DD Dorvillier and human future dance corps, Danza Permanente, 2012. Rehearsal view, May 1, 2012. From left: Fabian Barba, Walter Dundervill, Nuno Bizarro. Photo: Thomas Dunn.

DD Dorvillier is a choreographer, performer, and teacher. With her company, human future dance corps, she will be presenting a new work titled Danza Permanente on September 26–30 at The Kitchen in New York, copresented with the French Institute Alliance Française’s 2012 Crossing the Line Festival. Here, Dorvillier ruminates on the impetus behind this new work.

DANZA PERMANENTE is a transposition of Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132, into movement for four dancers, each dancer taking the part of an instrument line. I wanted to investigate how music functions in relation to feelingness and thought, how it produces meaning and a sense of drama through its structure. I wanted to adopt operations that are from the domain of music, without producing more music to hear. Though making the music visible was the goal that produced our process, ultimately this was not the result, and that is a good thing. What was produced in the effort became a third and more interesting thing—not the original, not the replica, but a new dance, with an unusual set of tensions and ways of relating between dancers. The piece has become about labor: the labor of the dancer, the interpreter, the translator, the organizer—all roles that at some point a choreographer also takes on.

The performers operate in a zone where they fluctuate between captivating the viewer with their individual presences and captivating the viewer through their concentration and the complexity of the forms and patterns they move through space in time together. They are on an edge—they are very self-aware but also need to relinquish being alone. This is their intelligence and their grace.

The most powerful experience I have is when they are on this edge—when they are being very present but moving forward together without turning back. Once a move is made, it’s done—it has been seen, it’s over, there’s no sense in turning back, which would make the dance that is the music stop. But it’s not about momentum, necessarily. They could and might stop, but don’t. They decide to go forward, and this has to happen as an ensemble. One gets a sense of willfulness, of labor, rather than the illusion of momentum where something bigger is propelling the dance forward. These questions were significant in the dance’s development: Where does the energy come from? How is it that we are, or don’t manage to be, together?

I would like to go further in exploring the distance between the self and the figure that one becomes while dancing for an audience. What happens to the shape of a person? How is the figure reinvented, distorted, and seen again? How is this related to the way we look and what we see, in the theater and outside of it?

The way that music relates to perception is unique to music alone, yet there are operations in music—between relations of dynamics, rhythm, and pitch—that we are working on transposing in both abstract and representational ways. There are also musical operations between instruments and between musicians that we adopt as well. So the dancers operate as musicians, but have the added difference that they are the dance.

In Danza Permanente the first thing you see is four dancers, their bodies, and the colors of their clothing. It is visual. There will always be the visible actual presence of the dancers to contend with, no matter how musical the structure of this dance is, because without it, there is no dance.

Whatever the dancer gives off as visual information—in effect, as their own instrument—this will color some kind of meaning. Gender, age, energy level, perceivable differences in training, effort, etc.: This all creates its own regime of significance, regardless of Beethoven’s structure, or I should say, this aspect is part of the structure of the transposed work. In fact, I think that it’s the very presence of these nonmusical variables that makes the absolute difference and kinship between music and dance visible. There is a texture of realness and artificiality at the same time, which makes it possible to get involved with an idea, as much as with a dance, and maybe even reflect a bit on musicality in so doing.

— As told to Samara Davis