Martin Keogh has posted a old performance of his with Ray Chung on his blog, from the Freiburg Festival about 14 years ago. You may have seen this one before (I have). But now he’s added a DVD commentary track, with musings on the nature of CI performance and some background on the performance itself.
Go and watch at his blog, then come back here and see if you agree with my comments.
A few take-aways:
- I’ve seen this video before, but as someone who’s been recently watching more video of himself dancing, I’m newly amazed by the skill level here. Ray Chung is breathtaking as always — I’d forgotten how easily and effortlessly he rolls up from basically any position. But I’m now more appreciative of what Martin is doing, and how quickly and precisely (and maybe occasionally with strength) he needs to respond in the moment to support those roll-ups, keeping Ray balanced (or giving Ray the platform on which to balance himself).
- Martin has this great comment, paraphrasing Brenton Cheng, describing CI performances as a bit like watching animals in the zoo! seeing animals jump around in their “own habitat.” We don’t expect the animals to “perform” for us, just to do what they do naturally. Though if they’re doing something playful, violent, or sexual, that’s a bit more interesting! Incidentally, many of the comments from this video are captured in an essay on Martin’s blog, “Cat’s Pause and Bare Feat.”
- The size differential — what effect does this have on the performance? Could Ray roll up as easily if Martin were not so much bigger? Ray lifts Martin maybe only once or twice in this performance. I’m reminded at how much easier it is as a flyer when you have tons of surface area to work with, and as a lifter when the flyer is much lighter and easier to toss around.
- Martin remarks that there were tons of CI groups in 1980, and none in 1981. I’ve been reading a little about these early years — around eight years in, about 1980, there was a big turn-over in the form, when the first generation of CI teachers and dancers moved on to other things. I feel like there’s a natural flagging of enthusiasm for CI that tends to kick in between 8 and 12 years, what I’m calling the CI Midlife Crisis. I may write about this sometime in the future.
- A few times, Martin does this move of going into over-the-shoulder rolls from standing. I’ve been practicing those since I saw them in this video some time ago. They’re not the easiest to control, as you go into them with quite a bit of momentum. Martin does them quite gracefully.
- Martin notes that Ray Chung was having some back problems that night, and was a bit heavy. Really, not something you would at all have noticed from the outside. I’m reminded of how much things can feel bumpy, awkward, heavy, difficult from the inside, but still look smooth and graceful from the outside. And how much felt on the inside is never really experienced from the outside.
- When I last, or first watched this video, I was surprised at how little Martin & Ray stayed in contact, and how infrequently they did standing weight-sharing. Watching it again, it’s perhaps a sign of how my viewpoint is being changed by New York City dancing, but I’m impressed by how much they stay in contact, at how much the rolling point is used in their dancing. Particularly Ray’s rolls up Martin’s back and sides, and down and around his body. Not just sluffing around everywhere or lifts that just go up and down. They’ll start out a lift in one place, then it will roll around, and down, and back up, 10, 15, 20 seconds.
- Ray lands on Martin’s head at one point, banging Martin’s head into the floor. I feel better about a number of times I’ve bumped into my partner. It’s a risky, unpredictable form, and accidents happen for everyone, even two master teachers and dancers with tons of experience.
- This dance holds up well today, with many of the movements among the most advanced things you might see at jams or performances (at least in North America). I sort of feel like this is a bad thing. How much of CI technique has been lost, or are we doomed to rediscover over and over again? I feel like what I see now is much more pretty, much more borrowing from modern dance and ballet to create pretty lines and graceful transitions, but much less actual CI skill and creativity. I think this is part of an ongoing dilution of the form, where basic CI skills like rolling point and weight-sharing are barely being practiced by even advanced dancers, and dancers from other disciplines like modern and ballet assume that they know what CI is already from a partnering class, or from taking one workshop with a non-CI teacher. I want to see in 10 years that these moves are all old hat, that the form has moved beyond this to new things.
- Among many things to emulate here, I want to practice that lift at c. 00:59. That’s good stuff.