Contra Dance

Composition (Translation from French)


I am an experimental dance artist and so I experience composing as articulations within one continual research. My research is motivated by culture shock, a curiosity to understand the nature of the body and an addiction to communicate to a gathered crowd.

I have managed to support my work, since 1976, by international touring. I was drawn towards improvisation very early on in my career, partly because, I needed to be able to adapt to the different culture, artists and publics. I need to survive. I can not afford ‘lucky guesses” only “relative logic’s”. The research, which remains influential on my work today, is based on the live, improvisation performances I participated in with musicians and dancers who have been associated with Derek Bailey, Mischa Mengelberg, Tristan Honsinger and Steve Paxton.
Every piece I have composed has it’s own process. The process is triggered by a fascination or obsession, which is shared by the artists involved. The fascination is transformed to questions. The questions are answered by materials and composition choices. The answer is in the question.

In my first composition attempts I made solos based on a “search for a theme beyond myself”:

Based in Amsterdam, Holland 1976-9

THE DUCK PLAY, live music by Ernst Riejseger.
MATILIDA’S SUICIDE, about woman and food.
MAD WOMAN, about woman’s dependency.

I produced group work for my company GROUPO that investigated meaning by figure and object, fragmented narratives, pedestrian movement, gesture and improvisation:

Based in Florence, Italy 1980-86

RUTLES, inspired by the beatle era, I wrote a story called JO JO goes to the moon, taped music score.
THE ORANGE MAN based on the Tin Drum by Gunther Grass, with taped music score including compositions by Tristan Honsinger.
BROWN EYE GREEN EYE, optional scores of music and choreographies, live music group, compositions by Michael Moore.
WILD CARD, based on a story about a Venus flytrap with music compositions by Alex Maguire, optional scores, placed for duet dance with guest’s artists each performance.
MIND THE GAP, optional scores, love music group with compositions by Alex Maguire. The title was the structure.

I began to use my stories and text within the pieces, investigating ways to disorientate time, space and location with structures, improvisation and site specific work.

Based in Dartington, England 1987-90

CAT WITH BENT TAIL, group work with choreographies, optional scores, taped music and text (poetry).
ISLAND; solo about media isolation with monologues, choreographies and video.
CRISIS, group works with text from TS Elliot and my own in dialogue and monologue, optional scores, music compositions by Alex Maguire.
Based in Amsterdam 1991-99
MACHA, group work about male strippers and vanity. Chirographies in optional scores, guest strippers each performance, live music compositions by Tony Buck.
LAW, about the USA law system, group work, located in a courtroom, chirographies and text in optional scores, live music by Michael Vatcher.
SOLO, about lies and truth with text and chirographies and a sound score by Paul van Mook. Light design by Ellen Knops.

There are elements in my work, which have accumulated over the years, which may be identified as a style:
Full evening pieces of either one hour or two sets, a body aesthetic which has a somatic principal with a trade school discipline, the theater as a location shared with the public, text, live music, improvisation, play, humor as a vehicle for communicating ideas, collaboration and interdisciplinary art activity.

MAGPIE MUSIC DANCE COMPANY is the work I am involved with at this time. I am artistic director in collaboration with percussionist Michael Vatcher and light designer Ellen Knops. The dancers are Eileen Standley, Vincent Cacialono, Michael Schumacher, Vitor Gracia and Martin Sonderkamp. We are questioning body aesthetics, trans-cultural art practice, choreography, memory, text, public access, disappearance, exit and entrance.
MAGPIE performs at the MUIDERPOORT THEATER, in our Amsterdam base, every other month with guest’s artists from both the dance and music fields. Out of that process and studio sessions we tour internationally. Our performances are instantly composed choreographies with live music and text. The compositions I have written may never be done again. Experimental dance work is fragile and so trying to describe it’s process is like trying to rationalize coincidence. When the playing is over the piece is invisible to the eye and lives only in the memories of the few whom saw it. Some of the text and visual material has survived. Survival is key to my process. My composition approach is directly focused on the questions that intrigue myself and colleagues, and the reality of my art form. I continue to be curious and addicted.

Written by Katie Duck
Edited by Paul Derksen

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