The following text is a short extract of early draft of writing derived from my CultureLab residency in 2017, in which I began my research into ecstatic states and practices. This text was adapted to respond to the theme of "First Dance" for an event co-curated by the Wheeler Centre and Artshouse for Dance Massive 2019.
I’m going to attempt a chronology of a body in motion. To track it’s trajectory from the first dance to the last. The body and the timeline in this case are my own. Or mostly my own: the question of discreet ownership is a blurry one, because all bodies bleed. All bodies belong to themselves but also to place, to land, to language, to the law, and most importantly to other bodies.
If you want, if think that such a gesture adds weight, i can start by invoking the words of a french theorist. I could paraphrase Helene Cixous and say: I write myself, because my body must be heard. I have nothing against Cixous. But I wonder in this case if i agree with her. Or rather, I wonder if i want my body to be heard on her terms. I wonder about the bind of logocentricism, and eurocentricism on both my writing and my dancing, and yet i persist with both.
And so I say again: I am going to attempt a chronology of a body in motion. I write myself, because my body must be heard.
I am going to attempt to map my body In Exstasis. To speak my body as a codex of ecstatic experience. These fragments form part of a much larger volume. Its pages are not numbered, nor are they bound. Not all of these movements are voluntary and not all of them are beautiful.
I’ll count us in with three things that I believe to be true:
1. Any movement that a body makes might rightly be called a dance. I am not interested in the masturbatory labour of definining of what dance is or is not. Especially if that labour exists within the framework of colonial, capitalist artistic production. I am interested in dance as a thing that bodies do. All bodies, according to their varied morphologies. All species, according to their languages, their anatomies, and their relationship to time, desire, and death. Every creature does it. So does the wind, so does the ocean, even stones are dancers. The eccentric orbits of planets reveal their character as bodies in motion. Unsurprisingly, the synodic cycle of venus is one of the loveliest. The mapping of her transit reveals the shape of a flower or a crown. We find these forms echoed throughout the mineral and organic universe, not least in our own oscillations.
2. Every dancing body is potentially a body in revolt. Ex Stasis- to stand outside of. The question being: outside of what? A dancing body might be - at least momentarily- fearless, and therefore, a potential threat to social order. Every dancing body is indecent, abberrant, and dangerous. Every dancing body possesses knowledge of itself, and of its own power. Ever dancing body is a space where knowledge and pleasure might dangerously co-exist. This is the real reason draconian governments shut down nightclubs. This is what saw the suppression of the Ecstatic cults of Mediterranean antiquity, such as the famous Dionysian Maenads, or the less famous Galli, the transfeminine priestesses of the godess Cybele. The Haitian revolution began with dancing. Theocratic and militaristic regimes continue to ban their citizens from dancing to this day. The dances of this continent represent the centre of complex, agile, adaptive knowledge systems, which you tried your best, to obliterate. Our dancing bodies are the great libraries you tried, and failed, to burn. And I address a rhetorical you. Not because I want to make it personal, but because i refuse to address the coloniser in the past tense, or in the third person. I refuse to make this softer or less truthful.
3. When we speak of the dancing body, of the ecstatic body, there is no first and there is no last: its nature is ouribouric. Every dance contains the body’s beginning as well as its end. Every dancing body contains every other body that has danced before it. The first thing that a dancer learns to do is count. And yet, the dancing body by nature exists outside of consensus temporality. Every dancing body is eternal. Gloria Anzaldua says: "Through the ecstatic we come into relationship with our own wounding and our finitude, we come into relationship with death, and with rebirth."
I first came into this dancing body in 1984. The way it’s been explained to me at least, a child’s conception totem is determined by place that the birthing parent is standing when they feel the feotus kick for the first time. The first volitional gesture of a new organism as it emerges from the cellular matrix of the parent’s living tissues, as it dances itself into life. When the child is born the umbillicus and placenta is smoked and covered with earth, a blessing to cordon the threshold, to ensure that when that when that body dances, it does so freely and in full possession of itself.
I don’t know where my mother was when she first felt me kick. My umbillicus and placenta went with the others into a hospital incinerator. But I do know that I drew my first breath and shook my limbs for the first time on Gadigal country. Specifically, I was born in Darlinghurst. I will say that it pleases me that the place where first entered my dancing body as the newborn infant of a Wiradjuri mother, is the same place where i re-entered itas an adolescent queer. Sydney circa 1999, in a place which at the time was, if you can believe it now, a world capital of ecstasy. Nothing of this place belongs to me but I belong to it: its teeming sticky life and all its histories comprise my dancing body, they are my rhythm, they are what and how and for whom I dance.
I’m going to attempt a chronology of a body in motion. The body in this case is my own, but contains multitudes, as all bodies do.