Thinking Body, Dancing Mind

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

Better teamwork

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.


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‘Primal Matter’ –Dimitris Papaioannou October 2016

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.

primal matter arts award


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Gravity adds weight to Reay’s Year 5 dance!

Year 5 at Reay Primary School have been thoroughly enjoying our sessions with Jo Rhodes of Siobhan Davies Dance.

We have combined dance with our topic on Forces and then used it to help us to fully understand about Newton’s Three Laws, resistance, gravity and aerodynamics and that’s just the science!

Here is how we have got on…

'This picture represents Isaac Newton's first law, the law of inertia. Inertia is a lack of force meaning that the only thing stop and object moving at a constant to speed is an unbalanced force. It also means that if it's still, it won't move without some sort of force.' Year 5 pupil

‘This picture represents Isaac Newton’s first law, the law of inertia. Inertia is a lack of force meaning that the only thing stop and object moving at a constant to speed is an unbalanced force. It also means that if it’s still, it won’t move without some sort of force.’ Year 5 pupil

'This picture represents Newton's law of acceleration. In this picture, if she had let go of his leg, he would have fallen over faster.' Year 5 pupil

‘This picture represents Newton’s law of acceleration. In this picture, if she had let go of his leg, he would have fallen over faster.’ Year 5 pupil

'This picture represents the law of action and reaction. It means that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. They are pulling inwards to stay there in a counter-balance so if they let go, they'd fall backwards with the same amount of force as pulling in.' Year 5 pupil

‘This picture represents the law of action and reaction. It means that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. They are pulling inwards to stay there in a counter-balance so if they let go, they’d fall backwards with the same amount of force as pulling in.’ Year 5 pupil

In our first dance lesson, we also learned a bit about air resistance and we were inspired and had to find out more so we designed our own paper aeroplanes and tested them to see which one was the most aerodynamic (we agreed this was an awesome word and should be used to describe dance moves as well as cars, runners and.. well… aeroplanes).

'We applied our knowledge of angles in maths to our moves in throwing the paper aeroplanes. In order to get the best trajectory, we decided that we would place our arms at a 45 degree angle.' Class Teacher

‘We applied our knowledge of angles in maths to our moves in throwing the paper aeroplanes. In order to get the best trajectory, we decided that we would place our arms at a 45 degree angle.’ Class Teacher


‘I learned that air resistance is a force which works against gravity as it pushes objects up from below (keeping them in the air) and from the front (slowing them down).’ Year 5 pupil.

We were given an egg to take responsibility for. This linked to the dance lessons as in these, we have been working in partners and having to take responsibility for our friends’ safety as we move around the space and try out lifts and things. We all managed to take our eggs home for the night and bring them back safely the next day.

'We had to be eggstra careful with this eggsperiment.'

‘We had to be eggstra careful with this eggsperiment.’

'We all had an eggstemely good time coming up with some cracking egg yokes!' Year 5 pupil

‘We all had an eggstemely good time coming up with some cracking egg yokes!’ Year 5 pupil

We then designed and made parachutes for our eggs as we dropped them out of the window on the second floor to see if they would survive. If we’re honest, some did, many didn’t but we learned a lot about air resistance as a result and adapted our parachute designs for next time. We then incorporated the imagery of the eggs falling to their deaths into our dance routines. Some of them were so beautiful and realistic that everyone knew eggsactly (sorry) what the dances were about.





After... :-(

After… 🙁

'We found interesting ways of making the parachute shapes with our bodies.' Year 5 pupil

‘We found interesting ways of making the parachute shapes with our bodies.’ Year 5 pupil

'We changed our dynamics to show the egg dropping or floating down. Mine dropped.' Year 5 pupil

‘We changed our dynamics to show the egg dropping or floating down. Mine dropped.’ Year 5 pupil

The science has been just one small aspect of what we learned about during our dance lessons and our classroom activities after them. We have also obviously been learning all about dance and how it can help us physically, mentally and with our relationships with our friends, families and teachers. We have learned to be able to apply the knowledge we learn in dance across the curriculum.

Here are some of the things we have discovered, either about dance or about something else, so far.

‘I learned that I work better in a pair than by myself.’

‘I learned that when I jump up, I come back down because of gravity.’

‘Our centre of gravity helps us to balance and goes through our bodies.’

‘I learned that I can trust Myles and that he is my real friend.’

‘I learned that air resistance makes us fall slower and if I bend my knees when I land, that absorbs the impact.’

‘I learned that air resistance is all around us.’

‘The three laws of motion are: Inertia; Acceleration and Action-Reaction.’

‘I’ve learned that I work better in a 5 than in a 2 because we can share more ideas and get more work done.’

‘I learned that learning isn’t about feeling safe – you can feel unsafe or unbalanced or maybe both! I find it a little bit hard sometimes.’

‘I learned that you can balance on more than just your feet.’

‘I learned that if your vision is gone, it is harder to balance and to know where you are.’

‘I learned that my head weighs 9 pounds!’

 Year 5 at Reay Primary School would like to say a big, ‘THANK YOU!’ to Jo for all her help and inspiration so far on this wonderful project. We are really enjoying it and learning ever such a lot more as a result of your help and expertise.

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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.



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FAILURE – a performative installation

by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book

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.

Using –
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.

installation detail

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.

objects kept and catalogued.

textbooks in the toilet

me installing the installation

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.

failure performance Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 13.17.47

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

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.

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Composition of objects


Last Thursday, we were given a task to experiment with composing 5 objects we brought from home, as well as items Charlotte had brought in for us to use i.e. paper clips, post-it notes, pencils etc.

I didn’t really think about what I was composing but I knew I wanted to started from the corner and let the composition ‘grow’, after some tweaking and re-arranging I realised that this composition was a very strong reflection of me, my mind and my view on my life in recent times.

When everyone was finished composing we all looked at and discussed each others and found there was a sense of personality and an individual way of thinking and creating in everyone’s composition. Even though I found mine to be personal to me more than a reflection on how I work, I have realised that everything I create is always personal to me or something that is important to me. When creating a physical work, I like to work from the outside in, which shows from when I started working from the corners in this picture.

While looking at my composition, keywords were thrown out and there were a few that really stuck out to me: Frantic, placed, danger. I found it interesting that ‘placed’ was suggested between frantic and danger because even though I placed everything carefully down so that nothing would fall or move, I found the only objects to be purposely placed were the post-it notes and hand gel. As you can see, they are separated from everything and not connected to anything, for me this was a representation of myself. A feeling of vulnerability but also safety as it is separated from everything but cannot be harmed. The charger and lead, water bottle, and vaseline were a representation of my life, symbols for things that keep me alive, things I rely on, (the charger and lead – to stay connected and attached to people, the water bottle – health, vaseline – cleanliness, looking after myself), the paper clips being attached to the lead and clip is a representation that these are things I never want to let go of or lose. The pencils are the major thoughts and situations that invade my mind, even the green folder attachments represent the loose ends that are in the back of my mind but are still clear to me.

It’s honestly really scary to me how much the composition told me about myself because during the creative process, it was all subconscious and once I stopped and had a really good look at what I had been doing, it was only then I saw how much it related back to me. This task felt was very therapeutic and has actually helped me understand myself better surprisingly.

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Le Patin Libre: Vertical 
At Somerset House 14th January 2016
Maisie Sadgrove

On Thursday evening we made our way to Somerset House to watch a performance of contemporary ice skating. This was the extent of my prior knowledge. The ice rink was a smooth glossy platform lit by purples and blues surrounded by the royal like architecture of Somerset House. The five dancers (four men and one woman) entered their clear canvas in casual clothing, tones of yellow, grey and white. As they stand in stillness the outside air blows their shirts in the wind.

As the piece began it was hard to not notice the marks being made upon the ice by the blades of their shoes. Some were clear and direct, some at an angle churning up the ice like piles of dust. The ice became a conscious element of the piece evolving with the movement being performed upon it. By chance as the wind blew throughout the piece the excess fragments of ice blew swept across the floor which created a beautiful layer to the setting. The dancers, unlike your usual performance on ground, could weave seamlessly in and out of formations standing like statues. The gliding was effortless and almost hypnotising. At times the expeditious spinning and gravity defying jumps were terrifying as an audience member but they showed great skill and ability throughout the whole piece.

A clear humanity was emitted from the dancers through their focus. They gave a sense of individuality with alternating solos and differentiating qualities. Despite this they came together harmoniously in times of unison. Their connection between one another allowed them to speed up and slow down without a second glance. The fusion of contemporary and skating was structured seamlessly showing no division. Whilst watching the dancers I was curious what came first, the contemporary or the ice skating, because both were executed so well.

The connection with the audience really eradicated the fourth wall usually holding boundary between front facing audiences and performance. There was personality and playfulness and it was clear the dancers enjoyed the performance just as much as their audience.

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From Ben Duke’s workshop

Last Thursday, Next Choreography had a poetry workshop with Ben Duke, based on his latest work, “Paradise Lost” performance.
I’d like to share the 3 poems I wrote from the tasks:

‘The long neck behaviour
The Blues opportunity
To challenge bravery.’

‘The unwanted commitments
The innocence beneath
her naive behaviour.
The hierarchy she must follow,
her endeavour.
The tradition,
the youth that never lived.
The irresponsibility
the patterns never stopped.
The known yet not assumed, Guilt
in all the conventions.’

‘There is an odd smell,
Like an amputation or a nightmare
keen into self-resignation.
I should have ran from it
instead of drowning myself into this,
this pretended protection.
And they will keep preaching
“They love me”
And they will keep trying
Trying to drag me,
drag me to their praying circle
with no logical key.’

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Instructions Task

Last week we worked on the instructions I prepared. I wanted the participants to feel free, to allow themselves to feel the space and time, and also encourage them to increase their body awareness. I divided the score in 2 sections: the first part was more focused on each individual while the second was centred on the group.

In my perspective I felt the dancers translated quite literally the instructions into movement and it made me think that more than interpreting the instructions, they reacted to them – which I also found really curious and interesting.

I found some of their choices really compelling about the setting: the use of the benches in different positions and the spoken words.

After observing their response a number of times I realised that the sense of group and belonging needed to be emphasised so I decided to adapt a few things: changing some of the dancers’ positions in space so they could finish together as a whole instead of separated in the room by the end of the piece.

I feel really grateful for having had the opportunity to work on my set of instructions. It helped me considerably to develop my choreographic understanding and it made me more conscious about editing processes.

You can find the videos here:

Clip 1 – first version from the dancers

Clip 2 – second version after editing

Please find below the pictures of the original score of instructions.

Instructions 1
Instructions 2



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