Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Driving up to Boat of Garten for Rural Touring Network's Spring Gathering 2017: I feel the anticipation and the nervousness of 'pitching' my work. Having never done this before but being excited by the prospect of meeting face to face the programmers: some of whom I've been communicating over the last six months. Rocking up at the village hall and waiting in my car I see other cars beginning to pull up. Camper vans, a few friendly dogs and a man in checked dungarees that must be a performer...I enter the building and am greeted by Rhiannon, the event organiser. She gives me the info I need to get myself organised and the day kicks off with the first presentation. A great way to start the day with a touring circus act. Engaging and warm, I think about all the potential kids and young adults in rural communities who would have a lot of fun if this circus came to town. It made me remember a visiting circus not so long ago, one which I attended in Bettyhill village hall, Sutherland. After a long summer holiday of not much going on (just the way my parents liked it) my sister and I were extremely excited to spend an afternoon learning how to juggle. A skill which has stayed with me ever since! Phew, this makes me a little more nervous about my pitch, hoping that I manage not to alienate the masses with the two words, 'contemporary dance'. Luckily I mistake when I'm supposed to go on and it's earlier than I thought so I don't have much time to get nervous. What a privilege! To talk about my work in front of a room full of people. At fifteen minutes they can't get too bored right? I won't have time to wander down an existentialist and confounding path, one that is confusing even to myself. I start off a little bit spacey...but after a few moments I stick myself to the script. Pin myself into the task in hand which is to represent and 'sell' my work. At least I have images and video to back up this verbal presentation. I congratulate myself for remembering to talk about the educational aspect of the work and how keen I am to spend time wherever I visit to meet the local community there. That is something that I have discovered and know from working rurally: It's as much about the give as the take. It's about talking with people; it's about spending the time before and after a show. It's about the integration of life and art. Of performance and party. Of reflecting and doing in equal measure. It's a different approach to time. Moving on to the afternoon: a merry band of artists present their work and how great it is to see the diversity! From plays to children's dance shows, from Gaelic song to Aberdonian Folk: I feel like I've been to an eclectic variety show and with each act the performance is tangible and more 'bookable' than if solely on paper, video or CD. Sitting in for the day I'm put in the promotor's shoes, not a bad place from where to observe what works and clearly grabs the interest of the group. During lunch and into the afternoon I have a few lovely conversations with programmers who are interested in the work. It's a great way to get a real feel for the place you may visit and the amount of information passed in a ten minute conversation far surpasses even the amount gained in ten e-mails. At dinner the conversations become more varied and not solely focussed on selling and booking. Meeting old friends and colleagues is a delight. Catching up while passing the time in a newly built village hall, just like the ones many programmers are representing, is a great way to get a feel for a rural venue. After a thoroughly lovely but exhausting day, full of promise and inspiration I hear some great live music, organised through the youth strand of the Touring Network. To wind up, a visit to the local bar, talking to the wee small hours. Only to wake up a few hours later with the forest on my doorstep and a journey ahead back to the central belt and into the studio. Inspired by this glimpse of where I could be headed I jump in the car and get going. Thanks Touring Network and thanks The Workroom for connecting people and transforming places...
Monday, 11 July 2016
Tired of all who come with words, words but no language I went to the snow-covered island. The wild does not have words. The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions! I come across the marks of a roe-deer’s hooves in the snow. Language, but no words. - Tomas Tranströmer
Saturday, 2 July 2016
Mus Ro Faclan Ann is Gaelic for Before Words. This project came about by living on the Outer Hebridean island of Uist. Uist is one of the most Westerly points in Europe along with the string of islands that create this incredible place. At the time I was reading David Abram, an ecologist and philospher whose approach to Animism fed into my physical dance practice. Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world and that souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but in animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains, rivers or other entities of the natural environment including thunder, wind and shadows. In essence what I was reading about I was experiencing by being in this place and by being in this place my physical understanding of movement and therefore my choreography was changing. What’s more the Gaelic language was foreign to me and yet seemed like feature of this landscape. In the conception of my experience into live performance, the elements I include are dance, song, sound, image and lighting. Each of these elements has as much importance for me as the next and should be interwoven so that there is no visible differentiation between elements. I try to as much as I can, within my choreographic choices, use the inherent qualities of the materials to work with. This means not only the output: which movements arise in which order, but to think about how the movement was generated in the first place and the knock on effect that has. Coming back to the concept for the work, I want to shift the audience’s perception between their experience of sound, song, movement and image so that they don’t experience the representation of ideas, which is what language offers. Rather something transmitting directly without being able to be named.
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
This work began as a love for a place: a skyline, the unexpectedness of an encounter in the early morning, the breathtaking rise of the glowing sun and most of all, the people and their language. Set in the most Westerly point of Europe, the Outer Hebridean islands lie in the thrashing Atlantic Ocean. A spine of Lewisian Gneiss, rock that is millions of years old, connects the body of these Islands and all who live there. An ancient mummy was dug out of the peat here, the various skeletal parts a fusion of not just one, but three bodies. The burial mounds, the round houses and the stone circles indicate a society with ancient customs and religions. Where the druids praised the goddess of water for the fresh clear springs long before those wells were given Christian names by visiting priests. There is so much that can be said about these islands: the love of music, of the pipes and of the dance; the skill and the knowledge of the craft of spinning, walking and weaving; the fisherman who lost their lives to feed their communities and the tragedies that have been suffered through war and immigration. But it is not the history that I would like you share. It is the present. A present undoubtably linked to its past and it’s future. A moving portrait of a people connected to the ebb and flow, to the tunes, to their kin and to their yarns. If I am honest the piece is called Before Words because I don’t speak the language of these Islands, though I feel to speak the sound of the language through my body. The musicality within Gaelic lightens something in me. I don’t understand the language but I’m happy in the presence of it. It’s this light footedness that comes across in the humour, the stories and the songs that resonates: a physical state brought about in me through language. I miss it. Now the other and mammoth part of this relationship I have with these Islands is through the landscape. The horizon curving almost downwards and around me peels back something in my brain. For a long time periodically I appreciated I was part of a bigger web of life but hadn’t so profoundly experienced it until living there. This perceptual shift has stayed with me. A sort of self- initiated rite of passage. Now the words environment, ecology, interconnectivity, interdependency aren’t concepts to me. They are my reality. Wherever I am. They are me and I them. Rather, they are in me and I am in them. Yes it is a bit like making love. So in the theatre and in dance; the field of contemporary dance, I have found a way, a channel to speak to let these experiences in. I have found artists with whom I feel I can share these thoughts and work. I have a methodology, albeit it not perfect, whereby I feel I can honestly integrate the various elements which are of such great importance to me: space, light, movement and sound. The ephemeral nature of these elements sometimes proves problematic in the reading of my intention to an audience. I have been more recently, I feel due to the absence of words (another reason for the title Before Words), been met with a kind of eagerness to engage, but not a strong enough reaction. With each work I make I try to dig a little deeper, and I will keep digging. First of all there is space around us and within us. These spaces aren’t empty but are in constant motion. Our brains, our hearts, all of our organs and cells have memory. We are impressionable beings. We are malleable through our physical fragility and therefore strong. We have a structure and integrity through our physical bodies that we all deal with every day. Perhaps this canvas, the body, is more porous than we think. As a choreographer I try to expand the interface between inner and outer, between self and other. Not through words but through movement. Why? I’m trying to go backwards, not just to the beginning of my life, but the beginning of the lives of my ancestors to feel what they knew in their cells and what we may have forgotten: that human beings are not separate from, but a part of the animate world. In the very earliest time When both people and animals lived on the earth A person could become an animal if he wanted to And an animal could become a human being Sometimes they were people And sometimes they were animals And there was no difference All spoke the same language… - Knud Rasmussen Mus Ro Faclan Ann – Before Words is a performance with five performers: two musicians and three dancers. It features video material and sound recordings from the Outer Hebrides that will be integrated into the choreography. These elements create a sonic and visual space with multiple screens and sound sources. It may be that the audience travels throughout the space or that the audience space changes throughout the course of the performance. The choreography is built through an accumulative process, inspired by a compositional score called figure/landscape. Taking movement sources from waves, birds in flight and people, the language of the body creates an inter play between the musicality and meaning of the sung Gaelic words. Folk songs are broken down into various layers of sound and words stretching the compositional score across all of the elements.
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Thursday, 11 February 2016
Research for Mus Robh Faclan Ann - Before Words
Older ways of life, inspiration for Choreography
Movement of shoreline birds
discoverandenjoynature/ discoverandlearn/birdguide/ name/o/oystercatcher/index. aspx
Older ways of life, inspiration for Choreography
Movement of shoreline birds