Spoon Dance In The Hippocampus
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February 2004

– On a website for a restaurant, there is a link to the Greek folk dance association Meltemi (http://www.meltemi.or.at), which provides information about various dance courses. The artistic director invites me to the group's practice session.

– 11 February. Greek dance practice in the rather unique ambience of a gym. Participating in and imitating the dance is easy, the dancers and the artistic director recognize that I have talent. A highly motivated, physically intuitive learning process.

– 18 February. Second dance practice. After initial explanations, in the second part of the evening I simply join in: learning by doing = learning while dancing. Also the stories that the artistic director tells to accompany the dances are very interesting.

– Look for Greek language instruction in Vienna; trial class on 24 February with the musician and language instructor Marios Koptsas-Anastassiou.

– Open door for the e-learning further education Train the Trainer, module: possibilities of distance learning, at the FH (school of higher learning) Joanneum Graz on 26 February.

March 2004

– There is a five-week online-phase of Train the Trainer . Tiresome, lonely learning process with little motivation, a lot of self-doubt and scenarios of being overtaxed that take on their own dynamics.

– 12 March. E-trainer supports me by telephone, since almost no one in my e-learning work group is still active.

– Telephone conference for the class Train the Trainer on 26 March.

– The first two hours of Greek class are simple, then comes self-doubt about my abilities to learn and abstract, long forgotten learning difficulties remind me of my school days.

– Language instruction on 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30 March.

– Dance practice on 10, 17, 24, and 31 March.

– I am occupied with a comparison of the three learning projects:

1. Intuitive physical learning (simple recognition and realization of the dance pattern).

2. Auditory channel of language learning (listening, repeating) compensates—the grammatical demands of Greek minimal.

3. Highly structured e-learning with a lot of research work at the computer and processing of factual knowledge.

8 March. E-mail
...At the moment I am gathering other stimuli “outside” of art and expanding my radius by learning Greek and Greek dance. It is good for me and gives me new motivation...

31 March. E-mail
...I danced again today, this time very complicated dances whereby I had to concentrate a lot ...

April 2004

– Dance practice on 7, 14, and 28 April.

– Language instruction on 6, 20, 27 April, find a website with a Greek course, which motivates me in a playful way to study and practice. Perhaps e-learning really is the way to go?

– I am still occupied with the quality of the various learning situations, and thereby take photos in my learning and teaching situations.

– Together with students, I use simple means to try out setting up an e-learning structure.

3 April. E-mail
You ask how my Greek is going—ugh ugh! It's a lot of work and quite complicated to learn this language system. I am trying to stick with it...in comparison, dancing is much, much simpler. Sometimes I wish that my talent and energy as an artist would be just as obvious and clear as it is in dance (or at least in Greek dance, where I am practically considered a natural talent.)

May 2004

– Dance practice on 5 and 19 May.

– First performance with the Greek dance group Meltemi on 8 and 15 May in Vienna.

– Language instruction on 4 and 19 May—in the meantime I am almost enthusiastic about learning vocabulary words and grammar.

– Take more photos in the learning and teaching situations. It is strange when the language and thereby the content of the learning is missing in the photos; in some it is possible to discern the concentration. What remains is a (de-)hierarchized, but also concentrated human-based spatial framework.

7 May. E-mail
... Tomorrow I have my first performance doing Greek dance in Greek costume—I am already excited. The weekend after that, another performance...I am not yet completely certain...

8.5. E-Mail
...Have my first live appearance today as a Greek dancer in costume with all the trimmings. I am laughing myself silly about it—but the performance will be reality in a few hours.

16 May. E-mail
...I also had to laugh a lot over your mail, me as a “‘blind Greek' -> typo,” you must have meant blonde. But no one sees the hair because it is hidden under the scarf. All that was pretty strange!...

June 2004

– Final Train the Trainer telephone conference on 14 July. End of the class.

– Dance practices on 9, 16, and 30 June.

– Language instruction on 15 June, last lesson.

– Continue to take photos in teaching and learning situations.

10 June. E-mail
...Often I have the feeling of being particularly under his (the dance instructor's) control and of being particularly “challenged/promoted.” I always compare it with art and imagine having so much support in art.

July 2004

– Dance practices on 9, 16, and 30 July.

– Take private language lessons on 13, 22, 28, and 30 July—which highly motivates me and gives me a lot of input. I study everywhere; in the subway, at the airport, in bed before falling asleep.

– 31 July. A friend and colleague tells me about a five-part feature on memory functions on the radio (Österreich 1, program: Radiokolleg—Vergessene Welten [forgotten worlds] on 26–29 July), which I order.

22 July. E-mail
...Today I had a very intensive Greek lesson, the private lessons are taking effect and I am heavily into it and praised for it...(soothes my low self-confidence about foreign languages)—am doing the heavy grammar with Aorist and all the crazy junk—how can anyone ever remember it? ...

August 2004

– Decide to take on a new learning process. As an example, I think about documenting the learning of the spoon dance, in which two spoons in each hand are hit in a rhythm that I find impossible to follow, whereby the feet dance something different. For me, the “talented” one, the coordination of these different systems is impossible.

– Private lessons for the spoon dance 14 August—private lessons are very effective, full concentration on the individual level of knowledge.

– 15 August. The spoon dance melody haunts me at night.

18 August. First training unit, no idea how I should learn it. Attempt to analyze the rhythm and translate it into a system that I am able to comprehend.

19 August. Practicing, they laugh at my strange attempts. I feel like someone who is unmusical. How could I have learned guitar and piano as a child? The musical system from that time seems useless.

20 August. Debate about the rhythm with Wolfgang. He attempts to explain it to me and practices with me (which stirs memories of my school days).

22 August. The beat of the rhythm slips from me on the last note of the bar. As soon as I try it with the music, it doesn't work at all. My hands ache I think that I am getting tendonitis. Break.

26 August. Sometimes I find the rhythm, but lose it again. Short flashes of the right rhythm.

27 August. A scheme forms in my head. It helps to drum on the table. Pure rhythm without the distracting spoon making me lose it. Wolfgang helps. In the meantime I continue to drum.

28 August. Gain confidence once a system has been established in my mind. Make progress, foot exercises; attempt to coordinate the feet and hands.

29 August. Foot exercise, a child's game; attempt to coordinate feet and hands. People going by stop, watch and listen to me and applaud! They come again the next day and want to watch me practice.

30 August. Foot exercises; attempt to coordinate feet and hands. It is starting to become enjoyable.

3 August. E-mail
...I still continue to learn Greek with great enthusiasm; it is a lot of fun! Today we had an English seminar and...I noticed how much I'm interested in language and words, etymologies and how the learning process for Greek rubs off structurally onto English. I have to really concentrate, but I can already form short Greek sentences. Whether I can communicate or not remains questionable, because the Greeks speak so incredibly fast and there is no way that I can figure out the sense of what they are saying so quickly, not to mention having to react so quickly ...

September 2004

1 September. Attempt the coordination of feet and hands to music, to some extent.

2 September. Joyless routine practice.

4 September. Intense practice with music. Goal is to get through the music piece without an error, which I do not accomplish.

5 September. Intense practice without music to train the tempo. Coordination of feet and hands.

6 September. Practice without music, correcting wrists and shoulders. Practice steps with clapping. Try turning. Constantly fall out of step.

7 September. Continue without music, correcting the wrists, pure practice. With feet and turns.

8 September. Without music; attempt to do turns in rhythm.

9 September. Practice again with music, attempt to step in time with the music. Coordination of feet—hands—turns. The beginnings are good, then I fall out of step, but at least the tempo is halfway okay.

10 September. Finger correction, pointer finger too cramped. Several rounds in a row with music. I am beginning to dance!

11 September. Correcting hands, fingers, especially the ring finger. Danced at a Greek village festival until late in the night

12 September. Training scheme: practice with music without steps, with steps, with steps and turns. The turns are the most fun.

13 September. Short training scheme, one round each of only hands, feet and hands, feet—hands—turns.

14 September. Several rounds, attempt to remain right on beat, not faster, not slower, not sloppy.

15 September. Several rounds, fitness training and remaining right on beat.

16 September. Several rounds, fitness training, turns right and left alternating in time with the music.

17 September. Several rounds, fitness training, turns right and left alternately. I think that I have already come a long way.

18 September. Study precise distribution of turns to the music, concentrate on details.

19 September. Several rounds, fitness training, turns right and left alternately precisely timed with the music. Now I know the music quite well and I can hear my errors exactly.

– 21 September. Music over the room's loudspeaker; another confusing feeling to the dance. People are such creatures of habit.

– 24 September. Music over the room's loudspeaker and with headphones; a different feeling to the dance.

– 25 September. Short-term appearance with Meltemi (replacement for a dancer who has fallen ill).

– 26 September. Begin intense Internet research and in the university library under key terms such as Greek dance, choros koutalia, spoon dance, Greek costume, Greek music, Asia Minor, Farassa, memory, learning.

– 27 September. Music over the room's loudspeaker, a different feeling to the dance, turns with four beats rather than eight, after I studied the Meltemi performance tape.

– First dance practice on 29 September.

October 2004

– 1 October. Beginning of seminar Macedonian dances with Theodossis Diskos, whom I ask about the spoon dance. He explains that it is a ceremonial dance and not a “pleasure dance.” He knows one from Konya, named for the eponymous melody Konyali. Try the dance with metal spoons, which is entirely impossible.

– 2 October. Seminar with intense details, during the lunch break the dance instructor explains Greek costume and a lot of details about folk dance to me. It is possible to see cultural history phenomena—such as increased mobility and industrialization—in the costumes, but also the dance style is directly affected (the spoon dance was danced with small, half-open sandals, which is why the steps are small and low). A co-dancer lends me a book about costumes.

3 October. Seminar, during the lunch break he explains different variations of the steps of the spoon dance and their choreographies or possible ways to dance them. He also offers information on the music and the beat. Altogether, I understand that there is an enormous breadth of local differentiations of the individual dances. I am invited to participate in an intensive seminar in Macedonia in the summer.

– 6 October. Research at various university and institute libraries. Visit the Byzantine and Neo-Greek Institute in Vienna, which is quite exciting. The librarian refers me to an essay about dance in antiquity and Byzantium. There I find information on and depictions of dances with rhythm instruments such as spoons, cymbals, seistra, etc. I look into it more.

– 8 October. Dance practice, during the break discussion about the spoon dance, its performance and the appropriate costume.

– 12 October. Telephone with Klaus Kramer from the German Tanzverband (dance association). Refers me to Alkis Raftis, president of the Dora-Stratou-Theater in Athens, and Rainer Sobotka, Professor emeritus, University of Vienna's Sportzentrum.

– 13 October. Conversation with Maria Stassinopoulou, professor of Neo-Greek, University of Vienna, who gives me the tip to go to the Asia Minor study center. I am very occupied with the question of the extent to which the population exchange of Turkish people living in Greece and Greeks living in Turkey in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty 1923 influenced choros koutalia and the significance of this historical dimension of the past century and the “Asia Minor tragody.” It seems to me to be important to investigate it.

– 13 and 20 October. Asia Minor block in dance practice (including the spoon dance), a co-dancer brings me the Encyclopedia of Greek Dance , she has to explain how to find the spoon dance since it is in Greek. She also has with her photos of a presentation of the spoon dance at the Dora-Stratou-Theater.

– 15 October. Mail to 13 institutions on the theme of my project: Spoon Dance in the Hippocampus .

– 16 October. Answer from the psychiatrist and philosopher Manfred Spitzer, author of Lernen – Gehirnforschung und die Schule des Lebens . What happens neurologically when one dances? I read his book after doing research on the Internet. Visit a Meltemi dancer who shows me her extensive collection of costumes, her father brings me a DVD of his spoon dance recordings from a Meltemi performance.

– 18 October. Answers from the musician Marios Koptsas-Anastassiou, Anne Leonidou, a dance historian, and Charlie Kyriacou, operation-manager of the Folk Dance Festival (FDF) Greek Dance Scholarship, who has put together a detailed and informative homepage on Greek dance (http://www.filetron.com/grkmanual/index.html). His mail offers detailed answers—and raises new questions for me (comparative dance studies of the Greek, Turkish, Kurdish, Persian spoon dance?)

– Mail to Alkis Raftis, Dora-Stratou Athen, and Rainer Sobotka, University of Vienna.

– 19 October. Mail from Raftis: “Dear Bettina Henkel, I am delighted to know that finally someone has decided to work on this subject. Where have you been all these years? Of course you can call me. My German is poor but I can manage. I will be more than happy to collaborate in this project. Cordially Alkis Raftis.” Telephone with him, he invites me to Athens, praises my feeling for this theme, encourages me to write a dissertation on it.

– Mail from Rainer Sobotka, who is interested in an exchange of ideas. Inspiring conversation about physical memory and oral history with Felicitas Thun, art historian, Akademie der bildenden Künste Vienna.

First day of the course, Greek for advanced intermediates . I remember my grammar problems and unfortunately still make errors like in the summer, but at least I understand what I am doing wrong.

– 20 October. Official invitation to the 18th World Congress on Dance Research Argos, 3–7 November , The Preservation of Diversity .

– 21 October. Long telephone conversation with Jutta Pauschenwein about e-learning structures and Rainer Sobotka about folk dance versus folklore as well as Greek rhythm, which can also be traced back to antiquity.

– 23 October. Research on cultural techniques of dance and music of the spoon dance and send off corresponding inquiries. The labels appearing in the literature seem nonexistent.

– 25 October. Folk dance in Greece as a cultural technique seems to me to be completely obvious and very lively (although it is disappearing), yet I can't find a path for it in the Internet or from my inquiries to cultural studies scholars. In a guest commentary in the published program for the Tanzquartier Vienna, I find a reference from Claudia Jeschke to the dance research that has found its discursive site in cultural studies. What about folk dance, ethnography, and musicology in relation to dance research and cultural studies?

– 26 October. The translation from Greek by Marios Koptsas-Anastassiou from the Encyclopedia of Greek Dance on the theme of the spoon dance is almost ready and reveals the complexity of the theme. We look through the translation and again I think about the transferal made by language (and dance language).

– 27 October. Dance practice, again the Asia Minor block. Self-imposed preliminary conclusion to the research in order to gain some clarity.

11 October. E-mail
...The spoon dance; my project has much more to do with obsession than with learning—no, jokes aside...Still, I sit in front of my computer all day and write, think, research, telephone...

13 October. E-mail
...I absorb every bit of information like a sponge, as soon as I find “real” hints that prove the existence of this dance, I feel like a scientist who is making important discoveries (otherwise it is too phantasmatic). That must be the motivation for learning; when the synapses spark with new contacts and a type of knowledge, adrenalin flows...

14.10. E-Mail
...What do I do with the spoons?...In the end, during the dance, the spoons are hit in a certain rhythm—like castanets—that's it...

21 October. E-mail
...Otherwise, I have good feedback from Athens...Since there has been practically no research done on the spoon dance, I should write my doctoral thesis on it. That naturally sets me into a state of utter euphoria ...

Bettina Henkel, Secession 2004