When I think about notions such as truth, certainty, knowledge, … and try to relate them to the work of a choreographer, there is one piece that instinctively pops up in my mind. I cannot explain why it does, yet, but I can feel it through the movement. When I try to recall what it felt like to sit in the theatre and watch this specific piece, I know somehow, bodily, why I relate it to the notions mentioned above. Therefore, I will talk about The Season’s Canon from the Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite. I will not analyse the piece, but I will interpret it in terms of the above-mentioned notions.
As I just explained, I only knew how to relate this piece to a concept of truth, certainty or knowledge through my body, at first. I couldn’t explain it with my mind. It was my body who knew something and my mind tried to make sense of it, to design something in order to communicate it. However, for me, that is the most difficult part. The bodily knowledge I possess is easier to share through its own language, through movement. It does resonate in my mind, but without words. Body and mind are not separated, there is not one that is of more value. There is only one who can process certain information, especially those received by means of kinaesthetic empathy, with more ease. The body very much participates in my interaction with the world. So very often, my mind needs another source, someone to give me some words that help me articulate this knowledge.
This time, this source came from a video I recently watched. In this video, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, talked about ‘The danger of a single story’. This speech gave me the tools to explain what I came to know, to express how I feel about both, those notions and the work I relate them to.
In fact, Adichie explains that if we only hear a single story about a person or a place, we risk misunderstanding their story. It won’t correspond to the complete truth. She says : “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” When I watch Pite’s The Season’s Canon, I can see fifty-four dancers all telling their own story within one big story. I was touched because I felt like I saw completeness. I saw truth.
I didn’t see certainty. For me, certainty is a quite strong word and in this context, I believe that stories about humans, places, movement, emotions… are too fragile, too multifaceted, there are too many stories to be able to talk about certainty. I can say with certainty that a door is closed or open, because I understand what it means and because I can assert this fact through perception and language. However, when it comes to nonverbal language and movement, the truth becomes shifting, intricate, multi-layered.
I can say that in the piece, I saw truth, because there were so many different stories that were transmitted from each dancer and that shaped one big, overwhelming and complete story. There was one big creature moving through the space. Upon a closer look, one could see individuals who contributed through their own movements to this one movement. Their language was raw, organic, visceral, honest, personal within one united wave. The story could only be told because of each individual. I wouldn’t have seen this wholeness if it wasn’t for the multiple stories/ movements.
Achidie also noted that “power is the ability, not just to tell the story of another person but to make it to the definite story of that person”. In a way, Pite showed a different power. The power of a community. The power of the difference. If we gather the difference, we create a community. One big movement emerges through different bodies and different movements. And we create a powerful truth.
When I relate this to my research project, I can see the importance of multiple stories. I won’t seek to prove something is right or wrong, something where I can say with certainty that it is true. I rather want to create something. I want to tell a story by collecting different stories. The one story will become stories. It will become true through the richness of diversity and through its changeability, just like Pite did with her dancers. She created an enormous creature through all those bodies and then let the creature change and transform itself through different movements from the dancers. There is nothing fix. Everything continues to evolve, to shift, to alter and this contributes to the convertible feature of truth.