It was time to work on something new and less precious. So I ordered 15kg of lentils and dedicated 5 afternoons to making something differently to usual. The parameters I set myself (and only to reduce the possibilities slightly whilst challenging what I’d probably do) were: start a solo, try and make it so it could happen on a stage, try and set the material, use lentils.
Speed isn’t always my strength (sometimes it really is, but not often during processes), so I also set myself a casual sharing for the Friday afternoon.
Besides the fact that I think about food for a large percentage of the day, I’m still not entirely sure why I landed on lentils. They feel soft and make satisfying noises.
I had got my hands on 6 varieties so the colours were striking and there was variation in texture, shape and size.
Not having too much of an idea before entering the studio is not something I have the chance to do very often. I tend to spend time thinking and researching beforehand, but not this time. It is difficult to find the line between feeling that you have a playful explorative attitude to research, and feeling like you’ve spent the week on your own faffing around with lentils.
The green lentils are the biggest, flattest and incredibly soft. Almost velvety.
The other green ones are deep in colour, rich and marbled. They look like tiny galaxies.
By the end of day one I wanted it to be in the round, with another performer and improvised…
By the end of day two I still wanted it to be in the round, with the audience having the chance at some point to feel the lentils…
By the end of day three I had decided it was a durational duet; probably for a gallery space, the movement material will probably not be set, it will be in the round and the audience have the chance to feel the lentils. At least it still involves lentils.
Am I making a dance about lentils? And why would I do that? And if not, is it purely aesthetic? And if so, is the dancing really necessary?
How the material relates to dancing is a present question.
The lentils themselves are enough, but there is some benefit to disturbing them. They are very beautiful – for the first time I am interested in the beauty of it. Using the lentils, you can very quickly shape something beautiful, this kind of instant gratification feels rare.
This cannot be performed on a black floor – because the black lentils are like beads, it would be impossible to find them again and you’d miss witnessing how they vibrate.
The speckled brown ones also vibrate and spin very quickly.
The impermanence that I seem to long for is there, because you can scoop them up and start again.
How do you know when to stop? When, through continuing, are you actually making it worse?
Two distinct ways to handle the lentils have become apparent. One way disperses them, it spreads them out or shapes them almost flamboyantly. The other is also a way of shaping them, but it feels more humble - the aim is to collect them, bringing them back to somewhere more neutral.
I think it would be more interesting if these actions happened simultaneously.
The red lentils are your average Joe, the yellow ones are similar but slightly larger. They are both split, flat and slide satisfyingly.
To be continued…