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Space as a performative and relational dimension: the Self









Beatriz Valentim

— Dancer and choreographer —

The body is matter; it takes up space, it has consistency and density. Therefore, the body inscribes itself and inhabits states and spaces. As with time, the human being, as a social being, experiences, lives and acts in space. 


Self, as a performance, is this adaptation of the body to the space. 


The staircase of Casa do Design de Matosinhos is already the third space that this performance inhabits. The first space, still in a very embryonic stage, was the lobby of studio 6 of CND – Centre National de la Danse, in Paris (France). 

In the workshop directed by Dimitri Chamblas, at Camping 2020, organized by CND, it was proposed to us to develop a solo to inhabit a space in the building, chosen by us. The space I chose (figure 1) was the access hall to the studio where we were working at the time. The blue sofas soon aroused my interest, given their intense color and geometric shapes. 

At that time, in June 2021, considering this very concrete spatial proposal by Dimitri – creating a performance for a certain space at CND, without a exact duration – I assumed that the work should start from and orbit around the concept of space. It should also be noted that, taking into account the pandemic context, very present in 2021, and after having written a text about the body and its social occupation 1, it made sense for me to continue this research on space and the new configurations that it was presenting. The body, used a priori to move in a large space, such as a studio or a stage, had to limit itself here to the space outlined by the sofas, in a more or less random format found by me. After improvising and defining the choreography, I "stuck myself” inside the sofas and tried to adapt all the movement. The same happened in September 2021, at the Festival Interferências, at the Pancas Palha Palace, in Lisbon, where, once again, I chose the space before moving on to the creation of the performance – in Paris (France), this piece was presented as a “work in progress”, in a solo version. 

In Lisbon, the body once again knew and felt another space – outdoors, oval-shaped, and a little larger than the previous one. The body also felt another presence, that of Mercedes Quijada, with whom I share this duet. 

Currently, this show will be presented on the staircase of the Casa do Design de Matosinhos, in Matosinhos (figure 2).

This is a very different space – wide, without the blue color, with a different layout for the audiences, and, above all, a public and gathering space. The whole approach to the space is different from the one we've already experienced. It is important to note that the creation of the show starts from the space, privileging it at the same time. The show is the self (the “I” and the “me”) and the space is every stage, where this relationship of adaptation and interaction takes place. Theatre and the performing arts are the relational place for performers and audiences; and between them, with the space in which they both meet. 


Each body is space and has space; it is produced in space, while producing that space. Space production is a production of meaning. We can then say that the dynamics of the body are based time and space-related; and the space is mediated between the self and the world – through space, I understand and live the world. In space, I find the world, and I relate to it; there is, in each body, a unique feeling of space, and dance is a great example of this, either by our constant movement, or by a possible more detailed perception of  the space that is being occupied. 


In closing, I present the definition of “self”, considering this work and starting from a sociological perspective: 


The self is the body and the continuity of our existence, it’s related to our ability to see ourselves as one and as a whole, making us unique and private. The sense of self is nevertheless irreducible to our sociality. What happens in the level of “the I” and personal identity interferes in the social level and vice versa. Why is that? Because we live in a contemporary society, where the dynamics and influence of institutions and the ways in which habits and traditions are broken have a strong impact on our lives.


Valentim, B. (2020). O corpo social e o corpo físico: o presente e o futuro in Atos de intimidade: cartografias para uma prática artística. E-book Cadernos da pandemia do Instituto de Sociologia da Universidade do Porto, vol. 1 (in press).