Welcome to the Siobhan Davies Dance blog

Siobhan Davies Dance is an investigative contemporary arts organisation, founded and led since 1988 by choreographer Siobhan Davies.

Watch this space for updates from our artists, curators, project coordinators and participants on a whole range of our projects.





Last week, I randomly came across a French movie by Agnes Varda, from 1975. I found some aesthetic and conceptual qualities close to my interests in choreography, which is why I wish to share it on our blog.

Daguerreotypes is a series of intimate portraits of the shopkeepers from the Rue Daguerre in Paris, where Agnes Varda used to live in the 70s. The pun in the title emphasises the unicity and at the same time typicality of each person introduced in the movie.

We first get acquainted with Mrs and Mr “Chardon Bleu”, so called after the name of their haberdashery and perfume shop, open since 1933. The contemplative attitude of Mrs Chardon Bleu conjugates with the quietness of the place, lost in repeated and desperately resembling days. We then meet the hairdressers, the butcher and his wife and daughter, the grocer and his son, the plumber, the baker, the concierge,…



Rue Daguerre. Paris



The daguerreotype process was invented in France and was the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images. Using a silver-plated copper sheet primarily polished and fumed to make it light sensitive, the surface would be exposed in a camera and chemically treated, rinsed and dried. The resulting image would be sealed behind glass in a protective enclosure, appearing either positive or negative, depending on the viewing angle and on the light. Daguerreotypes were very delicate and fragile objects, but also unique, due to their irreproducibility.


Ms Chardon Bleu



Likewise, each portrait in Varda’s movie is intrinsically individualised. The composure and focus of each craft as well as the consideration of the light and the decisive camera angles mirror the daguerreotypes’ characteristics.

In the first phrase, the artisans are filmed during the opening and closing of their shops, choreographed by their duties, in their casual conversations and regular activities. Soon the movie offers a repertoire of gestures. These appear as if natural and inherent to the bodies, through reiteration and practice. Each person then speaks facing camera about where they come from and when they arrived in Paris, their voices and accents adding another nuance and depth to the portraits.

In the second phrase, we are introduced to the prestidigitator Mystag, having a show in the café down the street. Each trick visually coincides with the recorded motions of the hands and tools of the shopkeepers. In an allegorical way, the dramatic tone of the magician narrating these movements lead to the glorification and highlighting of their expertise and their value for the neighbourhood.

By the end of the movie, Varda slowly unfolds a sequence of fixed traditional portraits, overtly absorbing the quality of daguerreotypes and merging all the layers which repeated actions can bring to expressions, bodies and faces.

Ultimately, this movie felt like a popular tale, based on a resolute attention to simple daily gestures and a musing pace, which triggered my interest the most.

I would be keen to probe these aspects, in the same way as Varda, calling herself a daguerreotypesse



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Reflections 15/11/17

As we move into the fourth week I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the first few sessions as Next Choreography. The last three weeks have laid the foundations for this course; in the first session we had an in-depth discussion on the definitions of choreography, and in the second session we created choreography scores in groups, taking inspiration from the methods Joseph Burrows used to devise Speaking Dance (2006). Notation, or dance scores, can be a great method to trace and translate choreographies, and it was very insightful to see how each group built on Burrows’ principle to develop unique rhythmic structures. We shared our work with each other towards the end of the session, providing an opportunity to take on honest feedback for our own development as choreographers.

At the end of last week’s session, we were all invited to participate in the work OK Future by dance artists, Lucy Suggate and Connor Schumacher. The work has toured the UK and Europe where every performance space has been different. Different participants, different settings, different movements. This idea, in part, points towards one of the questions OK Future probes at. How do social environments control behaviour? In what ways can movement and consciousness be manipulated by the presence of unpredictable, human activity? Why do we let other people mediate the way we want to move when, paradoxically, we can’t be certain how they will move themselves? OK Future looks at the inner anxieties that bodies experience when we feel socially exposed. The work challenges the existence of social etiquettes by creating an alternative performance space which does not let us conform to predetermined, behavioural codes. Very exciting stuff!

I would like to share some of my personal reflections just here. I don’t really want to divulge too much information about the piece, so if you haven’t seen it then please read past this bit. My very rough, post-performance notes include:

The illusion of the inflated silver balloon… what was it doing?
At what point did you stop caring or feel unawkward?
The role of music in the piece – its trance-like, somatic purpose.
How did other people react to my movement?
Did we have full agency in the piece? What was the role of the voice-over?
Party? Release? Bonding?
What is the boundary between dancer and spectator?

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Moving Lightly


The first term of our Saturday morning Children’s Classes are whizzing by, designed with fun and creative tasks to encourage new movement awareness, skills and confidence. Also to provide a supportive and welcoming environment for children (and their adults) to explore and question how we feel when we’re moving and notice connections between our brain and body.

Initially the 5 senses were inspiration for discovery and we used different sights, sounds, spatial props, smells and tastes to promote and explore possibilities. ‘Light’ has now become our focus as the bright autumn sunshine fades and days turns darker towards the mid-winter – fireworks, colours, reflections and shadows offer thoughts and ideas for movement adventures.

The very youngest children, who are 2-3yrs, enjoy the freedom offered by the beautiful roof studio to dance with their parents and carers, extending their natural movements with feathers, balls, bubbles, balloons, ribbons, parachute. It is delightful to see them feeling so safe to move in the space, gaining confidence and trust in their co-ordination and physicality.

For the 4-7yr olds, amongst other things, we have experimented with onomatopoeic firework words such as – pop, whoosh, boom, crackle, whizz, fizz, bang, zoom – to create and order movement actions with different qualities inspired by the children’s imagination.

The 8-11yr olds are abstracting ideas to develop choreographic skills, making choices and decisions using their own responses. The children played with ribbons representing firework light trails and then created their own ribbon pictures to inspire and design movement pathways.




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