Restored behavior is living behavior treated as a film director treats a strip of film. These strips of behavior can be rearranged or reconstructed; they are independent of the causal systems (social, psychological, technological) that brought them into existence. They have a life of their own. The original ‘truth’ or ‘source’ of the behavior may be lost, ignored or contradicted – even while this truth or source is apparently being honored or observed. How the strip of behavior was made, found, or developed may be unknown or concealed; elaborated; distorted by myth and tradition.

Between Theater and Anthropology, Richard Schechner (Penn, Pennsylvania: 1985) p.35

The behaviour extracted from everyday living and restored in the choreography of Pina Bausch is minute and particular. A gesture as slight as the twitch of a fingertip becomes a brittle motif available to repeat schematically yet barely stylized if at all. The result of these intimate acquisitions from ordinary life is a dance eerily close to familiar and natural movement, like the ghost of a day. And in return the acquisition bears back on the original movements, landing them now in a fleeting but reenacted instance of life. The more delicately choreography borrows from life, the more intimately life enters the stage. It causes that brief instance of life to be staged, even if the staging is retrospective. I am protective of the life these dances ape, though they ape it with such tact it wants forgiving.

The movements acquired from life are restored through spectacularly able bodies: bodies more bodily alive than ordinary life could make them. The dancing bodies have been prepared for their craft through decades of specialized training, and when they reenact these unremarkable physical episodes the episodes become remarkable, stretching beyond the bare, unstudied movements that began them. The risk of this stretch is that the original movements are left behind altogether in favour of their stylized forms, and the expression fails to take. But we have to keep separate the mastery of the body achieved by these dancers and the expression of their form. If the expression takes, it is because it secures present reality on the stage – a reality secured despite the exceptional physical form of the dancer. The dance takes when the dancers are accomplished enough to overcome their training altogether, and are able on stage to immediately and directly behave.

Stanislavski on acting:

‘From what you have said I gather that to study our art we must assimilate a physiological technique of a living part, and that this will help us to accomplish our main object, which is to create the life of a human spirit,’ Paul Shustov said.

‘That is correct but not complete,’ said Tortsov. ‘Our aim is not only to create the life of a human spirit, but also to “express it in a beautiful, artistic form.” An actor is under the obligation to live his part inwardly, and then to give to his experience an external embodiment. I ask you to note especially that the dependence of the body on the soul is particularly important in our school of art. In order to express a most delicate and largely subconscious life it is necessary to have control of an unusually responsive, excellently prepared vocal and physical apparatus. This apparatus must be ready instantly and exactly to reproduce most delicate and all but intangible feelings with great sensitiveness and directness. That is why an actor of our type is obliged to work so much more than the others, both on his inner equipment, which creates the life of the part, and also on his outer physical apparatus, which should reproduce the results of the creative work of his emotions with precision.’

An Actor Prepares, Constantin Stanislavski (Methuen Drama, London: 1980 [1937]) pp. 15-16

In theatre and dance we understand an approximate distinction between on and off. The off-states of practice, workshop and rehearsal are generally distinct from the on-state of performance, which happens on a stage, before an audience, with something at stake if things go wrong (though the distinction is readily strained, by Squat on Twenty-third Street for instance). There is a necessary imbalance between the accomplishment of an original form and the accomplishment of its expression in art. We discipline our joints to tread nimbly with tremendous force. We learn to write dialogue by copying down the conversations we fluently overhear in public. We learn to draw by forgiving the pencil its line and the paper its thinness.

Top