Edward Lloyd is our second dancer to meet with. Calm and lively, he opens this one on one talk with a tea in our studio. Each month ICK features one dancer, starting with a beautiful video portrait and ending with a one time online interview with the audience. This time, Edward shares his lifestyle, philosophy, career path and inspirations.
What are you passionate about aside from dance?
Passion, mmh, I would say humor is very important to me; and approaching the world through it. It is not necessarily about funny, but layered humor, as a tool to be critical about the world. Aesthetics are also a big part of my lifestyle. In this context, I mean aesthetic in a way of emulation to elevate a mundane aspect of daily life. For instance, my coffee cup in the morning, is a beautiful one and gives me pleasure to drink from it daily, it’s as simple as that. That kind of relates to a Japanese way of approaching how we live life, down to how you make your coffee, how you drink it, what cup you drink it from, etc. It is not considered in a way that it has to be beautiful but more in a considered decision. I don’t force this but it filters in many aspects of how I live, to the extent of how I dress for example.
That must bring such a deep awareness of everything you’re living. Could you tell me few things that are dear to you as an individual and a dancer?
I try to stimulate a sense of keeping on learning. I realize that I am happiest when I am learning, either something I don’t know or by building on knowledge I already have. If I like something I tend to research more about it, and that can multiplicate in an arborescent way. A song could be about a political issue and I’ll dig into that specific topic, maybe make links and so on. That’s my natural inspiring process, kind of seating in the back, and happening in waves. It influences my daily life, how I relate to the world and my surroundings. Not necessarily how I dance, but how I relate to dance (which is constantly evolving) and how I position myself within dance. Moreover, something that always stays at the core is that – not in an egotistical way: I hope to contribute to the lineage of dance, the bigger picture as a cultural heritage. And that my small contribution adds to this body of knowledge.
What do you identify with in general? What makes you distinctive?
I have a huge interest in fashion, as in the history of dressing, and dressing as a cultural practice, so I consider the way I present myself through dressing. I consider it as much as my coffee cup (laugh). Mmh but distinction is a tough question… Something else I am very interested in is Butoh. The first time I did it was in Yokohama, Tokyo, I went to the Kazuo Ohno dance studio. Kazuo Ohno is one of the original Butoh artists, who created his own story. Since these workshops I got really hooked with the whole Butoh. Funnily enough, it ties naturally to how I already approached the world through aesthetics (as an awareness of everything), but also to my use of language. I could find so many things about myself in what it is. I naturally dived into it.
What other inspirations are part of you on that level?
I already have a list actually! I did this exercise a few years ago to edit out the people who I really constantly come back to. Let me share it with you:
Ocean Vuong– Poet, Novelist – He uses the sound and rhythm of words with clarity and elegance. I find his knowledge of how language shapes our understanding of the world very inspiring.
Sarah Vaughan– Singer – It’s almost like she sculpts time and space with her notes. The mastery she has of her own voice inspires me to use movement with the same richness and virtuosity.
Rick Owens– Fashion Designer – What I love about Owens is his curiosity about the world. He has the ability to queer forms of knowledge from many different fields and transform them in to his own visual language.
Lee Ufan– Artist, Philosopher – I find Ufan’s ideas about the role art plays in the world very inspiring, and they translate some of these key principles to the body and dance. My understanding of his work, to put it simply, is to deal with ‘the essence of things’ in order to encounter the bare existence of the world as it is.
Upon you, what’s the biggest challenge of being a dancer?
I’d first say the fact that dance is an ephemeral art. I went back and forth with a sort of frustration or difficulty. It partly has to do with my interest in aesthetics. When I appreciate something it matters to me that it is tangible, like an object. Which on the flip side is what I find fascinating about dance, this contradiction that is somehow always there in the background.
On the one side, that is why as an audience member, it is important that you are present during that momentum, the experience of being situated in a time and a space. In my opinion, dance is not something that you should just be able to consume, you kind of have to engage with it. Regardless of how it is presented, you shouldn’t passively consume it, as an audience member there is a level of engagement that is on you. Depending on the theater structure, I believe there is an energetic exchange between the performer and the audience member. The theater conditions have a natural impact on it of course but if the audience is engaged, it heightens the experience of both parties. Personally I do sense, when I step on stage, where is the audience, what do I feel from them. It is not just a black hole that I am performing to!
On the other side, coming back to the challenge, I don’t think dance just disappears, it stores in our body. It’s not an object but on an energetic level, what you produce in a space disappears but the result of what you did is stored in your body. In the context of dance – preservering the art form, there is a lot of value in that and how it can be preserved in a more tangible way.
I have in various ways yes. I do short online courses, and one of them is about preserving and archiving in ephemeral art. I also had the chance to work with Suzan a few times. Besides that, one of the most interesting ways of notating dance upon me is Butoh’s notation system. For example, a lot of performances are notated through language, in very short lines of poetry. Each sentence relates to a very specific choreographed piece of movement. Though, only the dancer who experienced it would know what that piece of poetry means and how that translates into a movement. In Butoh things are not choreographed based on form, it is about the intention and energy together. That’s where I am very interested, that relation between language and movement (as in quality and movement state). In and out of Butoh, I am very curious about how a more poetic language can relate and influence movement and vice versa. I like that the physicality of the body can impact language.
Talking about language. In the Dutch cultural offering, you may find dance in the entertainment category. It might attract a broader audience but dance remains an art form, how ambiguous is that?
Very true! I think that relates to something further back, to my knowledge. I read The Philosophy of Dance by Aili Bresnahan and everything completely made sense. I had these feelings for a long time and didn’t really know how to articulate them, and this book talked about Classical Ballet, Opera, Fine Art, and other forms of elevated art. And already from the beginning dance was considered primal, so as we started to classify art, dance was never put in the category of an elevated art form; except maybe Classical Ballet that set the tone to a certain evolution. Over time, you have ballet going in one direction and the other dance forms being excluded, regarded as something that is not considered art. So I think there’s maybe a reason for what I just talked about before, because contemporary dance is only a new art form. My overall opinion is that contemporary dance is having a bit of an identity crisis, it seems confused. Which isn’t necessarily negative, I think we are just still figuring it out.
In that way, what I strive for as a dancer in the current society is maybe it’s a bit utopian but with micro contributions, dance comes to have some role, presence in how we live our daily life. Contemporary dance can sit with elevated art forms (alike opera, fine art) and in some contexts it does not. That reflects the confusion, and why it is not really getting through to have an every day presence. It is so broad and complex that it has a hard time to be defined in order for a person to encounter it.
One the one hand it can also be confusing for a dancer and on the other hand, dance is the closest art form that we have to ourselves, it is the most immediate thing whatever your physical conditions are. That is also what I find funny because dance can be so inaccessible sometimes, while anyone, at any time, could dance or move their body. It is full of contradictions!
From my point of view Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten are game changer thinkers, how do you relate to ICK’s concepts and themes? I know you are close to the body in revolt for instance.
Where our ideas align, is that I very much believe that the body can be a powerful tool to activate something. Which can go from a performance to more broadly in life. It kind of relates to how I chose to present the image of my body in the world. Talking about the Body in Revolt, for me revolt is a bit too emphasized, I see it as a gentle rejection of certain assumptions, ideas of how you should live and present yourself, and what’s expected of you in general.
Besides, there’s the strong attention on experiencing a process, thriving for something that may be not possible and working towards achieving it. For instance, in Double Skin/ Double Mind, there’s this idea of a non existing border between the space and your skin, which is not possible, you can’t remove your skin from your body. But the process is about the staying there; the belief and engagement with this intangible proposition that resonates with me. Actually by believing in it and sticking with it, it becomes tangible.
Are there other spaces where you feel your body in this gentle rejection?
Without being too pretentious, this act is also a sort of a philosophical practice. Living by negation is something I try to do in the background, but persistence and repetition are important. So putting the body in that situation then I would say this: thinking of my own body and others, although we are conditioned by gender and race, it is extremely important to approach someone as a person with a body instead. But what is that concept? How do you negate one’s gender, the race, their sexuality, what is left, who is the person? I consider this essential, the revolt in classifying people.
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
I’ll save it for the live interview!
Edward Lloyd is giving a live interview on Tuesday 25th of May at 19:00 CET. To book a free ticket click here.
Portrait by Ruben Timman
Additional source on Butoh: see BUTOH ENCOUNTERS