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Speaking Dance (2006, 45 minutes)


Created and performed by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion.


The principle behind the making of Speaking Dance was - 'Do what we always do but this time use words', to which was added, at a later date and under some pressure the following caveat - 'And when we run out of words, keep going by whatever means necessary'.


The opening of Speaking Dance is a rapid counterpoint of loosely connected words, written around the idea of describing a dance that you can hear but never see.


Score 1 of Speaking Dance shows part of this opening. One performer is the top line and the other the bottom line, and when two words align they are spoken together.


Score 2 of Speaking Dance shows the section called 'Love', which is shouted above a piece of piano music written using material from one of the chorales in the St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. This chorale appears throughout the performance, sometimes in a way which makes it obvious, and sometimes hidden inside other structures and ideas.


Score 3 of Speaking Dance is from a section called 'Big, big, small'. This is drawn from the following simple looping pattern:


1 2 3

1 3 2

2 3 1

2 1 3

3 1 2

3 2 1


This pattern is used during the piece to order movements, time, space, sections, images, and in this case, text. The words 'big, big, small' are numbered '1, 2, 3', such that big = 1, big = 2 and small = 3, superimposing a pattern of two over a pattern of three. The pattern is then repeated substituting the sounds 'aah' for 'big', and 'mmm' for 'small'.


Scores 4 and 5 of Speaking Dance show the section 'Chicken, Yes Come'. Here the score for Matteo shows shouted words while the score for Jonathan indicates a series of gestures to coincide with the words. The words 'Chicken, Yes, Come', for instance, coincide with the gestures 'ring, thumb, flick'. This material is a translation of a section of the earlier piece Both Sitting Duet.

Score 4 also shows, on the right hand page, part of a set of descriptions by Rudolf Laban for dances to be made by students. These are shouted at the end of Speaking Dance. The full texts of these can be found in The Mastery Of Movement by Rudolf Laban, Northcote House Publishers Ltd., 1992 (1950), p. 51.



© Burrows&Fargion 2023

Speaking Dance score for the opening (2006).jpg
Speaking Dance score for 'love' (2006).jpg
Speaking Dance score for 'big big small' (2006).jpg
Speaking Dance score for 'chicken yes come' (2006).jpg
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