Spontaneous Performance Procession

Nov 12, 2022

First developed by the Italian butoh artist Alessia Mallardo, the original idea was for a group to jog into the hills with the purpose of provoking site-specific butoh performances. At any moment anybody (due to resonating) could stop and perform for 1 minute anywhere along the way and the others would then stop to witness as audience. When the performance finished, the jog continued.*

Detail of the Concept After More Development

The spontaneous performance procession (SPP) which is also being called Resonant Goat or Walking the Goat has been enacted multiple other times in 2022.** The evolution of this activity grew to include the following: (1) shifting leaders who can also vary their leading speeds from walking to running; (2) a clear signaller (utilizing clave sticks or a chime) for when a performance arises; (3) an option for others to join as duet or cobody (group).

A group of performers are led by one leader who spontaneously walks or jogs along any path toward various nature locations and/or architecture. At any moment, if one of the participants feels a strong resonance to perform at any given space, they immediately begin performing. This can also lead to a duet or cobody (group) performance.

When the performance is occurring, the other participants will stop and join as witnesses/audience. There should be one signaller who can send an audio signal (chime, clave hit, or clap) to those in the procession unaware that a performance is beginning.

The performance can take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. When the performance ends, another participant will take the leader role for the procession. This should be a smooth transition. Gaps of uncertainty within the group should be avoided. There is no talking during the procession, but performative talking during a performance is acceptable.

Observations

SPP can be a useful tool for butoh performance due to: (1) resonance; (2) being present; (3) breaking from past concepts of performance space; (4) group awareness.

Because the individual only performs if strongly inclined due to an external stimulus (resonance), they may better feel and develop a performance ease, a flow. When we resonate strongly with something, we are not trying. We are being done to. The space, in a sense, is performing us. A prominent resonance and/or dissonance can bring out the performativity in anybody, even those who never took a single acting or dance class or never thought of themselves as a performer.

When we are in resonance, we are not in the head. So another way in which SPP is useful is in trusting in the moment instead of relying on preparation and choreography.

The nature of SPP places the participants in the moment and in a focused, open, and searching state as if antennas were placed on the body for sensing the most resonant performance space. A curiosity to all traversed space opens up. The world becomes more of a stage. Spaces not priorly viewed as performance spaces will be incorporated into potential spaces that may be revisited in the future.

The happening breaks the confines of past concepts of performance and performance space. The thrill of also not knowing what will happen is part of the allure.

The procession is also structured in such a way that everyone must be present within the group. When the performance ends, for instance, there must be group awareness for a new leader to smoothly surface in order to keep the procession in order.

Sub-specifics

Though SPP is a site-specific exercise, within the site can appear other moments that can inspire a spontaneous performance:

  • sound-specific: Any kind of sound can inspire a performance whether it is coming from nature or machine.
  • light-specific: light and/or shadows of a site can inspire a performance.
  • costume-specific: There may come an occasion where a spontaneous costume can be generated such as with mud, clay, branches or even a bee protection suit*** in which case a spontaneous performance can be based in the character.
  • color-specific: There might be a site that has a specific color to it that provokes a spontaneous performance.

Future development

  • Extending duration beyond 1 hour
  • Rural space version
  • Music, live or pre-recorded
  • Night version (with torches)
  • Strangers/unknown audience also allowed in the processional. These audience members, regardless of never having acted or danced in their life can also perform if they wish.
  • The performer is always the new leader which will lead to better transitions from performance to procession
  • The leader can either walk or jog in a passive way or add a performative element to it, in which case, those following behind have the choice of: (1) following as passive witnesses/audience or (2) performatively mirroring or resonating with the world of the leader
  • Anybody else in the passive processional line of audience/witnesses can also choose to follow the leader but in their own performative way/world. This can be viewed as behind world. The behind world is not mirrored or resonated with from anybody in the front because this may take the focus away from the forward action of the processional

* As part of the butoh retreat program at Tiyatro Medresesi (now Stoa) in Sirince, Turkey, February 2022.

** SPPs have occurred at the Beyond Limits Butoh Intensive in El Calabacino, Spain (June, ’22), Nunisi Retreat Center in Nunisi, Georgia (May ’22), and multiple times again at the Stoa theatre retreat center in Sirince, Turkey for the Flower of Death butoh program (Oct ’22).

*** Occurred during the Flower of Death SPP at Stoa in Sirince, Turkey.