Response 47 – The Mind is a Muscle

Dear Alan,

Thanks for Task 47 – And Again. I feel back on track!

I took your image-score and the time-record that you produced for Response 46 – A day in the Space of Lifeas a starting point for my exploration. The itinerary created by the time record and the visual/spatial map of your score inspired me to retrace your movements in our house. I did this in a fast forward version completed in 20 minutes while I audio recorded myself describing sensations, reflecting and breathing as I moved and ‘danced’ through the rooms with my body as my primary focus. To give you an idea of this exploration here is an excerpt of this recording.

What grabbed my curiosity towards the end of the exploration was how much gravity plays part in my movement and how I am constantly pulled towards the floor and the earth. Much of my dance was done close to the ground, giving me the opportunity to notice the surface of bathroom tiles, kitchen slates and the wooden floor in the lounge. Different floor and wall materials create a different sense of flow and acoustics in a room. That pull of gravity on my body was also a pull on my thoughts: everything happens slowly, including thinking.

The title of this response came to mind as the relationship between the sensations in my body and my mind became clear. ‘The Mind is a Muscle’ (also known as ‘Trio A’) is a solo/trio piece by American choreographer Yvonne Rainerfrom 1966.

Frame grabs from Yvonne Rainer performing Trio A at MoMa in 1978

These are some “parameters” of ‘The Mind is a Muscle’ as told by choreographer Pat Catterson.

‘The Mind is a Muscle’

  • Is asking: what kind of movement can be in a dance?
  • Is framing the ordinary
  • Has no theme and variation, no repetition, no use of conventional craft of making choreography and no phrasing
  • Is a dance that doesn’t go anywhere
  • Has no climax
  • Is performed with weighted ease
  • Is a people’s dance
  • Is done with physical awareness
  • Is the dance of ‘you and me right here’
  • Is minimalism
  • Considers no one thing more important than the other
  • Is performed without interacting with the audience and averts their gaze
  • Taking the personality out of the dancer, focusing on the movement
  • Is interested in art unfolding like life

Here is an excerpt of the second half of my exploration lying on the floor in the lounge:

The heaviness of my muscles, their inability to keep flexing for an extended period of time, their tendency to cramp up and willingness to relax is an accurate description of my mind activity at this stage (35 weeks) of pregnancy. Gravity works on thoughts as well as on the body. My physical and mental responses are slow and the dance is an exploration of movement that gets me from standing to kneeling to lying in the least uncomfortable way. There is nothing extravagant, graceful or curious about the movement, it is pedestrian and economical.

See next task here.