Posts Tagged: Siobhan Davies

Workshop with Matthias Sperling – 1st February 2018

‘What will change when science discovers exactly how our bodies give rise to our minds?’

This is the central question that we were working with a couple of weeks ago during Matthias Sperling’s workshop. The workshop was divided into two sections; in the first half, we discussed his work Now That We Know and in the second half we participated in Loop Atlas, which featured in the larger body of work at Siobhan Davies Dance, material / rearranged / to be in 2017.

Sperling’s two pieces of work inform one another. Now That We Know is a performance lecture piece which imagines that science has proven the relationship between the mind and the body. In a similar strain, Loop Atlas focuses on the idea of looping. Looping is a movement process pioneered by Deborah Hay which lets your body be your movement mentor rather than your mind. In this blog post I’ll be looking at Loop Atlas as I found that its content gave me a lot of food for thought!

Loop Atlas uses different choreographic approaches to investigate the mind-body dichotomy. In Matthias’s workshop we as dance artists were given a space to experiment with this idea. The workshop unearthed some ambitious questions not just about choreography but embodied experience at large. Will there ever be a time when our bodies are truly in sync with our minds? Or is there a time when our bodies take charge? When I’m walking to a familiar destination, when I am a pedestrian, my body is leading me there. My mind is indulging itself somewhere else; it is listening to music or zoning out at whether that is a pigeon or a boot in the distance. My body’s activity brings a lot of shame to my languid mind.

But when we’re in a dance studio this relationship changes in some instances. Dancers are trained to be aware of every body part’s function, from their neck to their right toe. And we engage our minds to do this – our mind is the puppeteer and the body is the puppet. However, there is always an opportunity to let our mind and body forget what we have been rehearsed to believe. Although it sounds unusual, it generates a really productive and fresh outlook as you become a blank canvas for experimentation.

In unconventional performance spaces, I would say that both the mind and body are working cooperatively towards creating and producing movement in new areas. During Matthias’s workshop, I had a heightened awareness of my mind and body where I was very focussed on the activity of each. But, as much as movement is about bodily awareness, it is also to do with forgetfulness and solitude. In a workshop such as this, we need to forget that the philosopher Descartes said the body cannot think without the mind. You really have to detach yourself from the philosophy that the two are separate. For me, I have a dance background, but I also have a lot of experience in the Early Modern and the Renaissance period. This might seem an odd combination, but the two have refreshing links which I stumbled upon unexpectedly. Matthias’s preposition (that I present at the top of this post) that the body gives rise to the mind resonated with me a great deal. Early Modern philosophy is pre-Descartes and it is rooted in the idea that the mind and body are one. In very general terms, the experience of the mind is the experience of the corporeal body. With this in mind, has history come full circle where we have returned to this viewpoint? During Matthias’s choreographic tasks, I remember moving on bodily impulse. Barely can I remember changing my movement because my mind thought it was time to. I will admit that there were odd moments when I could sense my mind overtaking, but I would just suppress the urge and let it go. I became quite comfortable in letting my body do the work and this kind of hypnosis was cleansing and relaxing.

When I walk a familiar route, my mind gives rise to my body. Unfamiliar spaces have a tendency to reinstate the mind’s control. And of course, this is the reason why as Next Choreography students we are always moving around the studio to find different spaces to work in so we can see what limitations they pose on the body and the mind. We are always debating the very nature of movement; whether it is detached from consciousness, or whether it thrives on bodily impulse, and it was great to participate in a workshop which really got us thinking about the origins of movement.

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Reflecting on the Festival and Next Choreography

And so the end of Next Choreography 2016 -17 has come, and what a year it has been !

The Festival was a vibrant, welcoming and slightly hectic day of dance, creativity and ummm cake … lots of cake. I was taken aback about how open minded and willing to participate the audience were, especially throughout the ‘welcome dance’ and the interesting lift experience.

I am overwhelmed by what I have learnt and achieved on the NC course at Siobhan Davies Dance, and so grateful to have this enriching opportunity. If you are interested in creating, meeting new people and up for a challenge I would highly recommend the NC course for next year. It is so much more than dance and choreography, so don’t let a lack of experience put you off – we had people from a whole host of different backgrounds from drama to art, which only made our experience more valuable. My perception of dance and choreography will never be the same again and I am so glad for this !

Thank you SDD so much and I can’t wait to join YAAG next year.

 

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Next Choreography Festival Rehearsals – With Martin Hargreaves

The NC festival rehearsals are in full swing, with only 3 weeks to go ! We have be running all over the Siobhan Davies building: from dancing in the lift, the changing rooms, the parlour and even outside in the court yard (let’s be grateful for the sunny weather over the past few days !). The Festival is looking to be a busy day, with a huge variety of choreographic pieces, art work, soundscapes and installations. The audience will also be welcomed to get involved with a workshop and several participatory pieces.

The NC cohort have also been working on an ensemble piece with guest artist Martin Hargreaves. This is focussing on the principle ideas of Signature, Theft & Translation and to what extent are these possibilities or what happens when we use these ideas within dance or choreography. Martin asked us to all devise a short phrase of movement, words or drawing which represented each of these words. Surprisingly, the greatest challenge for us as we approached this task was defining these words. Many of us soon realised that our personal ‘signature’  within movement, is perhaps also theft; we acquire gestures and habits from others and subconsciously are always ‘stealing’ –  we can never dance in a vacuum, as such. ‘Translation’ we decided felt less intentional or destructive than ‘Theft’, which to us symbolised taking movement or art that isn’t ours. Not simply copying, but also claiming ownership of it. Problems surrounding cultural appropriation were also stirred up with the idea of ‘Theft’ and how certain dance styles become appropriated by the mainstream media, with little regard to the original origins. Subsequent to devising our individual three pieces, we then worked in groups to combine our work. This lead to even more layers of watching other groups, recreating, remembering and recollecting their work, until we had several ‘meta’ works, all of which are intricate copies, translations and memories of other people’s work. And yes, it made our brains ache too when we did it!

The NC team have one more rehearsal with Martin this thursday before the dress run in two weeks time. I am interested to see how the piece will be finished, and if there are any more layers can add to the piece. By it’s nature, the spontaneity of the piece is a key element, so I am hoping that it won’t be a ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ piece as such, but rather a continuous exploration, even on the day itself.

If you’re keen to see this work, or simply have a passion for creativity, dance and community make sure you come to the NC Festival on Sunday 9th July at Siobhan Davies Dance.

Look forward to seeing you there !

Thank you,

Stella

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

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Copy and Pasting images in movement – With Lea Anderson

Pictures in fashion magazines look weird enough. But what if you cut off half the picture then recreated it ? This was the main focus of our NC session today, led by the amazing Lea Anderson.

Initially, the task seemed simple – look at the picture, copy it. Soon enough we realised the intricacy and precision involved in copying an image – the focus of the subject, the angle, the position of the feet, hands, shoulders, the expressions. To add to the complexity, the photos had all been cut and pasted in various ways – some were just the faces of models, others a knee and a hand, one was just feet. This left us with the freedom to decide what to do with the rest of the body if it was not specified in the photo.

The most startling result of this session was watching how different everyone one’s responses were. We worked in pairs, and everyone followed the same set of images in the exact same order. Yet, each pair has such completely contrasting ideas and methods of copying. Despite this, we could all identify the images each pair did, and when one pair were stuck and asked ‘Which picture comes next?’, we all knew exactly where in the sequence the pair were and which picture came after it. The images could be clearly seen in each pair but the transitions and context of them were completely individual.

This idea of sequence and identifying patterns has left me wondering at what point does one image end and another begin ? Can we ever copy ? What is it about each image that made it recognisable in the different pairs ?

Thank you Lea !

Stella

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Work In Progress – Looking towards July 4th

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As one of the Next Choreography participants who will be presenting their own work at the Next Choreography Festival on the 4th of July, I’m beginning to really appreciate the complexities of producing something worthwhile!

My exhibition will focus on the lack of female choreographers and creative artists in Britain, examining why we have so many young women in dance training, yet a glaring absence of female choreographers.

Over the next few weeks, I will be interviewing various inspirational women in the Arts, including Siobhan Davies and Jude Kelly and gaining an insight into how these women got to where they are. For me, the chance to create this work is hugely important as it is a subject I am very passionate about, and as a young woman who wants to be a Choreographer and Artistic Director, I aspire to emanate such figures.

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Participation week 10

Over half the group were ill this week. I was not well either, so our session was a little more quiet than usual. We talked about and played with ideas around participation – what ways are there of developing work where the presence and activity of the audience is essential for the work to be able to come alive. We spoke performances we had experienced where the participatory nature had worked really effectively, and experiences we’d had where it hadn’t. We wondered about what makes that interaction work so brilliantly in some contexts and not in others. We looked in a little more detail at 3 case study projects – my audio work, Walking Stories, Manual by Siobhan Davies, and the Performing Book by Janine Harrington.

Here is our book of words from our small, select session!

Book of Words 10
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Session with Siobhan Davies

Last week we were lucky enough to have an exploration of Siobhan Davies’ work Manual. The workshop consisted of giving one person laying on the floor instructions to stand up. Sounds easy enough?

Me:’Ok so, bend your your knees’
Partner (laying on the floor): ‘how do I bend my knees?’
Me:’By lifting them up?’
Partner: ‘I can’t just lift my knees, what else do I have to do?’
Me: ‘Engage your stomach muscles, keep your pelvis in line. As you gradually lift your knees the base of your feet should start to rest on the floor while your knees are coming up towards the ceiling.’
Partner (STILL laying on the floor): ‘Ok that’s much clearer, now what to I have to do?’

The exercise carried on all the way to standing in a similar pattern, as I slowly tried to give my partner clear efficient instructions to eventually reach a standing position.

The experience, was somewhat frustrating but a good laugh too. I learnt a lot from the workshop especially about how much of our body we have to use to do what we do so naturally as our daily routine. My patience was tested, but I also reflected gratefully that I had a body that was mobile, and could take part in these daily movements so effortlessly.

As I thought about how aware I had to be in my body while doing this exercise, I remembered all the times I’ve been on a train in rush hour where several people were getting cross with me because I wasn’t thinking about my rucksack on my back. As I had been standing on the train close to people forgetting that I also had a big rucksack invading others peoples space.

I have also been one for knocking things off of shelves in shops by accident, because I had not been thinking about the Rucksack and extra space I should be aware of.

After reflecting on last week, I have still felt grateful for the ability to move everyday. But I have also been much more aware of my Rucksack!

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Deliquescence

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April

As my feet sink into the wet ground I leave behind the comfort of my home. My skin begins to numb, and I feel suddenly awaken by the ice piercing through my lungs. Dropplets of green air fall onto my skin, I can almost taste the moss, and I am excited, happy. The still white obscurity envelops me, space has finally become visible, stable, still. And so I let it carry me, and suspend me in a vast, reassuring silence. All that is left is my breath dancing with the vapour of the tree. I am no longer here, but I feel everything.

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