by Christopher Agostino
The underlying creative intention behind Bodies Alive! was to explore how movement and performance can bring bodyart to life, so we sought to create a modern dance piece inspired by bodypainting. In any previous opportunities I’d had to bodypaint dancers for performance my task was to create designs to support an existing theme and concept. For this dance the makeup design came first.
Nao Dance Collective http://www.naodance.com/ is a structured improvisational company under the direction of Linda Eve Elchak — just the kind of group we were looking for to create a brand new piece for a single performance. We discussed the project and I sent the music, sketches for the bodypainting and some insight about the functional effect of this type of tribal bodyart: that the use of hard-edged geometric designs is intended to break the human form and destroy recognizable individual identity, and thereby create a new unified tribal identity. I suggested the dancers could take advantage of this visual confusion by contrasting movement as a group with movement as individuals. From that, they created the piece. It was thrilling for me to see what these elements had led to in the rehearsal before the Orlando show. We didn’t paint them for the rehearsal, so they had some concerns about what performing in bodypaint would be like, particularly if they had to be careful not to smudge it by touching each other — and I reassured them that I wanted the paint to be alive, to change and to smear and to transfer from one dancer to another as it would in a tribal dance.
The dancers were painted by a group of experienced bodypainters following my designs (see their foto below, and the video of the bodypainting room). Bodies Alive! required the participation of dozens of models and performers, along with teams of designers, painters and assistants — a resource we might only have found at an event like the Face and Body Art International Convention (FABAIC) http://www.fabaic.com/ , celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year, and I will be there again.
Putting the music together for this piece involved some serendipity. Although I wanted something tribal, I was taking these body designs so far out of their original context that I didn’t want anything directly connected to the Nuba or African culture. The chant is listed as “Kecak: The Ramayana Monkey Chant from Bali” on a cd of Indonesia music from Nonesuch Records‘ Explorer Series http://www.nonesuch.com/artists/explorer-series-indonesia Once you hear it, it stays with you. I had it stuck in my head for this, but didn’t think it was enough to build the dance around and was looking for alternatives when I heard “Surfer Bird” by The Trashman on Bob Dylan’s radio show. The pieces fit, the rhythm was right and there is that iconic Nuba face design of the ostrich over the eye to seal the deal.
See the previous post, and search “Nuba” on this site for more information.
Learn more at my Body Painting Page http://thestorybehindthefaces.com/body-painting/
- Body Painting Dance Company: Art Color Ballet (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Men Getting Women Naked and Yves Klein – Female Nudity in Art (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 4: Radical Act – The essential celebration of our humanity / the ultimate modern art (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Paint? – 1: Collaboration – Painting the Mangbetu Queen (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 1B: Collaboration in Action – UV Action Painting with Emma Cammack and Carolyn Roper (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 2: Ultimate Collaboration – MODELS, Pt.1 What I have learned from models. (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 2: Ultimate Collaboration – MODELS, Pt.2: Just how much a model can help, Amber and Kuniyoshi at FABAIC 2011 (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 3A: Origins – Why did we start painting ourselves? Ancient bodypainting kit discovered at Blombos Cave (thestorybehindthefaces.com)
- Why Body Painting? – 3: Origins – Touching Ancient Sources (thestorybehindthefaces.com)