In week 2 of the CID project we were led by the inimitable Bim Malcomson. She led us to explore space, sound and connections, through the vehicle of the ballet framework including kinaesthetic awareness, reaching towards and mapping points in space and extension of the spine. In group discussion we shared our experiences together with the following topics and featured themes arising.
Structure versus freedom – the constant question on how we balance security versus creative individuality; collectivity versus intimacy; and what value we place on these areas of exploration. The group were keen to share their thoughts on this theme, with some greatly appreciating the structure of the ballet framework and the technical knowledge shared, feeling the workshop offered a great sense of freedom from within a clear structure. Clarity is certainly valued in the group, and helps the creative exploration feel safe. There was also a discussion about the ballet frame as an architectural structure. The dancers had advanced insights and connections to the architecture of the body as a sculptural structure.
Narrative and abstract movement – a theme that will recur throughout the CID project. The dialogue we had centered around ownership of movement and the difference between movement embodied from within, versus movement expressing and outer emotion, theme or narrative. Leading from this we discussed gestural verses abstract movement and how important it is to delve more deeply into movement exploration going beyond a mimetic approach.
Improvising – the dancers described this as a way to ‘explore more’; working out their own way through things and this leading to a sense of great creativity and playfulness. This is a core theme of the CID project. For dancers with Parkinson’s to be afforded the space and time to explore their own ways of moving, I suggest, will enable a greater understanding of the body and self efficacy – an awareness of what they CAN do. The playful approach to creative exploration means the experience of improvisation is less exposing and more an opportunity to achieve and celebrate the individuality of each dancer.
Parkinson’s, visibility and celebration – this project challenges us to make visible the brilliant contributions that people with Parkinson’s have and are making to the dance field. This topic was of great significance this week as we discussed the way creative dance gives people with Parkinson’s an opportunity to work within their symptoms to offer interesting movement content. One member of the group discussed the way he shuffled forward (shortened gait), pushing a chair as a sort of walking frame (the task was to find an interesting way to move the chair from one place to the next). The participants agreed that in this context disability takes on a positive and that they were able to take a new journey through dance with no limitations on what they could offer. This takes us more deeply into the theme of achievement which came up in last weeks’ conversations. It was referred to as a celebration of Parkinson’s. Rather than feeling they were having to hide, the dancers were not embarrassed of their condition and felt free to express themselves visibly. Being visible and being accepted, it was agreed, are of primary importance.
Safe space – referring to the environment of the dance workshops, the safe space was not only described in the physical space but also in the emotional space created in the mind. Firstly, and directly drawing on the theme of empathy from last weeks’ conversations, the fact that the space is FOR people with Parkinson’s but not ABOUT Parkinson’s is vital for the escapism that the dancers descrie. They shared the feeling of being removed from the day to day, and then ‘rejoining the real world’ when the workshop is over, but with a lasting sense of achievement – something changes when dancing. In relation to this, we discussed the mentality of ‘oh dear’ or ‘poor you’. The dancers agreed they did not enjoy being made to feel there is something wrong, and they would rather be pushed forward physically and artistically. In this space they felt free to push themselves due to the safe, empathic and non-judgemental space.
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.
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…
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.
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!