Dance Techne

Reading Jaana Parviainen’s “Dance Techne: Kinetic Bodily Logos and Thinking in Movement”

She describes the Finnish dance teacher Ervi Siren’s method or dance techne, rather than technique. Hers is a method that tries to reconceptualize technique into something that is neither domination nor passivity – a rigor of the kind that Heidegger calls for in thinking – a letting-be, letting emerge. The primary aspect of this approach is indwelling – in the situation, the body, the senses.

Siren’s “arche movements are simple, usually circular, spiral-type movements on the various parts of the body’s topography.” “gateways or starting-points to the world of movements without limits” (171) – a scrubbing, cleaning action that gets rid of blockages in the body – the importance of the BREATH in this work – the body is never immobile – our breath can act as a catalyst to take us places.

The arche movements cannot be divided into smaller parts the way that technique is typically taught. Instinctually this makes sense to me. I get confused when something is broken down too much, making it difficult to catch the drift, see the big picture. But on the other hand – to get better maybe we have to go through that breakdown? Polanyi on learning a new skill. Maybe dance training has to include both things? The most important remains the ability for indwelling, to let yourself be moved, something that is often lost in modern dance.

“By repeating arche movement dancers often find a condition where they are no longer actively executing the movement, but are moved by the movement, ending up in complex sequences and virtuosity.” (172) I love that phrase – ending up in virtuosity. It resonates and rings true to me. Experimenting with butoh, it felt like I was really dancing. I could feel the capacity of my body and movement to move me. I had not felt that way in technique classes. Siren’s method seems like a framework that allows the dancers to feel comfortable and keeps them in motion, even when there is no clear idea of why – a tactics of being directionless. Movement not conceived as means and ends but itself a generator – poiesis. Fulfilling the poetic nature of the body.

It is telling that the most rich part of this text is where a particular practice is used as an anchor. Fits with my hypothesis that practice takes theory to a whole new level.

“We should not approach movement as a manipulated object, but as an element we dwell in. Movement is not in our control, rather it befalls us, strikes us, comes over us, overwhelms us, transforms us.” (169)

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