Practice, an object of research

— By Rafael Molina*

I am currently working with Yuval Pick on a research project around Practice to better identify the method, to document it and to accompany its formalization. We are applying for Dance Research and Heritage Grants from the National Dance Center and also apply to the residency program of the French Embassy in the United States, the Villa Albertine.

If Practice has been transmitted in training courses or companies in France and abroad, the method is above all the daily practice of the dancers of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Rillieux-la-Pape (CCNR). It is here, since 2011, that it is being researched, developed and formalized, in a constant dialogue between the choreographer and the dancers who experiment with it in the studio and on stage.

A post-70s choreographic method

The development of a new method of training and coaching dancers is an exception in the recent choreographic landscape. Before the 1970s, as historian Laurence Louppe explains, the “choreographer, dancer and thinker, invents not only a spectacular aesthetic, but a body, a practice, a theory, a motor language“. Since, the choreographic proposals abound but are limited most often “to the development of a spectacular formula without passing by the reinvention of a language and the tooling allowing its development“. [1]

This divorce, or at least this lack of continuity, between artistic creation for the stage and the continuing education of dancers has left a void for an entire generation, running the risk of impoverishing and homogenizing the pedagogy. If there are legitimate historical reasons for the sidelining of dance “schools”, “traditions” that may have focused on the acquisition of a vocabulary and the specificity of an approach more than on the availability of bodies and their openness, Practice would, in our opinion, have the potential to reconcile the two.

From these observations, a clear issue emerges: How and why does a new method emerge and develop, as Practice in the 21st century? What does it claim in the construction of a professional dancer in the making?

The methodology of a new research object

The research first seeks to re-establish Yuval Pick’s pedagogical work in a broader context. This context is both a personal context (his background, his filiations, his attachments, his thinking about dance, his creative processes) and a socio-political context (choreographic milieu, cultural movement, institutional landscape, local anchoring and institutional specifications).

The research work aims, in a second step, to qualify the approach and define the method. What is its specificity and transversality? What are the contours and underlying dance principles? What logic of body construction is at work? Are we entering into competition-contradiction with other construction logics? Are we building on top of or in addition to other previously proven methods?

Finally, the research looks at the ongoing process of formalizing this method. This process appears necessary for its stabilization, its anchoring and its wider deployment, thus guaranteeing its posterity. By training a first generation of pedagogues, the question of the possibility of transmitting Practice beyond the creator and beyond the initial space-time.

Throughout the research, regular interviews with Yuval Pick and the dancers will be likely to bring out a singular word and to shed light on the method and its formalization. Our empirical study will focus on the porosity between Dancing, Creating and Transmit in experimentation and pedagogical innovation. We hope to contribute to the regeneration of dance pedagogy as much as to enrich the method itself.

It seemed relevant to us to have a representative sample of transmission contexts. In addition to the NCCR company, dancers from five partner institutions will be given the opportunity by Yuval Pick to Practice and the repertoire piece Pazaz (2020), born directly from the method.

Links, from Lyon to New York City

We have chosen partners in Europe with whom Yuval Pick has already collaborated: the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Lyon, The Place in London and the Royal Swedish School in Stockholm. However, we wanted to confront the material with another territory, unique in the history of modern dance: New York. Indeed, the city was the birthplace of innovative approaches and techniques of dance in the twentieth century: Graham, Humphrey-Limón, Nikolai-Louis, Horton, Dunham, Cunningham, Taylor, Hawkins and Contact Improvisation.

There are similarities between the fundamental principles of Practice and American modern dance, in particular that of Martha Graham. Practice can be seen as a continuity of modern dance, as much as a contemporary method responding to current needs and whose unique innovations are specific to its context of emergence: Israel with the initial training and the beginning of Yuval Pick’s career, then France where he has been working as a choreographer for the last 20 years.

In the United States, we wish to open a dialogue with its historical heritage during a transmission with our two New York partners: the Martha Graham School and Purchase College.

[1] in LOUPPE, Laurence, Poétique de la danse contemporaine, 2e édition complétée, Bruxelles : Contredanse, 2002, p.38

*Rafael Molina is a performer, teacher and researcher. A graduate of a research master’s degree from Sciences Po Paris and the Martha Graham School in New York, in 2017 he founded Graham For Europe, an organization that promotes and democratizes the teaching of Graham’s work on the European continent. Since 2019, he has also been conducting research on Grahamian pedagogical practices that has been supported by the National Dance Center.