Themes arising – week 2

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.

CID Project week 2 workshop insight

Week 2 of the CID Project at Poplar Union introduced the choreographic style of Bim Malcomson and conversation that followed led by Danielle Teale.

What I found interesting, was when I was thinking about the session happening in chairs, I was a bit unnerved by the idea…  But then quickly I saw it as a way to play… ‘what can we do with the chair! Where to put it in space and how are we moving it?’ The session was adapted to be focused on the chair, in a playful way whilst also incorporating the geometry of ballet, lines in space and finding our centre. As usual, the restrictions or ‘structure’ in a sense create more opportunity to explore. I felt we worked from deeply within ourselves and also in a complete comedic fashion. 

Bim Malcomson

Bim’s workshop explored the structure, geometry and principles of ballet with an approach that brought playfulness and connection between the dancers, as well as increasing the expectation and bringing a sense of the performative to the workshop.

To begin we tuned into our proprioceptive awareness and connection to our own bodies, then with partners, sharing space and touch. Bim explained the notion of reaching towards defined points in space and the geometry of ballet lines which we explored in an improvisation task. From defined points and mapping, we turned inward to the feeling of expanding and contracting, with a focus on the principle of en dehors and en dedans (open and closed).

One of the things that really underpins my practice is really accepting people for who they are and where they are at. The focus of the group was sharp all the way through and the work produced was really fantastic. It had enormous clarity while simultaneously being absolutely hilarious.

Bim Malcomson

The workshop evolved to combine sense of mapping space and the concept of port de bras. The dancers traced lines between points and added sound in order to demonstrate the dynamics of the movement. Working alongside a partner, we created duets which involved sound, port de bras and moving in space – taking the chairs with us. The effect being a collection of deeply intimate as well incredibly humorous duets. The dancers were able to see the way their performance sharing may evolve.