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“Weathering” by Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer. Photograph by Ian Ferguson

Fold In, Over

“Weathering” by Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer

Performance
“Weathering” by Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer
Place
Upstairs Studio, Dancehouse, Melbourne, September 8, 2022
Words
Gracia Haby

Last night, in the Upstairs Studio of Dancehouse, Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer performing as [ two for now ] became an ocean conveyor belt in “Weathering.” ‘You be the warm shallow current, and I’ll be the cold and salty deep current,’ Bowman might have said to Lehrer before they ran in a clockwise direction. ‘Together, we’ll feel what it is like to be an ocean gyre in the Northern Hemisphere. We’ll run in a spiral like the currents formed by wind patterns and forces created by the Earth in rotation.’ Together, a thermohaline circulation was revealed. Together, [ two for now ] are surveying “the interdependence of nature and human relationships in the emergent and continual process of becoming.”1

Weathering wears away at the exposed surfaces of rocks and minerals on the Earth’s surface over time. And in “Weathering,” Bowman and Lehrer became geoscience in action, time-worn by various agents from acid to water. The same way no rock is hard enough to resist the forces of ice, plants, animals, and changes in temperature, Bowman and Lehrer, in multiple formations, revealed how vulnerable a rock is to weathering and erosion. The duration of the performance, akin to the length of exposure, contributed to vulnerable states of weathering in what Bowman and Lehrer describe as their shared enthusiasm for not knowing what might happen next as a moment unfolds, as a force is felt.

“Weathering” by Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer. Photograph by Ian Ferguson

In costumes by Gav Barbey, their limbs were softly encased in what could have been tiny bits of weathered minerals mixed with plants, fungi, and other organisms. True to definition, where an individual type of weathered rock may produce arid soil, side by side, Bowman and Lehrer, were rich in mineral diversity, “whilst considering our interconnectedness with one another, the natural world and the passage of time.”2 Together, in harmonious collaboration, mutually interlocked, they created something not possible without the other. From their Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners, on whose unceded lands we met upon, to final bow, they finished each other’s sentences and grew lichen over each other’s branches. Standing back to back, each with a head resting upon the other one’s shoulder, they became the complex interweaving of the natural world. As they stepped further away from one another, but with their heads still resting upon each other’s shoulders, their collective shadow made the silhouette of an eagle in flight. The outstretched wings of which were drawn from their angled torsos as they leant backwards into each other. The extended, dangly legs drawn by Bowman’s right arm and Lehrer’s left. A transformative moment, seeing the familiar in the unfamiliar. Sky where previously there was a stage floor. A ‘master of skies’, Bujil, where there had been two interflowing human forms in close proximity. A shift in perspective.

“Weathering” by Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer. Photograph by Ian Ferguson

In a process of continual regeneration, as Lehrer knelt upon the ‘ground’ of Bowman they conveyed that the ground, earth, is never inert. Rather, we move along with the earth, not upon the earth. As Bowman later knelt upon the ‘ground’ of Lehrer, laying prone, they embodied the nub of Tim Ingold’s anthropological concern: “Our actions do not transform the world, they are part and parcel of the world’s transforming itself. And that is just another way of saying that they belong to time.”3

Lehrer readily became a stream of water that dissolves a rock and in doing so has made a channel, and conversely, Bowman became the channel that guides the path of the stream. One facilitates the other. Together, they “discovered, negotiated and edited in real-time:”4 nature is motion. Redirect the flow! Through contact improvisation, nature is multi-faceted, an ever-growing whole. Through repetition, traces are left for others to follow, should they choose, in the action of becoming knowledgeable.

For Bowman and Lehrer, contact improv “is an informational exchange more than simply a conversation.” One in which “every body can learn from every other body.”5 As Bowman in cat-cow pose rolled an extended Lehrer up and down the hills and valleys of her back as she moved her spine from a rounded position to an arched one, they allowed each other to feel and understand the contours of the earth. Their breathing, audible throughout the performance, linked breath to movement, and signified the interdependence of all cycles. “Do you reckon you could drop into an Aikido roll right now?”6 asks Bowman. Sure. Let’s fold.

  1. [ two for now ], Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, “Weathering” Program Notes, Season Two, Dancehouse, accessed September 9, 2022
  2. Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, “Weathering” Program Notes, Season Two, Dancehouse
  3. Tim Ingold, “The Temporality of the Landscape,” World Archaeology, Vol. 25, No. 2, Conceptions of Time and Ancient Society (Oct., 1993), pp. 152–174, https://www.jstor.org/stable/124811, accessed September 9, 2022
  4. Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, “Weathering” Program Notes, Season Two, Dancehouse
  5. Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, “Our Pedagogical Approach,” Shared Writings, accessed September 9, 2022
  6. Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, “Practice Journal: Road to Recovery,” Shared Words, accessed September 9, 2022