Posts By: Dani Kolanis

Siobhan Davies – material/ rearranged / to / be

We’ve been fortunate enough to have various artists leading workshops exploring their own creative practice. In November, we saw a sneak preview of material / rearranged / to / be at Siobhan Davies Studios with an invited audience.

Siobhan Davies is a well renowned dance artist and the artistic director of Siobhan Davies Dance. Her work has been described “as less theatrical than most of London Contemporary Dance Theatre’s pieces, less musical than Alston’s, less narrative than Spink’s.” Davies’ work is multidisciplinary, and Davies is interested in the cross over with dance, film and visual art.

Davies’ current work is entitled material / rearranged / to/ be  and takes the form of several individual artists each co-commissioned to create a piece of work linked to the original exploration. This is a multi platform walkabout piece exploring gesture, posture and how it is interpreted on different bodies. I won’t divulge too much because the performances will premier in January.

Siobhan Davies led a two and a half hour related workshop exploring the research process behind the piece. Davies said that the starting point involved taking inspiration from poses in portraiture. We attempted to embody many of the initial research images. At first glance, this task seemed quite manageable, however embodying these traditional poses proved very challenging. We discovered that this is a very difficult starting point for movement as these images are static. This difficulty led to finding either the movement before, or directly after these poses.  We explored these gestures in smaller groups and gave feedback to one another. It was interesting to note how very small differences in the placement of the hand, the turning of a head, or even eye contact can greatly alter the perception of a scene. Naturally, these small movement segments seemed theatrical and to tell a story.

Even though the original images used were very antiquated, the task of attempting to replicate imagery resonates as a very contemporary issue. As humans, we learn by mimicry. With the advent of technology, this has drastically altered how we learn and perceive the world. For example, there is rise of image based social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. A user can upload a photo and edit using filters and we as consumers attempt to replicate these images. It makes it seem as though these images are easily attainable. From this workshop I gained more awareness into the images I am consuming. I also gained an insight into the starting point for Davies’ exploration. Interestingly, the impetus was inspired from another art form. I will attempt to take this knowledge into my own practice. It is also fascinating to note the different perceptions of the same posture, gesture and movements from people of differing body types, ages, genders and ethnicities.

I’m looking forward to see the full performance at the Barbican Centre in January.

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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?


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


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