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.

Looping, Circling and Perfect Unison at Charlotte Sharman Primary School

Sarah here! I’m one of the SDD Primary School Programme Dance Artists. Today I’ve been working in Charlotte Sharman Primary School who are right next door to SDD. This is my third year at the school and even long before me SDD have had a longstanding relationship with the school. Today  I was working with Reception, Year 1 and Year 5 – all of whom came enthusiastic and full on energy!

In Year 5 they are learning about Vikings so we took a deeper look into the rowing actions of the longboats the Vikings used to travel. We had a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZE1LwagDQI and discussed the action of the oars being ‘circling, looping, and in unison’. Firstly, the students explored the circling action of the oars on their own, using their arms and then other body parts. Then the pupils investigated how they could replicate this looping action not only with different body parts but on different planes of movement.

planes-axes-of-movementplanes-of-movement

We then took it a step further and had the students in teams to see if they could replicate the looping on different planes with different body parts but in perfect unison with their team. It was fascinating to watch and discuss with them their ability to work as a team to achieve perfect unison with no counting, talking, general dance knowledge, or rehearsing. I think they even surprised themselves! Can’t wait to see where this will take us next week! Exciting things in store for this term at Charlotte Sharman.

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Rauschenberg and dance

Ace

‘Ace’ –  By Rauschenberg

The Rauschenberg exhibition opened on December 1st at the Tate Modern- everyone has been encouraging me to go see it because he worked closely with practitioners and choreographers like Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown, so I thought I’d take a look. Whilst I thought the exhibition its self was a bit formulaic and busy, Rauschenberg’s work is really innovative and refreshing – constantly working with new ‘combines’ like colour, texture or even dance.

What interested me most about the exhibition was the way he used choreography in an unexpected way – choreographing objects and sound rather than dancers. One memorable aspect was a huge pool of murky water, which bubbled randomly ; simultaneously creating choreographed movement of splashes and a soundtrack of the water. His paintings also seemed to evoke images of dance and choreography, the awesome piece named ‘Ace’ was structure from 5 panelled canvases with what initially appeared to be random splashes of paint. However at times the boundaries of each canvas seemed to be ignored and to me this really resembled the structure of dances or scores of music with the different sections that are separated but related. I was also struck by the way his work seemed to encompass improvisation, reminding me again of the scores we created with Seke, with his performance piece named ‘Open Score’ involving tennis players, using the vibrations and reverberations of racquets to trigger the lights to flash and later movement.

Overall, Rauschenberg is highly recommended exhibition for dancers and artist alike. There’s so much crammed into the exhibition, with so many different approaches and medias for creating work. The only problem I had with the exhibition was that it was very hard to hear the sound from the videos of the performances and dance works, which was a real hindrance.

Stella

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Reflecting on our Takeover of City Hall with Institute of Imagination for Big Dance 2016

by Gorm Ashurst

by Gorm Ashurst

On this bitter cold day I’ve enjoyed remembering the summer highlight for our primary school programme; when we quite literally took over City Hall on 4 July 2016 with 360 KS2 pupils in partnership with The Institute of Imagination (iOi) as part of the London Mayor’s Big Dance 2016.

Embarking on a journey weaving and spiraling through the building pupils encountered workshops and interactive installations within the iconic Council Chamber, Map Room and Conference Rooms.  The activities designed and facilitated by Siobhan Davies Dance, School of Noise, London Brain Project and Kano Computers, and curated by The iOi, took dance and imagination as the starting point, creating a common theme of movement to enable dynamic pupil experiences.  Challenging pupils and teachers’ preconceptions of dance; participants’ experienced computer coding, music making, neuroscience, and choreography with no taught steps, to explore and re-imagine dance in a multidisciplinary environment.  As one participating deputy head reflected; “Immersing children in creative activities enabled their imagination. (There was) implicit learning through play; fusing the arts, science and culture together.”

Dance is a powerful art form and mode of learning; combining physical activity with creative expression. 100% of participating pupils and teachers surveyed at our event said that moving helped them learn and use their imaginations. As society adopts more sedentary lifestyles, and schools maintain traditional forms of learning, our ability to use and apply our imagination using creative approaches will become increasingly important for new skill development and for the health and well-being of our children.  Participating in dance has a significant broader impact on a child’s learning and development; it provides a means of expression, develops kinaesthetic awareness and physical dexterity, builds self-confidence and social skills, sparks curiosity, cultivates new ideas and encourages new ways of looking at the world.   This was recognised by another pupil participating in the event; “(I learnt) that you can express yourself in many different ways and that you shouldn’t be scared to do anything.

As The iOi’s patron Ken Robinson articulated in his talk ‘Dance Is Important as Maths’ for the Cohan Lecture 2016 “dance is deep in the heart of every human culture throughout history… it’s the expression of relationships, feelings and ideas.” His definition of education as a tool to enable students to understand the world around them and the talent within them so they can be fulfilled individuals and active compassionate citizens, highlights the important role dance, movement and imagination can have in learning, enabling humans to explore this relationship between the world around and within us.

The City Hall Takeover provided a moment of awe and wonder for pupils. When schools entering into the iconic building’s spiral heart (staircase), a unique piece of performance was initiated, setting the scene for the theme of the day. The varied multidisciplinary activities enabled all children to engage with dance; whether that was through physical tasks challenging proprioception and spatial awareness with Siobhan Davies Dance or by coding a sequence of actions for a virtual dancer with Kano Computers.  The installations and zones enabled pupils to work independently, make choices and follow their interests with a plethora of provocations to spark their imagination. Pupils were empowered as independent learners, encouraged to explore, tinker and take the lead. As one teacher told us: “Creative and imaginative ways for children to experience elements of dance and music, (through) experimentation with other media, allowed more independent learning and choice.”

Siobhan Davies Dance are excited about continuing to work with The iOi in 2017 at their new cultural venue, and with lots of the schools that participated in the City Hall Takeover through our Thinking Body project. Follow our blog for more on these.

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Improvisation Scores with Seke

I see this map nearly everyday and on the way back from Next Choreography. It always stood out to me because it is so short and uncomplicated compared to the other tube maps. I’m not sure why, but today it reminded me of the improvisation scores we created last week (1/12/16) at NC.

Just to clarify, a score could be any rule or structure used in improv, for example you can’t stop moving. We decided it would be a good idea to create a score where all the dancers either had to be in eye contact with one other dancer or have their eyes shut, easier said than done, that’s for sure. We had more than one score, just to complicate things – like laughing if you heard someone else laugh or trying to go up or down at the same time as the other dancers (very difficult with your eyes shut.)

Going back to the image, the white circles with the line between the two for some reason,  reminded me of trying to dance with my eyes shut and blindly searching for someone to make eye contact with. When dancing, we somehow had a sense of where we were going and how to get to each other, without the need for vision.

Thank you Seke for the eye-opening session, hope you feel better Amy !unnamed

Stella

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What is contemporary dance?

I am very grateful that I am currently a member of Next Choreography 2016-7. This programme is a yearlong initiative for 14-24s which explores choreographic devices across various mediums at Siobhan Davies Studios.

The studios are just a short walk from Elephant and Castle Station. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by creatives in many different disciplines and stages in their careers. We have an enriching mix of dance graduates, those studying GCSE/ A Level dance, those training to be professionals, as well as some who enjoy dance amongst an assortment of wide ranging interests such as mechanical engineering, photography and theatre.

At the first session in September, I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought we’d bust straight out into some kind of hyped up super advanced session with someone screaming out obscure directions such as “Be the music. Be the space!” with tons of French sounding terminology.

Thankfully, it didn’t unfold like this.

We had a chance to write down questions, fears and elements we’re excited to explore this year. These were some of my questions:

 

What is choreography?

What is contemporary dance?

What are contemporary dancers?

What is it with the leggings pulled up on one leg? The source of your powers?

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Hopefully this year I’ll learn the answer to these questions and more…

 

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