A Foreign Vision: Dramaturgy and Perception in the Project Emovere

Published on March 11th 2016 by Rolando Jara
From the perspective of dramaturgy, one of the fundamental questions proposed by the project Emovere: Body, Sound and Movement refers to the nature of language: what type of specificity emerges from the stage conjunction of the bodies, the sound layers and the movement based on the original motivation to work on the topic of emotion?

This question directly influenced the inclusion of a dramaturgical focus that could collaborate in the production of the resulting piece: which were the links and disjunction places between dramaturgy and all the codes present in the performance, and how would these planes be coherently articulated in a piece where the material came from the constant exploration of the emotional space and its interaction with the sonic gesture?

Faced with the hybrid configuration of the piece and the evolving character of the materials, in the end, dramaturgy shifted to the place of a foreign vision (and hearing), aimed at discovering the action modules and dialoguing with a process whose development was fundamentally linked to corporal improvisation and its intersection with sound through the variable interaction modes that emerged during the rehearsals.

Rather than proposing structural options, this foreign vision/hearing focused on inquiring into the perceptual possibilities offered by the construction of Emovere, separating itself from the piece’s production process, while the choreography and the sound direction systematized the language from within the corporal and sonic improvisation space, working closely and directly with the entire team.

From a dramaturgical point of view, the piece was conceived as a landscape (in the sense proposed by Hans Thies Lehmann based on Gertrude Stein), with various modules associated through a syntax that is different from causal logic. Each of the materials (body, sound) start engaging with each other, making different emotional dimensions appear and generating a comment on their own fictional character which, in the end, originates a diverse movement in the perception of the spectators.

One of the most problematic aspects of this artistic production mode was the moment when the spoken word was incorporated, understood as stage material. This dimension, particularly sensitive to the phenomenon of dramatic creation, implied using the uttered voice as a corporal production strategy. Indeed, the vocal experience allows a specific corporality to appear, but it is also detached from the physical body, articulating another body-sound dimension as compositional material.

This is why the relationship between the scenic word and the sound universe was liminal, sometimes complementary, others times contradictory.

Part of the team considered that words distorted the appearance of emotions and excessively directed this experience. As a consequence, the option regarding the appearance of the words was complex and controversial, and made room for the conception of a type of dramaturgy that sought to discover a way of articulating the fictional dimension without any reminiscence of an argumentative or thematic proposal.

Finally, we decided to work directly with texts obtained from interviews with the performers on the issue of emotion. Based on these extensive interview sessions, we selected phrases that I initially proposed to associate with the four medieval temperaments1: choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic. These materials were used freely, without trying to “illustrate” any of these fluids in an exact manner in the sections of the work or establish defined areas for each of the emotions like in the canonical work of Dore Hoyer2.

Once the use of the vocal material was defined, options were available not only at the level of movement and sound composition, but the opportunity for the performers to interact with their own voice (or the voice of others) also enabled the appearance of a different time dimension and a new way of installing the performers’ subjectivity3.

On the other hand, the dancers’ personal work through the Alba Emoting technique also implied a different temporariness for each of the participants at the moment of entering into an emotion. This transformation of time permanently altered the materiality of the piece, significantly varying the relationships between the body, the interaction mode and the sound response. Thus, it was highly difficult to distinguish the appearance of the phenomenological experience, in the first person, from the emotion. The somatic dimension of the work radically altered the corporal dramaturgy, understood as managing energy in limited sequences over time. It also wasn’t clear to which extent the Alba Emoting technique allowed exploring an emotion or representing it in a didactical way.

The latter aspect reveals a dual unfolding of this first stage of the project Emovere, which can be conceived, on one hand, as a stage piece, and on the other, as an interaction practice whose formal determination remains open. This ambivalent nature radically influences the perception of the work as a whole, as the relationship with the exterior (the audience) is marked by the journey of the performers on stage, whose movement through the technical devices in order to address the various emotions becomes an element that modifies the structural features in each performance.

In conclusion, from a dramaturgical perspective, the process of Emovere is open in terms of a deeper development of the concept of landscape, a quest to overcome the technical barriers that occasionally oppose the appearance of the piece as an object and/or process, the inquiry into the richness implied by the dimensions of the word (as sonic and semantic material) and the unfolding of the progressive evolution of the emotions in the scenic time.

Rolando Jara
Academic, Department of Dance, Universidad de Chile

1 Outlined by Empedocles and developed by Hippocrates.

2 Dore Hoyer : “Affectos Humanos” (1962)

3 Szendy comments on his initial attempt to name “the strange effect of hearing oneself egophony”. En lo profundo del oído. Una estética de la escucha. Santiago de Chile, Ediciones/Metales Pesados, 2015.