Amphibious Trilogies

Another pond

Research notes on the ‘Choreographies of littoral landscapes’ workshop, 12 Apr-4 May, 2018, Lillehammer, Norway.

Choreographer master students and teachers from Oslo National Academy for the Arts (KHiO) are staying in my small house in Lillehammer for a session of three weeks using the out-door museum of Maihaugen as scenery and stage. My house is their place of dwelling and the place for meals, discussions and social interaction. 

The conditions were spring-like, but still with substantial amounts of snow rapidly melting and turning into sludgy watery substance.  However, the five ponds at the outdoor museum all covered by ice and partly by snow.  The pond project had to relate to a stage of melting and approaching spring.

The scenery at Maihaugen used for numerous performances even big plays of theatre, like Shakespeare’s Midsummer night Dream. In winter are plays staged after the story of Kristin Lavransdatter and other stories presenting a perfect scenery for traditional plays in spring, winter, fall and summer.

Numerous performers, one them the Noble price awarded author Sigrid Undset (1882 – 1949), have in the past performed in amateur plays staged at Maihaugen.  The founder of Maihaugen or De Sandvigske samlinger, Anders Sandvig (1862 – 1950) started his collections in 1887 and established the out-door museum in 1904. Today the out-door museum consist of one of the largest collection of old- historical farm buildings in Norway. Still, the museum is also part of an arena for craft training and preserving the intangible heritage of Norway. The latter for not only maintenance and building techniques of the historical buildings, but also of the traditional cultural activities like music and for that matter dance. Thus, at Maihaugen we co-operated with representatives of Norwegian Crafts Development.

In the evening, we had discussions of the individual projects of those participating in the workshop, ate meals together and exchanged the experiences of the day. As an historian and social scientist, I relate to the importance of the past in today’s world as well as the use of traditions that connect with the historical heritage. Quite some of it is practice and not theoretical knowledge. Choreography, dance and music is on one level practice and on another level an arena of reflection and theory.  The focus of the workshop was partly the tension and relationship between theory and practice – the trying out of practice and ideas.  I was one of the reflection partners representing perspectives from my professional point of view and a connection both to the museum and the Inland University of Applied sciences and their campus in Lillehammer.

At Maihaugen the researchers and crafts-people relate to what we define as embodied knowledge. In traditional crafts, tools are mostly manual and the body the source of power. Thus, movement is practical, embodied and fine-tuned.  Each, crafts-person will, like a dancer, develop skills as his or her personal space of experience. Movement connected to both perception and performance as well as the existential dimension of life. The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 1961) published the book Phénoménologie de la perception in 1945 emphasizing the importance of perception of the past for the later performance. We are interacting with our surroundings and it is a bodily experience. Another French researcher, the sociologist and anthropologist, Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002) claimed that a person is influence by his bodily reactions as well as his emotions and thinking.  Thus, cognitive structures internalized and embodied.

The learning process of discussions with choreographers with experience of dance and performances give insights into the embodied knowledge as well as connect to the great thinkers of academic disciplines. In a chapter in the book, “Living Crafts” published by the Norwegian Crafts development the physical therapist Sir Moen from the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Tromsø reflects on “Embodied knowledge – another Dance”. She emphasize the importance movements in a dynamic way in a flow. The movements of dancers and the choreography of dance represent old traditions as well the inventive creative development of dance. Thus, we connect and we reflect on our connection with the past as we develop what point to the future.

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