Again, Again, Again – on rhythm and the indefatigable pleasures of repetition.


Kim Brandstrup has been appointed as one of two Director’s Fellows at New York University’s Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA) for 2019/20.

CBA is a highly-regarded international research institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences.

During his residency, Brandstrup will initiate an artistic project around the relationship between music and dance under the umbrella title Again, Again, Again – on rhythm and the indefatigable pleasures of repetition. Alongside academic research he will make a new 20-minute ballet, Noctis, for City Center’s Fall For Dance season with New York City Ballet soloists Sara Mearns and Taylor Stanley, and will devise and lead a mentoring program for a select group of choreographers.

The Director’s Fellowship, given at the discretion of CBA’s Founder and Director, Jennifer Homans, was introduced in 2018 with former New York City Ballet dancer Allegra Kent and BAM Executive Producer, Emeritus Joseph V. Melillo. It gives a CBA residency to artists, scholars, and practitioners who have made significant contributions to the field of dance. Director’s Fellows have access to CBA’s studio and office spaces, NYU’s academic resources, and a stipend to pursue projects of their own design. Director’s Fellows bring deep expertise and informed practical guidance to the residency, strengthening the work of CBA’s fellows, staff, and community at large.

“CBA fosters a contemplative environment for creative thinking, research, and art making. It made my Fellowship an invaluable professional endeavour at a key inflection point in my career,” reflected 2018 - 2019 Director’s Fellow Joe Melillo.

The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University

20 Cooper Square

2nd Floor

New York, NY 10003

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Again, Again, Again – on rhythm and the indefatigable pleasures of repetition.

Center for Ballet and the Arts, NYU

Project Summary

Again, Again, Again - on rhythm in dance and music and the indefatigable pleasures of repetition

This project comes out of my artistic practice and engagement with dancers and musicians in and outside the studio and will explore the overarching theme of the relationship of music and dance. More specifically, the impulse that drives this inquiry focuses on the phenomenon of rhythm and the understanding that dancers/choreographers possess a sophisticated rhythmical musicality - a way of hearing, responding and “chunking” the rhythmical that is specific to their craft. Thus the project honors, articulates, and pays tribute to an often neglected aspect of dance and choreography and opens up research into practice, history, and theory to support its claims. It is important to me that the project captures my artistic practice alongside academic research. I feel it is vital to think of the research as something that could become an umbrella for my creative work, that the ‘research questions’ reflect current artistic investigation and concerns, that the academic reflection directly informs my artistic work and that the results are delivered in the form of artistic creation.

The theoretical framework for the project encompasses the ideas and philosophies of writers including Deleuze, Freud, Lacan, Peter L Burger, whose work enables us to link the understanding of rhythm to the pleasures of repetition, structure, pattern, perception/making. The idea that repetition sets up a sense of pattern, a sense of structure that allows for anticipation and projection into the future forms an essential background for the project.

The project also explores the historicist aspect of the prominence of rhythm in choreography.

sIn order to give foundation to these enquiries it opens up research into the history of the relationship between music and dance. The project will revisit and investigate the musical/dance canon of the early 20th century with its focus on rhythm: Stravinsky, The Ballets Russes, early contemporary dance in both Germany and the US. I will also consider the academic dance research as developed in the 30s and 40s by L. Kirstein, M. Skeaping, and especially Louis Horst and his ‘Pre-classic Dance Forms’. The project aims to re-evaluate Horst’s work: his investigation into Arbeau’s Orchesography, renaissance and Baroque-classic dance rhythms, and his understanding that formal structures are underpinned and ‘formed’ by the rhythmical units. The focus for all these movements were almost exclusively on rhythm, often claiming ‘earthiness’ and ‘primitivism’ in its attempt to define itself against the romantic lyricism of the 19th Century.

However, in a practical sense, the understanding of dancers’ uniquely rhythmic sensibility most importantly underpins the project’s explorations. Dancers’ perception of music operates in such a way that each musical manifestation (whether belonging to the melodic, dynamic, harmonic dimensions of the music) is processed as rhythmic units which are repeated, inverted, morphed. In order to examine this phenomenon, I shall follow three fundamental hypotheses. The first is based on an understanding of rhythm and repetition: the repetitive ‘sounding of sameness’: beat, pulsation, vibration initiates and propels any form of dance. The second follows from the principle that dancers analyse music according to its rhythmical components, that their way of hearing, and initial engagement with music is primarily rhythmical. Thus what is commonly described as a dancer's musicality depends on the way in which music is processed and understood through rhythmical units based on rhythmical structures. The third thesis examines a distinctive relationship between music and dance. Whereas music is often understood as being related to speech, song, breath, for dance, and for dancers, musical pulse and beat is perceived primarily as related to' a walk' ; weight and transfer of weight. The repetitive pulsating base of the music is not breath, the wave of breathing in and breathing out, but is related to the transfer of weight from one foot to the other. So, for example, one could say that in order to assimilate the music, rather than privileging a phrase of movement that focuses on in/out (swelling/subsiding; contracting/releasing), the dancer's compass and tool for understanding, navigating and analysing the musical continuum focuses on shifting directional terms like left/right; front/back: focusing on which foot is carrying the weight.