Reflection of the challenges, potential and possibilities aerial harness dance forms as a choreographic process.
“The sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden. The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her into one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world like some fairy place… She was beginning to like to be outdoors; she no longer hated the wind, but enjoyed it. She could run faster and longer, and she could skip up to one hundred. The bulbs in the Secret Garden must have been much astonished. Such nice clear places were made round them that they had all the breathing space they wanted, and really, if Mistress Mary had known it, they began to cheer up under the dark earth and work tremendously. The sun could get at them and warm them, and when the rain came down it could reach them at once, so they began to feel very much alive.” (Burnett, F. H. (2017). The Secret Garden. Virago Press.)
This reflection aims to explore the learning as a result of participation in four choreographic labatories that took place this week, to explore the principles of my solo practice off the ground, escaping the laws of gravity to undertake research through practice. As I continue to shape the reimagination of ‘The Secret Garden’ I am interested in combining dance, play, digital, improvisation, storytelling, aerial harness and visual arts to identify ways that I might apply my findings in this ambitious choreographic process.
I dance with my whole self, and process my learning with awareness, and dancing modes of attention between intellectual, instinctive, feeling and sensory learning. I aim to articulate my reflection in written form. 'Writing also provides a means by which learning can be upgraded- where connected areas of meaning cohere and a deeper meaning emerges.' (Moon, J. A. (2000). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. Psychology Press. p.187)
All of my first encounters with Aerial Work have been with Wired Aerial Theatre. In 2014, whilst dancing with 12 Degrees North Dance Company, I was invited to attend a Vertical Wall professional development intensive for a partnership project with Left Coast. As a local artist, I did my very best to connect with the company throughout the years. I attended Bungee Assisted Dance Classes, I became a bungee workout instructor. I saw their performances in Liverpool and further afield and always thought it would be really cool to work with Wired. I kept in touch with the company and said yes to every opportunity. I have worked with Wired in a real mix of ways, from social media support, admin, performance and teaching. In 2021, I worked with Wired on Rigoletto as a performer where I was first introduced to double pick up harness work and working at height.
This summer I attended European Aerial Dance Festival and a Vertical Dance intensive and spent two weeks engaging in aerial harness technique- vertical dance. In January 2023, I plan to attend The Vertical Dance Symposium ‘Dissecting Aerial’ held by industry experts in the Aerial Dance Sector.
I now have my own small rig located in an independent gym in Birkenhead, Wirral. The view of the rig in film is obstructed by Gym Equipment and Machinery so film work won’t be to the standard, I would like its to be for my assessment footage. I feel like I have introduced a niche group of body builders and personal trainers in the Wirral to this young dance form, and have certainly changed the space through my practice.
Aerial Performance is depicted as an ‘umbrella term for all types of performative events happening off the ground.’ Eventually I would like to rig in Peel Park, however I would need financial support to enable this idea and ‘The Secret Garden’ to flourish.
I will reflect upon my active mode of viewing Aerial Performance Work including Wired Aerial Theatre’s most recent work ‘Me vs Me’, their acclaimed Vertical Wall work ‘As The World Tipped’, and ‘To Me To You’. I recently watched ‘A thousand feet deep’ by Periplum Circus in Knowsley as Knowsley Borough of Culture, and was inspired by the Aerial elements in the Creative and Cultural Placemaking Performance. I am really interested in how my work cultivates pride in place and I am currently enrolled on ‘Create Place’ Leadership Programme funded by Arts Council England, at The University of Staffordshire.
A piece that recently that captured my attention, was Gravity and Levity, ‘Why?’ (2021) “Why? is both a tender and exhilarating aerial duet exploring themes of life, loss, surrender and acceptance in a soft and moving way. The piece offers a visceral experience for its audiences that not only legitimises the emotional one but creates space for the viewer to bring their own understanding to it, triggering a resonance, not dictating their experience.” Butcher, L, 17/11/2022, Gravity and Levity: ‘Why?’ (2021) https://www.gravity-levity.net/productions/why/) Viewing this work and engaging with Gravity and Levity over summer led to me purchasing a rig so that I can begin to explore my own physical language using the climbing equipment and vertical surfaces. The opening statement of this reflection reaffirms the link between my creative enquiry and my interest in aerial dance forms in unconventional spaces. The Secret Garden is a walled garden and it offers a lot of potential for an ambitious choreographic placemaking experience in walled green spaces. In my visionary moments, I still have a way to go!
Through my recent laboratories taking place in the gym in Birkenhead, I have realised the time and effort required to enable this idea to take shape. I feel very distant from the desired outcome to convey embodied lived experience of grief and suicide to an audience. Eventually I will begin to engage in tender conversations with family, partners, the communities I work with, by and for, but for now it is me trying to make sense of this artist led proto- typing and refining my conversation starters.
I am aware of the emotional mapping of this learning journey, and feel like my current enquiry is a sign of the times I find myself in.
I am finding the work challenging and healing. I do prefer working with other dancers when it comes to creating my own work, however it is interesting exploring the personal lived experience through my own dancing body. I reflected on some of the tough moments began moving from there, but I soon became caught up on details and understanding the science of the movements and became disconnected to the premise of the movement exploration task. Towards the end of the session I became increasingly interested in the idea of threading and the continuation of lineage and generations within my family. For a brief moment I was dancing and the movement felt continuous and free. I am building up my vertical wall endurance again, and scheduled regular breaks to return to ground and reflect on my progress.
"Deeper and more sophisticated levels of reflection must rely on some understanding of how emotion affects. the process of reflection and, in practice, the reflection must demonstrate a practical ability to manage personal, emotional processes in relation to the subject matter of the reflection. This is implied in the process of metacognition and further, in the judgements that are made in the quality of personal reasoning. It is manifested in the awareness of the 'slipperiness' of reflection (Fraser, 1995; Fenwick, 2000)." (Moon, J. A. (2004). A handbook of reflective and experiential learning: Theory and practice. Psychology Press.)
I have recently uncovered that I have been surprising my feelings and emotions through survival mode to keep moving forwards and to live up to the idea of what an artist should or needs to be to carry out their best work. My relationships with dance has shifted this year, after a rejection from an audition that has resulted in lower confidence in my abilities as a performer. The feedback was that I was third in line for two jobs and the artistic director went with the two dancers that she felt would take the least amount of work for her to reach the desired results. I have always been a slow learner and I have always felt that I learn differently from the average dancer. My levels of resilience is thinner on the ground. I find myself questioning myself more and thinking that a younger dancer, with better training and experience would do a better job. My inner critic has become louder since starting university. This year, I did a performance where I was triggered mid performance and cried on stage. (See video below) I also struggled during two of my performance jobs and feel that currently I am not in the right head space to carry out the role of a performer. I have been running away from these feelings. I think losing my cousin, just so close to me in age, has been a critical incident in my career and personal life, and after the pandemic and the challenges of leaving my role and transitioning as a freelancer, I feel like I am holding on to my creative ideas and hope that I make it through this period of my life and make a sustainable career in dance. At this moment in time, I prefer to work with other artists and help them to develop. I am trying to build up my confidence, my motivation and grit. I am doing everything in my power to look after my mental health and wellbeing. As I shift back from working with dancers to solo practice, I have to find the discipline to overcome my inner critic and suspend judgement over the decisions I am making. Everything feels unnatural, and like other dancers would be able to dance it better. I feel like giving up. It could be my last dance.
"People's perspectives and sense of capabilities can change. Doors to new possibilities open that might have stayed closed which people jump through into new stories." (Neal, L. (2016). Playing for time: Making art as if the world mattered. Bloomsbury Publishing.)
I feel like I have regressed in my approaches due to feelings of lower confidence in my dancing abilities. I am struggling to connect to my work and facing personal barriers to stop me producing honest, work. It feels like a wrestle or an apathetic struggle. It feels like a job. It feels like an impossible fight. I feel like I started with an army and I'm the last man standing. I feel defeated. I feel like my energy is working against me. I understand this is probably a normal way to feel when you have lost someone so special in your life to suicide, and you have done everything in your power to keep going since.
I would like to also say that I have learned and gained so much as a result of this experience and I know this is all helping me to be better with people, more compassionate and to lead a whole hearted life. However I acknowledge that times don't feel easy. I hope my story inspires young dancers to keep going. I hope it results in the creation of a 'Secret Garden' and helps the audiences to accept themselves as they are, to get out in nature and to heal from trauma, and grief. "Trauma is anything the body perceives as too much, too fast, too soon" (Menakem, R. (2021) My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Penguin.)
It is a holistic practice. Many factors are contributing to the way in which I am working right now. I feel that ground work and getting to tknow the wall and familiarise with the equipment, with the space and the obstructive gym kit to develop my spatial awareness, and understanding of power, control and mind mapping is taking longer than I'd hope for. Upon reading this reflection, I realise that I am frustrated that the rig was late at being fitted and I haven't had the required time to explore this semester. I do have the rig now and I know it's best to get up there sooner rather than later and to manage my time to ensure I get what I need. I am able to identify the opportunities if I was able to scale up the project, however I am facing limitations when it comes to exploring my physicality due to size and scale of the rig I am currently working with. To achieve the desired effect, I would need higher ceilings, and longer rope to cultivate more air time, spectacle and suspension. Flips on a short rope feel risky and hyper vigilant. However, I am delighted that I am able to explore, and dedicate some time to developing choreographic language and can feel the progress I am making to enable me to develop the material I want to be making. My main frustration this week has been that it has been like starting again on the wall, my vocabulary feels limited. However I am noticing progression, reconnecting with technique and skills, the spacial proximity of working on different planes to ground based orientation. In my labs, I have been working somatically, to develop my physical literacy, to improvise freely to find a dance on the wall. I don’t feel ready to display or film my experiments for the scratch night, however I am definitely learning as I engage with this practice based research. In the space of three days, I am moving more confidently with a calm physical state. The results from today’s choreographic laboratory feel more performative with a limited vocabulary and skills. It is felt that more time and effort is required to produce an authentic visceral response linked to the context of my agenda. At present loosely choreographed sequences demonstrate strength and flexibility, however I still feel I have a way to go to achieve the intentional qualities of movement. I am interested in accessing the truth of the experience of losing someone to suicide and similarly to Gravity and Levity’s work, to convey my personal journey with grief. The dance has been accompanied by phenomenological reflections.
I am interested in reimagining the notion of the original Secret Garden, and bringing my personal lived experience to the realisation of the character of Mary Lennox. I want to challenge the themes and outdated ideas concerning mental health. I will continue to explore with the parachute which I hope to take in the air, to embrace the wind and the outdoor elements, as I have been working in my bedroom. I am interested in the relationship between indoors and outdoors, and the physical and digital interface. Through reconnecting with the story and the premise of the Secret Garden each time, I move, I deepen my relationship with the story, and dig deeper in to the idea. At times it is overwhelming but I feel this is an idea worth pursuing. Today’s reflections offered ideas for future choreographic tasks. Tomorrow I will recreate images of the illustrations provided by the book to harness a visceral response to loss, shock and trauma associated with losing someone so close suddenly to suicide. I will play with exploring weight, space and dynamics to create a short phrase of movement. Tomorrow I will create a short solo based on looking for a door in a wall. I feel that this material could help me to express my internal experiences, and personal stages of questioning my self during so much change, and dancing in the storm.
In future I would like to create a duet on the wall and I do have the resources to do so. I would need to work out the logistics.
“Vertical Dance is a new and collaborative form of dance that typically uses rock climbing equipment to suspend dancers against a range of vertical surfaces in public spaces. It’s affects are to alter familiar systems we use to orientate ourselves in space to produce or change social spaces.” (Lawrence, K. (2017) Up, down and amongst : perceptions and productions of space in vertical dance practices. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Surrey, https://openresearch.surrey.ac.uk/esploro/outputs/doctoral/Up-down-and-amongst--perceptions/99512198002346)
I know if I have these feelings, others may be feeling like this too. I will continue to work for them. I am closer to fully forming my idea and methodology. However I am anxious about what I have to share for our ‘Scratch Night’. I feel this work could be very powerful, moving, and healing for an audience moving through the collective grief of the pandemic. I have chosen to keep going time and time again, choosing to frame my story and circumstances to help me to move forwards.
"Stories never end and we do not know how or when they begin. Only that they are threads woven across time and space, connecting people to each other... these stories grow from remembered experiences, not only our own, but all of those voices that echo in each of our hearts from other times, places, continents and people. Each story is already a fragment of a collective tapestry that is always in the making." (Santos, F in Neal, L. (2016). Playing for time: Making art as if the world mattered. Bloomsbury Publishing.)
Aerial Dance Performance Works:
11/7/2022 0 Comments
The Secret Garden of Fake Believe - Participatory Performance - Indoors and Outdoors- Immersive adventure ‘phygital trail’
Music plays as audiences enter and explore the space. Music stops.
Dickon ‘Hello everyone!
Hello, I’m here to find the magic word, we’ve forgotten it! It’s a secret passcode to enter a magical place, we’ve been locked out of there for many years. Children, will you help us to find the magic password?
Until they say a loud resounding yes!
Applaud and cheer- stamp your feet and clap as loud as you can for 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
First challenge- a game of Grandma’s footsteps to win the Letters as a reward: FD
Second Challenge- make a secret handshake- to win the Letters as a reward: RM
Third Challenge- the floor is lava. to win the Letters as a reward: EE
Fourth challenge- musical statues- to win the Letters as a reward: O
Unravel and unjumble the magic word- FREEDOM.
Dickon- ‘FREEDOM, great stuff, we’ll need that magic word later.’
This is our time, let’s travel to the secret garden in our minds.
Welcome to the voyage of freedom and escape.
In the Secret Garden what will we find?
The land of Fake Believe is starting to take shape.
We see the world as we are, it’s time to take stock.
A lot has happened, it’s a sign of the times we find ourselves in,
We need to find the key, and a guide to help us to find the lock.
The lock to the magic door, towards freedom and peace.
Mary is sick of feeling like an outsider, of wanting to run away,
Of feeling frozen, and fighting to fit in,
She feels left out, and can’t find the words to say,
She feels helpless, and needs the light to pour in.
Mary, needs your help, will you help her find her way?
Adversity, unavoidable pain, a rather heavy storm.
Chasing the rainbow, and living day by day.
She’s searching for connection, for care, love and warmth.
In the storm she’s swirling, She’s sick of screaming in to the void,
Right now the world seems foggy, her memories are blurry,
In the storm, she’s frightened, her whole world has been destroyed.
She misses the smile on her face, and times where she felt free.
[Mary sat at the slump of the tree. Feeling hopeless.]
She’s feeling the stretch, it’s too much and she really is about to pop,
In the heart of the storm, the voices in her head are becoming louder and louder,
Sick and tired of feeling lost, it’s time to find space,
The Secret Garden of Fake Believe wouldn’t exist, without her.
Have you heard about the Secret Garden? An extra- ordinary, ordinary place.
That’s what makes it magic, for it’s shaped by your mind,
When you haven’t got the words, and we are dancing with big feelings,
It’s a place you can go to, when the world seems so unkind,
In the land of Fake Believe, we can connect to the real things,
We all have a Secret Garden don’t you know. But we need the magic key,
Mary needs some friends, to walk with her in solidarity, to connect to what matters,
Look, let’s follow the dancing robin, she’ll help us to see,
Soaring in flight, and bouncing along the walls, for a moment Mary forgets about the disaster,
She shows up in times like these, and the flicker of hope becomes brighter,
and reminds Mary of a glimmer of joy, feeling gently in to a dance,
In taking little steps, Mary follows the music of the birds, and she starts to feel lighter.
(After a solo here, Mary stumbles across a door, and performs a knock)
Dickon: ‘You look like you’re lost.’
Mary: ‘I’ve lost my key will you help me?’
Dickon: Ofcourse, but I’ll need help. Children, will you help me to find the lost key?
A little bit of panto style engagement.
Ok then, follow me, Dickon takes hold of the children’s hands, and leads them to the edge of the parachute, to sit at the edges.
Dickon “It matters that you are here. For this garden to grow we need your voice. Children, do you remember the magic word, after three, can you shout it as loud as you can? 1, 2, 3”
Dickon: “Freedom is the magic word. We’ve done it, we have the key, who wants to come with me to ‘The Secret Garden?! Wait here for a moment. Stay here. Ok now, start to make small waves with parachute. All that stuff bubbling away, buried underneath, that needs your attention too. The garden, has been left for some time, it’s covered in weeds, we need to sort it out.
Wow, we’ve been locked out of here for years. I knew we could do it. Time To Play.”
Dancers: Explore rapping/ chanting and body percussion rhythms- teaching a song.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row
And pretty maids all in a row
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row
And pretty maids all in a row
[Dance of Freedom and Exploring the Secret Garden.]
When I think about our garden, I think about trees.
In order to understand the oak, and how it came to be,
We must learn about the acorn, and explore what happened.
Our garden is a place of wonder, for fulfilment and respite.
A place to come to be in nature, a place to settle down,
It is a world full of hidden emotions, to be wild,
A place of light and shade, a place to grow,
A place of hope and despair, a place to rewild,
A spectrum of technicolour filters. A place to come and go.
In our garden, we can break the rules, a place to feel free,
We can be spontaneous, and embrace our weird,
We can express ourselves fully, a place to look up to the sky,
A chance to connect to our feelings and then allow them to drift by,
A playground of hopes, and dreams,
A playground filled with joy, sadness and laughter,
A place to laugh, cry and feel all our feels,
A place where we can speak our uncensored words,
We can play together and show up as we are,
We can draw, meditate and sing and sign,
We can beatbox, and bust a rhyme,
We can dance without fear of what our footprints might leave.
In this Secret Garden of Fake Believe.
[Start with a duet between Mary and Dickon. Colin enters. Play inspired unison. Start with accumulation in clapping game and build to beautiful dancing and uplifting ensemble]
Dickon: “Are you ready to join our adventure to Freedom?”
[Participatory improvised Score of the Secret Garden- facilitated by Dickon.}
Mary: “I choose to make this garden a wonderful place to live. I will not be confined to the walls built around me. I will be free. ”
Colin: “Where your focus and energy flows, you can do what you need to do here, stop for a moment and breathe. Look up at the sky, and watch the clouds.”
Dickon: “Thank you for visiting the secret garden. It’s time to go back home now. Goodbye.”
Music plays as the audience leaves.
10/28/2022 0 Comments
My return to education and how this approach to creative thinking is different from working independently and what shifts/ considerations I might need to make to adjust making in a new context. As I begin to explore this question, I take a moment to look back on my experiences of making outside of Higher Education. In more recent years, my practice has take a more socially driven approach to choreographic practice. The ‘making’ sits within a wider framework and I have become more and more aware of the agent for change role that choreographers can play in their communities. Over the past three years I have began to explore the question ‘What does co-creation mean for my own choreographic practices. I enter the university space, with this line of creative enquiry. Prior to entering the contract with the university, I have started to form a sense of iterative, active and creative vision, mission, values, manifestos and frameworks to allow audiences, stakeholders to understand my positionality and my approaches to choreographic practice. I have a desire to deepen this understanding whilst studying and engaging with the course.
My reflections allow me to make sense of the emergent nature of my ‘multi-disciplinary’ choreographic work and to navigate how to open up and facilitate the choreographic process in a way that feels authentic to me. I have an ambition to reimagine the story of the Secret Garden, to create ‘Secret Garden Remixed’. I arrive with a product orientation to begin my choreographic process. As previously highlighted, this work will explore some of my personal lived experiences of suicide bereavement, isolation, caring in lockdown, and processing collective grief and trauma that came with the pandemic. After in depth and tender conversations with friends, family members, children and young people and their teachers and parents. I have begun to find synergies between the voices I have been listening to, and wish to amplify and the story of the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I reached this place of knowing at an early stage of ‘Neverland: Our Story in Pixels’ http://www.tuckshopdancetheatre.org/neverland.html http://www.tuckshopdancetheatre.org/live-and-digital-hybrid-neverland-through-an-audiences-lens.html where I use a strong cohesive narrative and cross reference to explore the phenomena through my own discourse. I am aware that with my prior learning, investigations and discoveries, I would like to shift from product focussed experience to a process focussed experience as I begin to enter the new territory of education which leans towards learning and reflexive approaches to choreographic processes, and less concerned with agendas of the wider cultural sector. I am noticing that my work is multi- layered and concerns itself with ‘socially driven’ practice, and I want to be able to enable the conditions and processes to allow myself to operate in this way in a university setting. This raises the question; ‘How do I hold space and facilitate a choreographic process to enable this seed of an idea to germinate?’ How do I find a balance of community narrative, and personal narrative to support the growth of this creative process which to some extent looks at change on a macro level, whilst holding space for unprescribed incremental changes and unknown outcomes.
“Universities, particularly outside London, have an increasingly important place- shaping role as local authorities’ remit and resources shrink.” (Henley, D. (2020) P.176)
At this stage of reflection, I have engaged with lectures, creative labs, and the university campus. This reflection explores the special happenings of A choreographic workshop opened up a creative 'excursion' as a response to various selected sites in Peel Park, Salford, a neighbouring park to the university campus. We explored Andrea Olsen's Day One- Orientation and Arriving to stimulate our own excursion. Please see link: http://www.body-earth.org/work#/day-one/
We take ourselves outdoors and now my creative juices are flowing. So, I take a moment to reflect on why I feel more inspired and motivated in this green space, with outdoor play resources, and beautiful trees. The park radiates ‘calm’, ‘play’, ‘possibilities’ and I make a pledge to myself to place this park at the heart of my university life, despite the fact I live an hour 15 minute drive away, and will spend a lot of time in lectures on campus. It is important for my creative enquiry to live within the community and animate a public space. As I sit in a tree in Peel Park, immersed in the outdoors, so close to the campus, I start to dream about how I could inhabit this place. My mind wanders from sensing, being, to thinking. Key questions I begin to ask myself is ‘what culture already exists here?’, ‘who is using the park?’, ‘who is the local community in this area of Salford?’, ’is everyone in the park today closely connected to the university?’ I start to notice how I naturally work. After years of working in dance development role, I approach my work in a different way. I miss the days of sitting in a park, climbing the trees, exploring the playground, and naturally leaning to movement and physical exploration. Here I am thinking by design, with strategic macro level change at the heart of my questioning. I feel this approach is so necessary, but it can also stifle the real possibilities of a site. I skipped a few stages from awe and wondering, to place making questions linked to regeneration and wider agendas. I pause, there is a time and a place for this thinking, and I don’t want to miss out if I am not allowing myself to be fully present to the possibilities that this site offers. So I detach from the vision of the Secret Garden and I imagine for a moment that this is The Secret Garden and I shift my thinking from future vision to imagination in the here and now. This is the shift I need, to allow the experiences of university to inform what this project could be. So I sit, I film some dancing magpies, I engage in social interactions with my peers on my course, I begin getting to know them outdoors, I watch how they engage with the site and I find some time to play. I put my phone away. I reconnect to the feeling of being in an ‘art state’. I start to explore trees and how they talk to each other and how connection to green spaces is so important for my sense of wellbeing. Post sitting in the park, I think back to ‘Stay Strange’ Tim Crouch, Caravan Provocation on Youtube. He asks “how do we keep conscious of our restrictions and help them to liberate?” This is something I am well versed in, but as I arrive in a new making context, it is something I must ask myself again. This reflective writing aims to dig deeper.
After playtime, we returned to the studio to share our responses to the settings we had just immersed ourselves in. The physical response is shared in a studio, with the absence of the tree, I danced with, the sonic soundtrack of birds and the breeze. I recreate an essence but it is nothing like the solo I made outdoors, and in this instance I realise that I want to make an outdoor multi- disciplinary research investigation. For the purpose of the task this is irrelevant, I was still able to complete an honest response to site in the studio, but I found that I had another interest to return to Peel Park as a potential performance space for 'The Secret Garden' idea I was beginning to seed. Through engaging with the workshop, I am now much clearer on what about working in a university environment I must resist and lean in to, if I am to truly embrace this process to deepen my choreographic practice.
Post session reflections, highlight that I am now much further along in the creative process and have recommendations for how to spend my time moving forwards to shape a tangible outcome defined and brought to life by myself and others. I am aware that for The Secret Garden to flourish, and grow, some rewilding must be done, and an intensive and iterative process is required. Returning to the question ‘How do I hold space and facilitate a choreographic process to enable this seed of an idea to germinate?’ This session cultivated the following four priorities to enable my creative practice within the university setting:
Firstly, I need to spend more time in Peel Park in an arts state, refraining from leaning to strategic objectives, to truly get to know the place; witnessing, experiencing, participation, playing, dreaming, meditating, dreaming, planning, observing, noticing, creating. In a desire to focus on my own artistic identity and development during this course, I will allow the time to engage in a deeply personal creative process. I will take photographs, film, and post my mediated interpretations of the site to twitter using the #EveryoneNeedsNature and tag @PeelParkSalford in my creative explorations. If it is my objective to animate the park, I can demonstrate to students how the park can be used as a community resource to connect people with nature and promote the benefits of engaging with their green spaces and physical outdoor spaces. A park with trees, flowers and playgrounds stimulates me to place 'The Secret Garden' there. After reading about how trees talk to each other, through their mycelium and roots, it feels like an apt dance and storytelling site.
Secondly, all my work is normally participatory practice. So I need to find ways to explore my ambition with people. I will enter schools to engage in my research. My next step becomes evident to create the world of the Secret Garden with people. I plan to conduct semi- structured interviews with my peers to imagine their own secret garden and to share it with me, to reflect on their journey from 2020 and reflexive viewpoints surrounding their individual notion of ‘Freedom’. Unpacking the theme and characters of the secret garden with people. Engagement is essential for my choreographic practice and without it, I feel rather lost and in my head. I recognise that in my own practice, I have led inter disciplinary teams to reach various creative outputs, and I may have been co-dependent on collaborators, stakeholders and voices to shape my work. How do I experience, perceive, apprehend, understand and conceptualise the seeds for scaled up co-creation through a solo practice. Perhaps then I can plant roots, to grow the ambition I have to co create the secret garden for young audiences so that they can share a more relevant notion of the story with future generations. I will allow for multiple ways for children and young audiences to interact with and reimagine the potential of the secret garden, using a range of art forms to express their ideas.
Thirdly, I believe relationships are key, and I must spend more time with my course peers to explore synergies with them, to listen to their voices and to amplify them through my practice, treating my cohort as creative collaboratives and critical friends. This will help me to see things from multiple perspectives, allowing for a more rich creative process, reflecting diversity of thought. I am also interested in selecting open, receptive cast of performers to co- create a making framework to feed in to my creative practice and tangible pathway, leading to the ambitious place making project, ‘The Secret Garden of Fake Believe.’
Finally, if we are to serve audiences that may experienced bereavement through natural circumstances or suicide, we must being to interact with this community and begin a conversation.
The factors at play are environment, engaging with wider community, time scales, forming a social contract within this new context and the ethical considerations of the new methodologies, and of course the financial and time sensitive implications of this work. This desire to work within places, people and communities is possible, however due to time constraints, there will need to be careful meticulous planning and thinking in the place based project design. I need to think more about this and set aside some time to do this effectively.
I also don’t have a financial budget as a resource so how can I maximise the potential and scale of the work by working collaboratively with students on other courses. For example how might a student be able to support me to design a puppet of a robin. I do have lights and props that I can repurpose to enable me to make a sustainable ‘Secret Garden’ with a make, do and mend approach. The cast of dancers are normally professional and paid for their time. I might have to dance in my own work and choreographic investigations. This will help me to develop my own physical embodied understanding of my work.
“Holding space focusses on the attitude and energies of a group. Being fully present, it’s possible to bring a warmth that gives people confidence in the unknown being embarked upon, so no one feels judged and everyone can contribute equally to what is happening. Holding space creates boundaries within which people feel safe to participate creatively. New possibilities emerge. Holding space can be played out visibly and upfront or more discreetly. Either way it involves quiet guardianship of the project’s values.” (Neal, (2015) p. ?)
For further reading I will re-read: Cameron, J. (2021). The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention - A Six Week Artist's Way Programme. United Kingdom: Profile.
Tim Crouch, Caravan Provocation, Farnham Maltings. (2020,). Stay Strange by Tim Crouch [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEPg6Tsh4Lk
Henley, D. (2020). The Arts Dividend Revisited: Why Investment in Culture Pays. United Kingdom: Elliott & Thompson, Limited.
Neal, L. (2016). Playing for Time: Making Art as If the World Mattered. United Kingdom: Oberon Books.
“I am sure there is magic in everything.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
This is an account of the Choreographic lab conducted 11/10/2022 to investigate and explore the potential of fabric as a prop to serve as a metaphor for living with grief as an underlying layer in every day life. This has been a prominent thought since the pandemic, in which I personally lost loved ones, I said final words over the phone, attended live streamed funerals, I experienced bereavement to suicide. I have come to know the various stages, and feelings associated with grief, and a deep appreciation for connection with my friends, loved ones and my support network. These are personal experiences, and to keep myself and the dancers I work with safe, and not too absorbed in the theme, I have highlighted a framework to work within that considers ethics of safe practice. I decided not to share my grief stories as I did not feel that this context was required or conducive to the session. One of the ways to show grief as an undertone is through play and exploration with a military parachute. It was my objective to allow dancers to start to embody a felt sense of interconnectedness.
I have already started to explore the military parachute with tow themes of ‘transcendence and freedom’ with dancer Natasha Gooden. Please follow the link to see some of our documented investigations: http://www.tuckshopdancetheatre.org/freedom.html
In my participatory dance practice, last year I found myself facilitating an outdoor creative learning workshop for key stage one and two children at Delamere Forest. I took my parachute a long there. The children were invited to help me, ‘the forest explorer’ to find my magic key to the Secret Garden of Make Believe’. To find the key, we visited different areas of the forest to dance in various challenge and reward tasks, to unlock the code to the wooden birdhouse, with a Robin who is minding the key to ‘The Secret Garden’ We danced, we moved, we used our imagination and we uncovered new possibilities for my choreographic thinking. At the end of the session we created the ‘garden’ with a military parachute, and when we laid the parachute on the ground, we mindfully used a visual mediation to imagine our own secret garden, we lay looking at the clouds drifting back through the overhanging beaches and leaves in the forest.
I am in the middle of something. An idea is taking shape. It is my objective to keep exploring the potential of this military parachute in order to co- create an immersive storytelling experience, that explores adventure. I will continue to work with people to form my ideas and develop my creative practice to enable the development of a new outdoor placemaking project.
The lab session focussed on my creative practice which is both person, and process focussed. To generate creative thinking, I need to get to know the dancers in the group, and to understand myself better. How do I motivate, inspire divergent thinking and openness to experience to enable a flourishing creative investigation to take shape. I have been exploring this for some time: https://padlet.com/tuckshopdancetheatre/mxkwj30cic02xpap I am interested in digging deeper, at this stage in my research.
In my choreographic lab, I wanted to explore the duality of opposing truths living in your body. I have experienced wonderful moments in my own grief journey. So I looked at opposite ideas. For dancer to begin to explore a language of their own that will explore a visceral feeling, rather than a literal interpretation of their own grief. Words we looked at:
Each dancer selected fabric. Either a handkerchief, a foil marathon safety blanket, or military parachute. The played and moved. I used a playlist that had a range of emotive music, that I felt set the tone for the session. I observed a real interesting mix of interactions with their fabric prop. Each dancer offered me so many gems of ideas to explore further. It became clear that it would have been more helpful for me to film the session, however I did capture some moments. Filming for me is helpful as I am extremely instinctive in my way of working and I struggle to remember everything that happens. I am sure opportunities for choreographic developments, would have presented themselves in my post session reflections and future lab session planning. In future, I will film my labs in full. I did get some footage- please see here:
As I observed and processed my feelings, I started to think about how we all have collectively, been trying to survive in the storm, that the pandemic offered.
I explained in this session that I work in a process orientated way, and that there was no objective to create anything within the 20 minutes of allocated time. I think this allowed people to explore free from expectation to create. I have found if dancers are asked to edit and select material at an early stage they will skip the exploration stage. Exploration is essential for this process. I am slowly working towards something. From this lab, it became clear that we can do so much with a military parachute, including projection, storytelling, improvised scores for audiences to actively participate in the creation of the work. The dancer’s responses fed my thinking and ideas. I use Play to open up possibilities for divergent thinking and created space for dialogue. I asked the dancers to share their experiences in a none judgemental way. I was looking for honesty and authenticity in the dialogue and I believe I held space for shared power and conversation.
Two particular points have stuck with me over the time. One participant highlighted that it was highly sensory stimulating and this helped me to understand that not all audience members might find the experience pleasurable. This is something I will consider in more depth. Accessibility and inclusion are values, and I will continue to research how to design immersive worlds that are accessible to neurodivergent audiences, particularly in areas of sensory processing, tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular systems. Not only did the session open up possibilities for divergent thinking, it led to a new mode of enquiry.
‘How can the choreographer facilitate a collaborative process to enable audiences to experience and perceive the sensory dimensions of the parachute, to mediate positive relationships with audiences engage with the work to account for greater neurodiversity in the co-creation of an immersive experience.’
Another group member highlighted the notion of the parachute to be perceived as cells. This prompted a lot of thinking, and the recollection of two books came to mind. Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. I will go back to this book and dig deeper.
“Your body is a finely tuned social and emotional sense organ shaped by your life experience. And that shaping affects both the possibilities you see and the actions you take. Your results in almost every area of life are subtly but in escapably influenced by the characteristics you have come to embody.” Viking and Blake, A. (2019) Your Body is Your Brain, Leverage Your Somatic Intelligence to Find Purpose, Build Resilience, Deepen Relationships and Lead More Powerfully. Embright, LLC.
This is very much a starting point of this MA journey, however it has prompted many divergent thoughts about what could be, to co create a new collective experience for audiences with a view to stimulate senses, become present, and to move audiences in a story of adventure, healing and joy. I will continue to experiment with dancers in outdoor settings to engage in experiential and embodied practice, to develop a creative manifesto for our creative practice, to align with our current values framework.
For context my current creative values have been articulated as:
We recognise that all of our values are iterative, active and creative processes. These values are subject to review at the end of 2022.
A love letter to my home.
I am my home.
I dance in celebration.
Dancing to keep the lights on.
With reflection, my light can truly shine.
I make myself at home in my dancing body.
Sensations, feelings, moving me to move.
Moved to make movements.
Subtle shifts in space.
My home is evolving over time.
Each day the furniture is sort of moved around, but in sort of the same place.
Each room has a different energy.
The space feels lived in.
I have demolished a lot of the walls.
I prefer open plan.
Windows, to let more light pour in.
The bath tub, the stairs, the thinly lights.
They're all mine.
I share the couch.
The cupboards are full.
There is a library of books in the shelves.
There are experiences locked in my heart and I probably have some unlocking to do.
The garden is spacious.
There are squishy rugs, strong and fragile sculptures.
I feel at home in my body.
The speakers are really loud, but I can drown out the noise.
I really have to take care of the roof.
I groove here.
I could do with a rewire.
I could do with a sort out.
The fridge definitely could.
I am my home.
All of my first encounters with Aerial Work have been with Wired Aerial Theatre. In 2014, whilst dancing with 12 Degrees North Dance Company, I was invited to attend a Vertical Wall professional development intensive for a partnership project with Left Coast. As a local artist, I did my very best to connect with the company throughout the years. I attended Bungee Assisted Dance Classes, I became a bungee workout instructor. I saw their performances in Liverpool and further afield and always thought it would be really cool to work with Wired. I kept in touch with the company and said yes to every opportunity. I have worked with Wired in a real mix of ways, from social media support, admin, performance and teaching. In 2021, I worked with Wired on Rigoletto as a performer where I was first introduced to double pick up harness work and working at height, I performed in front of crowds of 7000 people and lived my best life, in addition understudying 5 roles. It was my first time in the world of Opera, and my first international performance role. This is my second year teaching in HE alongside Moo. I really champion the work at LIPA. The discoveries and learning that come with the Bungee Assisted Dance. It can really support LIPA students to become reflexive and embodied performers, and everything learned with the bungee can also be applied to any dance practice. My teaching practice is action research, I am learning, and deeply curious about how to evolve my teaching practice of Bungee Assisted Dance. There is a real science to achieving freedom in motion on a bungee, and it offers so much pedagogical enquiry. I am always learning and developing my understanding of how best to communicate and share the learning. Both Moo and myself want to give the students the best experience with Bungee Assisted Dance. We know this is a relatively new art form, and the LIPA students bring themselves and their artistry to the discipline. I love the individuality and authenticity of LIPA students and we try to nurture that. In moments of improvisation, they find possibilities that inspire me. I think there is something wonderful about being a beginner in 3rd year. Maybe for years you have tested and refined your technique on the ground, and then Bungee Assisted Dance can add a whole new dimension and expand your awareness of the fundamentals. All the stuff you already know takes on a new meaning and perspective. There are no shortcuts when it comes to Bungee Assisted Dance. The bungee needs the data input to be clear, in order to achieve the desired outcome. I love students embracing that challenge! It's amazing to be a part of that journey and to see what happens to their dancing bodies over the course of the module as they become more settled, free and dynamic. Safety at Wired is number 1 and this for me is about creating the best possible environment to enable deep, embodied, and person- centred learning to happen. It is so much more than technical safety, although this is vital to ensure the future of our aerial industry is well equipped with artists that will enable the development of aerial practice with safety at the heart. Check, check and check again! It feels very much instilled in me through the training I have received with Wired.
You have felt challenged recently.
You have made some huge claims.
You are unfolding.
You are a visceral feeling.
You are lived experience.
You are my home.
You are breathing.
You are living.
You are growing.
You are shifting modes of behaviour.
You are multi- disciplinary.
you are multi- dimensional.
You are emotional.
You are conceptual.
You are kinaesthetic.
You are free to explore, to express and to be.
You need thinking time.
You need to feel, everything you need to feel.
You are infinite contradictions.
You are not confined to the limits of words, language, forms, space, environment, time, reality.
You are open.
You are cerebral.
You are personal.
You are political.
You are culture.
You are creativity.
You are evolving.
You are sensitive.
You are safe.
You are the highest, truest, from of my expression.
You are a dot to dot or series of enquires.
You live within multiple frames.
You are a corporeal experience.
You are ideas in motion.
You are an illusion.
You are the dance of life.
You see ideas through.
You are free.
Reflection of Active Participation in Performance Experience in Research and Development Creative Process
“Choreographers need to hear the critical opinions of their peers to understand how their dances might be improved.” (Lavender, L. Dancers Talking Dance: Critical Evaluation In the Choreography Class. P.85)
I recently worked as part of an ensemble, to carry out the role of performer within a public sharing of our collaborative research and development process for the co-directors to critically evaluate the outcomes and material that came from three weeks of studio time to create sections of the work. We worked together as a team of artists to explore a choreographic playbook co - created by co-directors. The cast consisted of 2 professional dance artists, a storyteller and myself, in the role of physical story teller. We had decided to share the work in the form of an audience to test and refine the performance of the material with the target audience, which also included games and activities that required audience participation. The aim of the evening was to see which parts of the show resonate with the audience, which elements of the work need more consideration and audience care. The sharing consisted of collection of audience stories, drinking tea and coffee, and an informal presentation of various scenes of the symbiotic dance and storytelling work. The visible properties of the work offered scope for rhythm with props, exploration with furniture and set, audience participation, Irish folk dance, and spoken word and storytelling, and bringing stories to life through dance.
“It also requires participants to seek clarification of others' reflections and to draw attention to details of the dance that may have been overlooked.” P.57
After the event there were opportunities to engage in informal discussions and conversations for audience members to reflect upon the evening and the intrinsic features within the work, with feedback forms given to promote a less self censored approach to delivering critical feedback. As cast members we were given opportunities to chat with audience members to provoke conversation that allowed audience members to articulate interpretations, meaning or relevance or significance of the work. This will feed our recommendations for development of the future iteration of the work. As cast members we were present in the audience in the scenes that we were not actively a part of as performers, this allowed us to observe audience’s responses, and behaviours throughout the experience, to weak our approaches to exchange and interact as we go. There was a real sense of learning as we go, with a live audience present as it felt very different from rehearsal to a live performance with an audience present. As a performer this opened up scope and possibilities for deeper connections, more freedom to play, and for application of learning as the evening took place. As a performer, I became aware that I had the agency to reconsider delivery techniques in the moment, to deliver a more ‘audience centred’ and ‘present’ performance delivery.
All of the performers in the cast became unwell the week of the sharing. I feel this did have an impact on the performance, particularly the possibilities of the explorations of voice and song work and therefore it felt that it diminished the potential for collective play and freedom within the improvised elements of the songs. On the other hand the performer’s skills and attributes to show resilience and to reframe the notion of the work from we are singers that share human stories to we are humans that sing. This shift in perspective allowed for imperfections, and limitations within the voice work due to illness and sore throats amongst the cast.
The evening was received well by the audience, there was some resistance to join in, but in general the audience were open and willing to participate upon invitation from the performers. The story circle nature of the event, sharing scenes with context delivered by co-directors meant that the evening offered a different rhythm and pace to the experience, with more stops and starts and clear introductions to each scene with context and meaning given to the audience. To keep the creative team safe the directors considered their delivery of information, in an ethical, sensitive and careful manner. This is something I will carry in to future choreographic processes that I lead. As someone that often leads inter-disciplinary teams, exposing personal stories and my own lived experience, I feel that through participating in this experience I will develop my own practice to ensure that very personal work is shared in a way that keeps all involved in the work safe.
I feel that transitions from scene to scene could have been considered more to tighten up the scenes, setting up for the scenes and the costume changes could have been more efficient and slick to respect audience’s time. The event had a long running time, but due to the nature of testing, we were not aware of how long the experience would be and this was not communicated to the audience. As an artist, I have a deep appreciation of audience and feel that they deserve to know how much time they are committing to before the event starts. I feel that in my own future performances, I will time the event in a dress run, and make it explicit that it could run over, but have a rough idea to manage audience expectations. This kind of audience care will happen in future iterations of the work, and it is felt that it only happened as it was the first sharing and with rehearsal, the event running time would be significantly reduced.
I feel that each cast member was mindful of the audience and held them in mind and with care throughout the performance, applying their meta- critical skills in each moment to engage the audience members. At times it was felt that the introductions to audience participation and scenes were apologetic, and placed the performance experience on the back foot, and the fears of audiences not enjoying themselves came through the invitations. In the evaluation I will highlight the need for greater consideration of language to enable a receptive audience experience, with more opportunities for critical discourse embedded in to the event and in follow up evaluation to further understand each audience’s perceptions and to compare and contrast and to see if we had reached a common consensus within each scene of the work and to notice any areas that we might have over looked. As a performer our work is so closely aligned with ensuring our intentions marry up with the director’s vision and objectives for the work. This evening offered ample opportunity to figure this out.
“If knowledge of the choreographer's intention is ever relevant to critical evaluation, it is when such intentions are visible in the work itself. Thus, choreographers who, following a performance of their work, volunteer accounts of their intentions or interpretations must direct the critical attention of others to specific features of the work itself. And viewers should keep in mind that interpreting a dance solely on the basis of the choreographer's explanation of it or judging it solely by whether the viewers understood the choreographer's presumed intended meaning is not really evaluating the dance at all.” (Lavender, L. Dancers Talking Dance: Critical Evaluation In the Choreography Class. P.32)
“Different critics often interpret dances (and other works of art) in varied ways. This occurs because properties of a work – phrasing or spatial patterns, for example – might receive more or less emphasis in different critics' interpretations. And even when two critics emphasize the same features of a work in their respective interpretations, the meaning each critic finds in those features may differ greatly. Such cases call attention to the importance of the persuasive, or argumentative, nature of interpretive discourse. Critics must make as strong a case as possible to others that the work should be understood their way. Sometimes more than one interpretation will be plausible — that is, supported by the visible properties of the work. This does not mean that there has been an error in interpretation or that the work under review is a poor one. It means simply that the work is ambiguous, or capable of supporting multiple interpretations.” P. 59
The evening was curated with a clear explanation of the stage of development and audience expectation was managed. They were invited to co- create with us, to share their perspectives of the scenes and to allow the audience members to feel part of a creative process. The evening was delivered in a process oriented way. To make the evening flow better, more consideration could have been given to audience care, transitions between scenes and clarity. Some of the language used was slightly apologetic. I feel like a bold delivery to introduce the scenes might have helped the audience to buy in to an idea. The evening was received well, and the audience seemed engaged, however I feel that there were improvements to be made to the evening. Next time, I deliver my own research and development sharing, I will rehearse the flow of the evening, the introductions in a clear, emotive and succinct way, and ensure everyone is clear of their roles within the piece. I would factor in more time for rehearsals to prepare for the execution of the research and development sharing. This piece of work was curated in such a way to support the directors to learn about how their work was received by the audience. Audiences are so smart, so I would play with the amount of context that is communicated to the audiences, so that what is shared is succinct and needed. As a performer, I felt the construction of scenes could have been cleaner, however the intention within the scenes were clear, informed by wider research and context, and highly considered by both directors and performers.
“Despite the hazards involved in looking for artist's intentions, the notion persists that dance should inevitably be seen as communication. And somehow, the composer of a work is generally considered the best person to explain to others the work's true "message." Philosopher David Best (1978) explores this concept of communication and makes a distinction that helps dispel the notion that dance is a mode of communication. Best distinguishes between two kinds of communication, what he calls linguistic and perceptual communication.” (Lavender, L. Dancers Talking Dance: Critical Evaluation In the Choreography Class, pp. 138 — 139). P.33)
It was a pleasure to perform in this work, and to analyse the dramaturgy and craft of this emerging piece of work, and to embody the practice through the performance experience and creative process.
I am a dance creator that draws upon multi-disciplinary practice. My work involves lived experience, multiple realities, active listening, tender conversations, physical forms, hope, and choice. I create hybrid work within the physical and digital interface. Devices and choreographic language vary based upon the subject matter or main objective of the work. I work in a people focussed methodology and adopt a collaborative approach to co-create inter- disciplinary creations. The notion of freedom sits at the heart of my practice.
This section of the website will include reflections for Lauren's MA Study. This page is linked to Lauren Tucker's studies and creative practice which is broader than the work of Tuckshop Dance Theatre. Please enjoy my reflections in this learning journey.
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