Posts Tagged: Barbican

Extend It at the Barbican – The Thinking Body

Hello! I’m Marie, one of the SDD Primary School Programme Dance Artists. I mainly work on Extend It which is our professional development programme for teachers. Our approach offers teachers creative methods for advancing and enriching the learning and engagement of their pupils. We use movement and choreography to open up lines of enquiry in other curriculum areas, incorporating the ‘Philosophy for Children’ approach

Choreography is at the heart of our workshops and we always use the professional work of Siobhan Davies Dance as a starting point for our planning. Last term I delivered a number of workshops for Primary PGCE students at the Institute of Education and London South Bank University. These workshops used sculpture and senses as a theme and provided solid links to the Art & Design and Science curriculum. These inquisitive and reflective students were an absolute pleasure to work with. I was inspired by their enthusiastic and curious approach to the workshops and am excited that these teachers of the future are so keen to celebrate kinaesthetic learning both in the classroom and the hall space!

PGCE students' at the Institute of Education.

PGCE students at the Institute of Education.



Yesterday I delivered an Extend It workshop called The Thinking Body at the Barbican. This was part of Siobhan Davies Dance’s new work material / rearranged / to / be, an installation of live performance, film projection and sculptural objects exploring how the body and mind work together to communicate through action and gesture. 14 teachers from a variety of primary schools across London attended the twilight workshop and all arrived with a burst of fresh, joyful energy.

The workshop started with a visit to the installation where I gave the teachers a series of tasks to complete such collecting gestures and finding particular images and text. They came back to the dance studio with a thoughtful and questioning state of mind. We discussed their experience and I was encouraged to hear about all of the connections they observed between mind and body and non-verbal communication. I explained that the work is inspired by the art historian Aby Warburg’s practice of gathering and arranging images to reveal new meanings and the works featured in the installation inhabit an ever-changing arrangement, so their experience of the installation will be different with every view. We then did a two hour practical workshop that explored The Thinking Body practically. We used all of the collected gestures and explored the images and text through a clearly structured lesson using the Siobhan Davies Dance methodology. We also looked at some sensory and curriculum based activities.

I was amazed by the teachers energetic, open-minded and creative approach to all of the activities and the work produced as a result was so rich. I am looking forward to hearing about their experiences of trying the activities in their schools and am hoping that the experience inspires them to continue to investigate with their pupils the fascinatingly complex world of the body and mind.

The Thinking Body resources

The Thinking Body resources

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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.




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In July we said a fond farewell to our lovely first cohort of the Next Choreography programme. It has been exciting to witness many big developments in their creative work and confidence over the last year and I wish them all well. Our final session together was a visit to the Barbican during that amazing Station to Station project, followed by a final discussion and then delicious dinner and drinks! It was brilliant!

In our final discussion, I asked everyone in the group to make one pledge/commitment to their on-going artistic practice over the next 6 months. And here they all are. Thank you all for a wonderful year, and good luck for everything that comes next!

Next Choreography 2014-15 End of Year Pledges
Amy M: To be constantly looking at things i.e processes, exhibitions and performances in a different light, and to continually ask myself questions specific to the the event but the process doesn’t have to be forced.
Emily G: To keep up my professional development, stay active, focused and curious and start making work with my friend/dance partner Leanne.
Elliot: To cross art forms when making work and to throw myself into new experiences as much as possible.
David: Teach 1 regular class, Dance 4 battles, Produce 2 works
Sasha: To find a regular dance class and go every week and also to make time to dance with friends.
Maddy: Push myself into other forms of art, rather than what I already know.
Sarah: To find a way to make everyone experience happiness through the arts!
Charlie: I will continue to question and follow the artistic roles of women.
Aura: I will keep on going!
Amy H: Put into action the ideas I’ve been working in on my project here so that they influence my discovery of a new urban landscape in Copenhagen. And to revive my Artist’s Way journey.

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