On the 3rd July, Siobhan Davies Dance hosted the Next Choreography Festival, which celebrated the achievements of young artists and choreographers from Next Choreography and further afield. Each member of Next Choreography had a variety of responsibilities on the day to make sure that the festival ran smoothly; my main role was to document the day through film, in addition to performing with the other young dancers.
Having filmed a session a few months earlier, in which I captured the Next Choreography participants exploring the space using material objects (I wrote a blog post in February 2016 containing the YouTube link if you would like to see the finished film!), I hoped that I would get another chance to film at the Siobhan Davies Dance Studios. So when the opportunity arose for me to document the Festival day, I jumped at the chance!
I really enjoyed filming the day. Throughout the day I moved the camera from room to room, recording the workshop, talk or exhibition that was taking place inside. It was lovely to see how much people were enjoying the Festival, as there was so much on offer for audiences to look at and get involved with.
Probably the most difficult part of the process was editing the film after I had captured all of the footage of the Festival. There were so many interesting parts of the day to share! However, I hope the film does justice to the wonderful day that the Next Choreography participants and the Siobhan Davies Dance team managed to curate.
Working with Lucy Suggate for two sessions has conjured an interest in the manipulation of space and the relationship between dance and arguably unlikely performative spaces such as galleries and museums.
After reading about the new collaboration between these two art genres for ‘Dancing Museums’ I was motivated to question the relationship between audiences and those contrasting forms.
I see a still painting or sculpture for example in its stillness and at face value the art will always represent itself in the same way (although may provide new meanings or concepts at each glance). I do not need much more than what the artist has created on that blank canvas or with those materials in order to create that captured moment. Additionally when we watch dance works we are seeing the development of decisions in the space for time frames that vary between minutes and hours.
As an audience member I feel dance provides itself with a longevity from the moment you arrive. The beginning to the end. A work unravels to become itself throughout its existence. There is not much you can claim at face value without taking into account the substance, that when compared to a painting would be the strokes on the canvas. This then encourages me to consider the idea of maintenance with choreography.
Do we attempt to create a time frame of produce that will grip the audience from start to finish? Can we envisage that our tools are not far from the paint and the paint brush? Therefore can audiences arrive in our work like looking at a still form? With or without stillness?
The art forms are arguably very different therefor incomparable in this audience/artist exchange and there are many elements to consider that I have quickly skimmed over, although I feel at this starting point the relationship between the two particularly in ‘Dancing Museums’ fuels an interest.
Within both forms of art I enjoy committing to works and unravelling the hidden messages that surface to my individual eye. I am aware that I may explore possibilities deeper inside the simplest of creations, when my mind is left to roam with just enough but by all means not masses of information. These similarities and contrasts spark an invitation to consider the different ways one digests the two Art forms/as well as how as an artist we can channel these thoughts into our creating.
Suggesting that your offering of work is your exhibition, gallery or museum to me encourages a shift in focus. I hope to catch some of the works performed in such locations this summer and explore these concepts in the studio.
tripping on words to make movement – second session
In the second session, we started by making some poetry ourselves, thinking about placement of the words in space and the rhythms implied by that. We also considered the process of extracting/highlighting/choosing information, in making blackout poems.
I handed out word cards, newspapers, black markers, and scissors, and these were some of the results –
and a dreamy video of the blacking out that Fran and Bethany were doing –
We found especially interesting Maisie’s approach, moving into the 3 dimensional, and Fran’s idea that a piece of text, divided into sections, could be understood in different ways according to the arrangement of the sections on the page.
We then took our cues from the reading+listening experiment we had done in the first session, and chose to try the following:
One of us would read a piece of text – we chose to use another one of Caroline Bergvall’s, and the reader ended up being myself – and the others would be assigned a semi-often occurring word each (in this example, the words were ‘point’, ‘close’ and ‘face’) and a corresponding gesture. Whenever that word was heard, the gesture would be acted out. By doing this, we were trying to make visible the act of listening, and of processing information.
Here is an extract of the video documentation.
To perform this task was more difficult than expected, but we decided to go a step further:
The gestures would stay the same, but instead of a word, the performers would listen out for sounds – we chose
‘r’ (we noticed that would be relatively easy to pick up on because I pronounce it a bit differently than the others, in American English)
We also used a different text: A page from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a novel well known for its close- to-complete incomprehensibility.
James Joyce, in Finnegans Wake as well as in Ulysses, plays around magnificently and irreverently with sounds, words, meanings, associations, insider jokes, and notions of counts as intelligible and what doesn’t.
The fact that this was such an exhausting thing for listeners to act out was the crucial bit for me – I am really interested in that heightened state of paying attention and how the immersion and the struggle is made visible by embodying the process via gestures. I also consider this a live act of translation.
The Next Choreography programme has helped me become more conscious on all levels: personally and professionally.
The first term to me felt mostly like a journey, where I was constantly questioning myself and what was around me. I started to read more, exploring new artists and works. I definitely understood that choreography is so much more than just dance movements put together in a sequence… I also learned about group awareness, new ways of exploring and creating movement and improvisation.
After January, everything started to finally sink in: all the new information and knowledge. However, I never stopped asking more questions. And possibly asking for harder and more abstract answers.
Having had the opportunity to meet and work with high profile artists was extremely valuable. You not only learn different perspectives of seeing things, creative approaches, but also get to know their career pathways and build connections.
I vividly recommend this programme to anyone interested in discovering more about movement, choreography, arts, bodies. And also, about yourselves and the ones around you.
I really look forward to the Next Choreography Festival on the 3rd July, see each other’s work and get feedback!
tripping on language to make movement – starting point(s)
This was the mind map Stephanie and I ‘started’ with – having discussed, filtered, connected a lot of material before we even started the first session with Fran, Maisie, and Bethany.
We were trying to find out how our interests in gesture and body/text relations, respectively, could merge and play off each other – it was a process of figuring out how to name/ describe these inherent connections that we instinctively felt were there.
Caroline Bergvall in her book of poems Fig: Goan Atom 2 plays beautifully with fragmentation, sounds, multilingualism, especially in her piece 16 Flowers.
Bergvall’s book was one of the first things the dancers became transfixed by in the examples of poetry I had brought to show them. We did a few experiments reading this piece of hers [extract]
vagrant rOse paths compressed
hover matin l’aRose in- Mers
a-glimp th ornful umineuse darKorolla
faint Fur st special irrésistible
Lansoft -goRous elovelash petals absorbed
smallred Vibrant lovegash pétales embedded
White throated flatfanned dressLash lovétale
PINkdraw -inGirls lovcrest pétalent Bedded
I was fascinated with the different ways each of us interpreted the ‘rules’ of this piece, and with the effort apparent in the reading of it. It felt to me like people were performing the task of poetry right in front of me.
I tried to further the relationship between the body and the process of comprehension in the listeners by asking the performers to tap a pen on a surface, making a sound, every time they thought they had heard and understood a word. (Bear in mind that it is harder to do when you don’t have the text in front of you.)
This required immense concentration on behalf of the listeners, and produced unexpectedly divergent results – people’s habits of understanding were not in sync at all.
The last part of this endeavor was to try and translate the text into gesture as we were listening – at which point, interestingly, performers sometimes made the same movements upon hearing a certain sound without having paid attention to what each other were doing. It looked like they were faking speaking sign language.
This is the edited recording of the readings and our reflections.
After this first session, Charlotte gave me her observations and, the points I found most useful to take on were:
To be more clear when giving instructions – have clear in your own mind what the structure and plan is, and where there is space for deviation.
How do I make the relationship between body and text ‘readable’ (haa) to an audience?
In general, what is the audience experience? So communicating framework and context and thinking about relatability.
Since my project is so process-based, my role should be in guiding that process – so I should do more watching and responding to the performers responses – also keeping an eye out on who responds how to the exercises I propose.
Take the luxury to concentrate on one thing and investigate it deeply, rather than trying to do as much as possible in as little time as possible.
Especially for the audience related questions, the Young Artists Feedback Forum will be very useful – and the other points, about guiding a process, I think I will be still learning about for longer, as I go and keep making work beyond this project.
This month five members of our group are leading their own independent choreographic projects which will be presented as work in progress sharings at our Next Choreography Festival on Sunday 3rd July. Tonight is the second session out of four and I can feel a beautiful humming concentration and activity spread across the building as each of the artists sets to work. For me as their course leader it is an exciting and slightly strange sensation to leave the responsibility and leadership of each process to those five people. I am so curious to see what work emerges and how they choose to investigate, develop and shape their ideas. Some are working towards live performative works which will be presented throughout the building, and others are composing a space/exhibition.
New work is emerging from a new generation of makers. This is the best bit!
As part of the Young Arts Academy, a project for young people led by Barbican Centre, I choreographed a dance piece. Commissioned by Barbican, (UN)ONES was presented on the 10th May 2016 in the Fountain Room at the Barbican Centre, London UK.
(UN)ONES portrays how individuality can be suppressed in society. It shows a constant fight against conformity – From all of us, to all of us.
A group where one can stand out and reveal oneself. There are personal statements being presented: I am who I am, what I want to be and not what I am expected to.
I intended to convey my personal beliefs and ideas such as: gender equality; denial of social conventions and universal truths; the freedom of the being and one’s expression.
If you’d like to see the video recording of the performance, please click below!
(UN)ONES started to emerge from my inner will to fight conformity and to break through.
I knew I wanted a large group: 12 dancers so the sense of the society’s patterns could be emphasised. I also made sure I had an equal number: 6 female and male performers – gender equality. I looked for different individuals, with various backgrounds, and not just about their dance training, but cultural too. I ended up with dancers from Israel, Malta, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Malaysia and the UK.
I needed to have the soundtrack ready just before the rehearsals. Working in collaboration with a musician for a dance piece was really interesting. It was quite a challenge for me to find a mutual language we both could understand – but we did it! The soundtrack was composed and produced by Henry Bird, a third year student at The Guildhall Music&Drama School.
We had 2 days of rehearsals and, for the results I wanted to achieve, I had to condense quite a lot of information in a small period of time. However, we had a discussion in group about the theme of Individuality, how it can be suppressed in society and also about personal experiences. I believe that movement should come from an impulse of connection, from one’s truth. So the more the dancers could relate to the theme, the better they would embody it.
In addition, at least half of the members in the team didn’t know each other or had never worked together. Building group awareness was an extra task that I had to offer, encourage and which would be essential for the performance.
In terms of the creation of the movement, I worked in collaboration with the dancers. I had in mind the walking patterns, the intentions, the ups and downs in the narrative, etc. But I needed them to be them in this piece as much as possible. Therefore, they created their own solo and gestures that I directed afterwards.
The most challenging moment of this whole process to me was setting up the counts for each section and finding the most effective music cues. As this was *my first piece*, I realised loads of things to think about for a next time. But something that helped me from the start, was allowing myself to think that things change and that is alright. I might have had a pre-conceived idea, but once you have bodies in space, it’s pretty likely that you’ll have to adapt your thoughts to that reality. Questions and conflict come up and the interesting part of it is to solve them.
I worked with a brilliant cast, not just technically as dancers, but as people. I made very clear from the beginning that suggestions were more than welcome and we all helped each other. I also had the help of Kerry Nicholls during the rehaersals, a high profile choreographer, dance teacher and mentor. Kerry was a precious help and support from whom I learned significantly.
I’d like to mention how Next Choreography helped me grow, build up my curiosity and interest in seeing things from different perspectives. I felt I was confident enough to create this piece, take charge and actually start my future.
Looking back on the year of Next Choreography, numerous sessions stood out to me but one which I found particularly eye opening was a session with Ben Duke in December 2015. The session explored a kind of journey and path way to choreography. Through the session we used different stimuli to trigger others, first we looked though books and magazines and picked out a photo/image that personally stood out to us. From that image we wrote a series of poems and words that captured it. The final poem was a longer more detailed one with the instructions of having to be written in the first person and to include a feel for the five senses. This then became the information that was used to create a piece of choreography.
What I found interesting and captivating was the process in which the choreography was produced and that by the end there were so any different options and ways of looking at it. The fact that the poems were not written with a purpose of producing another piece of work from but just what you saw or interpreted from your chosen image made it easier in some ways and more meaningful to then use the material to create a piece of choreography.
One Poem produced from the session:
Spell, Hear, Touch, Taste, See
I capture the traveling journey
full of representation and sectors of life
documenting it in irregular black and white squares
hearing the silent stare
watching the tension of pen to paper
touching the cold, solid object
tasting the warm-hearted movement
continuously doing, watching, hearing, tasting, feeling
Term 3 is in full swing and we’re busy planning the upcoming Next Choreography Festival (3 July), which celebrates the end of our course for this year.
Our session with Emma Gladstone (Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella) last week gave us food for thought as our plans take shape. Emma shared her experiences and approach to programming and producing a festival. This input gave us all lots to consider for our festival; the frame we provide for the work within the event, the audience, what and how we communicate about the festival, and our hook.
As Project Coordinator it’s my job to produce the festival, working with Charlotte (NC Facilitator and curator of the NC Festival) to ensure our participants ideas and experience are at the heart of it. Members of the group are developing work in progress for performance within a Young Artists Feedback Forum at the event, they are devising an exhibition that reveals their learning from across the year, they are considering the use of each space within our beautiful building to inform our festival programme ensuring we welcome and engage our audience. I’m so excited about seeing their ideas develop with this focus upon our festival. The group are brimming with thoughtful intelligent suggestions, which reflect their inquisitive approach to the whole course, and I am delighted to help realise them.
A set up /environment combining various elements to be activated by the performers’ presence.
A piece about –
Failure of communication, translation and interpretation.
Failure to be present, presence.
Falling, fragility, and chance.
Choices; the things we keep and those that we discard.
Documentation and memory.
Moving material between mediums.
Performative instructions. SMS-based dialogue. Skype. Translation processes. Sound and stories. Receipts, saved for your records. Sacred objects. A toilet seat. Phones. Two men.
Words → objects. text → movement. Sound → words. Movement → story.
Tatiana – ‘receipts saved for your records’ and ‘to a screen’.
Activating the installation by our presence means that we perform movement and create moments in the environment we have set up.
We tell stories through objects – things that fell out of his pockets, the button he might have lost; objects lost and found. We recall memories in the shadows of an overhead projector, translating and interpreting them via these kept objects. We interrupt ourselves frequently, with trivial (but maybe not so trivial) text messages spoken aloud.
objects kept and catalogued.
me installing the installation
We perform a script of Facebook messages while ripping off calendar pages and slamming the toilet seat – attempting to make those words our own.
Another episode begins with us trying to embody other people’s gestures, and continues to show a series of movements we relate to falling and failing.
There are elements in the installation that the audience/ the visitors interact with directly – in one instance, ‘instructions for webcam‘ on a laptop are to be read (and, if interpreted in that way, acted out); in another instance, visitors can search a document of archived SMS conversation for key words – and find out how often “work” or “sex” was talked about. Generally, audience members are encouraged to enter the installation to engage with the different elements.
instructions for webcam – excerpt. Katharina Joy Book
All in all, the performance includes four movement based episodes within the installation set up. The chronology of the episodes is flexible, they can be performed in intervals or all in one go.
Tatiana and I first performed this on 26th April 2016, at Hoxton Basement, London, as part of the exhibition You Are Not A Failure, curated by UAL Curation Society. The exhibition mostly consisted of fashion objects – garments, drawings, photographs. We had envisioned the performance episodes as ‘interventions’, to happen intermittently, not as ‘shows’ to be watched at a set time in front of an ‘audience’. This didn’t work quite like that, people did gather as soon as they noticed we were performing, and it remained unclear in some cases when we wanted to be heard and seen and when it wasn’t the point to have everyone’s undivided attention.
It was wonderful for me to see visitors attempting to follow the instructions for webcam! Someone even said they hadn’t spent so much time with a piece of art in a gallery before.
The episode where we perform Facebook messages and slam the toilet seat resonated with many people and we heard interesting thoughts from them about that. We are now working on refining and expanding the movement and choreography sequences and learning more text messages by heart.