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Dance of the machine, body and mind

Doctoral thesis with DVD creates concept on quality of life in the virtual era

disclosureSince she was very small, Analívia Cordeiro, from São Paulo, was used to sitting at the table with friends of her father, the plastic artist Waldemar Cordeiro (1925-1973). Amongst them, names like Pierre Boulez (1925) and Federico Fellini (1920-1993). The first passion for art, though, manifested itself in her for dancing. At the age of 11, she was already a ballet dancer. At the same time that she was studying architecture at FAU-USP, she became a choreographer, dancer and corporeal researcher. After graduating in Brazil by the Laban method – with Maria Duschenes – she became an international pioneer in computer-dance and in video art in the country, with experiments carried out in 1973. Subsequently, she studied modern American dance at the studios of Alvin Nikolais and Merce Cunningham (New York), between 1977 and 1979, and graduated in eutony in 2002.

In 1975, with assistance from Fapesp, Analívia filmed in Super-8 the Kuarup ritual ceremony in the Kamayurá tribe, in the Xingu National Park. She has had her works presented at important international displays all over the world in the last 30 years. Indefatigable, she has created various videos, multimedia spectacles and a movement notation software, published in the video/book Nota-Anna – An electronic notation of the movements of the human body based on the Laban method (published by Annablume). She also produced the Waldemar Cordeiro CD-ROM (2001) and the duCorpo DVD in versions in Portuguese, English and Spanish. She has also worked as a modern dance teacher of the Laban method and of eutony in children?s schools, dance schools and faculties of psychology (USP) and fashion (Santa Marcelina). Finally, she took a master’s degree in multimedia at Unicamp.

All that Analívia had lived, learnt and accumulated in experience and knowledge, she directed towards producing her doctoral thesis in communication Cyber-Harmony: a dialog between corporeal awareness and the electronic media, which she defended at PUC-SP, in 2004, under the supervision of Arlindo Machado. The thesis was made up of four complementary items: the websites and, the duCorpo DVD, and the theory in writing. To absorb its content, the artist convinced the examining bench of the need to carry out previously both a reading of the texts in writing and in images, and a corporeal practice, for the research to be better understood. And all the participants kindly acceded.

What may appear merely a method for corporeal relaxation and conditioning, applicable in any fitness center or in one of those bookstore manuals is a laborious and complex process of self-awareness and of the discoveries arising from stimulating the respect for the organicity intrinsic to the movements of the body. A work that resulted from three decades of studies, which includes a way developed by the author to describe the movement of the body, called Nota-Anna. Its main characteristic is to visualize the trail of movement to show “the essence of its emotional expression in nuances”. The program was written in Java language and can be used in any computer. At its current stage, it is an instrument that makes possible the recording and visualization of movement in a direct and natural way.

With its evolution, by the incorporation of computer vision and artificial intelligence techniques, Nota-Anna has a chance of becoming, as well, a tool for analyzing and conceiving movement. “Who knows, even coming to be widely used by all those who cultivate this art”, observed Luiz Velho, an associate researcher from the Pure and Applied Mathematics Institute. The author explains that the doctoral project was born from the observation that nowadays millions of people are affected on a daily basis by the continuous use of electronic instruments, which interferes with human relations. Hence the need for a reflection about it. These instruments, she goes on, dictate physical and emotional behaviors that mold the body, transform themselves into day to day habits and can cause suffering and physical pain (like the carpal tunnel syndrome, for example).

The research observes that, if it is taken into account that the body is a structure of bones covered by skin and various kinds of tissues, it is possible to affirm that its characteristics are altered with their daily use. “The tissues, despite naturally resisting mechanical efforts of folding, twisting, tearing, compressing, run the risk of being definitively impaired in their structure and functioning, if drawn on in excess, by repetitive efforts.” As therapies for seeking an equilibrium on the plane of corporeal movement, there is everything from medical treatments to mystical or religious rituals. “There are still not any proposals, though, for a new and healthy activity of the user of the new technologies in their own medium of action. That is why I consider this thesis useful, necessary and significant”, she explains.

As a tool, the ballerina created and produced duCorpo, whose DVD was chosen as the electronic medium for solving the problems caused by this medium itself. She suggests corporeal procedures integrated with electronic language, an attitude that may make possible a complete experience of the organism, including physical, mental, sensorial and emotional aspects of a creative and involving nature. The theoretical-practical tools are endobiophilia, eutony, the Feldenkrais and Laban methods, in the field of corporeal awareness; and, in new technology, the Nota-Anna application for the writing, reading and learning of movement. “I believe that, within this theme, verbal discourse is insufficient and incomplete, seeing that, in the non-verbal part, the language of behavior is frequently more important than what is said.”

Her thesis was made up of two complementary parts: the theoretical (verbal) and the practical (non-verbal), in such a way as to make up a complete unity. Analívia explains that, for the users, the electronic instruments can be considered as semantic filters or intermediaries in their contact with reality. “Accordingly, I perceive that a proposal to surpass these limits must be within the universe contained in its own action, because it is very difficult for a person to stop using them to look for an activity in another universe, other than in extreme and exceptional cases, like a problem with health. But why not prevent and take care of the body before it falls ill?”

This attitude, the author writes, opens up space for the emergence of new contents in the user-electronic instruments interaction. “This traditional conception of communion between people is very true, just as the considerations about the current use of technology are. There is evidence, though, that technology is entering the sphere of the affective, personal and intimate, in a positive and constructive way.” The duCorpo DVD intends to be a resource in this direction. Amongst other objectives, it tries to balance the day-to-day of the user with the integration of two kinds of activity: interaction with technology and procedures for introspection, which could make possible a more integrated detection of the world.  Or, at least, one richer in mental, sensorial and emotional experiences. “I believe that the new generation, which, on the one hand, knows, albeit in a superficial way, practices of meditation or “oriental philosophy”, and, on the other hand, lives so intimately with videogames, computers, virtual reality etc., would not have any difficulty in uniting these two practices, provided that it is done under proper guidance.”

On switching on the DVD, the user is stimulated to enter into a new world of his body and of his mind. Analívia proposes a reduction in the areas of tension of the body, through relaxation based on the reduction of the tonus of the tense areas, which leads to a postural realignment. Next, three minutes are given to sleep and to carry out a neurological rearrangement. In a second stage, carrying out a general tonification of the body using active movements, such as pushing against the floor or something that makes it possible to get up little by little until standing up, in such a way as to expand the strength and flexibility of the body. Afterwards, laughing and enjoying oneself, for the person to have total freedom to discover what he wants to do. Lastly, stopping to think and to feel what has happened after the activities. You must exercise what you want to.

This attitude, the ballerina claims, may come to make up a new form of universal culture, as one more step in the history of human affectivity and self-awareness. A posture that is in its infancy today in other spheres of the new technology. Outside the limits of the academic world, the thesis intends to address itself as well to children, pre-adolescents and adolescents, since the Internet is changing the nature of childhood, because it opens up the world for everybody. From statements taken by her or researched, Analívia observes that the fundamental role of technology in the life of the youngsters is unquestionable.

From the technical point of view, a marked daily habit in the life of these youngsters is not to move their bodies frequently. For hours, every day, they play, research, flirt or work in front of a monitor, where the eyes follow movements of a toy (or car, or information etc.) on the screen, and the fingers move keys to activate this virtual world. “For all the age groups, we found that, with the virtual culture, physical mobility has lost strength in favor of the virtual mobility of information. This tendency originated in post-modernity and with the advent of new urban characteristics.”

Analívia observes that the urban environment, added to the apparatuses of the new technology, constantly stimulates vision to the detriment of physical activity and of other senses of the body. “duCorpo is a corporeal practice of a pedagogical nature, amongst others. Its objective in this context is broad, but I would like to emphasize our country specifically.” In Brazil, she says, pedagogical plans are formulated at various levels of society, from broad and disseminated perspectives. With the new technologies, what is wanted is the generation of important innovations in the educational process, “that may make it possible for education to attend more clearly to the aspirations and needs of human societies, where knowledge and the capacity for learning and creating solutions are essential aspects for development and well-being”.

In her basic reasons, the author concludes that there are two basic issues. First, technological development, which is going to create increasingly cheaper and more sophisticated products, with an expansion of the access by a larger portion of the population. Next, the demand for education, development, training, qualification, which is already great and is going to continue to grow. In this context, her program develops an educative and constructive function. “Another objective is leisure, opening up the possibility of acting in a purely playful, free and light way with an electronic apparatus; abandoning, for however short a time, the attitude of obstinate conquest, to take up an attitude of pleasure and internal self-confidence, allowing our desires, needs and curiosities to flow with simplicity, independent of the physical and mental obligations imposed.”

In this quest for quality of life in the digital era, with the proposal of a dialog between body, mind and computer, Analívia wants to democratize to the maximum her program, without being worried about transforming her studies into a lucrative business. “Behind all this, there is a profound knowledge, an experience of life, which made it possible to draw up a painstaking work, with scientific elaboration, that makes the dance a means of making people’s lives better. The challenge lies in awakening in the person the willingness to get the DVD and practice.”