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.

Reflecting on the Festival and Next Choreography

And so the end of Next Choreography 2016 -17 has come, and what a year it has been !

The Festival was a vibrant, welcoming and slightly hectic day of dance, creativity and ummm cake … lots of cake. I was taken aback about how open minded and willing to participate the audience were, especially throughout the ‘welcome dance’ and the interesting lift experience.

I am overwhelmed by what I have learnt and achieved on the NC course at Siobhan Davies Dance, and so grateful to have this enriching opportunity. If you are interested in creating, meeting new people and up for a challenge I would highly recommend the NC course for next year. It is so much more than dance and choreography, so don’t let a lack of experience put you off – we had people from a whole host of different backgrounds from drama to art, which only made our experience more valuable. My perception of dance and choreography will never be the same again and I am so glad for this !

Thank you SDD so much and I can’t wait to join YAAG next year.

 

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Reflecting on The Thinking Body Project

Teacher Lucy Coates worked with Siobhan Davies Dance for 10 weeks as part of our Thinking Body project at Reay Primary School. Artist Jo Rhodes worked closely with Lucy and her Year 5 class to explore the body, neuroscience and curriculum topics.

Here are Lucy’s reflections on the impact of the work on her teaching and her pupils.

http://blog.siobhandavies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Reflections-on-working-with-Siobhan-Davies-Dance-Lucy-Coates-Thinking-Body.mp4

 

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Next Choreography Festival Rehearsals – With Martin Hargreaves

The NC festival rehearsals are in full swing, with only 3 weeks to go ! We have be running all over the Siobhan Davies building: from dancing in the lift, the changing rooms, the parlour and even outside in the court yard (let’s be grateful for the sunny weather over the past few days !). The Festival is looking to be a busy day, with a huge variety of choreographic pieces, art work, soundscapes and installations. The audience will also be welcomed to get involved with a workshop and several participatory pieces.

The NC cohort have also been working on an ensemble piece with guest artist Martin Hargreaves. This is focussing on the principle ideas of Signature, Theft & Translation and to what extent are these possibilities or what happens when we use these ideas within dance or choreography. Martin asked us to all devise a short phrase of movement, words or drawing which represented each of these words. Surprisingly, the greatest challenge for us as we approached this task was defining these words. Many of us soon realised that our personal ‘signature’  within movement, is perhaps also theft; we acquire gestures and habits from others and subconsciously are always ‘stealing’ –  we can never dance in a vacuum, as such. ‘Translation’ we decided felt less intentional or destructive than ‘Theft’, which to us symbolised taking movement or art that isn’t ours. Not simply copying, but also claiming ownership of it. Problems surrounding cultural appropriation were also stirred up with the idea of ‘Theft’ and how certain dance styles become appropriated by the mainstream media, with little regard to the original origins. Subsequent to devising our individual three pieces, we then worked in groups to combine our work. This lead to even more layers of watching other groups, recreating, remembering and recollecting their work, until we had several ‘meta’ works, all of which are intricate copies, translations and memories of other people’s work. And yes, it made our brains ache too when we did it!

The NC team have one more rehearsal with Martin this thursday before the dress run in two weeks time. I am interested to see how the piece will be finished, and if there are any more layers can add to the piece. By it’s nature, the spontaneity of the piece is a key element, so I am hoping that it won’t be a ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ piece as such, but rather a continuous exploration, even on the day itself.

If you’re keen to see this work, or simply have a passion for creativity, dance and community make sure you come to the NC Festival on Sunday 9th July at Siobhan Davies Dance.

Look forward to seeing you there !

Thank you,

Stella

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

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Rehearsals for NC Festival in full swing!

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I have no idea how time between September and now went by so quickly but the rehearsals for this year’s Next Choreography Festival surely are in full swing.

So what have we been doing so far?

Constantly questioning, constructing and deconstructing, venturing into our senses, always looking out for the present moment and for things that work and don’t work in our choreographic practices. Challenging our bodies, our perceptions, and our understanding of what choreography is and what it can be.

I remember moments that felt like a ritual – dancing and singing, in a circle, allowing the movement to come from ‘the guts’, letting go of inhibitions and indulging in the physical expression.

I remember dancing to inner music, outside music, no music, with music, and against music. I remember improvising to the sound of Donal Trump’s voice (highly recommend experience but must be treated with care).

And frames. We explored many frames this year. Siobhan Davies’ gestures and poses, Lee Anderson’s pictures/postcards, Martin Hargreaves’s uncreative creativity, forgery, theft… These are only some examples of artists whose choreographic practices and frames we explored this year. Each time, the frame (or a choreographic task if you’d like) was set up and we used our bodies as resources to engage and create within it. Amy Bell (the Next Choreography facilitator) often told us to think of choreography as a machine that you first set up and then put the movement through. Something will always come out, and the more you understand this machine, the more exciting the potential results.

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What should you expect from the Festival then?

Over the past couple of months we have accumulated tons of materials, notes, reflections, and experiences. We got very excited when planning the Festival – there were choreographer’s hats and badges, ritual dances in the courtyard, and other plans. Amy and Laura (the SDD Learning & Participation Producer) worked very hard with us to refine and compile our ideas into an exciting programme that reflects and goes beyond what we have experienced this year.

This year we encourage you to explore choreography through improvisation, challenge the perception of the performer-spectator relationship in a participatory piece, venture into different corners of SDD studios to see how dance unfolds in unexpected spaces, discuss other talented young people’s work as part of the Feedback Forum, and much more.

Overall, the Next Choreography Festival will overtake the SDD Studios for the whole of Sunday 9th July, filling it with installations (visual and sound), dance, movement, discussions, food (for body and for thought), and fun. Definitely an event not to miss.

For more information about the festival schedule and tickets: http://bit.ly/2sHQMLq

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The Traces Commissions – Webb Ellis tell us about their experience so far…

Check out the latest blog from Traces Commissions artists Webb-Ellis about the first explorations into working with us here at Siobhan Davies Studios. Web-Ellis are British/Canadian artist filmmakers working in film, installation, and performance. They are currently resident artists at Crescent Arts in Scarborough. Over the coming year they will be working to create new artworks in response to the work of Siobhan Davies Dance and the communities connected to our studios.

 

Our work has long involved a fascination with the body and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to journey further along this path in the company of Siobhan Davies Dance.

The Traces Commission invitation is fabulously open, and we have been able to just allow ourselves to be drawn into the conversations and goings-on at the studios.

Physical action has been our primary research method since the start of our collaboration. Usually this takes the form of an act of endurance and has included long distance running, swimming, walking, cycling and ecstatic dance. Moving the body offers a direct way to stir up the silt of the mind – unpredictable and intuitive.

Webb-Ellis, hmmmmm, still from 5 hour endurance performance, 2015

Webb-Ellis, hmmmmm, still from 5 hour endurance performance, 2015

Three, week-long, dance classes at Siobhan Davies Studios (run by Independent Dance) helped to turn our attention toward the unmapped landscape of our own bodies. Somatic Dance is dance which focusses on internal sensation – “the body as perceived from within”*. Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis was a powerful introduction to somatic dance, followed by Experiential Anatomy with Susanna Recchia, and an exploration of breath, gravity and patterns with Lauren Potter in the third week.

Each class has brought something different and special to our process, and we both noticed how much better we felt for spending some time within that dark and sensory space. Ideas are catching alight.

We have been granted access to a whole array of wonderful books about the body and movement in Siobhan Davies’ little office space. In one of them we were reminded of the sheer magic of early human paintings which depicted movement. People 13,000 years ago must have been really interested in how creatures move, or must have seen beauty in the simple acts of running and walking.

The Horse Panel, Chauvet Cave, southern France

The Horse Panel, Chauvet Cave, southern France

 

We wonder if the paintings say something about how these ancient humans sensed time? Much of the more recent art attempts to freeze a thing or a person in the present moment rather than depicting them forever moving forward in a constant state of transformation.

In the classes, moving with eyes closed among other warm bodies, attentive to the minute sensations of the body, felt like a significant shift in consciousness. The shift from the fight or flight city brain, eyes and ears ON, senses focussed outwards – purposeful, to an experience of ourselves from within, as porous beings, ageing and changing in each moment.

In Experiential Anatomy class with Susanna Recchia, we held a model skull and pulled its plates apart. We learned that whilst we were all developing in the womb our face started out touching our heart before our spine unfurled. We moved with these images as our guides, and with a feeling of the human body as something unfixed, evolving.

Human embryo at 7 weeks

Human embryo at 7 weeks

We have been warmly welcomed at the studios, and invited to bring our home on wheels with us, staying in the courtyard during the residency periods beneath a beautiful Mimosa tree. Being at home at Siobhan Davies Studios in the centre of London is a huge gift. Staying there for a week at a time gives us a strong sense of the character of the building; the way the light moves throughout the day, the little routines. During schooldays, the sound of children’s laughter infuses the whole space.

These observations are interesting as we consider how the work will be installed, and how visitors might enter the space of our installation – their state of mind and expectations. We find ourselves noticing movement of all kinds around the studios, as if the building itself has cast a spell to make even the most everyday movements uncannily visible.

The sense of dance as a language beyond words, is something that hit us right away. When two bodies meet in space it seems that there is an exchange of some kind taking place. All this engagement with Siobhan Davies Dance is peeling back a coating on our senses, allowing us to experience human movement afresh. The whole process is quite mysterious.

During the Skinner Releasing Technique class, one of the dance artists commented, “I’ve gone so deep inside my body that words just become inadequate to express where I’ve been.”

We try to translate our experiences into words, but soon realise that it is just this futile attempt at translation which interests us, the grasping and the sifting – the yearning to communicate, and to connect.

Notes taken during Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis

Notes taken during Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis

 

* Hanna, Thomas (1986). “What is Somatics?”. Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences.

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