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Going Loopy

NEXT CHOREOGRAPHY: Notes from Matthias Sperling’s Loop Atlas

These are my notes taken from the Atlas Loop workshop:  the session was SO informative, I want to share it with you.

Focusing on the relationship between body and mind as a way of realising a sci-fi fictional reality.

The Loop, the cycle, the circle, that is constantly expanding- it is not fixed, stagnant motion.

The body as teacher and the knowledge that you gain from your surroundings around you.

The feedback that is taken from your bodies imprint on the floor; how does your body alter and adjust to the surroundings that enclosed around you.

“What lights up?” the central question; asking your body what it knows of itself. How can it adjust and explain to you, your minds thoughts, your movements in a particular space?

Equip with the vail of sunglasses, which acts as a mediator between the inside and outside of your body and the different spheres surrounding you. By allowing these fictional becoming, growing from the power of the loop we are able to really consider its power.

Cycles drive evolution, generative growth, its opposition is singularity.

The task made me think about reproduction a lot; about dissemination and the limits produced by a repeated process.

How does this meditate process of producing loops hark back to ideas of the solar system, of constellations, of iconography, of communication- of entrails (mediating between inside the body and exterior environments to this?

Where does the loop take you next, how does it shift?

It told me a lot about the forms of the space I was in, it made me consider the ceiling- the feedback of my body in relation to this; the feedback of technology in relation to my body. All of these things are part of an expansive cycle of circling.

You think of yourself, in that workshop, performing- communicating. Using the basis of communication, body language, to create a new society, through repetition.

My movement was mimicked and imitated by my own shadow below me. This effect made me really think about- the space, my singular movements within that, but also its very relational quality, the way that each of us where circling, creating a specific force and energy that was shared. Be that, through a similar rhythm, movement or actual closeness.

Is the line of a loop (1) is it singular, or is it made up of multiple components? There is no sense of time within this looping process and the loop allows you to completely go inside, like a black hole. Once you come out of this, you feel the physical force of leaving the balancing process of body and mind as one. As well as the balancing and sharing information of other loops surrounding you; it is chatty, expansive and inclusive.

How will science change the source of dance’s power, is the central question that we returned to following this workshop. How is knowledge consumed and where does intuition and impulse, ritualistic and fundamental motions exist within the rubric that science would demonstrate.

 

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Daguerrotypes

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Last week, I randomly came across a French movie by Agnes Varda, from 1975. I found some aesthetic and conceptual qualities close to my interests in choreography, which is why I wish to share it on our blog.

Daguerreotypes is a series of intimate portraits of the shopkeepers from the Rue Daguerre in Paris, where Agnes Varda used to live in the 70s. The pun in the title emphasises the unicity and at the same time typicality of each person introduced in the movie.

We first get acquainted with Mrs and Mr “Chardon Bleu”, so called after the name of their haberdashery and perfume shop, open since 1933. The contemplative attitude of Mrs Chardon Bleu conjugates with the quietness of the place, lost in repeated and desperately resembling days. We then meet the hairdressers, the butcher and his wife and daughter, the grocer and his son, the plumber, the baker, the concierge,…

 

 

Rue Daguerre. Paris

 

 

The daguerreotype process was invented in France and was the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images. Using a silver-plated copper sheet primarily polished and fumed to make it light sensitive, the surface would be exposed in a camera and chemically treated, rinsed and dried. The resulting image would be sealed behind glass in a protective enclosure, appearing either positive or negative, depending on the viewing angle and on the light. Daguerreotypes were very delicate and fragile objects, but also unique, due to their irreproducibility.

 

Ms Chardon Bleu

 

 

Likewise, each portrait in Varda’s movie is intrinsically individualised. The composure and focus of each craft as well as the consideration of the light and the decisive camera angles mirror the daguerreotypes’ characteristics.

In the first phrase, the artisans are filmed during the opening and closing of their shops, choreographed by their duties, in their casual conversations and regular activities. Soon the movie offers a repertoire of gestures. These appear as if natural and inherent to the bodies, through reiteration and practice. Each person then speaks facing camera about where they come from and when they arrived in Paris, their voices and accents adding another nuance and depth to the portraits.

In the second phrase, we are introduced to the prestidigitator Mystag, having a show in the café down the street. Each trick visually coincides with the recorded motions of the hands and tools of the shopkeepers. In an allegorical way, the dramatic tone of the magician narrating these movements lead to the glorification and highlighting of their expertise and their value for the neighbourhood.

By the end of the movie, Varda slowly unfolds a sequence of fixed traditional portraits, overtly absorbing the quality of daguerreotypes and merging all the layers which repeated actions can bring to expressions, bodies and faces.

Ultimately, this movie felt like a popular tale, based on a resolute attention to simple daily gestures and a musing pace, which triggered my interest the most.

I would be keen to probe these aspects, in the same way as Varda, calling herself a daguerreotypesse

 

 

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Reflections 15/11/17

As we move into the fourth week I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the first few sessions as Next Choreography. The last three weeks have laid the foundations for this course; in the first session we had an in-depth discussion on the definitions of choreography, and in the second session we created choreography scores in groups, taking inspiration from the methods Joseph Burrows used to devise Speaking Dance (2006). Notation, or dance scores, can be a great method to trace and translate choreographies, and it was very insightful to see how each group built on Burrows’ principle to develop unique rhythmic structures. We shared our work with each other towards the end of the session, providing an opportunity to take on honest feedback for our own development as choreographers.

At the end of last week’s session, we were all invited to participate in the work OK Future by dance artists, Lucy Suggate and Connor Schumacher. The work has toured the UK and Europe where every performance space has been different. Different participants, different settings, different movements. This idea, in part, points towards one of the questions OK Future probes at. How do social environments control behaviour? In what ways can movement and consciousness be manipulated by the presence of unpredictable, human activity? Why do we let other people mediate the way we want to move when, paradoxically, we can’t be certain how they will move themselves? OK Future looks at the inner anxieties that bodies experience when we feel socially exposed. The work challenges the existence of social etiquettes by creating an alternative performance space which does not let us conform to predetermined, behavioural codes. Very exciting stuff!

I would like to share some of my personal reflections just here. I don’t really want to divulge too much information about the piece, so if you haven’t seen it then please read past this bit. My very rough, post-performance notes include:

The illusion of the inflated silver balloon… what was it doing?
At what point did you stop caring or feel unawkward?
The role of music in the piece – its trance-like, somatic purpose.
How did other people react to my movement?
Did we have full agency in the piece? What was the role of the voice-over?
Party? Release? Bonding?
What is the boundary between dancer and spectator?

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Moving Lightly

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The first term of our Saturday morning Children’s Classes are whizzing by, designed with fun and creative tasks to encourage new movement awareness, skills and confidence. Also to provide a supportive and welcoming environment for children (and their adults) to explore and question how we feel when we’re moving and notice connections between our brain and body.

Initially the 5 senses were inspiration for discovery and we used different sights, sounds, spatial props, smells and tastes to promote and explore possibilities. ‘Light’ has now become our focus as the bright autumn sunshine fades and days turns darker towards the mid-winter – fireworks, colours, reflections and shadows offer thoughts and ideas for movement adventures.

The very youngest children, who are 2-3yrs, enjoy the freedom offered by the beautiful roof studio to dance with their parents and carers, extending their natural movements with feathers, balls, bubbles, balloons, ribbons, parachute. It is delightful to see them feeling so safe to move in the space, gaining confidence and trust in their co-ordination and physicality.

For the 4-7yr olds, amongst other things, we have experimented with onomatopoeic firework words such as – pop, whoosh, boom, crackle, whizz, fizz, bang, zoom – to create and order movement actions with different qualities inspired by the children’s imagination.

The 8-11yr olds are abstracting ideas to develop choreographic skills, making choices and decisions using their own responses. The children played with ribbons representing firework light trails and then created their own ribbon pictures to inspire and design movement pathways.

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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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The Traces Commissions – Webb Ellis tell us about their experience so far…

Check out the latest blog from Traces Commissions artists Webb-Ellis about the first explorations into working with us here at Siobhan Davies Studios. Web-Ellis are British/Canadian artist filmmakers working in film, installation, and performance. They are currently resident artists at Crescent Arts in Scarborough. Over the coming year they will be working to create new artworks in response to the work of Siobhan Davies Dance and the communities connected to our studios.

 

Our work has long involved a fascination with the body and it is a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to journey further along this path in the company of Siobhan Davies Dance.

The Traces Commission invitation is fabulously open, and we have been able to just allow ourselves to be drawn into the conversations and goings-on at the studios.

Physical action has been our primary research method since the start of our collaboration. Usually this takes the form of an act of endurance and has included long distance running, swimming, walking, cycling and ecstatic dance. Moving the body offers a direct way to stir up the silt of the mind – unpredictable and intuitive.

Webb-Ellis, hmmmmm, still from 5 hour endurance performance, 2015

Webb-Ellis, hmmmmm, still from 5 hour endurance performance, 2015

Three, week-long, dance classes at Siobhan Davies Studios (run by Independent Dance) helped to turn our attention toward the unmapped landscape of our own bodies. Somatic Dance is dance which focusses on internal sensation – “the body as perceived from within”*. Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis was a powerful introduction to somatic dance, followed by Experiential Anatomy with Susanna Recchia, and an exploration of breath, gravity and patterns with Lauren Potter in the third week.

Each class has brought something different and special to our process, and we both noticed how much better we felt for spending some time within that dark and sensory space. Ideas are catching alight.

We have been granted access to a whole array of wonderful books about the body and movement in Siobhan Davies’ little office space. In one of them we were reminded of the sheer magic of early human paintings which depicted movement. People 13,000 years ago must have been really interested in how creatures move, or must have seen beauty in the simple acts of running and walking.

The Horse Panel, Chauvet Cave, southern France

The Horse Panel, Chauvet Cave, southern France

 

We wonder if the paintings say something about how these ancient humans sensed time? Much of the more recent art attempts to freeze a thing or a person in the present moment rather than depicting them forever moving forward in a constant state of transformation.

In the classes, moving with eyes closed among other warm bodies, attentive to the minute sensations of the body, felt like a significant shift in consciousness. The shift from the fight or flight city brain, eyes and ears ON, senses focussed outwards – purposeful, to an experience of ourselves from within, as porous beings, ageing and changing in each moment.

In Experiential Anatomy class with Susanna Recchia, we held a model skull and pulled its plates apart. We learned that whilst we were all developing in the womb our face started out touching our heart before our spine unfurled. We moved with these images as our guides, and with a feeling of the human body as something unfixed, evolving.

Human embryo at 7 weeks

Human embryo at 7 weeks

We have been warmly welcomed at the studios, and invited to bring our home on wheels with us, staying in the courtyard during the residency periods beneath a beautiful Mimosa tree. Being at home at Siobhan Davies Studios in the centre of London is a huge gift. Staying there for a week at a time gives us a strong sense of the character of the building; the way the light moves throughout the day, the little routines. During schooldays, the sound of children’s laughter infuses the whole space.

These observations are interesting as we consider how the work will be installed, and how visitors might enter the space of our installation – their state of mind and expectations. We find ourselves noticing movement of all kinds around the studios, as if the building itself has cast a spell to make even the most everyday movements uncannily visible.

The sense of dance as a language beyond words, is something that hit us right away. When two bodies meet in space it seems that there is an exchange of some kind taking place. All this engagement with Siobhan Davies Dance is peeling back a coating on our senses, allowing us to experience human movement afresh. The whole process is quite mysterious.

During the Skinner Releasing Technique class, one of the dance artists commented, “I’ve gone so deep inside my body that words just become inadequate to express where I’ve been.”

We try to translate our experiences into words, but soon realise that it is just this futile attempt at translation which interests us, the grasping and the sifting – the yearning to communicate, and to connect.

Notes taken during Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis

Notes taken during Skinner Releasing Technique with Gaby Agis

 

* Hanna, Thomas (1986). “What is Somatics?”. Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences.

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What to see at Dance International Glasgow

This month Siobhan Davies Dance have relocated temporarily to Glasgow to present material / rearranged / to / be as part of Dance International Glasgow (DIG). The biennial festival gathers together artists, performers and collectives from across Scotland and the world in celebration of movement and dance. Presenting our work at DIG has allowed us to explore our most ambitious work to date in a new context and discover new dimensions to the work.

You are invited to join us at Tramway in Glasgow to explore the work and consider how the mind and body work together to communicate through action and gesture. There is also so much more to explore over the coming week and if you are planning a trip here our top tips for what to see at DIG 2017.

Scottish Ballet: Digital Season Pop-up Exhibition

Digital

Experience dance differently with Scottish Ballet. As part of their inaugural digital season Scottish Ballet are pushing the boundaries of ballet to explore digital realms. Through an ambitious season the company have explored ways in which digital tools can enhance or challenge a viewers experience. Explore their pop-up exhibition at Tramway during DIG.

Click here for more info

Rosalind

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Venture deeper into the modern metropolis, where conservative days turn into wonderous nights. Follow the curious and courageous Rosalind as she embarks on a pursuit of enlightenment, fuelled by love and oppression. Shakespeare finds a place in modern Britain via rising stars of dance from Korea and the UK.

Click here for more info

Listen Deep and Dance Free

Listen Deep

Friend of Siobhan Davies Dance Lucy Suggate bring her latest collaborative work with James Holden to DIG 2017. Lucy and James want to deepen the understanding of music and dance, each other as individuals and as a group, and to share that with an audience.

Click here for more info

Bizzoca/Chivas/Reid: Decline

Decline

How do our bodies communicate? What draws our bodies together? And what pushes them apart? These question will be explored by Bizzoca, Chivas and Reid in a continuously changing and transforming performance. Questions will be asked and though answers may not be found, this fluid performance will offer a chance to delve into an inner world.

Click here for more info

Brocade

Brocade

Brocade celebrates energetic alliances between female dancers and musicians. Dissecting the points where craft, physical work, history and femininity meet through sound and movement. With an ensemble of female musicians and dancers Brocade explores themes through bold performance.

Click here for more info

 

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When I dance I learn…

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After ten weeks in two different primary schools for The Thinking Body programme, I’m enjoying reading about the students’ reflections on what they have learnt. It was incredible following two classes over a prolonged period and seeing their individual and class journeys unfold during the weeks. Their class assemblies were a great way to share the process they had been through with teachers, peers and families, and to celebrate all they have done. Thank you for your commitment, inspiration, willingness, co-operation and creativity! Here are some more reflections from the students…

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Young Artists Feedback Forum: interview with choreographer Charis Taplin

Our Young Artists Feedback Forum is coming up soon! In the run up to the event on Sunday 5th, I wanted to talk some more to the choreographers who will be showing works in progress, about the ideas in the works and the process of working on them.

The first in the series of interviews is with choreographer Charis Taplin, on her work in progress Pointy Shoes Make Me Cry.

In your application for the Young Artists Feedback Forum (YAFF), you mentioned three choreographers which you reference in this work – Pina Bausch, Yvonne Rainer, and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. How do you negotiate their influence on your work, has it been easy or difficult to find your own way of moving? And is it important to you that people get the references?

I’d say the choreographers who I’ve been inspired by have definitely influenced my own way of moving. However I’ve tried to reflect the concepts behind their choreography rather than the actual choreography itself- for example I’m using pedestrian movement and elements of dance theatre. These are three choreographers I admire so much in general, so it is really hard not to imitate, and to come up with my own ideas rather than just translating theirs’. As for whether it’s necessary for the audience to understand the influences, again it’s a balance- I want them to see the concepts and styles but hopefully they won’t they feel they’ve watched the choreography before.

How do you feel about these practitioners’ representations of gender?

I think gender performance is key to Bausch’s work, both the process behind it and the exhaustion produced by it (I also feel this sense of exhaustion from the constant facade and contouring of behaviour is at the heart of Rosas danst Rosas.) The exploration of gender and gender performance in Rainer’s work really fascinates me. It would be easy to say that because Rainer is opting for neutrality in her performance she’s opting for gender neutrality, but this is part of the huge debate over whether gender neutrality is really achievable, or whether it’s just another performance subverting a pre-existing binary.

Was there a specific personal experience that led you to want to make this piece?

A lot of the piece isn’t influenced by specific experiences, but by patterns I’ve spotted in my life to do with being a dancer, being gay, watching my body and my ways of taking up space changing alongside my training in contemporary and classical technique.  More specific experiences would be when I read about a trans guy who said he felt most validated in his gender not when he passes successfully or wears men’s clothes, but when he’s shopping in the supermarket-  just existing. That was a real breakthrough moment in my thinking. Seeing my first live drag act was also very inspiring. I think drag performance has a sense of total embodiment and transformation that all performers- especially dancers- aspire to.

Thank you to Charis for sharing her thoughts! <3  Questions by Katharina Joy Book.

Join us this Sunday at Siobhan Davies Dance London to see and feedback on exciting new works by selected young choreographers. From 5-730PM, 3 pounds cash on the door, and the bar will be open.

 

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