meet Celia (6.1)

Meet Celia. She’s a performance maker and musician. She’s joining me on this journey as we create the caretakers. The above are some highlights from our first rehearsal together. I want to leave it to speak on its own.

Her voices calls me home.

running into myself (4.1)

As I grow a work that’s entirely improvised, I’m coming up against the biggest challenge; myself, and my tendency towards comfort. I am not, as a person, a big risk taker. I’m also a Taurus – take or leave that, depending on your opinion of astrology.

I find myself in creative loops when improvising, often. Last week was a real moment of being stuck in them, which I think was due to being ill, and not feeling very creative. But it’s difficult to push back the pressure you put on yourself to keep moving when nothing comes. It frightens me, the idea of inviting people to see me perform and then not having any movement to share; losing all instinct, losing any impetus. Losing losing losing.

How do we avoid creative loops when improvising? How do we not allow our minds to run off and our bodies to run back? How can I always be finding something new, and therefore sharing something exciting or interesting or feeling-full, with the audience who watches me?

With the caretakers, it’s becoming apparent this is formed by giving myself an incredibly rigid structure, and very specific tasks. These can be broken, always, but they are my starting point, and with them comes a set of emotions, memories or ideas that drive that particular moment in the work. I’ll share more on this another time.

I think it’s also about accepting stillness as moving. I talk a lot when I facilitate as breathing as a movement – as a way of coalescing with your surroundings, and in turn becoming part of the earth. One living breathing organism. For some reason I don’t apply this as one of my own rules.

I want to work on not moving for the entertainment of others. I want to move with so much honesty it’s just like having a conversation. We understand one another, completely, fully, deeply. I want this to be my most important rule.

playtime (week 3)

Well it’s been a hot minute.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Of modest heartbreak, of making, of applications and emails and meetings and dancing. I’m so glad it’s been made up of so much dancing.

the caretakers is growing in full force, slowly, like a glacier shuddering in its movement along the mountainside. Some things are abundantly clear, and some are hiding on my periphery, edging a little closer each day.

I have moved away from it being choreographed. It is a work of dance built in the moment. I know the tasks and the score but not what my body will do with it, in the then and now.

I am moving between memory, fiction and reality. My moving and talking and feeling intersects time in various places and ways, moving into my childhood, into the now, into the distant past and the uncertain future. It’s about care, it’s about how I care, and how we all care.

I’ve been told I need to look more explicitly at the politics of what I’m dealing with, and express it in a way that is attune to the emotional potency of it. I feel lost in this. I feel like the politics of it is so complicated and I don’t have the capacity to deal with that too.

We have a date. March 9th, at Platform in Southwark. It’ll definitely be a work in progress.

playtime (week 1) 2

I have written in this context in several years now. I feel I’ve lost the flow a little. I hope you can bear with me, through my words. Hopefully we’ll find some way of talking thats more easygoing. Or not, that’s okay too.

My first studio day left me with such an awareness of the camera, of my slightly sluggish body after several weeks of not dancing, or rather not knowing through dancing. It’s a muscle, truly, it needs working. So I came back to the studio with a determination to detoxify my thinking and awareness. I am at the mercy of the internet, as are my whole generation. I had not realised until this week how incessantly I feel the need to share, to produce content, whatever that means. It’s frustrating, and it makes me think a lot about what kind of makers we’ll be, when we’re a little older. There’s no answer to that other than patience.

I want to draw attention to one image I kept coming back to during this session. It’s that of a dam; more specifically, the dams my siblings and I used to build down the glen at my Grandparent’s home. We’d pull rocks from the sides of the burn and out of the water, building them up to change the flow of the current, or stop it altogether. As I move through the memory of this place memories bind themselves to the feeling, to how myself and others relate to it. To me the dam is the blockade so many people are putting up because they think it’s emotional preservation, but truly we need to let it down. I think about Audree’s words here; we need to melt.

I move through a dam of my own here, and I wondered, could there be a dam with me as I perform, that breaks apart? I don’t imagine myself alone when I perform this; there’s other elements. Maybe a dam of stones is one of them.

playtime (week 1) 1

It’s funny to now come back to this, over a week later. The intensity of it is still there, but there’s also a lot of pain in my soul now. I want to go back to that intensity, and discuss that, rather than the things that have come to taint my memory of it. It’s funny isn’t it? How we hold memories as solid beings but they’re total fluid, shifting with time and age.

The above is several moments from my first day in the rehearsal room. My making has a loose structure; playtime, formation and finesse. Playtime is the heart of my forthcoming work; it’s where I can work through ideas and questions, and most importantly, make mistakes. As an improviser failure is core to my dancing; without it I am a feelingless bag of bones shifting my weight around the space.

So it’s play; it’s silly, it sometimes feels directionless. I implement rules for guidance, but like any good playtime, I break them a lot. Here I posed myself several impossible questions, or tasks, to move through, against and beyond. This as a process is something I’ve adopted from Deborah Hay, whose work propels itself from the same starting point. She said, of Nora’s Where Home Is:

‘I am interested in choreography that does not look like anything and is performed by exceptionally astute and experienced dancers.
Their behavior disorienting, comfortingly spare, right in silence. Gone the predator, no do-gooders around, everything moves, inextricably bound.’ –
(Deborah Hay, 2018)

This thinking draws me out of myself. I still face my own limitations: I am uneasy moving in silence; I sometimes find myself attempting things my body knows no how to execute; my mind wanders, a lot. I have no solutions for them yet, only a desire to overcome them.

There was one task and one question I worked through during the above session. The first is draw a map to something you’ve lost. The impossibility of it draws me out of my body towards my own words. I didn’t find it, but now, a week later, I’ve actually lost something, I wonder how this might be different.

The question rambles on: what is the force of a map, if the map is made by the moving body, and those movements are at a tension between their birth and vanishment? I like the layers of it. I like force, as a giver, a pusher, a doer in the space.

There are several images from the above I might return to, but one that leans into pedestrian movement is the action of skimming stones. You’ll see it, in there somewhere. It struck me, as my body began to curl and throw an invisible stone into an invisible body of water. The repetition, exhaustion, over and over, definition growing and growing. I like this idea that the marks of a skimmed stone are the memories of it, impressed into the water momentarily, before being carried away into the heart of the lake.

My final thought for today comes back to Where Home Is. This work really strikes me in its collision between abstract movement and authentic feeling. One of my fears for the work I am making is a fear that if the map is just for me, why share it with an audience? I don’t have an answer, but I am slightly consumed by a heightened awareness of how to make it emotionally accessible. I feel I must come back to myself, to the why, to the feeling. That’s what the moving does, so I’ll likely keep doing that.

how to make a map

I have done SO MUCH this week. I’m exhausted. I’m excited. I’m bursting to the seams with questions.

I want first to introduce my current project. It feels weird to call it current, because it’s also sat alongside everything I’ve done in the last year or so. It’s current, but it’s always been there.

Because of the current structure I exist within, there’s two sides to it; a performance work and a wider research question. They feed into each other within my mind and body, by no means separate, but rather two different articulations of the same thinking. The performance work is a piece in which I wish to build a map with my moving body, exploring a place of personal significance that I might soon no longer have access to. It’s about grief, land, family ties and custodianship, I think. It’s forged through the inherent relationships between maps, memory and body. These things weave all of what follows together.

My question, at this point, is how can the body be a cartographic tool? It sounds a bit odd, to make a map with the body, but it’s actually how all maps have ever been made. There’s this quote from a lecture dancer Alexandra Harrison gave on Mapping as Choreography:

“Maps of the landscape that depend upon x/y coordinates position the body in space. Once located the body is oriented in its facing according to north/south directionality. As Manning argues to read a Cartesian map is to ask a “pre-formed body-concept to conform” to the gridding (2007, p. 143). There is an authority in this articulation of locality and as where one stands becomes clear so too does where, and how, one moves. Maps choreograph. They prescribe movement through space; articulating edges, proximity, distance and features, charting routes and describing terrain. This score of finite combinations designates somatic possibilities and a bordered imagination.”

What this doesn’t convey is the opposite – how the body is the constructer of the map. And I don’t just mean in a draw-it-on-a-bit-of-paper way, I mean more our body is how we experience the world, and if a map is a record of the world, then a map is entirely at the mercy of the body.

This tension is feeding my practical explorations, these actualising as improvisation sessions. Through research I have found and devised a variety of tasks, impossible questions and so forth. I move amongst them, sometimes pulling away and other times drawing near. There’ll be more on this later.

This is kinda week one of a seemingly infinite project. There’s deadlines but they’re not as important as some believe them to be. This might take a month, or three, or five years. But I’m so happy to be here.

beginnings that are continuations

I handed in my dissertation on Monday. I also consigned myself to undertaking a new way of recording process. This is it.

It feels important to spend some time thinking about where I’ve been and how I came to be here. I’m a dancer, writer, researcher, hill walker and performance maker. I don’t really know if my work counts as live art or dance or theatre – and I don’t really mind either.

My work draws together seemingly unrelated inquiries and ideas. My wider thinking is always held amongst landscapes; natural, uninhibited, wild. I believe our bodies are interwoven with the surrounding world, and continuously confront this through movement, text and thinking.

I have a continual interest in textual and embodied languages and the process of translation between them. My work is also deeply embedded in mythologies and folklore, these often being a starting point.

I am here now, coming towards the end of a particular part of my life. As I come to confront the disappearance of one structure, I wish to dedicate time and consideration to building my own ideas and actions that might be called an artistic practice. The ‘thinking’ and ‘researching’ that informs my work brings me so much joy, but for some reason I’ve always positioned it as ‘out of sight’. In implementing a journal within my portfolio I want to make space to reflect on what I find and come to know, and how I eventually make work. This has already been core to who I am, but I need it to exist outside of my mind now.

So hello! Here goes nothing.