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The Hand Choreographs Our Humanity

By Marci Janas

 

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OCTOBER 1, 1999--Audra Skuodas once considered eliminating the signature female figure that resides in her work like a leit motif. She decided not to because, for her, the figure is more than an alter-ego, a persona, or an emblematic narrator/commentator. For Skuodas, "the hand choreographs our humanity." The way she uses figures is, she says, "very much the way dancers speak, the way dance evokes our responsiveness. So it is dear; it's almost like a musical instrument to me."

Skuodas knows that "you can't translate music." And she acknowledges that her work is not a replication of it. "But there is a question in my mind--and I know it's impossible--but I'm trying . . . . There are rhythms and relationships and patterns which have to do with nature, and the question in my mind is: Can I in any way evoke something that is equivalent to what music does?"

The body as instrument is an evocative theme in Skuodas's work. It has its genesis in her daughter's ballet lessons, when Skuodas would wait for her--sometimes listening to the piano, other times going off to read and think and work. An essay by Heinrich von Kleist on the puppet theatre, read during this period, is another important contribution to her art.

"He proposed," she recalls, "that a puppet can move more beautifully than a human body can because it traces perfect geometry but it doesn't have self-consciousness. He proved the point that once self-consciousness enters in, one no longer touches that sacred place of deep connectedness. One is acting out for somebody else because one wants to look good or right. So it's no longer pure."

 

 

 

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