Artistic Statement: Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood

I was born a movement addict and as far as I can remember have always been passionate about the tactile investigation of environments I live in and the physical interplay with others through activities such as roughhousing, sports, athletics, gymnastics and martial arts, which finally led me to yoga, dance improvisation and somatic work. Since my beginnings in dance in 1975, improvisation has been an ongoing artistic process for me and contact improvisation has been the catalyst and the glue that binds it all together. I do not tire of it. It keeps me alive and happy and continues to teach me the best lessons in life.

For some 40 years, my fervent relationship with this instantaneous art form has fueled a compulsive need to explore, to move, and to express ideas and emotions through my physical being. It is the preeminent way for me to communicate with others and the world.

I view improvisation as a highly sophisticated idiom that necessitates a training of body and mind. The practice of improvisation requires a very high level of concentration, a fertile imagination and the ability to make immediate decisions. Contact improvisation is a demanding form of instantaneous composition in which dancers, attuned to an abundance of information, must make in-the-moment choices as they fashion a dance piece in present time. It takes a great deal of confidence, openness and honesty to make it up on the spot, especially when there is no safety net. It also takes many, many years of dedication and experience to pull it off in performance. I believe this work is about finding a way to perform without pretense, so that the ability to respond freely and unselfconsciously becomes the goal. In order to do this, the performer has to let go of preconceived notions of performing and begin taking real risks, even risking making a fool of themselves. Robert Rauschenberg stated “If you’re an artist, it’s very important to be willing and able to make a fool of yourself at any moment.”. And John Cage declared: “you can fool the fans, but not the players”.

Ultimately, it’s the immediate that intrigues me. More than ever, we are faced with the challenge of living in the present. Modern technology, global communication and networking, in addition to the ominous over abundance of advertising prompts humans to make faster decisions, to react now. The improviser who is forever faced with having to assess any given situation rapidly thus becomes an apt reflection of the modern day individual immersed in this demanding position of instant decision-making.

What is so wonderful about the medium of improvisation is that suddenly the elements erupt before you, just like that, and it is essential to seize them… That’s what poetry is!  You must not think. The rest of the time, yes, you do have to think but at that moment, you must throw caution to the wind and dive in. - Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood

Andrew will teach morning class 15 - 19 May, 10am in DanceHouse

These classes in DanceHouse was made possible through the support of Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec