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.

Change is always happening

This post has 2 parts, that are vibrant as I prepare for Sunday’s Torchlight event.

The event focuses on Surrender in birth processes and in dancing and the every day. I have been thinking about big changes. And small ones.

I have been speaking to midwives and have been finding out also about the roots of the word midwife.It refers to the act of assisting to bring something forth.  At a talk last week, Guy Claxton referred to active listening that dancers practice as ‘attending as a mid wife does’. That the mid wife assists the woman to bring a baby forth but also this term can refer to others that assist to bring something into the world. I can now start to feel even more sure that my hunch that the role of the dancer and her practice of giving and getting attention might have some alignment to that of the word midwife.

2.   At the last Torchlight event people shared their own experiences of the vibrant but messy time after          a performance.

I noticed that it is when I get space and time to be in the mess that I’m able to more fully acknowledge an experience and how it has changed me. How change is inevitable and keeps happening … and I get the sense that I have to acknowledge that mostly change isn’t temporary …

but …

In the last few days I have heard the word resilience or being resilient (as something we need to be or could be better or more skilled at being) used many times, in documents that talk about being an artist for longer, being better at the job one does, being happier. Perhaps I am noticing it more because its been making me trip up a little or perhaps it is a popular term these days. Anyway I have been trying to apply it to my own experience and also encountering how I perceive other living being’s experiences too. And it doesn’t add up, so I keep looking up the definition of resilience in case I have misunderstood what it actually means. I haven’t. Resilience refers to the ability of something (or some body / creature / sentient being) to bounce back, to regain its original form after being compressed by something (think rubber balls I guess). Affirming or promoting resilience implies that (I) am not necessarily changed by what  (I) experience  – somehow can be skilled up to not be changed permanently by what I encounter / come across/ am compressed by. I find this difficult to reckon with.

So when change is invited (or perhaps happens and I know change is not always through choice) I can learn/ heal/ grow new branches/ get thicker skin (if I wanted to) but I am always transformed/ changed/ broken/ mended and never the same again. There is no bounce back to a former version. And therefore strategies to make one resilient (and with my cynic hat on, more productive short term) might just deny the fullness of the change and the rich mess of Afterwards too.

Im interested to find out how this focus on resilience might impact the ways that that intuition and listening to change as it happens, might impact a midwife and new mother experience.

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Assuming nothing – Katye Coe, a small thought

Photo by Anne Tetzlaff Choreographer: Florence Peake Performers: Lizzy Lequesne, Eve Stainton and Katye Coe

 

Being SDD’s first Torchlight Artist is giving me an opportunity to think about dancing in a different way. My Torchlight time is focused on investigating two themes, Surrender and Afterwards, which are my anchors but not necessarily linked.

Dancing does something that makes me more attuned to others and to my own sense of sentience. There has been a lot of talk of empathy and awareness in recent years. I go further. I want to bring attention to the deeply felt histories and unspoken knowing that attentive and skilled dancers have. It is important and urgent today.

These feelings are not exclusive to dancers. I like to imagine that all beings share these things deep down. These senses are often buried because we don’t necessarily use them so often in the every day. Maybe this is to do with the way that we are encouraged to make sense of everything, maybe it is because we no longer pay attention to intuition or to gut feelings. Our attention is split between so many different things all of the time. I believe that there are huge benefits to giving a different value to these intuitive or gutsy intelligences and that we are missing out by not doing so.

Performing dancing is also always relational … in relationship to. And in a world where the individual experience is being given such enormous emphasis, performing dancing is an important resistance corps because it is always an enacting with.

Surrender is something I experience when performing dancing – it is necessary to enter into the world of others, of the choreographer and the other performers I am working among. It is an act of great generosity. It comes from a place of quiet choice where agency is given space to materialise. It has nothing to do with submission in my experience. But there is for sure a letting go that is necessary.

And the afterwards … what dancers and others go through following a dance performance is complex and full of feeling and thought. My experience and in speaking to others, is that this afterwards is often experience alone and not given a place where it can be discussed and shared. I would like to change this.

None of this is about knowing. And it isn’t about answering questions or proving a point. I’m not interested in those things because if I go towards knowing then I go towards something fixed or finished. The kind of experience that I’m pointing at doesn’t answer questions or tick boxes. It does something else.

I found this quote earlier this week and it moves me and makes me remember why this is so important. I re-found this quote today and it is quite simply YES.

They are some words by Rosemary Butcher that were published in London Dance, about Gill Clarke shortly after Gill’s death in 2011. They were two amazing change makers who taught me so much about dancing and dancing practice.

“Gill’s passionate belief was that the dance practice she and her colleagues are involved in, has strongly embedded ethical values that are fundamental and timely; readiness, openness, curiosity, embracing individual enquiry, working co-operatively to find solutions, creating situations where learning can happen, embracing uncertainty, ambiguity and specificity, and “tuning” ones “skills of attention”. What better approach to our time and place.”

So perhaps what I am learning, and what I would like to shine this light on, is that the intelligence that dancers apply in their work, could bring vitality to many other situations outside of the world of performing dancing. In torchlight events I am inviting people to contribute who attend to situations where this kind of information or these kinds of intelligences are also visible. People like midwives and those who care for people at the end of life.

I also intend to bring alliances to things that each and every one of us experience. Falling asleep, orgasm, grief …

let’s see.

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Tate n Lyle and Fionn Duffy Residency

We’re very excited for our residency at Siobhan Davies Dance. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing to prepare:

Skyping one another.
Applying to Arts Council England for funding to pay ourselves for our time there, and some ‘experts’ (friends we want to drink beer with) to visit us.
Talking to each other about whiteness, about somatic dance, about institutions, about buildings.
Listening to John Giorno’s Everyone is a complete disappointment on repeat.
Asking some friends if they’d like to share some work on our online radio broadcast, Radio Play (Tuesday 31st July, 6pm – till late).
Listening to the work they’ve sent along so far and been THRILLED.
At the encouragement of a curator, applying the work we’ll be making to a festival taking place in February 2019, despite not having yet made it or knowing much at all about what it’ll be. (We said it’ll be a sound installation and then described a previous work we had made).
Preparing for a lush sunny London: selecting sunglasses, summer frocks and tank tops; considering best beer and berries picnic fare; practicing our best dances for a sun-drenched studio with all the windows thrown open.
Editing together the sounds of our laughter. Have a listen here (isn’t it gross?).
On hearing that Ed Sheeran has been accused of plagiarism, listening back to our work ~ on the tube.
Waiting to hear back from the Arts Council.
Writing this blog post.

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My week of work experience at Siobhan Davies Dance by Rosie Lowndes

Siobhan Davies Studios, Photo by Gorm Ashurst

My name is Rosie and I am in the middle of my work experience placement at Siobhan Davies Dance. I had visited the building a few times before when I was younger, but on the Monday morning that I started, as I walked up to the front entrance, I was overwhelmed by waves of nerves and anxiety. I was ridiculously nervous, and as a result, all the way through my initial tour. I could genuinely only manage to smile and nod. I smiled and nodded a lot, to the extent that I had a headache and my face hurt. My nerves were relaxed after a while however, and I settled into a routine of filing press clippings. The people working here are genuinely lovely and very friendly, which was a huge relief.

My second day was quite low-key, which was very enjoyable. I had my first taste of office work, with my job of researching potential wedding bloggers. I had fun with this, and got into a swing after a while. I also realised that I would be working quite a lot with Excel Spreadsheets, which was unexpected for me. I had had an idea of the job being mainly physical, but it made me realise how different elements of life are often intertwined, especially with modern day technology. You can’t really have one without the other, because technology and human physicality combined make all things work-wise so much easier. Only the second day and I was having a revelation. Wild.

The third day of work was really busy. On Monday my supervisor had come to me with a detailed spreadsheet of my week ahead, and I was impressed with her organisation skills (-here’s to you Fiona!). Wednesday by far was the busiest day. In the morning I used social media and wrote about dance and art, and filed some more press clippings, and had an early lunch. After that I attended an informative copywriting workshop with the rest of the office, and I got to know a few my ‘co-workers’ .I am currently looking forward to what the next couple of days will bring.

I am glad that I managed a work experience here for a lot of reasons. The people working here are really interesting and fun to talk to and in general it has a warm and inviting atmosphere, mainly because it is quite relaxed and informal. In the future other work experience-es will also like working here, especially if they were allowed to sit in on a performance, or maybe even be involved in the process of creating it.

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Wallace Collection Late

📷 Original image from BNF Paris (French National Library)

Engraving by Francois Boucher after Antoine Watteau, ​Woman on swing seen from the back, 1728

 

On the warm evening of 20 April, I had the chance to facilitate a workshop during the Late event of the Wallace Collection in Marylebone.

The specific theme of the night was Europe : A Bridge to the Continent. All the activities and performances were bearing a connection with Europe, which mirrored the collection.

 


I soon came up with the idea of a creative writing activity. I have had a keen interest in linguistics for a long time and learning new words is a constant thrill and one of my most enjoyed mental food.

I also wanted to offer an activity where participants would feel free to write whatever was coming through their pencil and from where they would leave with something: a new word, but also hopefully a little sense of thrill and calm after a few minutes of simply indulging into writing.

The event took place in the landing of the gallery’s staircase, within a striking architecture and bathing into a soft light.

 

The activity was based on European words with no direct translation into English (around 50). The participants were invited to pick a paper where a word – in one of the many languages from Europe – was written. From there, they could create a personal piece of writing. The words were written vertically so that the participant could write an acrostic – where each letter of one word forms one letter of each line.

This allowed the merging of words from other European languages with English words. The choice of acrostics is the reason why the workshop was called Am Stram Gram Pic & Pic Acrostic, which is a play on words in France, just like Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I had displayed cards with details of works of art from the Wallace Collection, from which the participants could draw inspiration, if necessary.

I was grateful to present the activity with my friend Kelly Roberts, who is a drama facilitator, spoken words artist, poet and part of the Shut Down Collective. She shares the same passion for words as I do and is always keen to engage in workshops that bring people into a creative zone.

We were lucky to receive so many responses and eager to read each of them. It was indeed a beautiful sight when people were unfolding their paper, discovering the word, having a seat and taking the time and the headspace to compose, pouring their ideas and then being open to share it with us.

The pieces were displayed throughout the evening on a screen and I have been collecting all of them into a book. I am currently finalizing the editing.

📖 Coming up soon!

I am also hoping to facilitate this activity again in another context, gathering a variety of written pieces and sharing a privileged moment of creativity.

Finally, I  would simply like to thank Nancy Ncube (L&P producer of SDD) for her constant support and her attention to my project, as well as Rosemary Cronin (artist and curator of the event) for her feedback and for offering me a chance to share my practice.

 

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