home now, and we are home to the dance”
But perhaps the heart of this tarot reading is best surmised by Stefanie, a live participant, when she says, “go back to [your] dreams and continue dreaming about what is possible”.
Want to go deeper?
Here is a list of books discussed during the forum.
Here you will find a wonderful article on the forum, written by Elisa Frasson for Tanzschreiber.
If you would like a link to the video archive of any of the ABOUT DANCE presentations, send an email to Lake Studios:
This documentation was written by Jessy Layne Tuddenham drawing on conversations with and contributions from the forum participants.
The ABOUT DANCE, Vol 1 live audience included the following artists:
Stefanie Alf, Dakota Comin, Davide De Lilis, Javier Delarosa, Franziska Doffin, Alessio Fabbro, Elisa Frasson, Sabrina Huth, Areli Moran.
Drawing: Lepecki Liquid Stones by Eleni Danesi.
Danesi on her drawing: “Through my drawing improvisation practice, as I was trying to connect with that hand movement flow while listening to Andre, I started producing single line, stone-like forms, which sometimes developed intuitively into flowers or insects.”