No title ©Camila Malenchini

Monologue to Dance

Inky Lee creates an immersive sound monologue that addresses dance.


Sounds of the Scene

thung rrr —The sound of the main door of the building when it opens and closes and then slams loudly shut, producing a huge boom and a shake that travels into the protagonist’s flat, which is on the ground floor, right next to the main door.

koong kiaaa — The sound of the children upstairs screaming and running around.

uooooow — The boom of the bass from the upstairs neighbour.

kl kl kl — The sound of the cat’s claws desperately scratching at the closed door of the room from the outside.

ssr nn — The sound of water travelling through the pipes in the protagonist’s flat. 


Scene I. 

A bare room. Past midnight. 

The protagonist, ‘P’, paces slowly around the room. A cat is asleep on a blanket on the floor.

P: Now we live in a world where every motion and no motion at all can be called dance (thung rrr). This repetitive motion of the door, for example, and the ripple of the shake it delivers through the walls of my home could be called dance (thung rrr). [The cat opens its eyes for a moment and then closes them again] The cat’s eyelids opening and closing is dance, and my mind’s ceaseless wandering, though unseen, is also dance. If I love you, Dance, and am devoted to you, as I was in my younger years, should I not love all of you, all the time (koong kiaaa)?

P pours some dry cat food in a bowl placed outside the room. Upon hearing the tinkle and rattle of the food, the cat jumps up and runs outside to eat it. P shuts the door, turns the light off, climbs up into the loft bed, and lies down.

P: I think about the body that each dance originates from (koong kiaaa, continuously). Those small bodies that transfer their weight down onto the floor, which is my ceiling, and create multiple types of dance at once — the movement of their bodies, the shaking of my ceiling, the energy of the motion that makes my skull vibrate — should be mysterious and exciting to me. They are even accompanied by the sound of shrieking voices that project so far and so loudly (kl kl kl)! Everything is so vibrant with life that my body cannot find rest in the darkness.

P slowly opens their eyes (thung rrr). Suddenly, a flicker of violence travels through their eyes. P turns the bedside lamp on and looks at their watch. It’s slightly past 1:00 a.m.

P: If only the children could channel the small dance conceived by Steve Paxton rather than this dynamic dance that involves continuous jumping and shouting, the lives of their parents, and mine, would improve for this night (kl kl kl). If the cat could also learn that small dance, my life would improve for this night. But I still like my cat. Perhaps this is how parents still love their energetic children, although the thought of my cat being able to speak human language to me is terrible … (kl kl kl) … the small dance focusses on relaxing softly into gravity, breathing, asking every part of one’s body if each motion could be smaller, if it could be less. If my body parts, especially the ears and the organs that engage in hearing, as well as my mind, could learn this dance, my night, or, even, my life (thung rrr) could improve. 

The scene slowly fades to black as koong kiaaa and kl kl kl gradually subside.


Scene II. 

The same room. Slightly past 7 a.m. It’s still dark outside.

P is lying in bed, awake.

P: I am thinking about love (kl kl kl). My relationship with dance has been the grandest elopement of love and freedom so far. What abandonment, passion (kl kl kl), pain, sleepless nights, tears, relentless dedication! Thinking back to those times reminds me of the feeling of first love [feeble meows] that was so pure and innocent (thung rrr) that it makes me embarrassed and sentimental at the same time. 

P gets up lazily, climbs down from the loft bed, and opens the door to the room. The cat runs inside.

P: Ugh, my body feels very two-dimensional … 

P goes to the bathroom to pee, wash their face, brush their hair, brush their teeth, and clean out the cat’s litter tray.

P: Growing up in a society that was particularly fixated on numbers — grades and money — I never got to think much (thung rrr) about my body. Everything that was to do with the body (ssr nn) was rejected as being inferior and shameful. For that reason, the things that I truly desired were (thung rrr) taboo. When I first met dance, I was ready to fall in love (uooooow) with it, even if that meant turning away from everything I knew. What did I have, anyway, if I did not (thung rrr) know my own body? I was tired of regretting my life and the feeling (ssr nn) that I wasn’t fully alive. 

P goes to the kitchen to feed the cat and make coffee.

P: It was more than 10 years ago when I first met dance (uooooow, continuously). I never was a Dancer with a capital ‘D’ (ssr nn), and I no longer call myself (thung rrr) a dancer at all. If the flapping flight of this fruit fly in my face can be called a dance …

P claps the fruit fly between their hands. It falls to the floor, dead. The cat licks its corpse up from the floor. 

P: (uooooow, continuing) Through dance, I learned about my body, that I have a three-dimensional, intelligent, sensitive (ssr nn), and emotional body. My entire self as a whole is my body. Listening to my body is also listening to myself. It will be a continuous process for as long as I live in this body (thung rrr), and I perceive the changes that occur in my body with time, surrounding, and use keenly. Learning spatial awareness (thung rrr) taught me how to be with others while being with myself. Working with the body helped me understand that embodied change requires time and patience (thung rrr), and that this can be an inquisitive and joyful process. Every body is different. I think the upstairs neighbour practices bass every morning before their children wake up. I guess we’ve all got to do what we need to do. 

The coffee is ready. P turns the stove off, pours the coffee into a teacup, and sits down on the kitchen floor. The cat purrs and curls up in P’s lap. 

P: It wasn’t being a dancer that exhausted me, but rather how society made me feel (thung rrr) as a dancer. The dancer’s embodied intelligence is often nullified as impractical because it isn’t a direct source of (ssr nn) income. The dancer’s body is often sexualised. The flexible and juicy body. It adds yet another layer to the prevalent fetishism of the female Asian body. Whenever I said I was a dancer, many men smirked (thung rrr), looked me up and down, and asked if I worked at a strip club to make (thung rrr) money. Many people asked me to show them some dance moves when they found out I studied dance. I began introducing myself as a chemist or a zookeeper (uooooow, slowly fades out). I could never make a living (thung rrr) doing what I did. My body began to hurt (ssr nn) in more places more frequently. The youthful energy I had for running a loop of low-paying jobs in order to keep on doing what I loved faded away (uooooow, ends). I saw my innocence [distant sound of a child screaming], and as soon as I saw it, it was gone (thung rrr). 

The sound of keys jingling and voices in the hallway outside P’s door, followed by the sound of workers opening the storage cupboard located outside P’s door, followed by the sound of clanging metal.

P: To pursue dance was to indulge in a romantic affair with my body. A romance (thung rrr) consisting not only of fury, love, and hope, but also of steady observation, conversation, patience, tenderness, and curiosity [low murmuring from outside the door]. Perhaps now, my view of dance has simply broadened. 

Sound of various objects being thrown out of the window from a flat above and onto the concrete floor of the courtyard.

P: Is all motion and no motion at all dance?

P slowly puts on a jacket and puts a harness and leash on their cat. They go outside to watch the objects falling from the window. They watch how the speed and the weight of each object combine to create a unique crash on the concrete floor. The cat is afraid. The workers shout at P to step back. P stands quietly like a dancer engaged in the small dance. The sun rises behind them.

P and Cat ©Mitchell Keaney