Would you give all that up?

I’m preparing an application to the Arts Council. It’s been on my mind for months, shaping the inner narrative in my mind, but still I’ve struggled until now to get the ideas down on paper.

In the end I had to scale down the vision, I’ve secured some residencies in January so no longer could afford the 3 month turn around needed for a more substantial bid, so just been hard at it here for a few weeks, at my desk, accompanied by an old dusty church candle, aged from years in an old ice cream tub under the stairs, lit now beside me – the warm glow of support has helped.

I asked a very special person who’s been supporting me, whether better to include a document as supporting material or a link. I could only include one or the other. She said the blog, ‘shows I am a reflective artist’.

I had forgotten about the blog.

It’s true I rarely use it for myself and yet, it would help, be a holding place for thoughts and anxieties, the latter has been increasing somehow, it might be my age.

I made a little while ago, a corner at the end of the bed. Sandwiched between a wall of books and the bed, facing a wall. On a wooden box my mum had given me are candles and a wooden African sculpture with twisted body parts that don’t quite fit, merged with the ebony, I think it must be ebony, that I used to look at and then stopped looking at and now I look at it again.

Having a space to kneel and be, holding a precious stone I bought in Norwich outdoor market some years ago, I try and still myself. It doesn’t last very long but at least I have made a space to be, for me.

From time to time I never know if I can keep this up. It’s not melodramatic really, it’s a product of on-going reflection, that I’m required to do, but also acknowledgement of the reality of things. I haven’t had proper paid work since June, it’s now October (apart from 400 pounds in July). This is unusual. It’s given me time to think, time to prepare writing, time to be a better parent, more present and available, it also provides space to doubt more, to feel even less sure, and anxiety is no doubt more present with the time alone figuring out ‘what next’.

I went to see several live events. A work in some underground caves, by Katie Green, in Torquay, a wonderful way to be poised underground, to be carried by the performers, to hear song and sound and watch the shadows by candlelight.

I saw Gecko’s new show, The Wedding. Remembering many years ago when I was performing in one of the Greenwich Dance Cabarets and did a short cameo part for them, and now, how that confident, physically luxuriant, lithe agility of dancing, how I can’t do it anymore. I watched with pleasure though. I don’t need the work to work on every level, I’m a generous witness when I see things, genuinely interested in the endeavour, the character of the work. Here the strong choreographic punctuation, relatively few bodies making the stage seem more populated, movement darting and charging in-between each other.

It was the Lost Weekend festival in Exeter last weekend. I saw Mike Bell’s Cardboard Arcade. Given I’m not a gaming person I discovered something quite extraordinary really, people playing together, helping each other and talking opening to each other. I understood something I’d not before. Helped by my son, it was lovely to see children so involved and so present.

And The Tale! from Situations taking place across Torbay over one long day. I always thought Torbay was a town and not an area, and I’m 45, born and raised in Devon! it was quite special; included an audio walk, Chris Watson recordings coming out of a cliff, a performance in a lido on the edge of the sea, a film showing in Paignton’s old Picture House, the smell dank and damp on entering was electric. I love that level of detail…

There’s been more shows, I’ve seen a lot really and there was an interesting talk by Alex Legere from his years as a Blue Peter producer in the pub, in my town, a fundraiser for the new scout hut.

But away from things to see and experience.

Where am I now?

I’ve another proposal to write, the Bonnie Bird Choreographic award. I was shortlisted in 2013 and 2015 but this year, it feels not ‘more urgent’, I feel even less likely to get it really,  but that the job is to try, to move my thinking on, to be dignified about it. Maybe the holding out for things, the demonstrating of need, isn’t to be held on to too tight. It makes it worse. Creates a kind of temporary dependency, one that doesn’t strengthen me inside. Without the need, the applications probably don’t register as urgent; but expressing the urgency makes me even more vulnerable.

In France over the summer I made dances on the children. I couldn’t help it. I noticed how different I felt about the environment when I imagined making portraits of the elder village folk dancing in their gardens/driveways. I could see it. I felt alive just imagining it. I should do it.

The answer must be just to do things anyway, just to do them!

Yesterday, to coax my boy to read – 5 minutes watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…

Grandpa … not Joe, the other one,


‘…would you give all that up for something as common as money…’


No I wouldn’t.

There has to be a way – a new way!

I just have to sit quietly to find it.

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letter to the cottage

I spent 10 days in rural west Wales in February 2017 in a village called Abercych, home to Simon Whitehead and Stirling Steward. They had invited me to connect with local people in the hope we might seed the beginnings of something for the future. Later I tried to capture my thoughts from this time spent alone, with Fran, Jenny, Stephen, Tom and Anna. This is what came out….


Mostly I’m thinking about what it can mean to be with someone. To giving attention to each particular process with a person and seeing where it goes. Taking proper time to listen. Bringing a focus to the body perhaps. Being responsive to possibilities, trusting in the idea of possibility that connections can and will come. Something could go further than might appear possible at first. But it’s here in these spaces, in these places of discovery with someone that I like to be. It’s scary too and it’s hard to explain what might happen. Time and again I struggle to describe it. But I keep asking myself the questions around how and why, and who I am through all of this, and it keeps me here.


Thank you fire, chair, bed, blanket, hot water bottle, window

Cord from the light, reminder of a distant home

Preparing to leave

Casting a net over moments caught

Supermarket café, choreography of shoppers through the panoramic aperture between two spaces

Stirling in the moonlight – Timeless

Teddy folded, squashed inside the coils of cable, pushed hard under the chest

Daring to touch each other

Water pouring out of the land – hands carrying

Late night man thinks into his funeral

‘Lambing is as close to birth as you can get’

Cold feet on stone, reposition sitting reposition sitting

The Witness Tree – horses, outlaws, night into day

Horseshoe curves in the road. Valleys rolling. Medieval Castle, stonewalls stacked layered, angles over angles. Tower circle, winding staircase. Up down just me. No visitors inside these damp walls. Just me

Motorbike in pieces, over sloping grass

Hair splayed out in sundials

Guitar rock loud from the graffiti hole – Mouth and body mimicking sound

Black notes, colony of ants, pouring into the grand piano

Leaving a life behind – starting anew

Talking to people

Tremor of emotion – his every word

Love love for the animals

Reading to a child, missing mine

The gift of gingerbread

Time is what we have

And invitations to a possible other place

If only I could reach you


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A response to ‘choreography of the every day’


I have a long history collaborating with Quarantine, most recently on WallflowerIn the lead up to Dance Umbrella and Juncture festivals Wallflower is part of, the company asked each of the team to respond to a slightly different provocation for the Wallflower NOTEBOOK, this was mine…


I remember the image of a man standing close to my then home in Brockley in SE London, during the late summer of 1996. He was stood on the edge of a curb, facing into the sloping leafy road, his body unusually still. Leaning forwards with one hand on the lamppost for balance (or maybe not) his steep angle appearing suspended, a sustained stillness at odds with the daylight activity around him. At the same time his body in this position seemed to bring everything else; street, buildings into sharp relief, engraving itself on my memory in ways I cannot explain.

Some years later, on a pedestrian street in Birmingham I was drawn to the man walking in front of me. His weight delicately tilted forwards with the shallow incline of the street, his arms floating, enlarged fluttering in slow motion behind him. I slowed not wanting to overtake, going more slowly than was comfortable, creating an invisible duet between us as my own rhythms became stretched to stay close. The movement of his arms was so articulate, so clear, that even now concentrating on the memory I can feel my own muscles twitching.

The difficulty, sense of falling and precariousness of the men’s movement created qualities that weren’t really so far from the everyday yet were heightened in small but significant ways to become something quite different, indescribable and lasting. I’ve never forgotten these particular images, possibly because I was so focused and active in observing them, but also because my feelings and empathy were stirred. In many ways this happens quite often, in all sorts of places at all kinds of times. I can notice a person’s way of moving and find myself pausing, lingering, it slows me down for a moment before continuing.

In this quiet observing of a person moving I feel I see them. Working choreographically, I am trying to make something of a person visible and to sensitively share that somehow. Drawing on simple everyday actions is useful to help reveal how a person moves as themselves; sitting, lying, falling, walking, holding hands etc… these infinite recognisable choreographies either developed for performance or existing in everyday life can be just as powerful to me as more elaborate patterns, the untrained body just as sophisticated as the highly trained dancer.

I’ve developed a genuine valuing and interest in small things (not exclusively) but I don’t tire of the small, the detail within a movement can seem so full if I really attend to it and create space around it. Working with different physical histories and revisiting them live is an important essence of Wallflower. The muscular process of retrieval is fascinating to watch and to explore, it seems whole worlds open up in and around the impossibility and uncertainty the performers negotiate, the rediscovery and joy and the inevitable loss that is also present.

It’s taken me some time to ponder this provocation from Quarantine of ‘Choreography of the everyday’, it could be a thesis, I wouldn’t know how to write it if it was! But I know I need to keep moving. Feelings, thoughts, ideas and sensations come to the surface when I do and I can be with myself and other people through moving in ways I couldn’t in any other way. The attention I give is a relief from the clutter of my mind and when I see somebody moving, if I pause, stay with it, taking in the fullness of it, then whole stretches of imagination and feeling open up in me.


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a quiet example of clarity

I’ve been thoughtful about my work for the past weeks, particularly in the last few days.

I went to see three things last week; Mark Bruce’s work, Odyssey, for 11 dancers with maximum visual impact of set and props, to a rich soundtrack of multiple musical influences. A TEDx Exeter event; a day of talks, discovering the work of war photographer Giles Duley, buying his book, One Second of Light, being reminded of the power of a single gift, he described being given a book of war photography and a camera as a child, forming foundational and lasting direction for his life. His tenacity and commitment, humanity and intense dedication moved me enormously. Two days later, I watched short films, set to music, with exquisitely economically written introductions, made by Peter Hulton, a man who I met a few years ago, who I barely know. Each time I see him he is smiling, like a child’s smile stretched and perfectly fitting his mature face. During the work and afterwards I was in tears. I watched them alone, in his ‘Cart Shed’, the films timed to come on every hour on the hour, ‘open and close the door when you leave’. There was such simplicity and clarity, poetry, a direct invitation to experience the work with beautifully composed elements.  A grass stem with seed head blowing in the breezing, bowed, with mention of a man and a stroke, the introduction to the art of drawing, shadows burnt into stone, the portrait of a fading face fading on a pebble in a zen garden closeup to the music of John Cage. I thought cycling home ,when does one thing end and another begin. How connections are revealed but not over-stated, yet so present, not weighted but present, unashamedly referred to, humbly, with honesty. I felt, the kind of experience that either spurs us on or makes us give up.

I’m at the beginning of a new process, working with Astrid Schrader from the University of Exeter. She has written about care and responsibility, and time. These areas interest me too. I’ve been worrying about it. I find the early part of a process hard and lonely. I can become easily paralysed by what I don’t know, feeling inadequate at how to talk about things, how to frame an enquiry, how to ask or write clear questions. At the same time, I know I’m not supposed to know. It’s about how I organise my time, how I give shape and colour to a process that legitimises the finding a way through.

The reminder that simplicity is all I have do, frame what it is I’m interested in, make that clear and available to others and resource what I’m sensitive about. I’m interested in movement. Today I was helped again by Deborah Hay’s teaching, she says:

‘I’m looking for their attention, moment to moment to moment to moment..’

‘I want to see their dance’

A dancer says, ‘she’s asked me to be in touch with my own passion, that’s a lot of work’

I say to myself, don’t dilute it because of fear others will say I’m too earnest or too serious.

It doesn’t have to be terrifying all the time. Sitting in Peter’s ‘Cart Shed’ I felt like I don’t want to give up. I want to make things. I want to connect with others. I want to open up spaces to be with thoughts and feelings. I don’t have to pretend to have all the answers, or be gifted with the big questions. Sometimes, certainly after listening to many talks during TEDx back to back, I value opening up a different way of thinking and processing, and art, poetry and dance can do this.


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Here with You


‘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.

Schools project 1

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.

Schools project 2I 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.


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Life Forces Workshop

Phil and I have been developing a workshop mapping the story of making the performance of Life Forces.

We work with objects and materials we use in the show as well as objects we previously worked with and discarded.

We explore scale, collaboration, dramaturgy and composition with space to work with the voice and free writing in response to tasks. 
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Reflections on ‘A Dance At Home’





In December 2013 Dance4 asked me if I’d be interested in a new commission working with the Commission Collective – a group of ten people who were coming together to co-commission a new piece of work. The idea was to make a dance in people’s homes. I was full of imaginings about what the work could be.

My work often grows out of the relationships with the people I’m working with and from the stories that emerge through conversation. The physical detail, however this is expressed, is shaped with people’s bodies in relation to the particular spaces and materials we’re working with. My process is very much about closely responding, mining and transposing connections collaboratively with the people I’m creating with.

I lean towards work that is patient, that lets the viewer in. I try to strip away, juxtapose the familiar with the abstract and the unexpected to make something that is heightened and which ‘suspends’, enabling the feeling of time and space to slow down somehow. For me this is choreographic and is about valuing the detail of small things and finding ways to make this visible.

I met the Collective at one of their homes later in the year. It was difficult to articulate my process. I noticed it seemed hard for the Collective to picture something so non-specific, so open to so many variables. I didn’t have one clear idea so it was suggested I return to meet each of them individually and propose something more concrete.

I proposed the idea of three different events being held over three different nights in four different homes with specific combinations of people. Each event would have a different overarching feel, be created directly with the people involved and be directly informed and inspired by these first meetings.

The experience of these final pieces could only really come alive with an audience present, each bringing their own experiences and histories to bear on our explorations of home.

A ritual of coffee beans, threading wool into a frame to step into, colour, collections of shells from childhood to matchbox cars in adulthood, the camping candle, an elaborate hand holding, an invitation to ‘have a look around’, tending the fire, the twig house, sailing, a ‘home’ dance for three, don’t you want me dance, painting large, when someone dies poem, knitting, the miniature theatre, Kris Kristofferson, I see an abandoned place, travel books, the layers and layers in this room, sleeping, the snowdrop story, my son’s boots, little house big house, holding, measuring to get it all in, elephant mountain, knowing everybody in this street, leaving, this is home….

The three performances happened on 8, 9, 10, March as part of the NottDance Festival.

Now I’m home. There’s the feeling of something missing. The people. The bringing something of ideas, effort, to a point of focus to be able to truly see it with others present, is a wonderful profound thing.

It’s been a privilege to work so closely with the Collective, to hear their stories and share in their memories of home.

A little part of me is still in Nottingham.

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After the Washington experience, I tried to write a story. I couldn’t, this is what came out instead.


He was a girl

Running, twirling, folding, diving, leaping, creeping, flailing, crashing, rolling


He was a girl


She was a boy


The road wasn’t flat

Crying from the top of the stairs – ‘I forgot to go!’

But it was long

The same width all the way, not seeming the same, feeling different all the time, because of the hidden houses, because of the car parks and the outside industrial looking square shapes, because of the traffic lights with arm-like roads veering off left and right

Gripping her trousers – ‘My private parts!’


Into her toes


Up ahead, the shape of someone… crossing, in the middle of the road, no… not crossing, waving… sort of waving…the afterglow of a wave, very softly


He was wearing, She was wearing a long coat, brown coloured, short hair, dark glasses, carrying something… a bag? Still. As though looking. Nowhere…

Cars stopped, hazards flashing, slowed right down, red lights beating in and out of focus, in the distance

Legs bare. Hands protecting

‘Don’t look!’

From the top of the stairs



Not moving
Sort of
But not
It makes



She moves to the edge, one hand on the lamppost.

Cars move

Steadying. Surefooted.

Leaning into




Leaning into




Under the road, deep ground is squashed. Concrete smothered soil crushed. Poured over brown earth and moisture particles. Gripping

Smoothed and rough

No name


‘I had an accident!’


In a circle
In a room
In a street named after a tree
In a place where people talk to each other
In a far away country
Nobody spoke






He was a girl
She was a boy

Rise and fall


Not balancing

Awkward And Alive


Say something




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Reflections from the final day of the Winer Institute

January 19th, Washington DC.

It was interesting to observe how the team steered the last two days. I could feel them trying to address as many needs as possible, adapting their structure accordingly. The slightly tight structure of the first two days I felt softened and in the bleeding of edges the space seemed to charge with the inaudible sound of people’s minds whirring. On Saturday we broke into smaller groups to discuss these main areas that had come up:

The Role of Storytelling.

Using the tools.

Partners/strategies for building a project in the community.

The Role of the Facilitator.

Role of storytelling notes from small group discussion
Role of storytelling notes from small group discussion

Then, in the afternoon we had a wonderful session with Liz Lerman; nimbleness, having multiple names for things, multiple categories to organise and catalyse thought, reframing thinking and on and on…. It’s not easy (for me) to describe how Liz works in the moment, much of what we did she’d done with us at The Point last year but it feels as fresh as ever and her focus, speed, generosity is simply astounding and responsive to anything that comes up.

Liz Lerman
Liz Lerman













After goodbyes to all the participants, Sacha and I had a quick lunch with Iana, a lovely person working as a mediator, wanting to try and build community classes where she lives on Deer Isle in Maine a 14 hour drive north. Her use of language was very interesting for me to listen to. She described the importance of reflective listening for children, how through story telling with the listening child reflecting back what they had heard from the story told, children can learn early that it’s ok for our stories to be misunderstood and then corrected and in doing so they learn that each other can be corrected, that it’s alright, we’re not wrong.

On the final day Iana had given me some feedback following a trio exercise the ‘moving interview’; two people interrupt the storyteller/mover with rapid fire questions as well as providing physical contact/interruption simultaneously, to give the moving person lots to negotiate towards releasing/surfacing unexpected thought and feeling. She said kindly, ‘I shouldn’t work so hard to be accurate in what I wanted to say…..’

I had been gradually noticing how once again, I was not speaking much or easily in the group circle situations. This is a recurring issue for me, but in this particular context a reminder of how I get overwhelmed sometimes with simplifying what is in my mind to be able to express it. This began to unsettle me, and when asked to re-find our ‘buddies’ from day one, lovely Emily, I faced away from the other pairs talking in the room as I welled up with the fear of having to talk and share in the circle at closing time, which I knew was coming.

I was asking myself the question about contribution. Did it mean that if I don’t speak even when I am thinking – I assess/judge whether it’s clear/important enough to speak aloud, is there something potentially more important about ‘supporting the group effort’ that makes someone a good contributor in a group? Something to do with the responsibility of supporting the navigating of the groups learning by contributing verbally to be more fully present for others than deciding whether what I’m saying is vital and necessary enough. I wondered again whether this was a cultural difference. The people in the room were largely American and articulate in their communication. I could feel the ground of their education requiring this to be the case, whereas even at 43 I don’t feel particularly articulate in describing difficult processes. Of course the wonderful session with Liz Lerman on Saturday afternoon brought into sharp focus again how we can learn these skills and demonstrates in quite extraordinary ways how complex ideas can multiply/co-exist/be reframed, particularly by naming what is being thought/felt/struggled with.

I’m not sure of the answer to my concerns about ‘speaking out’. It’s not new by any means. I do speak but not much, mostly when each person is invited to or when I have something clear to say.

During the last circle, Cassie put forward a new idea they have been working with ‘the circle of possibility’ a visioning tool. We were asked to imagine a challenge we faced, that we’d distilled in our ‘buddy’ pairs, then express it within a structure of, having already done/overcome this challenge in the future… ‘When I left the Winter Institute I did ….. ‘

So, I began to speak, slowly, in the moment, not knowing where it would lead and feeling very uncomfortable. I described a conversation in a café near where I live in Topsham, with a new producer friend I’ve been working with called Rae. I asked her to help me by having a conversation, because I wanted to work out how to identify a new group I might begin to work with (Dance Exchange does a lot of work in Care Homes for example) – a group I’d not worked with before.

Imagining this fictional conversation slowly stirred some quiet resolve. And I do feel now, that some thinking has subtly shifted.

I already work on various projects, in the community and professionally not making any large distinction between them, more I attempt to bring the same rigour to everything I do without assuming I know how to do the things before I start.

I do want to broaden the kinds of projects I’m involved in and to take my approaches/and ME into new contexts where I might be able to create some meaningful exchange between people. I think that despite my difficulties of talking about what I do/can do, I do trust that I do/can create from small things and that I do/can hold a space for things to happen and that, I’m good at this.

I realise as I’m writing here that maybe this is my own personal answer to the question of; ‘The Role of Artists working to build Community’. In a way I’m not sure we directly tackled it, but my responsibility maybe is to honour new curiosities when they arise, to see where they lead and to keep going. And to keep trying to imagine new ways to do things to share and build understanding, in a range of ways, with different people, where I can possibly make a difference in their lives and by doing so in mine too.


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Winter Institute, Washington DC

So here I am in Washington DC, in a B&B In Woodley Park.

This wonderful opportunity to accompany Sacha Lee (Creative Producer at The Point) to attend Dance Exchange’s Winter Institute, looking at the overarching question ‘What is the Role of Artists in Building Community?’ was one I was very much looking forward to. Dance in Devon have also kindly supported this trip and I wish to thank both The Point and DID for this invaluable support.

One of my impressions from Thursday (my arrival day) and Friday was to do with the reminder of how familiar the language of dance is, how universal it is. Even within a different cultural context and there certainly seems to be different emphasis on the kind of language used to describe processes, ways of thinking and the giving of instructions etc, yet there is so much commonality drawing this diverse group of people together, in this space of dance that we all share.


On Saturday we took part in a community workshop for seniors from a nearby residential centre, in the Rec Centre on New Hampshire Avenue. This long stretch of road has been undergoing a lot of change in recent years, Cassie the artistic director explained how for about 10 years the company had been largely on tour and so the impulse for this particular project was rooted in a need and desire to work more closely to home. ‘This is a Place To…’ will work at various sites and with various residents along the New Hampshire Avenue. It’s a project about ‘home’ and about where people come from asking how they feel connected to home and place. There will be varying degrees of involvement from participants and a remounting of Liz’s 1986 site-specific work ‘Still Crossing’ will form part of the culmination of the performance project.
At the workshop I sat next to a Sun Li, a woman in her late 70’s from South Korea. There was very minimal language between us, so it was through the exercises of mirroring seated on chairs, building to moving in turns around the chair, that we found a way to build a connection between us. The power of touch comes into rapid focus in a moment like this. The first real touch of hands, I had been anticipating it! Led to touches of reassurance, of thanks, of reciprocal acknowledgement of what we were doing together and this was very special. At the end of the workshop we hugged when saying goodbye and I was reminded again of the intimate connection between strangers where the language is formed through a physically moving together and how powerful this can be.

Storytelling features heavily in the work that Dance Exchange does to find ways to reveal and generate movement, for example noticing the physical behaviour a person involuntarily makes when telling a story is called ‘spontaneous gesture’. Ways of working are not so different from processes I have been involved in or might try to create myself. Yet here there is clearly a system of named and articulated tools that underpin the ways of working. I have been extremely fortunate to attend a week long workshop at The Point with Liz Lerman (founder of Dance Exchange) that Sacha initiated in Summer 2014, so have witnessed through her teaching, the years of work refined into these tools now past onto the team here who are taking this work and legacy forward. They are clearly doing this with real care, commitment, dedication and passion. On reflection, I think I use multiple tools frequently in an artistic process but so useful to be able to articulate what I’m doing, and see ways to unlock, catalyse or ‘course correct’ a process in order to be responsive and adapt to the specifics of a new situation or group, to gain deeper awareness of preferences or habits that could be limiting.

This far in though, I have found myself missing a kind of space which perhaps could be a little less managed and organised. The team are very well prepared and this is to their credit. There is a clearly thought out plan and rigorous shared delivery between the whole team which is lovely to watch; each member of the team integrated into the sharing of the ideas proposed in a very respectful way. However, I do sense that I’m personally drawn to the idea of a space where ‘the unexpected in the group thinking’ is perhaps slightly more able to surface. I’m not sure how this would happen but it’s something to do with giving a little more time for conversations to allow them to go deeper without being too directed for a little while. I’m really interested in this central question of ‘The role of artists in Community’, and am also grappling with how I might attempt answering it for myself in ways that feel relevant. So far we’ve not dug deep into this but there’s time still! I’ve been thinking more widely about purpose, value, responsibility and what happens when things don’t quite work and I’d like us to touch on these themes too, within a broader awareness of responsibility as artists when we are seeking a close connection with others.

This question of the role of artists drew me in, and has sensitised me to consider more closely and re-examine what it is that I do as an artist and how might I do things differently.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and maybe it’s a chance for me to try and speak these reflections more openly in the room rather than just thinking them to myself through this writing.

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