On Cultural Exchange
D. Patton White, CORE Company Manager
|CPC in America! question|
Exactly 10 years ago, I was one of 6 CORE Performance Company dancers working in Berlin with Tanztheater Rubato, a duo company made up of husband/wife dancer/choreographers Dieter Baumann and Utta Hell. We were there for 6 weeks of work which concluded with the premiere performance of the new dance, America! question. As a dancer, it was a very exciting time for me. I was getting the opportunity to do what I am passionate about doing—dance—and getting to do that in a very different place than I was familiar with. Imagine, instead of driving to work I walked down the 6 flights of stairs to the street (where Christopher Isherwood had once lived) and headed to the U-bahn—the Berlin subway/elevated train—and took it to the studio called Halle.
Jump 10 years later and I was again experiencing the good fortune to be participating in another cultural exchange. Once again CORE was collaborating with a duo company made up of partners-in-life dancer/choreographers, this time Association Manifeste’s Isabelle Saulle and Adolfo Vargas in Toulouse, France. And this time I was part of the creative leadership team—one of four ‘directors’ of the new work, Je Suis/I am (Saulle, Vargas, myself and CORE Artistic Director Sue Schroeder). Again I am getting to do another thing I am passionate about—to choreograph/design, and in another very different place than I am familiar with. I have been given the opportunity to forcibly improve my understanding of and ability to speak French. I have the pleasure of experiencing life in a smaller and much older urban area than where I currently live. And once again I was able to enjoy life without a car.
Beyond these every-day things, I am struck by the other incredible gifts that international and inter-cultural exchange/collaborations provide the players. In both of these instances, our exchange has been with western/European cultures. Within the realm of contemporary or modern dance, this means that we get to dialogue with the descendants of the European ‘line’ of modern/contemporary dance which had a very different focus on theatricality. Influences from Mary Wigman, to Bejart, to Maguy Marin were present, as well as an entirely ‘new’ way of approaching performance—informed by a heightened sense of real-ness. As someone who finds inspiration in all aspects of culture, the opportunities for architecture, visual art, sounds/music, religious history, as well as geographical and climactic realities to filter into the creative process are all exciting. Isabelle and Adolfo bring vast experience as both performers and creators to the studio, and it is present throughout the process. The subtle but powerful presence they exude in the simplest exercise reminds us that technique is not simply pyrotechnics, but a deep connection to the internal self. An attention to authentic relationships, with no room for imitation emotions, brings a richness to the creative process.
I don’t believe that just any American company would have benefitted from either cultural exchange in the way that CORE has. I believe that in both instances we were ideally suited to undertake the challenging work that is cross-cultural collaboration. Each relationship had its own unique parameters but the culture of CORE, with an appreciation of transparency, individual expression and non-violent communication proved to be a healthy incubator in which new work could be nurtured and developed.
The collaboration with Manifeste is in its infancy, at this point, so I look forward to being a part of the adolescence and the full maturity in the coming months and years – look for the premiere performances in Atlanta and Houston in the Fall of 2014. I look forward to learning and sharing, and to dipping my toe back in to the performance pool. All that, and the opportunity to improve my abilities in the French language, too—even if it is to simply know that the Toulousienne response to ‘Thank you’, is ‘With pleasure’—just as I feel about this experience.