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breathing

Proposed by Tian Rotteveel
Text by Irina Raskin

Everybody is doing it. You are doing it in your own rhythm and with different intensity. It is a reflex. If you aren’t doing it, you are dead. While you are doing it, your blood gets provided with oxygen, the source of humanoid and animalistic life. It is a complex mechanism that emerges out of the alliance of innumerable organic reaction chains in your body. This movement is the only one that obliges a constant interchange of corporeal in- and outside.

After the sound of breathing for decades had been expelled from the performing arts (singing as well as dancing), the resonances of in- and exhaling have been demonstratively brought into compositions. The performer’s natural exhaustion found its space on stage, mostly indicating authenticity and nature’s purity. Largely, these times are over. An outstanding breathing on stage is released from such allocations and is either inserted for dramaturgical reasons or appears as an accepted by-product. Nonetheless every professional dancer knows the importance of breathing techniques, whether for relaxation or endurance. So does Tian Rotteveel. However, he is interested in a very specific usage, where various respiration methods function as catalysts for different directed dancing processes.

Besides regarding the existential biological implications of breath and its role in communication – when the combination of breath and resonance forms into a voice that allows addressing others and works as an important factor for forming intimacy in relationships, Tian uses breath as motor to create dance. Considering the body as an ecological system, with a kind of recycling attitude Tian takes what is already there (in this case respiration) in order to transform it into initiators for other, maybe even before unknown, states of being.

During TryAngle concretely, Tian offered workshops where he trained five different principals of this approach with the participants, Li Alin and Douglas Bateman as the permanent attendees. (1) The “milkshake of body and mind” as Tian described it, consisted of a constant shaking in standing position with eyes closed, while gradually the voice started to resonated. Tian explained that this exercise aims for an evocation, where the activity starts giving proposals for the further procedure. (2) Unison in space is created through the breath of fire. This is a Kundalini yoga breathing technique where you exhale with a jolt through the nostrils. It is a breathing that goes deeply into the lower lungs and contracts the diaphragm system. (3) Enlarging the elasticity of the diaphragm through panting. (4) Laughing provokes a constant shuddering of the diaphragm – a phenomenon of overpowering. (5) Opening movements like yawing are used to cause an effect of an ongoing cheer or “constant Eureka” as Tian calls it.

In his workshops Tian indicated these five principals with different combinations and variations, whereby these exercises were used as a trigger to generate energy with a provision for how their individual and mutual performance would take account into the sessions. Likewise for those initiated processes of sure-fire success, duration and music played a not inconsiderable role. While the loud music completed the space and turned it into a cocoon whose warm comfort facilitated the exposing evolutions, the long-term duration of the trainings encouraged a transition into a kind of unconscious state of concentration.

As Tian emphasized, he has been developing processes that find its activity not through operating on control, but attention and curiosity. His endeavour has been to create dance without an “aboutness” – to produce performances that don’t depict something else or narrate a specific issue, but that rather occur through rapture about its own happening, its affect and sensation. Dance material isn’t obtained through a translation of whatsoever into movement, though through following the intuition of the body as a living matter, whose movements are cause and effect at the same time; through an unintentional improvisation where the repetitive motor activity initiate the sequence of movement. However, this happens through an intended activation of certain organic organizations: with the breathing exercises Tian specifically animates the diaphragm and cardio system, what he regards as an investment in order to get energy.

The breathing sessions created a body-mind-alliance of meditative ecstasy where actions emerge throughout the process of doing – literally, an incessant self-inspiration.