If we follow a movement as it unravels and becomes a sequence, a flow of movement, a dance, can we perceive where the move originates? Where, in the body, does the dancing begin? or is there no beginning? the movement’s realisation is made possible by the imperceptible surge of breath, which is in infinite continuity and flux. Where does breath begin? We might well ask where the wind begins? The breath, like the wind, is intimately connected to the particular topography and the elemental forces at play. The body is engaged in a continual exchange with the environment … and breath negotiates that space between inside and outside, connecting all of us in its economy.
“To breathe by myself allows me also to move away from a socio-cultural placenta. Thus I can begin to be born … To be born to my life” — Luce Irigaray
The dancer takes more breath, more oxygen and also releases more carbon dioxide … her breath is one of exchange. Her moving forces an expansion of lungs. What she inhales in her exertion she returns with her exhalation. Through the elegant reciprocal process of photosynthesis oxygen is then released into the environment. The activity of her cells and lungs is one of continuous expanding, condensing and exchange. And this chemical exchange occurs across membranes: carried in the blood and diffused through permeable membranes – oxygen and carbon dioxide are constantly seeking balance. And this seeking is dynamic. There is no rest, place, or time where this exchange is not crucial for the continuity of life. It is a continuum. So this ‘thing’ that we do, breathe, goes largely unnoticed in our daily lives. We breathe in something of place, and we breathe out a little of our own internal place. And place needs space to become place. Does space precede breath or does breath create space? or are they in a mobius loop of becoming, each for the other?
Is this relationship then, between breathing and digestion, the activity against which all activity can be measured? Without space and breath we cannot make anything. We are not just breathless, we are dead. So how then does breathing make things? Does breath create the space in which something can happen? In which things are made. In which the dancer can make something. I occupy the space of my body and through breath I move into space, and towards or away from others. In occupying my body I take up space. In taking up this space I take up a socio-political position. No one else can occupy that particular space/position of my body. breath precedes movement. What then precedes breath … space? the void? Every breath includes a pause … this completes the rhythm and the cycle. Is the pause also the void? Is the void the space in which something might be conceived … in darkness?
“If there is to be flesh, an autonomous breath must infuse the body. Through autonomous forms of life and love” (Irigaray 1993: 145).
Space offers the potential for anything, or something or nothing to become … emerging from a pre-verbal womb to engage with the far reaches of our inner and outer imaginary. We move and the movement does things. Those who watch us dance may also experience a state of lucid re-configuring of ideas, an effortless realising and organising. This breath filled dance illuminating and potentially challenging personal, political and socio-cultural belief systems. Could we call this beyond verbal? Giving dance a status rarely understood? Luce Irigaray reminds us: “the threshold of the lips … A sort of doorway to voluptuousness? they are not useful, except as that which designates a place, the very place of uselessness, at least as it is habitually understood” (1993: 18). What then does dance offer? Like philosophy, nothing except uselessness? this may be its gift and its contribution. Aligning itself with the ‘feminine’ in its position within the culture. Unseen, silent, barely understood and unrecognised. A submerged possibility that always and also makes the space for and creates the place for conceptualisation, growth and birth … a place of transformation … for the making of work in any form. The space appropriated by the event of what takes place after the birth. Along with the affect of gravity is the affect of time. Space though precedes time and without space there is nowhere for time to manifest. Elizabeth Grosz suggests:
“The more clearly we understand our temporal location as beings who straddle the past and the future without the security of a stable and abiding present, the more mobile our possibilities are, and the more transformation becomes conceivable” (2004: 14).
When we occupy the space of our bodies and embody this knowing it becomes increasingly difficult to engage in the split world of cartesian thought. And this dancing is a making of love creating the matrix from which a shift might occur. And this shift may be an event, a leap of evolution, inspiring a suppleness between peoples and especially between men and women. Its potential perhaps no less than what Irigaray suggests the power of the carnal and sexual act of love, to give, “new form, birth, incarnation to the self. Instead of implying the downfall of the body, it takes part in the body’s renaissance” (1993: 50-51). This matrix allowing the feminine to co-exist with, and contribute to our geo-political world with vigour. As Irigaray reminds us, “Women have to constitute a social entity if love and cultural fecundity are to take place” (1993: 67).
I believe it is in the dance and the dancing that the origins of a possible new form of living and loving might become apparent. “If there is to be flesh, an autonomous breath must infuse the body. Through autonomous forms of life and love” (Irigaray 1993: 145).