Details on the Wild Card slot:

The teaching unit provided an in-depth examination of a current, feature or core issue pertaining to contemporary dance. Each theme served as the backbone for a semester; its underlying issues or questions were probed and developed together with artists, specialists and theoreticians who have been invited for a concentrated period. Each module comprised a theoretical course and a research workshop, with the aim of actively articulating these two work modes. The courses draw on work dynamics that have been launched by major artists of so-called “modernity” in dance. 

report by Funda Özokçu (TR)
     Report on my participation in the Jardin d'Europe - Wild Card Residency at
      Ex.e.r.ce Master of Choreographic Studies at CCN Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon

I have been trying to avoid writing this account since it felt like it would turn into a novel if I were to capture and note down all the impressions and inspiration this residency gave me and also because I have been so busy writing and traveling since I came back from Montpellier. However I need to write it, and thinking about that intensive time is good. It has been exactly two months since I flew back to Istanbul, so more or less the same amount of time has passed as the time I spent there yet this shows me once again how the experience of time passing could be a relative phenomenon, not only related to horizontal timeline. Once I read in a book that falling in love might take an instance but some chores take years and never get done. I can only say I fell in love with that experience, just to give an impression of how continuously inspirational it has been. I'm going through my notes and notebooks as I am writing and I don't think it will be an easy job to give a unified account of my experience. There was so much input and so many threads appeared...

In the first instance I felt welcome in the structure of the Ex.e.r.ce program. My hybrid background in languages, philosophy and dance, my aspiration to write, my curiosity for theory and experimental interfaces around choreography was well supported in the open-minded interdisciplinary attitude towards contemporary dance and education. As part of the residency, I participated in the “Two Ways of Writing Module” consisting of successive workshops led by Deborah Hay and Jean-Christophe Paré during the afternoons. Hay's workshop was based on discussing and practicing many elements of her method of (what I would call) “being present while performing”. At the same time we worked on each other's projects every day -coming up with ideas, playing with various choreographic configurations, improvising, and giving feedback. I would like to write about Hay's method in a separate paper later on but suffice me to say that it was a practical scrutiny of the act of performing, informed by a particular philosophy of the body. It isn't only meant to relate to dancing on stage but also performing as a sociocultural body in a wider context. I have found many uses for myself in this method, and maybe more so, in the idea of deconstructing the (dancer's) body by cutting through the layers of (vocational) training, gendered and socioculturally biased preferences which affect the stage presence in major and subtle ways. The practice itself could be challenging, especially so to repeat through and through for many weeks. It didn't allow you to build upon your own performative image but rather wanted you to deconstruct it more and again by working on being present. Whether we admitted it or not, it felt as if we were on shaky grounds. What struck me most was the way we, thirteen students of Ex.e.r.ce and me, went about our own ways devising strategies. Groups formed and dissolved. Choreographic patterns appeared, disappeared and re-appeared. It was interesting to see individual and collective reactions throughout our collaborations on a daily basis. It was a laboratory of test and trial but also a very special platform for me because I started to get to know the fellow students through those trials and bodily interactions. I met my body in different situations. Improvising and regularly collaborating in a spontaneous manner gave me some space to think about how to work with others and how to present it. I feel our interactions and collective work had many colors. It was enriching because the context of artists with backgrounds in dance, theater, philosophy etc from countries as diverse as France, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Ukraine, Portugal, Norway, Syria and Brazil was everything but homogeneous. As a person joining the group for two months in the middle of the year, perhaps I became a mirror in which others could see themselves and the group as it was at that moment. However their approaches to life and practice were so varied and rich that I felt we all couldn't help but see many possibilities and connect to one another in always changing ways. It was about exploring by seeing, touching, feeling, talking, moving...

I oscillated between being an outsider and an insider in specific ways. I was outside because I was the only Wild Card recipient being there for a shorter time. Yet I was present for two full workshop
periods, following most of the other courses offered and being attentive and open to different kinds of practice. Naturally I was carrying my own bodily and intellectual baggage, which was new to the others. They were attached as a group and also at a good moment when they could evaluate their individual processes vis-à-vis the group after six months in the program, especially when they had to research individually on their theses and work collectively for a festival project. Many times I found myself somehow providing feedback in and outside the workshops. I didn't mind this position because I am generally perceptive and tend to be reflective about the processes of learning and collaborating. In this case it was a blessing because collaboration and interpretation was an integral part of the whole process. It was about a constant going-and-coming-back between another person's perspective and mine, mine and the group's. This made me start to appreciate producing in and with a community better.

In Jean-Christophe Paré's workshop, we worked on very different “modern”, contemporary and baroque choreographies by Paul Taylor, Carolyn Carlson and Francine Lancelot. It was about learning movement styles and choreography but also about becoming aware of the interpretive negotiation therein. What was most interesting was the way Paré introduced, showed and elaborated on so many facets of a particular movement and choreography -anatomical, physiological, historical, phenomenological etc- and his attentiveness to singular ways of internalizing movement. Everything mattered in his approach -as if maths and phenomenology, body and soul uniting. I was surprised at myself and others switching from Hay's workshop to Paré's -as if jumping to a parallel universe. I was amazed to see the different kind of powerful energy generated. The transformation therein.

It was an intensive time also because I participated in the other courses offered in the program like “the Theory and Aesthetics of Performing Arts” and Ashtanga Yoga, in the workshops and meetings with artists such as Lucinda Childs and Xavier le Roy. I attended presentations of artists in residencies, joined discussions with dance critics. I got informed about various projects related to the field of dance. I went to performing arts pieces, exhibitions and films at many venues. I could use the video archives and the library. I got acquainted with the previous activities at CCN through the archives and my conversations with the organizers and the staff at CCN. I attended “Expanded Choreography: Situations, Movements, Objects” panel&meeting in Barcelona, organized with an attempt to extend the notion of choreography to theories and practices related to social milieu... Plus the time I spent with other students -talking English, (bit of) French, Turkish; discussing projects; traveling; working; relaxing; enjoying Montpellier... Having been acquainted with the practice and theory of dance mostly through self-initiated processes (attending various workshops and courses, working at projects, studying social sciences and philosophy, participating in the “Critical Endeavor” program in iDANS Festival..), it was pleasing to be overwhelmed in the hub of an open-minded negotiation between ideas and practice.. Many things were highlighted in the flow, many ideas were formed. Experimentation, theory and bodily practices seemed to merge and, then again, diverge. It certainly contributed to my thinking more widely with respect to personal and global meanings of this occupation. It will certainly give me more strength in going after what I admire to express and produce as well as perspective and zeal approaching the field and organizing in alternative ways. I need to work through those threads in my life to see where I can take them and how I can share them with others in Turkey and abroad. Many things are waiting to be handled -inspirations, motivations, beginnings, texts, questions, hesitations.. In spite of my language which might sometimes give away my fascination with literature and science fiction thinking, my experience has been less of a unified whole and more of a continuous questioning to find the basics among all... So this text isn't finished, the process is going on... Once more, I would like to thank CCN Montpellier, BiMERAS in Istanbul and the Jardin d'Europe project for giving me this opportunity -especially Anne Bautz, Catherine Hasler and Stéphane Segreto-Aguilar from CCN and Bimeras for helping me at every step.

With kind regards and love,

Funda Özokçu

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