AEdT, Düsseldorf September 2019
A body-in-life is more than a body merely alive.
A body-in-life dilates the actor’s presence and the spectator’s perception.
Faced with certain actors, a spectator is attracted by an elementary energy which seduces without mediation, even before he has deciphered the individual actions or questioned himself about their meaning and understood it.
For an Occidental spectator, this experience is obvious when he watches an Oriental actor-dancer about whose culture, traditions and theatrical conventions he often knows little. Faced with a performance whose meaning he cannot fully understand and whose execution he cannot competently appreciate, he suddenly finds himself in the dark. But he must admit that in spite of everything there exists in this void a power which holds his attention, a “seduction” which precedes intellectual understanding.
But seduction alone or comprehension alone cannot endure for very long without each other: the seduction would be brief, the comprehension would lack interest.
The Occidental spectator who watches an Oriental actor-dancer is but an extreme cxample. The same situation occurs every time theatre is well done. But when the observer is faced with his “own” theatre, all that he already knows, the questions which he recognizes and which tell him where or how to look for the answers, create a veil which hide the existence of the elementary power of the “seduction”.
We often call this power of the actor “presence”. But it is not something which is, which is there in front of us. It is continuous mutation, growth, taking place before our very eyes. It is a body-in-life. The flow of energies which characterize our daily behaviour has been derailed. The tensions which secretly govern our normal way of being physically present, come to the surface in the actor, become visible, unexpectedly.
The dilated body is a hot body, but not in the emotional or sentimental sense. Feeling and emotion are only a consequence, both for the actor and the audience. It is above all a red body, in the scientific sense of the term: the particles which make up daily behaviour have been excited and produce more encrgy. they have undergone an increment of motion, they move further apart, attract and oppose each other with more force, more speed, take up more space.
If one questions masters of Oriental and Occidental theatre and compares their answers. one notes that underneath the different techniques lie certain similar principles. These can be combined into three lines of action:
1, the alteration of daily balance in the search for a precarious or “luxury” balance;
2. the dynamic of opposition;
3. the use of incoherent coherence.
Eugenio Barba, The Dilated Body, Rome: Zeami Libri, 1985