the maker is
an extension of bodies
the vehicle for expression
for framed intention
a site for experience
the maker is
an extension of bodies
the vehicle for expression
for framed intention
a site for experience
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* Hanna, Thomas (1986). “What is Somatics?”. Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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…
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.
The latest project with Siobhan Davies Dance, based on M/R/T/B, has made me recall the title of a book I read years ago ‘Thinking Body, Dancing Mind’. We are using dance to allow and extend thinking and learning. I have witnessed students displaying this ‘thinking body’ and ‘dancing mind’.
In Reays Primary School we began in week 1 by exploring the brain and body and their complexities. In week 2 we were looking at gravity and tipping points. The class were looking at Forces in Science so we applied Newton’s Laws of Motion into our movement and creative processes. We observed how paper falls differently in three ways, how a ground reaction force works when a ball drops and how we can balance with a partner using equal and opposite forces.
From here, the class teacher and I have used Philosophy for Children approach in allowing students’ interest to guide the process. After week two looking at gravity, they had many questions they wanted to know answers to – what is mass? If gravity pulls us down why doesn’t it do it straight away? What is friction, why is it harder to balance with your eyes closed? Why do we wobble when we balance? The teacher reflected on how she’d visibly seen students become aware of their centres and the control and strength of their core.
The subsequent week, we tried to answer these questions by looking at sensory pathways through the body and how our eyes, ears and proprioception help us to balance. It also led us onto the theme of friction – why it is useful for our bodies when we dance and how it is used in design to aid everyday activities. Children answers included grips on shoes, car tyres, lubricants in car engines. We had a discussion about clothing for cyclists and swimmers etc. In week 4 we explored materials and how they fall differently within water and with air resistance. Students designed parachutes for eggs to test out their theories and designs. We explored language used to describe the parachute journeys – hover, float, drop, collapse, glide, twist, suspend.
Week 5 was Shakespeare week with the class looking at MacBeth. We took language features such as personification, onomatopoeia, metaphors, alliteration to choose words that depicted movement – rattle, launch, stutter, crack, stalk etc. Were we able to communicate our solos better through observation with the eyes, or through listening to instruction and language? Not only have we been communicating with eyes and ears but also ‘listening’ through touch – using sensitivity to others, building trust, self-awareness and group co-operation.
What have we learnt so far – students reflected using drawings. They drew around a body in groups and mapped things they had learnt in dance and about their body. Then they added post it notes to show things they have learnt outside of dance.
The class teacher also reflected her observations of their learning back to the class:
I have seen the class learn concepts from GCSE Science and articulate the meaning of these concepts (x3 laws of motion) in an articulate manner. They understand the meanings of these laws and it is because they have explored this physically that they fully understand the concepts.
I have seen them grow in strength and balance
I have seen them become aware of their body and how they react to things
They have learnt what it feels like to be tired and how that manifests physically.
I’ve seen them practice and practice again – showing me resilience
Become aware of others and not just themselves
In another school, St. Saviours, we looked at observing sounds in our environments with Year 4.
We talked about how we hear sounds, the workings of the inner ear and why some animals have better sense of hearing than humans. Students categorised sounds into natural, human, mechanical, indicator sounds (e.g. alarm, whistle), and societal sounds. They considered pitch, duration, tone and dynamic of the sounds and chose their favourite sounds from spatial zones to draw using a spiral sound score. Immediate sounds recorded at the centre of the spiral and sounds far away at the outside of the spiral.
Students used their scores to translate these sounds into movement, in both literal and abstract ways. Student responses were great and many were able to identify sounds that other groups had chosen by articulating movement choices they had made.
We look forward to another five weeks ahead, allowing the interest and enquiry of the students to grow into a sharing of the work.
In October 2016, Next Choreography attended ‘Primal Matter’, a dance piece performed by Dimitris Papaioannou and Michalis Theophanous as part of London’s ‘Dance Umbrella.’ What unfolded over the next eighty minutes on a starkly furnished stage in the (freezing cold) Old Truman Brewery could be compared to a book of optical illusions.
Through a sequence of surreal images Papaioannou and Theophanous morphed into a series of identities. As these individual identities changed, so did the relationships between the two performers: they became pet and owner, creator and creation, performer and ringmaster. Each illusion created in the piece produced associations for the audience. Through simple props and the tool of the human body, we were reminded of Frankenstein, Jesus, ancient Greek statues, conjuring acts, embalming. I later read that Papaioannou’s intention had been to choreograph in response to political issues in today’s Europe. This hadn’t even occurred to me while watching ‘Primal Matter’, but I don’t see this as a failing of the piece. Each image sparked a domino-run of associations in the audience’s mind, leading to any number of different readings. This made for interesting conversations on the Tube home.
The power dynamics between the performers shifted constantly and compellingly, the way they related to each other was at times tender and caring, at others disturbing and even violent. Usually, one of the two was clearly in control but sometimes they seemed to be the same being, exploring themes of duality. In one of my favourite sections, Papaioannou rolled up his trouser leg halfway, rotated his knee joint and placed his lower leg on a clinical-looking table, before hopping on one foot with his other leg in his hand as though it was no longer attached to his body. Meanwhile Theophanous (creating the illusion of a statue) appeared to be missing a leg. Papaioannou’s leg then appeared to be attached to him, becoming part of his body through a sort of weirdly sophisticated party trick.
This raised questions in me around themes of disassociation from the body. I think these themes are particularly relevant in our era, when our relationships to our bodies are being viewed in a new light, as well as relevant to the dance art form- the body becoming a tool of performance is bound to lead to a level of disassociation.
The use of nudity emphasised the idea of the body as a tool, and as something vulnerable, linking with concepts of power and control. Some might criticise the nudity as crude humour, and it could be argued that the piece used shock-tactics (at one point the naked performer was doused with cold water, inducing a shudder from the audience wrapped up in scarves and coats.) However I saw this as purposeful, none of the shock or crudeness in the piece seemed to be just for the sake of it.
We left full of questions, and ideas about how to integrate illusion, duality, power dynamics and unusual props into our own dance-making.