Madeline Blount
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The Comfort of Jargon

April 2, 2009 @ 3:53 PM | Permalink

 When the fifteen of us were on the floor of the concert hall, warming up our knees and ankles, it was easy to forget that we had only met each other a week earlier, and that we came from countries as far-flung as Cyprus, Greece, England, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Italy, and the USA.

I just finished participating in an improvisational movement workshop here in Nicosia, an intensive class of 8-hour days (I could use a new back right now) that focused on that in-between area of physical theatre and dance.  One of the things I am here to study is the potential that these language-less performance forms have for cultural exchange; if language is not a barrier, what stories can we tell?  What connections can we make, even in divided regions?

But as this was a course, with a language necessary for instruction, by default it was English, the new international language, for better or for worse.  It wasn't simply English, but the art-speak that I am familiar with from university and other work: terms like contact improvisation, viewpoints, the spine of a piece, tempo, rhythm, timbre, "breathe into your pelvis," etc. I realized these were not just known to me from my education, but also familiar to the performer from Lithuania.  To the student from the UK, and the instructor from Italy.  Jargons as languages within disciplines cross borders where geopolitical languages may not.  

I found the same thing when working as an assistant director for a choreographer earlier in the year here in Cyprus.  I may have still been learning how to navigate the bus system or the intricacies of bar etiquette, but I recognized that sound board in the theatre, that direction to "get into character and fill the space."  This was something I could leap into effortlessly -- and I'm sure it is similar for other jargons.  If I was in Cyprus to do engineering, that lab would be more familiar to me than the harrowing process of walking along a Cypriot sidewalk (beware of Hummer-sized vehicles who want to "share" this pavement with you).

It is not only the performers and artists that I have found familiar, but the audiences in the Cypriot art world.  Some of the young people in particular could be straight out of a theatre in Portland, New York, Paris, Berlin.  The skinny jeans and faux glasses take on a Cypriot quality of their own, sure, but they are the recognizable hipsters all the same:

Or, Cypsters?




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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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