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…

CID Project week 1 workshop insight

Week 1 of the CID Project at Poplar Union started with an introduction workshop and conversations led by Danielle Teale.

This project is a very special experimental opportunity – I am really interested in finding the intersection between structure and freedom, improvisation and direction, collectity and intimacy. All this inspired by my work with people with Parkinson’s over the years, and what I have heard, seen and learned from the dancers as we’ve explored creatively and over conversation together.

Danielle Teale

The workshop took an improvisatory approach to the key themes of sculpture, play, connection, trust and support. In particular, aiming for dancers to build bonds with one another and feel a sense of achievement in a short space of time.

This project brings together professional artists (dance, music and visual arts) and dancers with Parkinson’s, to collaborate together as equals. The first day of the project was therefore primarily to enable these contributors to bond together and find a common ground in their enjoyment and interest in the project, its themes, and dancing as a whole. Working alongside, rather than in a hierarchic way in a project of this kind requires active listening on both sides, clarity in and an understanding of roles in order that everyone is exploring and contributing together, without it feeling that there are any uncomfortable power dynamics at play. I hope the end result will be an organically created performance in which all dancers work together and no distinction is made between leader or follower, professional or non professional. I believe that as professional community artists we learn just as much from the dancers we work with than they from us. So what is shared will be truly equal if the contributing artists are entering into this process expecting to learn, to be moved, and to be challenged by the dancers with Parkinson’s…

Danielle Teale

Movement in the workshop included lead and follow partner tasks, sculpture building as a collective and in quartets / trios, physical exploration of opposites in dynamic and energy, taking up space, challenging our use of spaces in between bodies. Captured by one of our collaborating artists Sara Hibbert, whose work inspired by the dance process will be shown in an exhibition at Poplar Union in July.

Some of the main features of my recent work have been conversation and collaboration – opening peoples eyes to the possibilities of creative movement with dancers with Parkinson’s, and how much we can learn when we have a human dialogue and interaction with our dancers, asking their opinions and hearing their stories. I want to blur the boundaries of lead and follow, and consider what is possible when the enquiries come directly from the dancers experience as a whole person, not how we can tailor dance only to meet one facet of their identity as people with Parkinson’s. If we open our eyes to the whole story of individual people we move with, we can be moved by their contributions and taken to much more exciting creative possibilities than we are able to create on our own.

Danielle Teale

The workshop was followed by a lunch and sharing of conversation, thoughts and experiences over food – the best place to share is at the table!

Looking back – Collective Field 2017

In 2017, an interest in the contrasting collective and intimate spaces of dance, provoked by ongoing work with dancers with Parkinson’s, led dance artist Danielle Teale to develop the practice as research project, Explorations in Collectivity & Intimacy.

In 2017, an interest in the contrasting collective and intimate spaces of dance, provoked by ongoing work with dancers with Parkinson’s, led dance artist Danielle Teale to develop the practice as research project, Explorations in Collectivity & Intimacy. The project began as a process led exploration that considers the tools we use to develop dance with people with Parkinson’s and how we can value the shared energy of the collective, equally with the individual contributions of intimate movement exploration. The relationships between sound and body, rhythm and space, and the role of shared movement in relation to personal, physical, and perceptual experience have all been considered.

Connecting through a shared interest in these themes with visual artist Sara Hibbert, the first phase of the exploratory process was captured in an installation film that enables news perspectives on movement through the lens of the camera. The work-in-progress ‘Collective Field’ (2017), was exhibited at the RCA Dyson Gallery as part of a work in progress show by Altai Collective in 2017. 

Collective Field from Sara Hibbert on Vimeo.

This blog became a space for sharing research and thinking around the themes as the practice and research evolved. Looking back on older posts you will see the line of consideration through empathy, embodied thinking, the Neuroscience of mirroring, vicarious experience and many other areas…

As the work evolves into the CID project this summer please stay connected with our research and enquiries by following the blog