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As we come to the close…

As the CID Project reaches its conclusion this coming Saturday 20 July, Danielle Teale reflects on the ambition of the project, what has been achieved and how we aspire to make an impact artistically, creatively and personally

This project – Collective IDentity, Creative Individuality, Complete Inspiration! – has all been inspired by and will continue to draw from the lives and experiences of those people with Parkinson’s that I have the pleasure to dance with.

A number of years ago I set out to delve into the concept of identity and how this impacts our way of being, moving, thinking, talking about ourselves, talking to each other when affected by a life change such as Parkinson’s. That’s what I observe in my brilliant dancer collaborators – a shift in focus and a determination to evolve alongside a new identity – a life change unlike any other which changes movement expectations, reduces sphere of influence, separates from everyday life and forces the dancers to unpick habits without warning.

I am Victor, I live in Poplar, I have Parkinson’s

Three simple descriptions of self, but one features the P-word, and has become such a fundamental part of existence that it is worthy of being listed in the ‘three ways of describing who you are’ – a question asked at the beginning of the project…

In the last two months however, we have not talked about Parkinson’s. We have danced; we have seen ourselves in the frame of artists work; we have been the feature subjects of portraits; curated music; choreographed; written poetry; learned a new language of the body; discussed beauty; had our opinions heard; had our dances observed; been applauded, acknowledged and celebrated; moved people to tears, exhaustion and hysterics! We have reached the widest potential for human expression and we’ve enjoyed every second of it! This project has not just been an opportunity to dance each week, to free ourselves from physical restriction and rigidity; far more than that, it has been a safe space for artistic experimentation, a chance to be the subject of art, to inspire art, and to be an artist in our own right.

Dance becomes
Song becomes
Ink flows into
Sound painting…

Singer

Working with the brilliant photographer Sara Hibbert in 2017, I was inspired to explore further how the lens of another can influence and shape our perspectives on ourselves. I wanted the dancers I work with to see themselves framed by an artists gaze; to see how this would impact their self perception and identity as a person with Parkinson’s, whilst also making visible the wonderful artistic contributions that they make weekly in my workshops and classes. Community dance can so often by invisible; contained within the intimate spaces of hospitals, care homes, schools, community centres, not always shared or acknowledged for the beauty of the intimate act of dancing together. Rightly so at times, when dancers are vulnerable and could feel exposed in front of an audience – it is the process and experience that is most important, not the performance. However in this project, the process has stood alone as a fundamentally moving and affecting experience in its own right, not detracted from in any way by the fact that we have decided to share live dance performance at the end of the process.

The fact that we are working towards a final sharing event which perhaps includes some kind of performance means that, if the telling is difficult, we can show what we mean.

Dancer

The CID Exhibition of artwork stands alone as a sharing of our process. There was never an expectation or promise that the sharing would include live dance. Yet the anticipation of this possibility, coupled with the freedom, determination and abandon, with which the dancers have embraced this experience means it feels it would almost be wrong to deny them a chance to share physically what they have achieved.

The sharing event on 20 July will place the performers in amongst the art work. The piece is set up in this way as I often struggle with the framing of performance on stage, lifted up away from the audience like it’s untouchable. I wanted the dancers to feel seen, and part of the fabric of the space; an extension of the artwork from paper into human form. Like in an art gallery, the dancers will be the subject of the audiences gaze in a different way; more visceral and human; without expectation of perfection. This for me feels most fitting to the project as a whole, which has celebrated individuality, quirkiness, personality and eccentricity; as well as supported vulnerability and demanded wholeheartedness from every contributor. A demand that has been absolutely met from the outset.

I am delighted to present the first performance of the Dancing with Parkinson’s Company, and even more delighted that this process has been so moving and inspiring for all involved. It will take a long time to process the sheer volume of outcomes around how this project has made us think, feel, connect and shift our self perception and identity as a collective and as individuals. More to come on this soon…

Being human

Arriving as ourselves
Gathering to create
Knowing that we don’t know
Trusting the process
Trusting each other
Without expectation

Opening
Trying movement
Stepping into this present
Sound space
Finding our way 
Together

Bodies ripple
Travelling
Crossing space
Reflected in ink 
All flowing with Music of Being
Alive

Sound drips
Pours through limbs, through voices
Tones form new colours
Dance becomes
Song becomes 
Ink flows into
Sound painting

Singing with gestures
Dancing with bodies
Unmediated presence
Profound beauty

Sharing space
Breathing together
Moving as a whole
Creating
Sharing food
Witnessing 
Everyday grace
A nourishing way of Being human

Marcia Willis, singer

CID Project week 6 workshop insight

One of the original collaborative relationships that initiated the CID Project was that between Artistic Director Danielle Teale and Music Director Jaka Skapin. From the outset this was to be an immersive experience bringing dance and music equally into the forefront of improvisation and creative exploration.

Featuring vocal artists:
Akeim Buck
Briony Green
Jaka Skapin
Marcia Willis
Uran Apak
Veronica Royet

As we rehearsed our work for the CID Project sharing this week, 5 singers under the direction of Jaka Skapin created sound improvisations, like a duet moving with us through the space, supporting us in a circle and following the energy of the movement we created. We were at once supported by and inspired by the sound they created, unsure as to which came first the movement or the music. This total collaboration brought about a trust, a dialogue, and also a tangible comfort, holding the space for our movement to be cushioned and embraced.

A beautiful place, beautiful people, one feels welcome, safe, looked at with kindness and respect.

TRUST is strong and BONDS are visible, touchable… so it’s easy to sing… easy to breathe and let the sounds of the intentions and movement of the dancers come out… Breathing, together… Listening beyond ears… Watching beyond eyes… Reaching one another equally in music and dance – profoundly human…

Veronica Royet, Singer

For our project sharing on 20 July, Jaka and I knew we wanted the work to be both physically and aurally original, and for the two to emerge together during the project. In week 6, the vocal accompaniment was shaped by the dancers who directed the singers in a merging of sound and movement which was all recorded live. From operatic voice, to poetry, to a complete cacophony of bizarre sounds, each group has curated vocal accompaniment for their choreography which will be shared both live and recorded at the exhibition.

Not only was the workshop this week instrumental in supporting the dancers vision for their performance, but also for the visual artists to cement their concepts for what would be offered in the final exhibition of work…

Within the dance space there is a strong sense of emotive and physical support (the term ‘safe-space’ was brought up in several discussions, but the feeling often goes much deeper than this term conveys) – both between the dancers towards each other, as well as to themselves individually. This resonated particularly during week 6, when several vocal improvisers joined the group. Their voices felt almost like a physical cushioning, that held the space for the dancers to explore their evolving ideas, and reflected movement back to them. Movement seemed to become about an awareness of individual and collective presence, of the gaps between each other, of holding an invisible expanse of trust. This is what led me, whilst reviewing the thousands of images I’d taken throughout the process, to focus on these spaces between. 

Sara Hibbert, CID Project artist

The results of these collaborations and the rich work that has unfolded will be shared on 20 July at our sharing and exhibition at Poplar Union. Please visit the website for more information and join us there!

CID Project week 4 workshop insight

In week 4 of the CID project, our last guest workshop leader Kimberley Harvey joined the company to share practices from her work ‘Inky Matter’…

Kimberley introduced her work ‘Inky Matter’ as a performance installation using text, ink and the process of letter writing as inspiration. Throughout the workshop we explored tactile and sensory approaches to movement with freedom of interpretation and adaptation at the core of the investigation.


The workshop opened with an improvisation which evolved from internal to external awareness – connecting to internal sense of self and articulation of the body by imagining a drop of ink traveling around the body or inside the body gave great attention to the way we initiate movement from an internal place. Awareness of the space and surfaces of the environment around us challenged our placement of weight. Considering the way our body imprinted on the environment or how it might leave a mark led us to consider how our movement created invisible sculptures as it moved, as well as promoting a sense of openness as we imagined leaving full body imprints around us as we moved.


Our primary exploration came from working sculpturally with bodies and paper, playing lead and follow, pass the parcel, getting tied up and unravelling again as we passed a large length of paper around our groups. The paper acted as a vehicle for weaving, ducking, throwing, winding, twisting, moulding, wrapping around each other as the groups invented creative ways to move together. Connecting us together and at once separating us – anarchy descended as group members split away, playing games and transforming the dance space into a paper playground.

I was struck in this weeks exploration by the natural and childlike playfulness that the group experienced when making. The simple intermediary of a prop with a very specific artistic and sculptural approach, opened up a wide playground of possibility for the dancers, much like playing with the chairs in Bim Malcomson’s workshop on week 2. This felt like the most free the dancers have been, despite the prop itself meaning that there was more to think about in the execution of movement. We saw jumping, crawling, diving, running away, snatching and rolling as the dancers played and laughed, a lot! I was reminded of the notion of the exuberant animal, introduced to me by collaborative partner Ben Beare of National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery:

exuberance and its close partners passion and joy are consistently underrated in mainstream studies of physical fitness, health and performance…

We now know more about lactic acid concentrations than we do about joy…more about body mass index than we do about passion…more about  treadmill performance than we do about enthusiasm…then we wonder why people find exercise so dull and unattractive

Frank Forencich https://www.exuberantanimal.com/blog

Frank Forencich suggests that exuberance comes from play and that as adults we need to tap into childlike exuberance in order to find a healthy and happy existence. Yet play and free, abandon in movement are underrated and often unattainable in older adulthood. Not only did Kimberley’s workshop encourage a truly free and flowing exuberance to unfold, there was also a childlike quality to our free mark making as we were encouraged to respond to what we were seeing by making inky marks on paper in front of us. When in adulthood do we get this chance to make our mark freely and without judgement on paper?

The session summed up beautifully in this quote from a company dancer:

Can I just say how moving (literally and emotionally) Wednesday’s session was. The exercise with paper seemed to allow us to combine together as a group and yet allow us to be individual at the same time. What a metaphor for society as a whole. 

Dancer, CID Project

1001 reasons to dance in Poplar

Three (of a thousand and one) reasons to be happy dancing in Poplar

by Leslie Mapp

1. There’s no need to apologise…

For me, life with Parkinson’s has led to a lot of apologising: I’m sorry, I’m slow … I say, as I hold people up in queues or dodder into their way in the street. I’m sorry, I lose my words… I say, as the link between my thoughts and speech fractures, leaving me unable to sustain conversation; maybe to speak unexpected words at random. I’m sorry… I say, as I stare blankly at a friend trying to evoke an emotional response. In Poplar though, on the CID dance project, there’s no need to apologise. It’s a peer group, our condition is background. With Parkinson’s pushed to one side, we can rise above the condition, counter the despair.

2. It’s the real thing…

As someone remarked, in Poplar we’re dancers first and people with Parkinson’s second. Not everyone here has the condition, but if you are here, you’re either a professional in dance or a ‘professional’ in Parkinson’s – patient or carer. It means the classes are led to high standards, accompanied by genius live music, and we can model ourselves on the best techniques as we learn our personal means of expression. Of course, there are sympathetic allowances made for our disabilities, but not as many as you might think. We are still expected to participate and to express as much as we are able. It’s hard work but it’s therapeutic – it’s no accident that dancers are so physically fit, so graceful and controlled. I may be a pale shadow of them, but at least I’m able to be a shadow. I walk better afterwards, and feel uplifted. It’s a practical art.

3. It adds dimensions…

Dance has made me appreciate three dimensions. Before this, I lived essentially in two – I would write, I might paint, I took photographs, I watched movies. With dance, I’ve discovered a front and a back as well as a side to side. And this dimension has a new language. I don’t just walk across the floor, I ‘travel’. And it’s not just a floor, it’s a ‘kinaesthetic space’ in which to tell stories. Like any art though, it’s essentially an expression of something beyond the reach of words, which makes it especially important as abilities with words decline. Poplar has also added a community – mixed in age, origin and gender. I’m meeting people I would never otherwise have encountered, and getting suprisingly close to them. Who knew how different other people’s breakfasts could be; or that we could invent a dance about making them! As a characteristically solitary person with an isolating disease, this makes an invaluable contribution to my well-being. In Poplar, see me smile.

CID Project week 3 workshop insight

This workshop insight contributed by Sally Varrall, supporting artist on the CID project, offers thoughts on visibility within the frame of seeing & being seen, in the week 3 CID workshop led by Casson & Friends.

In the exploratory phase of the workshop we were invited to work with a partner, with one dancer beginning the spatial journey of an imaginary thread, making clear the end of the journey enabling their partner to continue.  This also became a group improvisation with three dancers initiating a thread weaving a journey, finding stillness, until the thread was temporarily accompanied by a different dancer. The exploratory nature of these improvisations brought heightened awareness to the moment of connection (for me) with another dancer.

In that moment I am seeing and looking with different eyes, through an inquisitive lens – and delight in those unexpected shared moments where decisions are made in an instant that knowingly resonate, and are seen in that intimate moment between the two dancers. It seems the dance allows for a momentary suspension of time. I do not know if in that moment anyone else sees what occurred. The magic is in the shared moment of feeling visible.

Sally Varrell

In the performative phase of the workshop we were invited to share the dances we made (our morning breakfasts) in a fairly formal format (in front of black drapes), set up to allow for the dance to be filmed and the dancers to be visibly captured on camera – capturing our dancing identities.

In this experience I became more consciously aware of being seen; of our dancing being seen. This sense of being watched brings more attention to my physical presence in the space and I become particularly vigilant of my relationship with the person I am dancing with – how close our hands come together and whether our fingers overlap as we are physically tracing the thin slices of sourdough bread my dancing partner ate for breakfast. I was consciously aware of the circular turning motion as we wrapped our arms around ourselves, and rotated at different speeds (peeling the oranges of the marmalade). My internal eyes were on my partner; my external eyes sensed us being seen. Unbelievably it was these moments that were captured on camera!

Sally Varrall

Discussing the essence of identity, Fraleigh (in Carter, 1998) refers to the process of looking at dance reveals its identity – its individuality. This has resonance with the focus of this project on Collective Identity, and more specifically suggests the dance we made provides a consensual, collective experience within which the dancers show their distinctive individuality.