[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usog27pVOe8&rel=1] The 4th year PARTS students at their best.
My first week at PARTS I took an afternoon workshop with British choreographer Charles Linehan. It primarily consisted of us participating as dancers in his choreographic methods. We first learned a few short phrases – the movement was simple with many small gestures. From there we had the freedom to cut up the material and improvise with it. We soon constructed our own material with specific guidance from Linehan. He had a strong emphasis on partnering, with or without contact, particularly with one person bending and folding another body and it's parts. One person can direct and the other follows, but at times the passive partner can become more active. He slowly layers, builds, and splices movement fragments to create a rich palette of action. His vocabulary is clear and mostly develops through his direction and guidance, rather than teaching material. It feels literal and abstract at the same time.
Through my artist residency at Movement Research, I have the unique opportunity to be a guest student at PARTS in Brussels for one month. From what I know, I don't think there has been any guest who has taken class longer than 2 weeks. So this is something new not only for me, but for the school as well. I will be taking classes and workshops with the 4th year students and I have the option to rehearse my own work in the PARTS studios. PARTS has a highly competitive audition process. It is clear they seek diversity - there are rarely more than two people from the same country in a class. For instance, there is only one American in the entire school at the moment (this has not always been the case). It creates a really beautiful community, where different cultures meet on a common ground. It may also be a major reason why the school is so unique.
PARTS is a 2 or 4 year program and only accepts students every other year. So at the moment there are only 2nd year students and 4th year students, which totals about 50 people (around thirty 2nd years and twenty 4th years). The first two years make up the 1st cycle and are for students recently out of high school or with minimal professional experience. The 3rd and 4th years make up the 2nd cycle, which is for selected students from the 1st cycle, as well as outside applicants with a college degree or sufficient professional experience. The 2nd cycle dedicates more time to personal work and research, mainly choreographic. Most of the current 4th year students have been at PARTS all 4 years, in fact, only one student has been at the school for the 2nd cycle. From what I've been told, this is not always the case – In the past there have been more outside applicants accepted into the 2nd cycle.
The days mainly consist of an early morning yoga class, 2 technique classes, and an afternoon workshop. My first week, the technique classes are with Salva Sanchis, a former Rosas dancer, and Diane Madden. Then there is a macrobiotic lunch (which I like, some don't, and others say you just get used to it – it's free for the students). The workshops in the afternoons are either led by an artist about their choreographic practice, or a theory course led by various theoreticians (for the next 4 weeks focusing on Gilles Deleuze). The first week I am taking a workshop with British choreographer Charles Linehan.
It soon hits me that I'm in school – again. In a recent conversation in New York, I was discussing how I'm trying to de-educate myself, meaning filtering and distilling what I have learned in order to shape and develop my own interests. I had gone to university and received my MFA by the age of 24. This left little time for me to really focus on my work outside of an academic context. Nearly 2 and 1/2 years later, I will spend a month educating myself again in this intense context at PARTS.
Yes, it is intense and maybe this is more obvious to me coming from a different country and a different lifestyle. The school is small, occupies a lot of time and is in the outskirts of Brussels. I'm staying near the school and there is really nothing else to do. As a result, the students spend most of their time at the school and with each other. I wonder how isolated they must feel. But in someway it is very special. Since there is nothing else to do, one can really focus on their work. Coming from the over stimulated environment of NYC, this was a shock to my system at first, but I'm now growing to love it.
For a clear history and more information on PARTS please visit www.parts.be