‘Here with you’
During September and October I worked with classes from five schools to make a performance that took place on 21st October 2015.
I worked with 114 children from age 10 – 15, spending one day in each school, one day to put the materials together and finally one day giving two performances to audiences made up of pupils, staff and family.
Following the performances and during them, I had a strong feeling this work was important. My friend Isabelle encouraged me to write it down so I could remember how I felt later. I scribbled things down in a speedy rush full of spelling mistakes and only now revisiting the hurried felt writing that came out at the time, while it still churning around in my head and heart.
The quality I had seen from the children, the growth in a short time, the enthusiasm, vibrancy, desire to push themselves, wanting to offer me things to include in the show, the rush of excitement and push to dance more strongly, with more confidence growing all the time, was profound. They were giving towards each other and to the process and I felt strongly ‘this work matters’.
When they are working they are listening, they are engaged, they are watching, they are sensitive, they are supporting each other, observing each other, taking risks, trying, working together, lifting and holding each other, giving themselves to something. Trusting me.
I felt sadness, that I wouldn’t see them again. That I had begun through the process to really see some of them, to make a connection, to observe how they each were developing. I felt upset that it seemed so hard to convince people of the value of this work. How can it not be valued? I don’t understand it. I know the children can do it, can cope with being asked a lot of, can cope with remembering things, can cope with change, with the layering of information, that they interpret things and have ideas and feelings.
I aim high. I have high standards. I felt the work I made was strong, had range in it, had personal stories, had artistic merit, was educational, was developing all kinds of skills and the physical ones could be useful for PE. But more than that, how to work with other people’s bodies safely and to experience touch in a positive way, these are powerful tools. To work as a team, to rejoice in someone else’s difference, to celebrate difference, to allow unexpected people to shine, to re-establish a potentially different hierarchy in the room and to value the small contributions. I felt all of this was happening.
To give focus to someone who may not see themselves as physically skilled or confident. The dance framework is not a competitive one it is about stretching people, about pushing them and that ‘push’ being a good thing.
I wanted the work to be valued and recognised, to be bringing attention to many important qualities of how to work together with others. I wanted to create a supportive atmosphere where everyone’s part is important at the same time as striving, demanding that something has to be good. It’s not enough just to remember and repeat the material sometimes, judging when to give someone something more, open up a greater challenge just by a small interjection, letting them know they are capable of more.
I felt strongly, determined that this work shouldn’t be the poor relation to other subjects. Why is it perceived the poor relation? I work with structures in ways to grow and generate materials where the pupils are having to learn a lot in a short amount of time. This can be related to so many different things, patterns in maths, science of the body, human relationships, geography of space, story telling, PE and strength, art and feeling.
I’m not always good at articulating I’ve been good at something. It seems boastful which is contrary to how I am in the world. But because I wrote this in the immediate wake of the experience I wrote it for myself to remember what had happened. I do think I was good at this because I was focused on the art as well as the teaching. I want the work I create to be good in relation to my own sensibility of attention, interest, curiosity and imagination. It’s about how we can push the imagination and visceral response to people moving in complex ways no matter who they are, how old they are or how physically skilled. Every body is an interesting one. I want to challenge people to read and interpret physical communication in different ways, whether participants in the dance or audience witnessing it.
As an artist, I am good at working quickly and at working/responding with what someone gives me. At manipulating/stretching/extending initial movement behaviour and creating a context for it quickly, for something to be held, to be read, and to hold attention.
I write this to remind myself this is my strength. All the work I’ve done in community and educational settings where I respond and build quickly from simple structures by creating frameworks, where I change course, can work effectively to create opportunities for contrast, learn about the materials I’m building, it’s all useful for me to consider. I look closely at what I see and can transform small beginnings, turn them into something new that holds meaning in some way, by working closely with timing, rhythm, space and the body.