10/28/2022 0 Comments
The Secret Garden: reflecting on the process of seeding new methodologies for participatory performance practice within a university context.
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.
Leave a Reply.
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.
For Tour Bookings/ Partnership Development
For Learning, Participation and Engagement Enquiries
Proudly powered by Weebly