A Dance To The Music Of Words

I have often wondered why dance should necessarily be accompanied by music. The lines of a poem have their own sounds, rhythm and balance. Poetry is not made of such stuff as ideas, dreams or feelings, but of words, and their worldly counterpart, the sounds. Even the prose has a ring in it that sets the body in motion. I always read fragments of poetry and of prose aloud, and move about while speaking. The words give me, first and foremost, an impulse to act, and, only at a later stage, they make me think. The action triggered by words has not any specific purpose, it is gratuitous, hence, graceful, like a dance. The thoughts that come in the sequel are filled with the exhilaration of movement, but also loaded with a sense of contradiction. I am easily stirred, but difficult to persuade; I can be moved by a rhythm, I can hardly be seduced by a meaning. Moreover, unlike music, words can give a wider range of suggestions for bodily expression. Mimicking their meaning is just a meaningless play, the movements should interact with the words, not supply a double for them. Charades, as a social game, are just parlor amusements, tableaux vivants that aim at the rendering of the commonplace. However, a clever mixture of mimicry and mockery might prove attractive. The interpreter observes the rules of the discourse, plays according to them for a time, and then twists them for his or her own purpose. Thus, he or she develops another discourse, parallel to the first, which assembles a different set of signs. The bodily discourse combines with the written discourse in a lively dialogue. The first is still on the make, the second has already been completed. However, the new one challenges the old either to come back to life, or to rest in peace, in the graveyard of libraries.Sometimes, the words form a regular, tight pattern that exerts a dominating pressure on the liberty of movements. Each line from Pierre Gamarra's poem, Valse, is composed of three groups of four syllables that force the body to move according to the three-to-four measure:Un château mort, une tsigane, une guitare;à l'horizon, les souvenirs sont des chevaux.Sur les raisons, sur les raisins et sur les flots,D'où vient ce sel, d'où vient ce cri, d'où vient ce phare? Now, a fragment from Hölderlin's Mnemosyne (first version) provides the stimulus for a movement less restrained: Ein Zeichen sind wir, deutungslos, Schmerzlos sind wir, und haben fast Die Sprache in der Fremde verloren.Here is the English translation: A sign we are, meaningless,Aloof we are, and we've lostOur speech in the distance. The lines of Gamarra's poem have a similar structure, so that one does not need more than one verse in order to get the suggestion of movement. In the case of Hölderlin, the lines above have to be expanded for a rhythmical pattern to emerge:A sign A sign we areA meaningless signWe are meaningless and the sign is aloofWe are aloof since we are a meaningless sign.We have lost the signs of our speech, signs meaningless and aloofWe stand meaningless at a distance.In the distance we've lost our speechWe lost the speechWe are aloof.AloofThe poetic concentration of Hölderlin's lines is lost by expansion, but the sacrifice was worth it, for it allowed the body to find the appropriate paths for moving into space. The spatial arrangement of the lines suggests the increase and decrease of the amplitude of the movement. Notice that expansion was accomplished by repetition and augmentation, which are the basic ingredients of both music and dance. High-quality speech avoids the redundancy that stems out of repetition, but non-verbal language would be at a loss without it. Repetition without augmentation provides a challenge for a dancer to move while keeping still, that is to let her parts act, while maintaining her position in space. Mallarmé once said that the dancer is not a woman who dances: first, she is not a woman; second, she does not dance. Paul Valéry provided an explanation for Mallarmé's apparently idle thought, taking as an example the movements of the jelly-fish, "this translucent and sensitive being, whose flesh is made of irritable glass, dome of floating silk, as fluid as the massive fluid around it." The jelly-fish is the absolute dancer, for it has no members, but a membrane, it has no sex, but it is all sex, it does not need any solid support, her shapeless environment supports her enough. It is the perfect dancer to enact the following poem, Satie, which Krzysztof Jezenski meant as a poetical equivalent for the minimalist work of this avant-garde composer: What is taking-off - bird, sun, tree What is floating – clouds, leaves, stars What is growing –  Music, flower, source What is silent - Time, infinity, atom What is craving – Brook, earth, man Simplicity of the world

by Adrian Mihalache