This interview with Philip Connaughton discusses his recent work Assisted Solo (2018). This work inflects embodied remembering as the expert creative practice of dance, through narratives of aging and elder care, anchored in the story of Connaughton’s mother who has dementia. In one of the early sections of the piece, the French dance artist Magali Caillet-Gajan performs a solo with a compelling and driven intensity. It isn’t until we’re in the bar afterwards listening to the after-show talk, that we find out that this extraordinary section of performance is itself a meditation on memory (as dementia also is), a sequence (for all the dancers) of excerpting sixty different gestures from choreographic works they’ve been in during their professional lives. For Connaughton, this is as much as he can remember before his head explodes (his words). For Caillet-Gajan, she does another sixty to make 120, in a tumult of quick emotional and gestural shifts. In Assisted Solo, Connaughton re-casts dementia as a shift in embodiment, rather than a brain disease, in a double gesture of remembering and forgetting. This work provides provocative insight into dance’s troubled relationship to documenting process, as well as the dance archive’s love affair with product.
In this interview Philip Connaughton and Jools Gilson present together in tangles of talking about choreographing dancers as well as words. This interview aims to linger on the traces of a making process in dance in ways which trouble both remembering and forgetting.