‘#1 of 30’ at the Weisman explores body sway and movement

Sunday’s performance highlighted a collaborative effort between artists and researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Becca Most

A square metal frame hung from the ceiling by bright orange rope. Below it, a white tarp folded in a perfect vertical rectangle.

As a dozen onlookers took their seats quietly, others leaned against the doorway, curiously waiting for the show to begin.

“Instructions.”

The call to order rang loudly, the space devoid of any other sound except the soft movement of bare feet across linoleum.

“#1 of 30,” which showed at the Weisman last Sunday, explored the phenomenon of bodily sway and motion. The performance, crafted by choreographer Pramila Vasudevan and Aniccha Arts, was a Collaboration Incubator project for the Weisman’s Target Studio for Creative Collaboration. 

Organized by WAM curator Boris Oicherman, the Target studio works to foster relationships between Twin Cities artists and researchers at the University of Minnesota.

The Aniccha Arts group is two months into “1 of 30,” which will be a longer experimental project. This event was an open rehearsal, and the experimental show will go on.

Inspired by the research of University kinesiology professor Thomas Stoffregen, Vasudevan examines the concept of basal sway: the innate movement of the body that occurs even when standing still.

She explains that everyone’s sway is a little different, shaped by our experiences, cultural identity and posture.

“The adjustment period of the body is fascinating to me,” Vasudevan said. “There’s a lot to search for and a lot to play with.”

Stepping on a metal track in the center of the room, dancers shifted their weight back and forth, causing the track to shutter and jolt side-to-side. 

Cycling between four calls to order — “instructions,” “performance, ”recovery” and “design” — the two-hour practice was divided into 20-minute increments. Each segment had a new designer, layout and set of guidelines for the performers. 

“What does it mean to give in to your sway?” Vasudevan said in an interview. “What does that look like? Can you sway if you’re not standing, like, on all fours? How does the sway in your body reflect the sway of the objects [in a space]?”

Some movement coordinators seemed to lose themselves in acts of repetition, tracing their fingers down a cord attached to the suspended metal frame. 

Others practiced yoga, crouched still despite any loud noises or shrieks from the other performers.

Sculptor and dancer Maxwell Hoaglund said he designed the set with experimentation in mind. 

“It makes sense to me that we could contemplate the same questions that [Stoffregen] does and be effective about it,” he said. “And it makes sense that we would have some sort of ‘experimental equipment’ like he has. It’s just that we’re asking questions in a different way.”

Stoffregen said he believes working with artists and dancers has forced him to think about his work differently.

“Dancers know at least as much as we do about how movement works and what causes us to move in the way that we move,” he said. “It’s really inspiring for me to get this perspective from people who know as least as much as I do about movement, but know about it in a really different way.”

Oicherman hopes collaborations like this one will continue to bring traditionally separate disciplines together.

“I believe that the way we as a society go about knowledge at the moment is extremely inefficient,” he said. 

“The knowledge of the body that a kinesiologist develops and the knowledge of the body that a choreographer develops … in most of the cases aren’t connected at all. What is happening is that we actually don’t get a comprehensive knowledge … of the body because we don’t know how to connect all of these pieces of information and knowing,” Oicherman said.