DISTANCE

“DIS-DANCE”

—by Andreas Spiegl

Is it possible to imagine a dance

without a dancer, to formulate

such a word as “dance” and

yet fail to analyse the distance

between dance and dancing,

between dance as a mere term

and the actual act of dancing,

between body language and the

act of speaking with one’s body?

Is a waltz simply a waltz and does

it only reproduce a defined set

of steps and movements or is the

act of dancing a waltz something

in its own right and signifies

something that exceeds the

dance itself? Does to dance mean

to always break away from dance,

to emancipate oneself from the

defined set of movements in

order to express more than what

it initially promised?

A necessary distance gets

introduced between dance and

dancing, which differentiates

dance from dancing and enables

the dancers to take those dance

steps as a starting point and

thus approach dance itself while

dancing, to dance in order to

confront dance and to come to

new conclusions after each encounter.

In this sense, to dance

means to dance with a dance, to

connect with dance, to start off

with a dance so as to approach

it, to let go of everything else

and to let go of the dance, only

to pick it up once more and to

find stability therein while being

oneself again and another one at

the same time—with one movement,

to simultaneously lead

this dance and being led by this

dance, finally becoming a dancer

by name. This way, the relation of

dance and dancer is being characterised

by a distance, which

serves as a basis for the concept

of dance and essentially attributes

a “Distance/Dis-Dance” to

it. To dance means to address

with every movement, every step

and every leap this relation of

dance and dancer expressed by

a “Distance/Dis-Dance.” Without

“Distance/Dis-Dance” there

would only be the performance

of dance steps, but no dancing

would take place to express and

incorporate what the dance only

seems to promise conceptually.

Likewise, it is dancing that renders

visible the concept of dance,

that unfolds to produce the

linguistics and body language of

dance—the script entering the

movement of dance once it wants

to be perceived and described as

dance. Hence, dancing conveys

a concept of dance that it wants

to approach and originate from.

Dancing is a mode of writing

with and in body language—a

body script, which follows both

the defined word of a sequence

of steps or a dance figure as well

as an act of drawing, ensuing a

sketch while its shapes are not

yet defined as an object, sign or

word—an illegible hand, albeit

clearly regarded as writing

and claiming its own right to language.

The script enters the act

of dancing as a means of drawing

or writing with the body and thus

one movement gets connected

with the other—similar to a letter

sequence, which adds up to

a word or a sentence, even if the

body script remains illegible and

draws from unconventional signs

or grammar in order to search

for new letters or characters or

to integrate phrases from other

body languages. Writing is an

integral part of dancing—regardless

of the writing’s legibility.

To write with the body’s script

leaves traces or follows a trail,

and its pathway is defined by the

question as to whether the act

of dancing wants to adhere to

a written sequence of steps or

whether it wants to find a new

way of sketching characters.

Different body scripts—both

legible and illegible–do not only

express different forms of dance

but emphasise their common

ground in writing.

“Choreography” as a term—

meaning both “χορεία” (choreia,

dance) and “γράφειν” (grafein,

writing)—conflates the concepts

of writing and dancing, of script

and dance—there is the possibility

of recording what is being

danced or dancing what has

been written down, to understand

dance in terms of writing

and vice versa. As much there is

of a written trace in writing—

which makes it possible to read

and comprehend what has been

written down as well as to track

down these traces of thought—

as much of a trail is being

created by dance in space and

time, a trail making sure that a

dancer’s movement is succeeded

by another, so they correspond

and one can elaborate on the

other. As different as traces of

writing and dancing are to each

other as inextricably linked are

those traces choreographically

by writing.

Casanova Sorolla’s Choreography

Diagrams (2011–2016) follow this

trail jointly created by writing

and dancing. He asked dancers

to dance on a floor covered by

sheets of paper and dusted with

color pigments.

 

Each step saturates the paper

with pigments and thus footprints

and trails are left, which

turn out to be sketches and

render visible the “Choreography”

of dance. The fine-grain

pigments allow for complex

imprints and it is possible to tell

the faint sanding marks of movements

from abrupt turns and

twists. Casanova Sorolla’s drawings

translate those instances

of time and space, disregarded

most of the time, into notations.

These translations render those

traces readable, which the act of

dancing has drawn or which it

follows according to a defined

choreography—you can spot a

“waltz” or a Swan Lake inspired

“pas de quatre” on this side while

there is a short improvisation or

solo over on the other side. At

one time, you can identify mostly

imprints of toes and, at other

times, these are traces created

by hands and feet, all alluding to

a different body language—to

a different kind of writing with

the body.

When comparing Casanova

Sorolla’s work with the first

dance notations written down by

Raoul-Auger Feuillet, who published

his CHOREGRAPHIE OU

L’ART DE DECRIRE LA DANCE

(fig. 1) in 1700, one can clearly

acknowledge the synthesis of

dance and script that has been in

use for centuries now. Not only

do Feuillet’s notations make note

of the step sequences, but they

also describe dance as a mode

of writing with the body, to leave

traces and follow trails, to sign

over one’s body to a dance. His

notations (fig. 2) and Casanova

Sorolla’s Choreography Diagrams

are kindred spirits in that they

both make use of writing: Whereas

Feuillet’s description of step

sequences anticipates the act

of dancing, Casanova Sorolla’s

notations reveal an act of dancing

that leaves traces but also

makes visible the script already

present within the movements.

These traces represent the act of

dancing with the script, dancing

with the dance. They record the

“Dis-Dance,” which differentiates

between dancing and dance

and still unites them at the same

time. In this sense, dancing

updates the dance, and this in

turn causes the dance both to

manifest in space and time and

to transcend the moment’s limitations

in virtual terms. A “pas

de quatre” sequence is literally

awaiting to be danced, and if this

sequence is being danced it will

be updated only temporarily,

since it only leaves actual traces,

which were already predetermined

in virtual terms. “Dis-

Dance” is the basic foundation

of any relationship between

dance and dancing, it defines an

indivisible dissimilarity, which

makes room for interpretation:

to dance a dance inevitably

means to interpret. Any step

sequence a dance defines has to

be performed once more and

thus interpreted once more. The

dance can represent a prescript

[Vorschrift], which will be superscribed

[beschriften] by each act

of dancing.

The discrepancy between

prescript [Vorschrift] and caption

[Beschriftung] is no sign of a

flawed performance, which does

not live up to the imperative. It

rather presents itself as an immanent

part of the relationship

between dance and dancing.

Only deviation allows dancing

to take place, and dancing can

only ever be a subjective and

individual task of interpretation.

For interpretation labels the

prescript in deviant terms, superscribes

with a fuzzy hand. The

notations of Feuillet still focus on

the imperative while Casanova

Sorolla’s Choreography Diagrams

turn toward caption, toward

the actual interpretation and

deviation—toward those traces

outlined by the interaction of

dance and dancing which make

for entire sketches, displaying

the correlation of prescription

and deviant caption. Usually,

Casanova Sorolla records the

process of creating his Choreography

Diagrams on camera, and

the dancers are being filmed in

profile or from above. The videos

do not only provide access to the

process of creating the sketches,

but they also show—apart from

the footprints—the bodies and

movements not represented by

the tracks on the floor. They

convey a feeling of time that is

not included in the drawings

and cannot be included, since

these drawings fuse together all

moments created by dancing

in time and end up with one

final moment of simultaneity.

The drawings only bear witness

to mere trails of movements in

time, the successive moments

now being represented simultaneously.

The transitory elements

of movement are transcribed

into a durational state by means

of these trails. These trails tell of

what does not exist anymore and

show what once was—they incorporate

ephemerality as much as

a moment preserving duration.

The drawings’ synchronous trails

create sketches of structures and

compositions, structures and

compositions which synchronise

the singular movements

and steps and give one total

impression of the diverse

dancing steps, subjugating it to

the choreography of one dance

piece—constructing one single

dance that could never have

existed or danced in any way but

only exists within this display. At

this point, the multiple meanings

of “Distance/Dis-Dance” between

dance and dancing are not the

only elements to interfere, but

there are also Casanova Sorolla’s

artistic interventions: his successful

emphasis of the indivisible

difference is made possible by

his own drawings—the diagram.

By means of introducing two different

notations of dancing the

apparent difference reveals itself

immediately. However, his artistic

intervention is less interested

in investigating the relationship

between dancing and drawing

or in blurring the limitations of

both genres—something Trisha

Brown pursued in her Drawing-

Performances (fig. 3)—than

in focusing on the act of including

the drawing as membrane or

filter in a process during which

the drawing filters this process

somehow graphically and extricates

the movement particles.

In this sense, one should not be

concerned whether the dancers

have drawn his painting, and

thus turn out to be the true

authors of those sketches, but

one should focus on understanding

the drawing as a method

of recording and registering

processes—perhaps similar to

a seismographic instrument,

which records earthquakes also

graphically. This way, Casanova

Sorolla defines a drawing not as

mere medium, which allows one

to express oneself by drawing,

but as an instrument, as a means

to record processes featuring

graphic qualities. His drawings

are recordings of processes and,

by intervening throughout these

processes, they illustrate a close

relation to the aesthetics and

history of drawing—something

neither intended from these

processes nor previously

addressed by them in any form.

Covering the floor with sheets

of paper in order to record the

traces of the dance steps can

rather be compared to setting up

an experiment and a method of

analysis, which will extricate the

graphic qualities.

For this reason, Casanova

Sorolla does not interfere in the

Choreographies of the dance

pieces, because it is not about

adjusting them in order to create

impressive drawings, but it is

all about recording the graphic

particles inherent in those Choreographies.

Thus, one could say

Casanova Sorolla uses his concept

of drawing like a thermometer: to

take the graphic temperature of

these processes.

To use drawing as an instrument

to measure and analyse, to filter

(previously disregarded) graphic

qualities of diverse and heterogeneous

artistic processes, is a

key feature of the subject and

technique used by Casanova

Sorolla in his works. He extricates

graphic qualities from

genres and processes usually

categorised in regard to other

disciplines and conventional

methods of perception. Although

his technical method of

recording musical instruments is

different to the method used in

Choreography Diagrams, the subject

remains to be similar to his practice

of creating drawings from

the graphic methods of analysis.

The way he used sheets of paper

to transform a dance floor into

a sensitive filter of movements,

the same way he uses small light

sources, which are attached to

instruments—e.g. applied to a

violin bow or to a conductor’s

baton—and photographed

using a long-duration shutter

speed, to capture the moving

elements and to shine a light on

the graphic qualities inherent in

those movements. This photographic

technique captures the

trials of the light sources, and

he can then isolate and expose

them. The apparent reference

to informal or abstract drawings

implicates a history of drawing

that is simultaneously being

remarked upon and kept at a

distance. The way the lines are

drawn gives no indication of that

they are by-products of a mere

visual expression. They are rather

created by the musical notes,

by the movements of the bow,

which draws across the strings of

the violin or cello. There is an

arbitrary relationship between

the graphic qualities of the visual

notations and the tonal qualities

to which the movements of the

bows are solely dedicated. As

with the Choreography Diagrams,

Casanova Sorolla’s notations fuse

together the temporal successions

of the musical notes to end

up with simultaneity once again.

The successive scores are being

translated into an image of concurrency,

the temporal progress

of a piece is being condensed

into a moment’s duration. The

drawings disclose the matter of

a synthesis one has never heard

before, a quasi “unheard-of”

image. Casanova Sorolla uses

his concept of drawing like a

measuring rod: measuring the

accidental and unintentional

graphic moments of music-making.

As with dancing, there is an

act of writing inherent in the performance

of a score, in the performance

of a notation. This act

of writing implicates a concept of

writing that is both present within

dance and music. The same

way one can notate music, one

can also read or listen to what is

being read without losing a word.

Casanova Sorolla complements

this reading session by providing

us with notations that enable us

to perceive the music visually as

well. In this sense, his drawings

can be regarded as phonographic

measures extricating visual

qualities from what is audible.

These measures conceive of the

act of playing an instrument as

an act of writing a score—thus,

understanding it in terms of

producing a transcript. The difference

between the imperative

processes, which Casanova Sorolla

starts to tap into. His current

effort, to analyse even geological

processes and movements, such

as earthquakes, in regard to

their graphic qualities, outlines

Casanova Sorollas immense engagement

in surveying our world

graphically.

His concept of drawing and his

method of designing a suitable

filter and device for each of these

processes enable Casanova Sorolla

to include a diverse range of

(artistic and daily) practices and

genres in his process of creating

these drawings. Accordingly, his

concept of art tends to emancipate

the vision of a work of art

from the sole expressiveness of

one person. He understands

the work of art rather in terms

of a membrane, which is able to

record cultural or daily practices

and processes. Hence, the image

does not take on the shape of a

representation in regard to the

processes it displays, but it rather

of a score and the performance

of this score, as a musical caption,

is being analysed in terms

of the “Distance/Dis-Dance”

between transcript and notation.

The lines and trails of movements

depict each individual

and subjective note, something

which is inevitably part of every

musical interpretation. This

way, they do not only resemble

the lines drawn by informal or

abstract drawings, but they also

share the very same qualities of

individual expression. In this

sense, Casanova Sorolla conflates

the concept of a bow or baton

with the concept of a pen and

turns the performance into a

recording session.

Over the last couple of years,

Casanova Sorolla has extended

his reach when looking for intrinsic

graphic qualities in movements.

He has started to design

his own special devices. In order

to record a trip on the tube, with

its acceleration and deceleration

between stops and its vibrations

and centrifugal forces while turning

corners, Casanova Sorolla

installed a ball on a platform

dusted with color pigments. The

movement of the ball, its back

and forth, recorded the trails of

the movements. This way, even

urban everyday life makes for a

huge reservoir of graphic