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.

Reflections on meaningful collaboration

Jaka Skapin (Musical Director for the CID Project) reflects on the first session of the project

by Jaka Skapin

Jaka Skapin (Musical Director for the CID Project) reflects on the first session of the project

Reaching Into The Dance Circle 

As a musical accompanist, it often feels that what I’m doing and providing is as an enabler – I should be as supportive and flexible as possible. Often from behind a piano this creates a one way stream of energy that can sometimes feel separative, no matter how joyous the music and the present moment are. Even from a physical perspective, the musician is usually on the outside line of the dance circle, which might also mean that she/he is on the outside line of the action / focus / community 

This might sound negative but is is definitely something I’ve been thinking about after our first session, and for all the good reasons! I think it’s great to explore the hidden edges of community dance and music work in an interdisciplinary setting and have the opportunity to ask questions that usually would not have been asked. In this way, we can truly understand the needs and relationship between all the collaborators that met, meet and will be meeting on the studio floor. 

When thinking about inclusivity of feeling and physical involvement between the dance and the music, the first thing that comes to mind is set-up and intention. In this particular case we have the pleasure of working in a spacious studio which allowed us to position the three musicians (drums, vocals, guitar – “band”) closer to the centre of the space on an imagined stage while the dancers filled the area that would usually be reserved for the audience. This created a semi-performance setting and really blended the distinction between the sessions’s presentation and class nature. 

Secondly, the project’s main creative tool is freedom of individuality versus collective group work – unison and community against individual improvisation. The improvisation allows the music to fully sprout from the moment and more directly affect, support and work with the group. From showcasing participant’s names to narrating the actions and possible intentions, it felt like the sound was fully merging with the flow of the workshop and managed to provide even more support and drive than usual. The crispness and freshness of the sung words as well as the harmonic and rhythmical underpinning served as the perfect bed for exploration that I have never seen it before.

Wider, deeper and braver, well done everyone!