Conversation: May 23

S: Su-Feh
Z: Zab Maboungou
H: Hari Krishnan
A: Mohd Anis Md Nor
J: Jennifer Mascall

S: And now they’re working, they’re working okay.

Z: Do we have to speak close I guess?

S: Yeah, pull the mics close. Do we all want to speak into the mics, just make sure they work?

J: Speak into the mics to see if it works

Everyone: Test test , yes, yes, hallo

S: Neil, it’s all good? Do we like the lighting here? Should we change it? Can we have something more-

H: Moody (laughs)

S: Moody, soft (laughs). It’s um, Neil and Riley (laughs). Oh that’s better.

H: Better.

S: Oooh! That’s a little harsh (laughter). Ahhhh, but it’s nice that we see everyone. This is good?

H: Yes.

S: Yes. Oh, cell phones off. I think before we start David would like me to remind you that it helps us if you buy memberships to battery opera. Keeps the oysters coming. Okay, I had to prepare a speech because normally when I speak in public, and I am not prepared, I start crying. So excuse the "speech" thing.

So, good evening! My name is Su-Feh Lee, if you don't know already, and I am a dancer, choreographer, the artistic director of battery opera and this is my party. Thank you all for being here. Ummm, what I'm going to do is talk a little bit, give you ah, my spiel and then we'll all take turns talking and then at the end there will be a little Q and A, we can all together because it is a nice intimate room. Yes? So, over the last little while, often when I mention that I was organizing a discussion, a conversation on the continuum between folk practice and the palace, people would say,

"And you are doing this for?"

With the implication that, um, this was yet another panel discussion initiated by some funding body, uh, a governmental agency, uh, an umbrella organization with agendas that had been, um, handed down by politicians, policy makers, bureaucrats and boards. Well this isn't it. This is a conversation that serves nobody else's agenda but mine (laughs), which is that of an artist. An artist with questions about my craft and my instrument, which is my body, and the political and historical pressures upon it. Having said that I must thank all these funding bodies (laughs) and governmental agencies and, uh, umbrella organizations for, ah, helping me and battery opera do this. So, first of all the equity office of the Canada Council for giving up the money, the Canada Summer Job Program, for letting us hire Sameena who is going to, um what's she going to do, document and disseminate these conversations and of course the Dance Centre for giving us the space and the support.

Mostly, I want to thank my guests for agreeing to talk with me. They are Dr. Anis Nor who is Professor of Ethnochoreology and Ethnomusicology, I've had a few glasses of wine, so I have to check my-, from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hari Krishnan, artistic director of InDance, which is based in Toronto, who works and teaches within and beyond the Bharatanatyam tradition. Zab Maboungou, artistic director of Nyata Nyata based in Montreal. Um, Zab is choreographer, teacher of philosophy, dancer, writer, activist, and has been working for the development and promotion of African dance across Canada and abroad. Jennifer Mascall, closer to home, artistic director of Mascall Dance, who is choreographer, teacher, educator and practitioner of body-mind centering, of which she will tell more later, I’m sure. I had also invited Michelle Olson of Raven Spirit Dance Company, but unfortunately she has had to pull out due to an unforeseen health complication. So, I will miss her perspectives. We wish her well.

The term folk is a term loaded with imperialist and colonial implications as well as nationalist overtones. Any discussion of folk dance must deal with issues of power, political and economic, as well as issues of identity. As we discuss folk, and the palace, we will all have to grapple with the semantics of the words folk, ritual, traditional, contemporary, classicism, court, temple, sacred, popular, etcetera, etcetera. Within a context of politics, patronage and the market place. Over the next few days I'm sure my guests will have plenty to add to this part of the discussion.

For my part, I would like to take back the word folk from its colonial, imperialist and nationalist projections and think of folk dance as just what folk do. Implicit in my definition of folk dance is dance that is ritual based. Dance that has a function other than being ornamental, other than being entertainment. In this category I include dances that are performed to bring rain, that are done to flirt with members of the opposite sex. Dances that celebrate rites of passage, dances that celebrate the harvest. Dances that help you commune with the divinity of your choice. Thus in my definition of folk dance, I include break dancing circles, contact improv jams, dancing all night in a rave while on ecstasy, lion dances on a street during Chinese New Year.

Contact Improv Jam

In my definition of folk dance I do not include the folk dances that one sees on a big stage. Such as, say La Shumka dances. I do not include the break dancing or hip hop that one sees on a music video. I do not include the Chinese lion dance that is performed on a stage to impress the audience with virtuosic acrobatics. I do not include them because they have been taken out of their ritualistic function. They have become entertainment, a commodity for the palace. What is this palace I am referring to? In the past it would have been the European courts of Italy, France or Russia where classical ballet developed. Or the courts of South East Asia where certain court dances developed. Implicit in my definition of the palace is the notion that the dance is being seen and paid for by a party that holds political and economic power. The nobility, the landed gentry, the bourgeoisie. While we can argue that these frameworks are also, a kind of, social ritual, the function of dance in these instances is often as object, as ornamentation, not as primary action of these rituals. In the present, in contemporary life, I believe that the demands and expectations of the palace continue to influence how we present and watch dance. We watch dance often in proscenium spaces such as this one. In which the audience has bought a ticket, has paid money to see the dance. In which the language of the market place, buying, selling, owning has been used in the exchange of art. Who are the stakeholders in the art market today? Are they the governments? Are they corporations, sporting or otherwise? In these palaces old and new, it seems to me, the circle of the folk ritual has often been transformed into something more linear. Function has been replaced by aesthetics. Aesthetics in turn, are being governed by the agendas and expectations of the palace. In the practice of dance today, I believe we move fluidly, sometimes more, sometimes less, between these two paradigms- the folk and the palace. Neither are ideals for me. But I wonder what happens to the dance, to the body of the dancer, to the body of the community that dances. I wonder what happens to this body as it moves between the folk space and the palace space. As the dancer moves from one function to the other, from invoking to evoking or provoking. From action to subject, to object to action again. I am curious about the changes that occur in the architecture of space, in the organization of the body. The role of the regard, the regard of oneself, the regard of the other. I'm curious about how time is used in partnership with the dance. The role of rhythm in the organization of time. I am curious about the question of narratives, about the notion of ownership and authorship and how they are affected as we move from the sacred intimate dance that we have with divinity of our choice- either a God figure or our deepest personal bliss- to the public dance under the gaze of the other. These are my questions essentially and they are questions of what happens to our body. Um, as we head into a weekend of conversation which, I hope, can inspire and provoke each of us as we go along our paths of making, teaching and studying dance. For this evening in order for us to get to know one another, I have simply asked each of my guests to respond to the words folk, palace, ritual and contemporary from the scope of their experience. Their practice, their politics, as well as their own questions. To begin, I would like to start with the person who has traveled the longest, uh, the furthest away. I came of age as an artist in Malaysia. I decided to become an artist in an environment that exposed me to a great deal of spirited discourse about the relationship between ritual, folk and classical practices within a post- colonial context. Anis was part of this environment. So, I present to you Dr. Anis Nor who can tell, a little more in detail, about what he does and his response to my agenda.

A: Thank you, Su-Feh, can you hear me? I like to hold my microphone and perform rather than be dictated by the mic. Okay, I will introduce myself a bit more than what Su-Feh has just said a moment ago. There's some terms of reference I suppose some people are worried about. Um, she dropped the word ethnochoreology and hmmm, Zab said to me:

"What is it?"

And I said, “Hold on a minute, I'll tell you.” (laugh)

And then she went on with the other one, ethnomusicology, which I don't have to explain, you know that. Ethnochoreology is a word which was coined in Europe to describe the study of dance as part of folklore. Okay? In America, around about the turn of the 20th century just around about after the Second World War, the whole idea of working and investigating dance like music is being investigated as ethnomusicology began in earnest in 1970's and the Americans, UCLA based Americans, um, decided that the appropriate word would be dance ethnology. So, you hear in America dance ethnology, you hear elsewhere ethnochoreology, depends which hegemony you would like to subscribe to and I would rather use ethnochoreology, if you know what I mean. And that’s what it is. Um, the study itself is here attached to the whole idea of dance as being part and parcel of what was considered to be a, the gamut of folklore. So, then we were going to deal with the word folk in a moment, but before I go into that very academic issue, let me go back a bit as to ah, how Su-Feh and I are sitting here tonight. And I really can't believe this happening. Ah, many eons ago we parted ways, um. I went, continued to become what I am. Decided to drop dancing in the sense of being a dancer, performer with my body, with a very close friend of ours, Marion D’Cruz.
Um, I was um, I really love dancing. I danced ever since I knew I could walk. Because my parents would teach us, they taught dancing to schools and I was the first child in the family, so my parents refused to let me sit with a nanny so they carried me along with my little milk bottle, put me in the corner of the building. Anywhere they put me in any corner. They teach and you know, if you look into the idea of Yvon and Perreault by Dussault, you'll find how their accumulated behavior brought into without even you consciously aware of it. So, I was a good dancer by the time I was seven, eight years old in that context. Uh, a party boy. So every time there is a party in the family everyone would ask me to dance. It didn't matter what music, I just danced. That's um, how I saw dance. And when I went to University I never knew I would be doing this, because Malaya or Malaysia is a very straight jacket country, it still is a very straight jacket country. It’s a police state, a very nice police state. If you know, know how to behave. I'm trying to everyday (laughter). And um, it’s em, it’s hard then for me as a son of a parent who are both very respectable teachers. I got a place in England to do law, which was my first love, but my father couldn't send me because we had no scholarship, the government of Malaysia, being a police state, decided at that moment of time in my life, they will never give scholarship to law students anymore because they have just opened a law school locally. So, I end up going to University of Malaya doing liberal arts, but I work with one of the greatest teacher in my life, our late, wonderful Master Krishen Jit. That changed my life forever. And I dance and dance and dance. Just about when I finish my first degree Krishen had a small chat with me and he said:

“Anis, what are you going to do with your life now? Since you have been invited to be a diplomat?"

I was recruited as a diplomat because I wanted to be diplomat. My mother refused to let me be a diplomat and she said:

"You can do anything in your life Anis, but not be a diplo-"

I say, "Voila. I can do anything.”

So I met Krishen Jit, talked to him, "How can I do something with dance? I don't want to be a professional dancer because I know, in about three decades after this moment of talking to you, I cannot control my physique.”

And showing now, look at me I am so beautiful (laughter). “So I can't.”

So then he plotted this idea of, “Why can't you, why don't you go to Hawaii and do this study called dance ethnology?”

I wasn't even able to pronounce that word. And when I dropped the bomb in front of Marion, I don't know whether you know this Su-Feh-

S: No

A: My God, the first thing Marion said to me:

"Anis," because we were doing a lot of pas de duex together. We were just completely crazy fools, we just danced and just translate poetry and just, if anybody ask us, we just dance. For any excuse we can find we just dance. And that moment was just beautiful.

Pas de Deux Animation

And I told Marion, "I'm, I'm leaving. I'm leaving, I'm going to Hawaii. I'm getting a scholarship from the state and they don't know why they giving it to me.”

During the interview they said, "You're going to do dance technology?"

I said "No Sir, ethnology."

And every time they say, "Dance technology.”

I say, “Okay, technology!" You know, like, everybody's so confused (laughter).

I was equally confused, but I was sure of something. That perhaps this is a window for me to engage my love of dance by not having to be dependent on my body, you know what I am trying to say here? So, when I drop the bomb, now just stop when this get too long okay (laughter), and I drop the bomb to Marion and said:

“Marion, I'm going off to school, I'm done, I'm not dancing anymore."

She looked at me and said, "What the-,” four letter words you know, "What the -," four letter words, "you want to go there for?"

And I say, "I want to dance.”

"What dance? What dance study you want to do?"

And the words that came out from my mouth was, "I want to study Malay folk dance."

And she look at me, and she said to me, "There is nothing to be studied in folk dance. You can do a lot of study in classical dance, in court dance. In temple dance. Folk dance my foot! Folk dance, Anis wake up!"
You can tell her in July, I told this secret to you.

And then I say to her “Marion, look here, this is a great challenge. I will prove to you, I will prove to you one day, you will eat your words.”

I don't know if she has eaten any of the words she gave me, but sure enough, today I manage to engage the study of dance and re-interpret the whole notion of the colonialistic definition of folk. Because there is no word in the Malay language for "folk". See I was raised, I was born before independence that made me Jurassic in terms of Malaysia. And I went to English school, that is how I am speaking to you like this today. And I learn, of course, the first thing in school was, square dancing. Folk dancing. You know, British stuff, English stuff. And then we do what they call "ethnic dancing." Malay stuff, my stuff. My stuff was grade three stuff, square dances was grade one stuff. You see the whole notion of transferal? And I had that with me until my parents started to question things. Because they were annoyed, they were teaching the third grade stuff. This actually was the main reason why, I think, that the whole idea of appropriating the meaning of a dance, and what it has been labeled outside of the community is very crucial. Um, so if you wish to know more about one major work I did, perhaps you may want to go to any of the library around. There is a book published by Oxford University in 1980,1993, ‘92, I think. Zapin Dance of the Malay World. You read that and you will find that I have finally, finally managed to make Marion swallow her words.

So, at this moment- Su-Feh brought the idea of what are we working with, the terms of reference- I'll be very simplistic first because we have a lot of dialoguing to do. First, for your information, I come from Southeast Asia. Peninsula of Southeast Asia, not mainland Southeast Asia. My language is for the family of the Austronesian, the Malaya Polynesian. Which is spoken from Madagascar all the way to Easter Island, that’s the language along the equatorial belt, along the Pacific Ocean.

Austronesian Unity

And we have no idea of folk. We have a word for dance, but the contemporary word for dance which is equivalent to d-a-n-s-e or d-a-n-c-e, tari was concocted only very recently, around about when Indonesia was about to get independence. Indonesia introduced the word tari dance to represent what dance is understood in the world. So you, you see we are subscribing to the notion of fitting into the world, rather than the world fitting into us. So, we had to use the word. Eventually, we got very confused because there were other words we have. So, which is then, the first word? Or a second word, or a third? Where is the hierarchy for the words, huh? So, if a community called this is ikal, is it tari or ikal? If the community says ikal is dancing, but tari's also dance, so there is again a re-invention of how to appropriate that meaning of word, tari or dance, vis a vis ikal- the very local terminology; and it happens all throughout the Austronesian population. You can read a lot of work in Hawaii, a lot of works, and only recently people have begun to understand what Hula is. Hula is more than just dancing. So, dance in short, just to, to, dance in my part of the world is not about the body curvaturing space, or curating space, within the constrain of time, no. Dance is about self. Dance is about you. So, that’s how ethnochoreology fit into my study. Because in ethnochoreology, dance is the culture, dance is you. You are not separating you as the performer or a dancer. And dance as being a milieu of expression, no. So in the part where I come from, dance is about you. Whether you do it for yourself, you do it to cure, you do it to heal, you do it to placate the spirits, you do it to, to provide, pacify those who are more powerful than you. You can call it whatever and then we have these other words coming in where we never had a word, called classical. We never knew what classical was. And you know, just because ballet has classical, we thought that dance should have classical too. So we say:

“What's classical?”

So I say, say, "Okay let’s see what’s classical." What is classical in western terms?

So, classical means it has to go through this, it has to have this patronage. All those really, you know, niche areas.

And we say, "Ahhh, we do have them!"

So to us classical is a dance, is dances that belong to the palace. So we have this confusion between palace dancing and classical. We are always confused, mind you, because we’re using and being forced to use the terms of reference, which is not ours. It continues ‘til now. So at this point in time this dialogue is, I'm being very selfish and self-centered, is being very beneficial for me, really. So if Su-Feh is saying this is her event, this is mine too you know (laughter). So its going to be that way, I hope I'm opening a bit for tonight so, you know, you've got to come back tomorrow, we can't have everything tonight, right? So I want to stop here.

S: It’s just the other-

A: I'm going to stop here, so move along, okay?

S: Thank you (applause). That’s fantastic, you know it’s amazing how circular it all is, because the two people that Anis mentioned, Marion and Krishen. Two of the most important people in my life. So (laughs), um, well uh, I thought we would go from Anis choosing to study folk dance and move to Hari, who works in a tradition that no one would suggest is folk dance in any way. It’s classical, so uh, I will let Hari talk a little bit more about that and his responses to these words.

H: Thank you Su-Feh. Can you hear me? Great. Um, before we had this conversation I had prepared a formal research, very, very highly academic, scholarly paper on the following topic, but after the mandate Su-Feh had set for us in terms of dialoguing in a very informal manner, I have umm, rejected this presentation and I am going to reference some uh, quotations which I thought was uh, necessary for this particular dialogue. I am a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, scholar and choreographer. I am the artistic director of my company InDance, and I am also a visiting professor of dance at Wellesley University. Which is one of North America's most renowned world dance and music programmes since 1952. I have been there for the past seven years and part of my scholarly and academic interest is to merge my vision, in terms of me being a dance artist and me being a dance scholar. So, I'm going to put those two hats inextricably intertwined so please forgive me if I get too scholarly. If I use too much of scholarly verbiage. I'll try to couch that and nuance that in more colloquial terminology.

Bharatanatyam Dance

Umm, Bharatanatyam in the neo-classical form of South India. When I say neo-classical it was reconstructed in the 1930's and 40's, uh, Bharatanatyam is a new word, um in the sense that it was re-invented in the 1930's and 40's as a means to reify British colonialism and nationalism in South Asia. Part of my scholarly work and my research based work is to go back in time and document what was before 1930's and go back and conduct extensive field work with the indigenous communities of Bharatanatyam, i.e. the Devadasis. And for the past fifteen years I have been conducting extensive field work and research based work, working with extensive rare communities of Devadasis. Devadasis were professional dancers prior to 1947. They were part and parcel of Bharatanatyam being performed as a stage, as a court and a temple form. And from 1947 the dance was re-envisaged, the dance was spiritualized, the dance was nationalized and the dance was re-evoked in a much more nationalistic, cosmopolitan, global, international manner. And that got me thinking, and that became traditional. And that became the source and that became historically documented as quote, unquote, "authentic".

So, that got me thinking fifteen years back when I came to, I came to Canada in 1989. Its going to be almost twenty years and when I, part of my dance academic training in Manitoba and at York University was to investigate and re-envision the form in a very ah, holistic way, rewrite a new script for South Asian dance. Being a Canadian dance artist, I am very frequently bombarded with these terms. What it means to be a classical dancer, what it means to be a folk dancer and what it means to be the contemporary dancer. The contemporary, as far as I am concerned, is the new word for classical. So, these words have, um, little or no meaning in terms of pre-colonial India. I’m just going to read to you the first paragraph of what I had prepared. The reconstitution of particular forms of indigenous dance of South India as classical. The tradition formed a salient part of South Asian negotiations with modernity in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the second half of the 20th century, and now in the 21st century, dance continues to be defined in terms of traditional, modern, folk, classical, post modern, contemporary. Yet, the performing arts have not been systematically studied, nor has their place is the history of modernity in South Asia been documented and critically commented upon, on a broad scale. Whereas beginnings in this sort of a dialogue, which I am so thrilled that we are going have, we hope to revisit some of those buzz words. “Classical,” “folk” have little, have, were reconstructed terms, were newly constructed terms in British India and it was constructed in terms of European dance, um. When someone does classical work, the form was seen as sophisticated. When someone does folk based work the form was seen as less than. So, sophistication versus being a pedestrian. So, that was a qualitative value, judgment applied to those dance genres. In my work I try to reinvestigate and form a new space in which we can identify, in which we can redefine, reconstruct, reconstitute new definitions and work in a new space in a new non-eurocentric space. And it’s more complicated being in Canada, because being from South Asia, being a dancer representing South Asian Culture I'm often seen as the poster boy of everything South Asia. So everything classical, everything folk, and everything contemporary.

So, to talk in a very nuance, to have a nuanced subtle dialogue, it’s extremely complicated, it’s extremely umm, difficult and it has to be a highly organic evolved process of integration, deconstruction, reconstruction and re-envisioning what these words mean in classical India prior to the British, I'm talking 16th,17th century. When the form was performed by, as I said, particular community of professional dancers. The form was danced in temples, in court and in homes. And there were three types of different repertoire. One was a ritual based repertoire danced in a temple, that was folk. One was danced in the royal courts, a more sophisticated, exuberant, exaggerated and a more structured repertoire that was termed as classical. And then in people’s homes was a more interpersonal, popular type of dance expression, which was a nice hybrid of folk and classical. Perhaps contemporary. So, there were these three terms which were reconstituted and used in the, um, 17th, um 18th, 19th century during colonial India, and what complicated the process even more along with Victorian morality and along with a Christian fundamental gaze. There was also an additional layer of nationalism, of taking national pride in South Asia, so we have to shun the type of repertoire, which was sexual, which was sensual, which was erotic. So, there was a compartmentalization, a complete bifurcation of ones sensuality, and sexuality and ones spirituality. Whereas in the past, sexuality and sensuality, and eroticism and spirituality function as one complex aesthetic web and it’s in that web one finds a very artistic voice, and that is my springboard to start this very discourse. Is using that web to sift through some of the complexity when we talk about what's folk, what's classical and what's contemporary.

So, when I do cross cultural work, when I do, when I work, for example, I recently commissioned Margie Gillis to a set a solo for me.

Margie Gillis

And we worked in a very different space. But yet, we were talking about the same issues, same concerns about re-envisioning the contemporary body as a holistic whole. Not as part spiritual part sexual, but seeing the body as a beautiful aesthetic experience. And I was quite fascinated by that, and quite inspired by that philosophy and for me it got to think about the universality of dance, universality of these terms such as folk and classical. So, I hope through this entire weekend we hope to sift through some of those, um, complex issues. Of course I have copious notes of examples of my field work, but I am not going to bombard you with those terms yet. But I just sorted of wanted to make my um, ah mandate and some of my visions, and goals and objectives known, in terms of what I hope to get out of this fruitful, productive weekend (applause).

S: Okay, you know when uh, I planned a plan, I knew I was going to start with Anis and I was just going to wing it. And now I can't decide who to. You want to go last, you want to go next Zab (laughter)?

Z: She wants to go last.

S: Um, yeah, so some of the words that reverberate for me, things that I have been interested in too, when you talk about the gaze of the other, in the sense, the colonial gaze and how that creates this polarization of, yeah, tension in your body, those are the things that I am interested in, and I'm sure Zab and Jennifer have different perspectives on what happens to the body under the gaze. We had a converstation on the phone, I was sad to finish it.

Z: I had to stop you.

S: I know, it was like more than an hour (laughter) about ritual. So, Zab.

Zab: Well, it is always different when you start after two people talking already introducing the subject of dance, because that’s what it is about of course. At least for me. I'd like to come back to the title that you sent to me by mail, so you think you don't folk dance? But before that I had received an email from Jennifer asking me:

“Zab, umm, looking at folk dance we heard that you had a specific, we heard that you had expressed in the past a position on folk dance saying that it was murder. Could you please comment?"

And I, so that was a long time ago (laughter) and I said, “Oh my goodness, what am I going to do with this?”

So I answered and I said, “Well yes I did say that but you might want to look up other references and people talking about folk dance because in my case it is a little bit radical and you might really not want to go into that direction.”

So this is where Su-Feh called me and said, "Yes we do!" (laughter), “We would like to have you.”

So, it is true that I have expressed that idea sometime during a committee on folk dance on top of that and I remember actually the people around me, everybody was shocked actually, it’s true, on the table. And I was asked later on to comment further and help discussion on these aspects, so back to the idea of so you think you don't folk dance? I did look at this question and I like the ambiguity of it. Because it refers, to me it does refer to what we are dealing with today in this world. So-called global world tends to think it has access to the whole world, and the whole planet and all the customs and cultures, and ways of people and the way they live. So um, we have come today, or so we think to admit this supposedly very scientific knowledge, that dance is human. And that therefore, all human dance, and therefore all folks around the world dance. And I would like to think that at the bottom of all the conversations that we may have over these three days, lays this very simple fact that the dance is a human expression. That is performed in front of, with humans, in front of humans. But not solely made for humans*. And once we have this idea that is very general, and shall we say universal, this is a term people like a lot. We might be able to accept a lot of things and also accept that the nuances, as you were saying Hari, all the nuances, the complexities that come with it.

But um, we should not be enamored or in love with those complexities. We have to take a distance from them because we are, actually it’s true, we are, I am dancer, that’s the way I see myself. It’s what I do, I dance. Even when I teach philosophy, I dance. In my mind, my ideas are placed in a moving context. I've always said it, I keep repeating it. I do not know, if you're a bad dancer, if you don't know what dance is about, if you don't have any access to some kind of dance inside of you, how can you properly think? By saying this I may be taking risks and insulting some people, but I deeply feel that. And this is how we would like to approach this idea of folk, non-folk dance. Because this is dealing with history, with people, developing in different contexts, different cultures as they can. People live and develop as they can. And some others come and they want to develop more, they travel and go conquer and they impose their cultures. But still in doing so they're doing what they can, as humans. And they learn that what they can is not enough. So, the dances that we create as humans, um, reflect our ability, our potentials, our limitations. That's what they reflect. Throughout history, throughout all histories. Once we say that, yes we have to now, we can get into the discussion of more academic but not necessarily, but distinguishing folk dance. What we understand by folk, cultural, ethnicity, classicism, traditions, all of that. In my case, when I had mentioned folk was murder, folk dance, folklore was murder, and I still, by this opinion that I had expressed years ago. I referred to a specific context of course. In my case it was Africa, but not just Africa. A good part of folklore around the world, if you refer to the act of colonization, uhhh yes, we do see that folk lore came about as a way to revive something that was dead, or that we attempt to kill or destroy. And this idea came that, yes well, we need to revive what is dead, otherwise we will be dead for good. That's the idea that lies behind this idea of folklore.

I grew up in Africa, I was born in Paris, I grew up in Africa. I will say this because it does shed a light to the way I've perceived this folklore issue. I grew up from a French mother, Congolese father who was called back, as most of the Africans that were studying in Europe at the time, called back to his country to fight and to help with the independence because Africa was going through a whole movement of independence in the 1960's. So he was called back to come and help the country as such. He was a Marxist, intellectual Marxist, going against all which was called tradition. Whether his own tradition, or any tradition, he was an intellectual who was putting in question very much what the world had come up with in terms of a way to govern and understand the world. So, I grew up with this idea of revolution in front of, basically, in the middle of various movements that were called revolutionary at the time, putting question the past, the tradition. And yet, calling for the tradition because this was Africa. This was Africa. Africa was perfectly aware that becoming independent meant we had to look at who we are, but who we are is not satisfactory to us, so we are bound, we are caught with this double position that means to you, you're putting in question, you criticize the tradition but at the same time you need to look at it and see what it can bring you. So I grew up in the middle of that, it was second nature for, to hear people criticize what they were and at the same time trying to bring it up, basically, bring a light to everything that seemed to be referred as the past. Something that we have to put away because we've come to this modern world, not that we wanted to come so fast to this world, we were colonized. We're speaking a language that's not just ours.

In my case I was speaking Lingala, speaking Munukutuba, speaking French also. I'm learning, I'm learning that I’m a Metis, that I'm half, that my mother is the colonizer, my father is the colonized one, so I learned that. And I live it. Everyday. And therefore, confronted with these contradictions, very much present in my life and in the world at the same time. Because at the time in the world, all sorts of things were happening. In Africa, in Quebec where I live today. I mean after all, somebody in Quebec wrote a book, Pierre Vallieres, wrote a book calling the Quebecois, "white niggers." So, you see when I came to Quebec (laugh) meeting those white niggers, I was interested in finding out why they were calling themselves white niggers, at the time.

La Liberte

So, things were happening in the world, the world was changing, emancipating itself from the imperialistic view of the western world. And the western world was faced with looking at itself and having to wonder if truly the countries, the western countries, were representing the best that humanity could be. That was put in question from then on. It hasn't stopped since then, but it’s taking different orientations, so when we talk about dance, of course for me, I was very young when I knew for me dance was um, was going to be more than what it already is in Africa.

Everybody seems to have heard the fact that in Africa dance is part of integral life, it is part of the way you are educated to be a man and a woman. It’s not just entertainment, it’s you defined, you have to be able to be recognized by the way you move. So nevertheless, knowing that, dance for me meant already more than that. It meant not just that I was going to live a life, but I was going to be. If I could dance, I could be. It wasn't just living for me, it was about being. And I knew that at ten, twelve years old I knew it. I deeply decided inside of me that wherever I would be I would dance. This is something I owned. Immediately without asking no one, nobody. One could say that yes, she grew up in Africa and everybody feels that, it’s not true. I could see that I was different because I was going in all sorts of places to look for dance, and I wasn't telling anyone and it was easy to go in places there was always something, a celebration a dance going on, it’s easy, but I was going alone, telling no one to go see what was happening. And I wasn't even trying to explain to myself why, I was just going. So, that never really stopped, but what I had to develop of course was to understand this position of mine growing up.

Ah yes, we went back to France, coup d'etat, political coup d'etat and so on, some of the typical things that happened for the people, like my father who was deeply involved in politics and cultural affairs at the same time, and then I move to Northern Canada alone. I came to Canada. First time I went back to Congo to research some of the dances there, to relate to some of things that Anis was saying, my Uncles, my Aunts were saying:

"Why are you coming back to research dance?"

Of course the attitude of some of my Congolese family members saying, "You dancing there?" There meaning Canada.

I said "Yes."

"What do you do?"

"I teach dance."

"Teach dance?”


"And people pay?" (laughter)

And I said, "Yes."

And I'll always remember the first reaction, and what was it, "You are stealing them!” That was the first thing, "You stealing them"!

And I laughed, so I had to still try to really come to terms with that reaction of stealing people because you are making them pay to learn dance. So, you’re stealing. You're a thief when you are doing that. So, this is what I would like us to be able to, not reflect a little bit, but deeply reflect because we should all be concerned by this in the sense that from that perspective, that was expressed by my Uncle and my Aunt, they were referring to the way they understand dance as being, by the way we do not really have terms for dance, we have terms for the rhythms and the ceremonies that all of them, that relate to dance but dance and music do not have their own specific terms. They belong so much to the way of life, to the way of defining who you are that you don't separate human life from its capacity to express dance. In Africa, at least, I know that saying that I'm not betraying any of the African mentality. Whether South, North, East or West. However big and large is that continent, this is deeply felt and very naturally felt by a lot of Africans, whether they dance good or bad. It is part of the way dance is seen, so much that really it was at the time of the colonization when you were going to school, you were sort of putting aside your capacity to dance. Because you go to school, you sit on a bench. You look at the blackboard and you are being taught life on the board. It is written, life is being written on the board. You are going to learn things, you are going to be civilized. You're going to evolve as a modern person. No more knowledge going through the body, knowledge goes on the board.

So all of this gives us a little bit of an aspect of what we can understand as being the folk dance but folk dance does not really apply, and that’s why I prefer the term tradition. Because in this case we're dealing with traditional societies who define themselves within a specific context, more reduced of course, we're not talking yet about nations, because nations came with modern times. They were imposed. We're dealing with traditions within a circumscribed, reduced group of people who recognize themselves precisely for their music and dance and languages and cultures and learn to not only identify themselves, but participate in this world through their dances. Because the dance, one would like to think that they’re just closed, they refer to that specific group, that ethnic group. You know, ethnic group is just you, and we're just closed unto ethnicity. Ethnicity is a way to inscribe your presence in the world. You have to remember that we not in, these societies are literate through rhythms and dance and music, not in the books, not in the written paper. But literally, may I say, with rhythms. And I do say literally because we do talk and make discourse with the drum. Rhetoric through the drum. And to study some of the rhetoric is very complex. A twenty year old you cannot understand it, at thirty year old you cannot understand it. Maybe at fifty, eventually you will be able to understand some of those sentences that are being channeled through the drum and are very complex and have a way of being turned and arranged that the meaning is very hard to understand. So, if we remember that we see more and more that yes, we're dealing with traditions of societies that uh, are worth of course in my case, I was not just fascinated, it’s not a question of being fascinated. I was taken by it, I was already in it. These rhythms had been communicated to me already, they meant something to me and until today, it will take all my life and probably to try to understand what those rhythms carry in them, the ah, the possibilities in terms of mathematics, biology, linguistics, poetry, those rhythms contain all of that.

There’s a wealth of knowledge in the way we understand mind and body, consciousness. Human consciousness. To be in this world, evolve in this world. Its capacity to express itself in a world knowing that it's going to die. Because that's what rhythms are all about and that's what dance is about in a lot of traditional societies. In Africa, it’s very much, spirituality, full spirituality trying to link the phenomena of life and death. So you were talking about ritual, I'm not going to enter yet into that thing because as I told you on the phone, Su-Feh, ritual is something that people use a little bit easily without understanding what ritual is. Um, at the same time, the fact that we're talking about ritual more than ever actually now in contemporary, to me it refers to, it does express a need or maybe, for something that we've lost or that people think, feel that they've lost for the need to get back. A lot of contemporary dancers in Montreal talk about doing a ritual on stage and that's what they express when they talk about it and it makes me smile because I'm the one in Montreal that was designated as the traditional one coming from Africa, who doesn't understand contemporary. So now I laugh when I listen to all of that. But I would like to say that um, and then I'll let you talk Jenny, that we may not have come full circle, because full circle is dangerous, it gives you the impression that you have completed something and I have this bad tendency of thinking that it is very hard to complete anything at all. But at least we are coming to some kind of a circle that will eventually go somewhere else with past, we've gone beyond the modernist attitude that was to get rid of traditions, break away from traditions in order for the true creative individual, in order for him to express himself freely and artistically. This was the result of a modernist attitude and now we've past this level, of modernist attitude, with this so called global village where people are, basically global village because remember they destroyed the villages, that's how we're back to the global village now. It’s based on another murder.

H: It’s true.

Z: And basically now the people are faced again with those traditions that were supposed to have gotten rid of. But the way those traditions are coming back or they’re being discussed now, is another way we have to beware of the fact we are living in a world of consumerism and we're able to consume everything we want. We manipulate terminology, we manipulate them like entities that we can appropriate in order to create what we want. I still believe we have strong limitations as human beings. I'll let you talk Jenny (laugh).

S: I'll let you talk, Jennifer. Thank you, Zab (applause).

J: The words that Su-Feh gave us kind of go over my head, go through me. The words were, she'd like us to define our politics, the word contemporary, the word folk, the word ritual. And of those words, the word that, I really only have one opinion. Um, I realized, and that opinion comes from the word contemporary, but I hear, the way you're speaking that my reaction to word contemporary is, that I feel that, what we're talking about is an imposition from the outside, from somewhere else. From another person, from audience, from a book, from a place on who we are and that's very difficult as artists, and my reaction to contemporary is that I've been feeling now for a year and half is that contemporary dance as I have lived it, is just dead. Is just dead. And as I see it, it’s just that the form that grew up in North America and then became, was used in Europe, came as a sort of dismantling of ah, something that was seen as affected. And um, developed as wanting to do everyday movement. And as I looked up folk, folk was general people. So, there was a whole movement for general people to move with, penultimate one was Trio A by Yvonne Rainer in the American tradition.

Trio A

However, I've just been reading a book called Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, brilliant book. And it talks about the turn of the century and composers that I know of, but I didn't know in this place, but in the turn of the century they were all doing everyday things. They wanted basic things, they wanted folk rhythms, they wanted to go back to the essence, they wanted everyday street noises.

The Rest is Noise - Alex Ross

So dance lagged by about fifty years there. To coming into the pedestrian world. And I feel that, as I worked with a hip hop dancer two years ago, he said:

“Hey I like that,” we were working together. “Hey I like that, I'm going to bite that." And he said, "I'm going to take that movement."

And I said, "And what will you do with it"?

And he said "I'll just do it."

And I said, "Why don't you call it JenMas," Jennifer Mascall's my name, "Why don't you call it JenMas so that if it shows up in Chicago, someone will say they're doing the JenMas."

What he was talking about was a kind of territoriality of, then later, a friend of his performed in our, we had this series Bloom where we discussed dances. People show dances halfway through and then we would discuss them. And what they started to discuss was, they thought it would be cool just to take a contemporary move and just put it in. And I had at the, something that has become my definition of what is politics for me, and what is politics when I understand that I feel like I moved into a political arena for, within my ideology, it’s when I have a feeling of outrage. And I felt outraged that contemporary could be a plucked move and shoved into somebody else's territory to expand their territory. And my feeling that the demise, that the field that we're in has a demise; no longer needs to function in reaction. We don't need to react against ballet and wear bare foot. We don't need to react against classical, modern dance and do pedestrian movement; we don't need to define ourselves of being of this day. We just need to try and be of this day, and I need to be able to understand more about this guy, that I was dancing with, hip hop, because I work in a collaboration as a dialogue with this person. So what he, what I would say to him, he would give back to me so I would then have a new understanding in my movement. But I don't want to label my movement now as contemporary with a bit of hip hop edge on it, I don't want, I don't want the label. So, I feel that there's a kind of revolution going on of, at the moment, and I don't quite know where it’s going, where we have access, we may not have access because we may not understand it, but if we could learn the understanding that all movements are possible. And I wonder the necessity for making edges and calling them. I wonder why the need for territory to say:

"I'm going to take a contemporary move and move it into this hip hop thing," or, “Are you going to appropriate my movement? I wonder, I wonder about why is that there? I feel that the place we're going to is a, well, is untamed. We're moving into an area of untamed art. And that we don't need, we don't need the labels that contemporary seems to suggest to me. That it’s become, the word contemporary in dance is not contemporary, it’s an anachronism now. So that's my one opinion, and um, in response to some of the other things, ritual, I feel when I looked it up. Oh folk, let’s look at folk. So uh, I've been folk dancing, being quite white and English, I've been folk dancing only a couple of times and once was in Cape Breton and uh, I was in Cape Breton and went to a Ceilidh, thought that would be a nice thing to do on a Saturday night. And it was just this hall in Mabou and it was filled, packed with people mostly all over forty and they were all step dancing. And I had no idea how to step dance, but I thought I'd like to give this a try.

Step Dance - Mabou Community Centre

Well you had to be asked to dance. And I don't remember how that actually happened, but somehow I got asked to dance and danced for the next two hours and by the end of the night, and I only realized this after, because people had asked you to dance. I had wend my way up to right in front of the stage, and the stage happened to have Buddy McMaster there, though he wasn't publicized, he just happened to go there every Saturday night for the past sixty years playing. But I was with the, I was in the square with the eighty year olds. And they had all been doing it every Saturday night, and I didn't know how to step dance, and so I didn't know how to folk dance, in their terms. But what I figured out, was that if I just stared in the eye of the guy that had just asked me to dance I could do it. I could do it. I had to keep my hands at my side and my feet, I'd just go up and down when he did. And they thought, at the end of the night, I did it. What I learned from that, was for me folk dance is just, staring somebody in the eye, is just improvising with the person you're dancing with.

Ritual, oh let’s go on a little more about folk. When I looked up folk, it just said general people, sort of general groupings of people, so there are many impositions that I can make in the contemporary dance world for groupings of people, like the ensemble we make as a dance performer and the audience that we work with and, however, something that has been interesting me recently is an article that Judith Koltai gave us at WOW last year on mirror neurons and the scientists have actually been able to prove what the dancers already know. That when we dance in the space, the audience’s body has these neurons that are doing what we're doing inside. They’re doing it, just there. We already know that, there's a kinesthetic response with the audience in somewhere. The ny’re actually feeling it, but the fact that it’s been written about in scientific journals, I felt like, is going to actually push us along a little and maybe these scientists will actually acknowledge that we're , that we do similar things to them. That coupled with the step dancing, suggests to me that all of that is folk dancing. Because it fits that definition that I stumbled across through the experience of it.

What Are Mirror Neurons

Ritual, as I looked it up, said it was a repeated, a repeated motion. So, I feel that the repetition that we know the most in dance is something like going to class or repeating the dance. Going to class, is it a good example for how I would understand ritual in that the action of working a muscle itself, has no necessarily imagination for it. It provides a form or a language, but, for the imagination. So, my understanding of ritual, because I actually think of dance as an intense inquiry into the law of nature. That I feel that we need some things that we might decide as ritual in order for our imaginations to go, for our imaginations to be free. And so I feel that the, uh, the rituals that we make for us in dance, whatever they be and we can continue to define what ritual is, makes a situation where our imaginations can actually develop and as our imaginations work we investigate the palace which for me I can't very far except that it’s the body, I think the palace is the body. So, with our imaginations we go into the palace to discover through intense critical rigor, the laws of nature, which in itself is a spiritual act. And just because of not knowing not much*, I just associate the ritual with a spiritual act. The most political thing I think I know about is, that I think its still a political act, to have family and be an artist in dance (applause).

S: Thank you (laugh). This is exodus. What? We're boring you (people in the audience get up to leave)? Geez (laugh). Time for a pee break, okay. Umm, I have lots of thoughts I'm sure we all do, but umm, do we have any questions from you people over there.

Audience: Question Inaudible

A: Tari. T-A-R-I. Oh there are many other words.

Audience: Speaking without microphone

A: I was, I expect someone to ask me that, thank you. Umm the word tari, in the understanding of the definition is considered a very new word. It’s a word that was taken up by a very specific context. The dancing or the word of dancing in the Malay language is not tari, the oldest word is called tandak. Tandak is an act of lifting yourself by stepping, so that's basically what it is. Now the word tari become very fashionable when dancing from the village move over to become a commodity of exchange in the urban area by which you have then taxi dancers be employed by professional musicians . Playing in entertainment park, amusement park. And because of these development of new cities in the colonial period, so you find a lot of men versus very few women in the cities. Shortness of men coming from the village. So, the men went to this amusement park almost every night to dance. So, the act of dancing in the village which is participatory, which is very much a consignment of either affinities between families and whatevernot, shift focus to be dancing as a remembrance of the village, dancing as a body that is carried with you as you move in the city. It’s that persistent remembrance of the village that you pay in fact and you pay to the person to dance with you, of course you pay the lady to dance. So, there's a new development, we have taxi dancers who are professional, they dance all kind of step. They are the first perhaps in the Malay world who actually learned all kinds of steps so that they can be, um, used as commodities right, to-yes, exactly. And then with this incratic fusionistic mixture of western music and whatevernot, then you have a development of various genres become popular. But that popular, p-o-p, pop today isn't listed as popular as we do today, becomes very cyanagic with the forms that already exist in particular areas. So, it’s a very interesting way of inventing. And um, so if you see Saturday Night Fever movie, I smile and laugh at it and I say, “Ohmigod.” It’s so, it’s so primitive for me, to look at how you are displaying it because we have done that already.

Fever Night

You know, because we are doing that, because we do display ourselves but we display ourselves not for the audience, we display ourselves with the partner with whom we're dancing. It’s almost, the way we are jiving with that person, we need that person. We pay money. So at this moment of time then, the act of dancing to satisfy the need to bring the memory with you in this very alien place and paying someone to dance. The word has to be coined, because you no longer use the word which was used in the village because these mixture of so many other things come into Vancouver, for example, as a person who come from the village you know, would be dancing many things with the peer group so that’s when the word tari came up to be used as the denoting dance of a little higher nature rather than the peasant dance or the people's danc , I don't want to use the word folk , because there was no folk. But the idea of dancing a little higher-

Audience: Inaudible question

A: Right, right. Well the point I'm trying to make is that this process when there was no notion of performing, and that become hegemonic over that entire space. The verb, so and there is, remember the first president of Indonesia Soekarno, the reason why Indonesian are speaking Indonesian today is, is an invented language because it wasn't the language of the hegemonic rulers in Java.


Is the language of the market Malay. Malay has two levels, the high and the low Malay. The Creole Malay or, the, the market Malay are the commercial languages spoken is, Creole Malay and that is spoken all over islands in Southeast Asia. That is the lingua franca that became the only lingua franca which is neutral from any hegemonic control. So, that language became Indonesian language. Now with that, there was an invention also to develop the notion of Indonesian folk dancing. Then we have this beautiful dance karangan, the whole history. Now, that is the point when I feel that suddenly the need, of, of labeling, the need of appropriating something that wasn't in the gaze of the colony masters after which you now control your country. Going back to the whole issue of wanting to have that presence which you now appear with others because you are now an independent nation state. No, that creation brings that political baggage along and that goes beyond, exactly that's where I'm coming from.

S: Umm, it’s interesting to hear you say your anger. And for Jennifer to say politics has to do with outrage, and I feel like, to have a life where you don't encounter outrage is a political privilege.

Z: Why are you looking at me? (laughter)

S: No, what do you think people (laugh)?

Z: If you don't have an outrage, it’s a political privilege.

S: Because you can buy the space not to have an outrage.

A: Inaudible.

S: And, how does dance. How is dance part of this dialogue? How does it express outrage?

A: You know, when, when, go back, people who have an Indonesian knowledge. I am familiar with the whole notion of performing for the palace and you are brought up as ab di dhalam, or the inner servant, by performing as a performer in a palace. You know, hmm, there's a lot of outrage with those people performing in the palace, to be invited to perform in front of the Sultan. You know, you only perform in front of a Sultan after being the crémé de la crémé, and to be crémé de la crémé you really are almost at all the time under pressure to try and please your master teacher. Or make yourself as the clone of your master teacher. And through it, only then can you perform in front of the Sultan or the King. So I think, I think your creative juice only happens when this outrageous, outrage, outage happens. And it happens only when you can hit it right, I mean, it happens all the time but we tend to forget or not know about it until the moment it hits you and that's when you are really sprung to life. And I think not being outraged is not a privilege. I think in the context of the hegemony of the tradition of the Thai dancing tradition in the classical palaces of the Rhatanakosin, the present dynasty when they move away from Sukhothai to having lost everything to the Burmese who invaded them, who before that they invaded Khmer and took over. I mean it's very nice story of you borrow, me kill the other that kind of thing.

But the preservation of that tradition also create the body of people, both musical and dance people who have to really fight to be able to survive, as the inner core of the palace performers, and the reason why they perform it is not because, really in Hari's case, is when you're performing in the temple as Devadasis in the Bharatanatyam tradition, you are privileging the fact that you know the knowledge, the sacred knowledge, of performing it to the Devas. This is not the case, you are performing it because by having, by performing in front of the royal whatever you call, you are privileged to that life that you don't have and that, that is also a factor that is continuously pressing you, and you are very angry with that, and there's a lot of great musicians when I, when you interview you know, they have to learn how to placate the outrage. So there is always that idea of how to bring that powerful volcanic search of anger, angst. Contain it, so that you can use that energy and you can transfer that into the aesthetics that is placable, marketable, steal able, useable in the context of survival and that is why I think outrage, I mean all artists like us, you know, we cannot live one day without being outraged. We have to be outraged.

J: I don't agree that outrage is a source of creativity. I feel that outrage is a source that could be very forceful and make, construct things and develop things and make movements, and develop attitudes but I don't think it’s the same place, that, I don't think it’s the place where creative work comes.

A: Probably, your, your notion of outrage is quite culture specific then. My notion of outrage is also quite culture specific. They are terms of reference when we use the word, is the problem, when we have none. Because we are dealing with very culture specific issues and we are trying to say that it’s universal, which it’s not. Whether the containment of angst which is a very potent thing in the east, you know, it’s so potent because then you bring about that control, that magnetic control. The charisma of a dancer, without that you cannot have shakti, which is a borrowed word from classical, shakti is the word, that word, that, that notion that presence that really put you into the sense, the senses of rasa. Feel. You know, to feel. To get in the feel, you get to get into this mode. And to get into this mode you know, you have to create a situation, you cannot just get a situation. You have to be in continual situation of either, you do meditation either you do certain kinds of ritualistic whatever, but you do continuously want to be. A good example. If a male performer who dance in the classical reamker of classical Cambodian reamker a romeano oh kohn, in Thai and he is a monkey. Now, he walks things like a monkey, he must always remember that he cannot be but the monkey. How wonderful he could be otherwise, he has to contain as being a monkey. He makes himself a better monkey for being contained. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that you get rather than training that dance and performing because that’s how it is, but you can't get out of it. You are born as a guy, you can't dance to be the rama. The rama is danced by a woman. You can't. And if I'm a good dancer I say what's wrong with me, I want to dance to be the rama. That's in Thailand.

Khmer Dance - Mermaid and Hanuman

And in Java is another story right, so that kind of situation, I'm trying to put this into very specific perspectives. So, that kind of presence of demarcation of power, of pressure. Of course, you can, you can, and the most exciting one was about a few months back I was in Cambodia to see a new work by a bunch of very young artists who, who, and this is very interesting for you, who were trained in classical Cambodian dance and they were just wonderful monkeys. Superb. Great monkeys, I mean this is post-genocide monkeys, you know. Ninety percent of Cambodian artist died and what they did was, they brought the Thais to reconstruct.

Cambodian Genocide

And they had wonderful guys. And just, early this year, all these young monkeys, six of them, performed something that was never allowed before in the history of Cambodian classical monkey dance. They call themselves “Monkey” but they call themselves monkey with an adjective. And not just the noun monkey. So they disassociated themselves, disassociate themselves from being the classical monkey. To the non-classical monkey, not contemporary, not modern, but just not that monkey, but yes the monkey. So their movements are very powerful because instead of holding in because you are a monkey you have to put your body down and control all the time, right. They are able to do this, which is not allowed. Okay? For example, movement like that is a monkey movement. Control and then that. Then what they do now is the same thing and they go, like that. Which is not allowed. So they have contained that anger for so many years, this through World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific. They've controlled their anger, I think grant would like to know, for four years. And they've had workshops and workshops and workshops. And this is going to be a new, I don't know what the term is. But superb monkeys coming out of the 21st century but they are still Cambodian monkeys, but they are not doing it for the gaze of the King and the Queen. This is a good example how, I'm trying to establish how the angst in the context of that part of the world really means so much. You know?

S: And whose gaze? Are they dancing under?

A: Well, good answer, good question. The answer is simple. See, you will answer this because I don't know what it is, but I think I know what it is. I'm not going to say it, because it’s not right for me to say appropriate. When they perform the classical monkey they have no way of questioning what and why. Because that is under the gaze of the royalties, right? The royal Kings looks at ramkia as the reincarnate self of the divinity. Period. So you perform for me and you perform with such reverence because I am the divine king, right? That's it. Now, whose gaze? My answer, I don't know whether I can answer, I don't know whether I'm right , is that they are now catering it not for the Kings or the people paying, but for the young colleagues in Southeast Asia. Because they've been going to all our camps, all our workshops all over South Asia. We've got money from Asia Cultural Council to pay, we got Rockerfeller to fund the. Bring six, seven of them we do workshop in Singapore. We give a lot for them. And we just give them workshop. We never tell them what to do. And when they have to find something, they found something that they were angry about. They were angry about being monkeys. Monkeys that were not allowed to go beyond being monkey to revere a King.

S: Yes.

H: One thing I wanted to talk about is the umm, the danger of universalizing words and terminologies when we talk about, when we talk about rage, when we talk about angst, when we talk about pain. There are different ways as you very correctly couched that it’s extremely culture specific, its extremely nuanced, it’s extremely dangerous to generalize and it’s very important to talk about whose, who is manifesting that rage and where it’s manifesting from and what's the source, and do you make a contemporary phrase out of that rage or do you create some kind of political revolution as seen in some histories in some specific culture forms? So, I think when we apply terms and it’s also, um, extremely dangerous to rely on some imagined source of strength and power and some kind of majestic quality of the dance or some kind of labeling of the form as being extremely cosmic or religious or spiritual or psycho-spiritual or political. I think it's very important to nuance and to couch the arguments in some kind of factual tangible type of qualitative values with facts. And trying to use that to create a new dialogue, a new space. One of the things that fascinated me, Zab, when you talked about the global village, is exactly that. The murder of the villages has become the global village. And then we talk about that or we discuss those issues, specifically what villages and what's global about the new village. So we re-address, we re-investigate, we re-identify and we re-new issues of what it means to be foreign, of what it means to be indigenous. What it means to be mainstream. I just wanted to put it out there, something to think about.

S: Umm, when Anis was talking about the gaze of the King I was starting to form this question of, oh is there a difference between umm, to dance under the gaze of the King and to dance under the gaze of divinity or under the gaze of a non- human. But then you talked about the divinity of the King and then very beautifully you went into the gaze of the peers, which in a sense, is how we function in Canada. With peer assessment. Often we are dancing under the gaze of our peers, we want the approval of our peers because that's how we get money to continue making art. So I guess my question, and we may not have time to entirely answer this but we can think about it for tomorrow, is, is there a difference in our body when we dance for the King, the man with the money or when we dance for our God, the non-human, or we dance for our peers. Does our body function differently?

Z: Well of course, you know. The body functions differently depending on the context in which it is performing, moving, dancing, expressing itself. The word gaze bothers me because the gaze, the idea of gaze is a result of associete du spectacle. It’s a result of a way to look at dance as a performance from the, from the perspective of people watching just looking, not just participants. Fully participants. When you watch circles, for example, whether first nation people circle of dance or African circles, wherever you have circles of dance some people may be around, and not dancing, and others will be dancing for example, in the middle. Nevertheless, the ones that are around are participants and any time they may join and get in the circle. So those who are watching are not really just gazing out. It’s a circle, it’s the idea that what is happening in the middle, any of us can do. We are not just watching, we didn't come to pay and watch somebody performing even though we are very much looking at what the person is doing. Because what the person is doing in that circle will give us the incentive to either join, go, do what we have to do because we have to respond to what's going on, or wait our turn. And that can go on for nights, for days. If we're dealing with certain specific ceremonies and so forth, the circle keeps people keep living. They eat, they sleep, they bring their thing, they are in the circle constantly whether they’re sleeping, eating or dancing. It’s part of what is going on and they stay there, around the music and the dance. At, at one point you may have seen somebody who has been two, let’s say a whole day, not moving and suddenly it is the person's turn. That person will be dancing and suddenly you wonder, you're wondering where is that dance coming from, you know. That person’s been so quiet just from being in the circle, around, looking which means participating. It is not, so we do not have, it is not the gaze here.

So this idea of gaze is not as satisfactory. Also, um, we have to understand that dance, depending again on what, um, what is the status of dance in a society? Because in a Christian society where you have gone through, and not the Christian society of Africa but the western world. Where you have, where dance has been sort of put away, forbidden in a certain way. Because the body has been identified to the flesh and the spirit separate from the flesh if it wants to get to that holy place, needs to get rid of the body, it changes the way you relate to anything coming from the body including dance. Where for example in Africa, or in the Caribbean for example, even though those people are incredibly Christian, they go to church, I like to laugh at them and call them a bunch of liars. Ninety-eight and a half percent of them. And very good Christian, you should see them, saying Voodoo is not for them and all this African stuff is not for them and truly when it comes to everything, they all relate to that very much so. And it means a lot to them, its just a way to get back, so much that you almost teach the kids, especially the Caribbean people outside in diaspora, those who had to go through slavery. The parents get very terrified at the idea that their kids would love that kind of dancing. Because they seem to be terrified of the fact of the effect of that dancing. They know, they still have the memory of it and they would like to have their kids go to school and become lawyers and so forth, and suddenly not dare touch this kind of dancing. They can go to ballet school though. Because that is alright. It will not bring about this dark territory of the, the African ancestry into the dance. You see, so, so just to tell you, the status of dance will be changing depending on all sorts of different contexts. That comes and changes what happens to the way we understand dance to be and how we're going to look at it , you know? Which you call the gaze, but certainly we live in time as dancers it is time to see dance to get back to where it belongs, the folks (laughter).

S: Well, it’s interesting this notion of the gaze for me, because in a sense tonight it’s not been a real conversation and because um, I'm highly aware I am being watched. I had prepared what I am going to say because, you know, I feel the pressure of creating some kind of narrative with this conversation and as we sit here in more or less a line and you sit there in rows, you know the space is not quite a circle. But I'm hoping in the next few days we'll get the circle back and we can move past this linear narrative and move into a more circular narrative. Umm, where the goal is unknown because there is no author. So, we all have our agendas, but there is no author. Um, and these ideas and thoughts can, sort of, circulate and feed off one another. So if, you're okay, we'll just pause here and go back to drinking and eating because there is a lot of food. And we'll continue tomorrow at ten (applause).

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