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. 

Visibility

One of the values underpinning the CID project is bringing visibility to people with Parkinson’s and their contribution to the dance community. This has been a featured topic in our discussion groups at the end of each weekly workshop.

I found it difficult to talk about the project to others afterwards, difficult to convey how special it felt. So (as we discussed in the feedback session) visibility feels especially important. Many of us know what it feels like to be embarrassed by the effects of Parkinson’s and the feeling that we have to hide the symptoms. Here is our chance to do the opposite: to stand up and be seen, maybe even shout about it. 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.

Kate Swindlehurst, dancer

The visual arts element of the project was designed to bring visibility to the work and to reframe the dancing body through the artists lens. In week 3 of the CID project we experimented with framing portraits of the dancers during the workshop led by Chloe Mead. The workshop focused on individual storytelling and narrative, and the resulting images bring a personal insight to the dance experience, connections we have made, and the willingness shown by our wonderful dance collaborators, to share and be seen.

Images by Sara Hibbert

Celebration, visibility and democracy

Kate Swindlehurst is a dancer with the CID project as well as a writer and author of ‘The Tango Effect’… here she reflects on her experience of the project so far.

by Kate Swindlehurst

At the end of last week’s introduction, I felt excited to be part of this project from the word go and energised by the afternoon’s activities – so much so, that I fell over not far from the Union building on my way home – fortunately before I reached the Limehouse Cut – I wouldn’t fancy toppling into the water! I found the afternoon quite challenging: I’m not always comfortable either in a group or in free improvisation – but challenging is good!

Week 2 of the project led by Bim Malcomson was challenging in a different way. I relished the opportunity to stretch and twist to the extent of my kinaesphere, a brilliant counter to my tendency to stoop, fold inwards and hide away. I also loved the ballet structure and principles underpinning everything: I was subjected to ballet when I was 5 or so (why wasn’t I allowed those wonderful red shoes that came with tap?!), and have dipped in and out of watching ballet and contemporary dance as an adult.

I particularly love the fact that this project is ‘Dancing with Parkinson’s’ and not in name only: what a difference that small word makes! It feels like a genuinely democratic and collective endeavour: rather than recipients of a programme which has been designed (albeit with great care and sensitivity) for us, we are dancers collaborating on a project from the start. In a world where we are increasingly and probably inevitably on the receiving end of care and provision, this makes a welcome change.

I found it difficult to talk about the project to others afterwards, difficult to convey how special it felt. So (as we discussed in the feedback session) visibility feels especially important. Many of us know what it feels like to be embarrassed by the effects of Parkinson’s and the feeling that we have to hide the symptoms. Here is our chance to do the opposite: to stand up and be seen, maybe even shout about it. 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.

Finally (for now) the sense of celebration: it seems an odd idea – to think that Parkinson’s might be something to celebrate? But we can celebrate what we can achieve, individually and as a group united by a common bond. And maybe there is something liberating in putting ourselves forward to dance in this way, enabling us to ‘wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life’ (thanks to Picasso) and reach for the stars?