"I participated in New York City-based dance practitioner and choreographer Daria Faïn’s C O R E M O T I ON Program movement sessions in January 2018 as part of the MELT Movement Research Winter Program. Daria, originally from Antibes, France, described her sessions as focused on Contemplative Action as a guided exploration of the correlation between organs, emotions, sensory perception, energy and intellect. The five days of practice focused on the strengthening and the fluidity of the body and mind as well as touched upon core issues and potentials of the human body. The bridge between movement as a dance practice and movement as a life practice became strongly apparent and relevant. There was an alternative entering point to artistic validity that is anchored in the validity of the body spectrum. I would like to thank Daria for that extraordinary week and for this further illuminating talk."
Marjana Krajač
Note: This article was originally conducted and published online on Marjana Krajač’s website in 2018. In 2020 it was re-edited and published in a printed format in the Movement Research Journal MRPJ54: Spatial Practice in 2020.
It Is Necessary to Look at What Is Vital
What is the embarking point of the body for you?

It is often like a dive into water. As you jump, there is suspension, a vacuum; you then orient yourself, enter the water, feel the temperature and work with the breath. You open into seeing and, in a way, this all happens at once. As you continue diving, you notice more and more details of the process. I really value what is completely immediate in the experience of movement and the rationalization of what happens as a simultaneous process – the polyrhythm of the experience of being in action. The body is really an experiential instrument, but movement is not about the body. Movement is about how we fall into the cosmology of our lives—the play of interdependence between our constitution and our layered environment. Every element (perceived or not) contains distinctive dynamics leading to intra-actions. 1 These intra-actions engage physical, emotional, intellectual, causal, and psychological modalities—this is what makes me move.

Is there a specificity to the physicality of the body, particularly your own body?

I would rather use the word embodiment to allude to how cognition affects the way we form around it and qualifies how we move as well as how we manifest expression. My study and practice of Chinese Energetics and other techniques including voice and meditation have helped me experience the many layers at stake in the process of embodiment. K. Sridhar, a renowned sarod player I met in India in 1981, once told me, “half of my life I learned how to tune my instrument, and now I am learning how to play out of tune for the rest of it.” I thought that was such a beautiful metaphor to speak about the body. My martial arts teacher, Frank Allen, also told me to “work toward perfection knowing that you are not [perfect].” Both of these quotes imply a process of working out your intention with what you have. Within these understandings, I would also add that, for me personally, it is about freeing potential—sometimes you need to do this and sometimes you need to do that. It is mainly listening to what you need and perhaps not what you want. It is dealing with what is there. There is a form of agency that takes place when you are in action, which, in a way, manifests as a void between our intention and our experience—it happens at once within the void, the reality of the moment and responsiveness. Please understand that I am not saying that one needs to be blank. Imagine that you need to express anger or sadness—there is a difference between feeling these emotions and expressing them. You learn from feeling them, then you go through a process of letting them move you. It’s as if you allow the self to empty for the feeling to fill that emptiness. I call this the vulnerable empty pivot.

Your choreographic practice is wide and diverse, including: poetry, architecture, social practices, health—all under the idea of the Prosodic Body. When and how did those different strings of activities make sense for you?

Western cultures tend to suppress and compartmentalize the understanding of the human being in the universe. Therefore, knowledge is also generated and consumed that way. I left school when I was sixteen years old, so I really had to make my own education. As I was studying theater and dance, I had to dig into the different origins of these arts from various cultures and eras of history. There is an inherent interdependence between sciences, arts, politics, economies and spiritualities, whether we are conscious of it or not. I always have suffered from how society compartmentalizes everything; this is why I work the way I do. The Prosodic Body is a field of research collaboratively founded with architect-poet Robert Kocik. Different aspects of our living organism connect to different aspects of our environment and require different attentions all centralized by something un-namable, still and empty. The Prosodic Body is a way to see how this manifests as language. In the realm of the mind and space, it is our way of bringing about responsiveness within and without. Everything is language in the context of the Prosodic Body. It is an empiric attempt to listen to what we cannot hear. When someone speaks, you sense so many things beyond what is said, and the listening informs what is said as well. I see language as a way to go beyond what is, while in no way defining something as what it seems to be or what it is believed to be. It is a thought container. In the same way, I see movement as language and a container for energy made of the many aspects of our living organism.

I love thinking of Helen Keller who said that before learning words she couldn’t know that the moon existed—I see language as a way to open our mind to our being. And since we are living in buildings and we are subjected to the economy, why not try to understand how all we do is part of a global ecology.

You studied at the Graham School in New York City from 1984 to 1986. What was it like to be in New York City during those years? And what was your experience of the Graham School and its legacy; what did you take with you from that process?

The Graham experience was a paradox. In 1982, I came back to France from Chennai India to perform in Chateauvallon’s International Dance Festival. The performance was a total disaster. I really had no idea what I was doing, and I was so devastated after the performance that I wandered all night and slept on a beach. In the morning I swam very far and I remember that feeling of just having my head popping out of the water and crying in the middle of the sea. Anyway, the day after, I saw the Graham company rehearsing in this amphitheater in full sunlight with the sea in the background. It was unreal—a very strange time loop. I saw a synthesis of all my studies at once and decided to go and study at the Graham School. The synthesis between Indian traditional drama and architecture, Ancient Greek theater and the American pioneer spirit was a magical triangle for me.

Funny enough, earlier on when I was fourteen in the 1970s in Paris, I was living in the same building as the Centre Culturel du Marais. There I was able to see performances by Douglas Dunn, Lucinda Childs, Bob Wilson and John D’Arcangelo. I took workshops with all of them while regularly studying Bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance) with Amala Devi. I also studied Cunningham technique at the American Center. I was beginning to do my work, mostly solos. So it was a paradox to decide to go to the Graham School, since I was so engrossed with American postmodernism and experimental performances. Most of my French dancer/choreographer friends were going to study at the Cunningham School—I loved Cunningham, but I thought that with Graham there was less of a danger of being stylistically stigmatized because it was already placed in the past.

Studying at the Graham school was an extraordinary experience; I spent most of my days at the school and at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library. I was also working with Fiona Templeton and performing for her in experimental downtown venues. The contrast was wild! I also took somatic classes with Nancy Topf and Elaine Summers. After I hurt my back, I began very seriously studying the Alexander Technique with Ann Rodiger. I would also go and watch Cunningham teach—it was so beautiful to see him teach. While studying the Graham technique, I also studied the evolution of American contemporary dance by watching performances at the Performing Arts Library. I would experience it as movement in my body and could move through the principles of the choreographers/performers. I was living a dance archeology.

Graham made a deep impression on me. I had the chance to have three classes with her when she was 93. She was such an intense person, she actually screamed at me in the lobby because I wasn’t wearing any shoes – it was an insurance issue! Ten years later I dreamed of her: she was massaging my belly telling me to let it go while she was teaching a class for one hundred people. I literally felt that I had to let go of my own eyebrows if I wanted to embody her movement when I was taking repertoire classes.

As the body ages, I have noticed that the particular vibration of sensing my own living body is not aging at all; on the contrary, there is a depth of the material experience that increases. What are your discoveries regarding age and the body as the vessel of aging?

I first want to say that in China’s Taoist philosophy, they say that you become a good dancer at 60, so this question of age is very relative. As I age, I feel the importance of being very attuned to my needs in terms of practice, sleep and food—I have become more sensitive. In terms of movement, I feel that if I’m open, things are there for me as a dancer and performer in general. I am still taking classes to challenge my abilities in Chi Kung and martial arts–-it’s really a pleasure. When I was very young, I also remember seeing a Kathakali master perform who was quite old. He was sitting in this big theater, and he only moved his eye following an imaginary fly throughout the space. That was it. It was amazing! So, there is so much to discover in what we can do, so many aspects and understandings of what dance is. It is necessary to look at what is vital.

You work closely with poet and architect Robert Kocik. Perhaps the usual question, but still always interesting: how difficult or easy it is to share work and life together?

Like everything, it has its advantages and difficulties. At this time, we are mainly collaborating with The Commons Choir (TCC). Working with TCC is very unpredictable because we have different approaches. So, it is both challenging and inspiring and sometimes it takes over our lives. We need to continue taking care of each other and not forget that.

What current project would you like us to be aware of and are there some plans for the future?

My role as co-director of The Commons Choir over the last ten years has involved working with more than two hundred people and performing twenty-seven times in various venues. I took a break for a year and am envisioning celebrating my sixtieth birthday with a production entitled patch the sky with five colored stones. It is a solo work with featured guests that will premiere at The Chocolate Factory in September 2020. This piece is an inquiry into how our perception of reality affects our lives both in the immediate and in the long term regarding the production of meaning and belief systems. I am turning the socio-political expanse of The Commons Choir within myself. This work is also a reflection on my last twenty-three years in NYC. Additionally, The Commons Choir has begun the outline for a new work called, Love Making Enemies. It is an implicate theater tracing the processes of enemy-making and turning points in violence in four separate contexts over a three-year period. We are looking to partner with peace-building and artist groups in select geopolitical locations to create work based on the risks required for breaking barriers.


1 Intra-action is a Baradian term used to replace ‘interaction,’ which necessitates pre-established bodies that then participate in action with each other. Intra-action understands agency as not an inherent property of an individual or human to be exercised, but as a dynamism of forces (Barad, 2007, p. 141) in which all designated ‘things’ are constantly exchanging and diffracting, influencing and working inseparably. Intra-action also acknowledges the impossibility of an absolute separation or classically understood objectivity, in which an apparatus (a technology or medium used to measure a property) or a person using an apparatus are not considered to be part of the process that allows for specifically located ‘outcomes’ or measurement. References Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).