On Choreographic Research by Bruno Listopad
For the Danslab publication: No Map for these Territories: Three seasons of research and discourse - a book by Danslab, 2010
Before taking part in Danslab, I frequently spoke of my personal need to engage in choreographic research. Perhaps due to my practical nature, I had always assumed that choreographic research was a space in which a choreographer together with performers could engage in exploration; secluded from an audience, free from the pressures of production and the critical eye. A space in which one could bring to perfection a choreographic product before it would be presented to the public. I had been involved in projects of this nature in the past and they left me with a desire to continue further along this line.
However once I was inside Danslab and was confronted with the subject of research together with my peers, I gradually began to understand that being in the studio exploring movement possibilities and speculating about choreographic concepts in search of ‘choreographic perfection’, was not per se choreographic research. In Danslab, I found out that up until that point, I did not exactly know what choreographic research was and that perhaps I had been confusing choreographic research with choreographic exploration.
During my stay in Danslab, I had the tendency to associate the term research with the scientific sphere, wherein the hypotheses, methodologies and results are expected to be concrete and tangible. Nevertheless, when it came to my choreographic research, I kept missing the concrete and tangible aspect of the scientific procedures. Furthermore I was hindered by my desire for a classification of choreographic research methodologies, one that could verify my results. In this sense my relationship with research became conflicted: choreographic research was not what I had previously supposed it to be and in addition I could not find solid guidelines with which to redefine it for myself.
Even though I am quite satisfied with the experiments I undertook in Danslab, even now, after having been a member of Danslab for two consecutive years; choreographic research still remains a puzzling field wherein unanswered questions persist in rising to the surface.
What is choreographic research? How does choreographic research differ from the process of choreographic creation? Can choreographic research become choreography and vice versa? Should these two practices be kept separate or developed intrinsically?
In my perception -in terms of procedure- a choreographic research institute like Danslab should primarily investigate in depth the ontology of choreographic research and secondly it should help new generations of makers to venture into this form of research in order to redefine it in their own terms.
Subsequently, the results provided by these researchers will help to establish the position of choreographic research within the dance field (which remains suspicious towards it). An expansion will occur by means of communicating in which way the knowledge acquired through their research contributed to a choreographic development and to the development of the discipline in general.
So far, Danslab has been the first institution in The Netherlands to attempt to undertake this step so openly in regards to the whole field of dance. Danslab attempted to do this not only by organizing a public frame concerning this subject, but also by continuously documenting the procedures that the choreographers used whilst attempting to find out how to engage in choreographic research. This documentation is readily accessible and when seen in retrospect, it will permit future investigators to observe how choreographic research has developed over time, giving them clues about what choreographic research is and how to improve it. This documentation will provide information which the first Danslab generation lacked.
In a capitalistic society, where creativity is so often generated in order to produce immediate profit, an institute for research, committed to dance which has yet to materialize, may seem an anachronism and an extravagance. Choreographic research, even in its ontological dubiousness however, is a need commonly longed for by most choreographers, but often underestimated by those outside of the dance field.
In my perception, Danslab is neither an anachronism nor an extravagance. On the contrary, I perceive this ontologically conflicted oasis as a symbol of self-reflection, curiosity and cultural resistance to the times we live in. Times that often opt for re-producing simulations of culture rather than producing real culture itself.