From Weft to Wight!

crazy woman

My good self performing in durational Live Art / Dance work ‘The Last Knit’, by Annika Kompart. Image: Natalia Iwaniec

“In weaving, the weft is the term for the thread or yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread. The weft is a thread or yarn usually made of spun fibre. The original fibres used were wool, flax or cotton.

Hand looms were the original weaver’s tool, with the shuttle being threaded through alternately raised warps by hand. Inventions during the 18th century spurred the Industrial Revolution, with the “picking stick” and the “flying shuttle” (John Kay, 1733) speeding up production of cloth. The power loom patented by Edmund Cartwright in 1785 allowed sixty picks per minute.

A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: ‘one of them goes from weft to wight’.” (Extracts from Wikipeda)

katy7

Image and Textile Installation in Detail: Katy Devereux

Local Textile Artist Katy Devereux, Vocal Artist Georgie Buchanan and myself are soon to embark upon Warp+Weft: a multidisciplinary journey through Textiles, Dance and Sound! We doubt it will go from weft to wight as planned, since creative journeys never do stick to a straight path, but nevertheless, we’re very excited about where it might wander. (Just watch out for the ‘shoddy’*, we don’t want anything getting stuck in that pipe!)

To begin, here’s our 100 word extravaganza of a description for the lovely folk at The Arts Council:

Warp+Weft is a two month interdisciplinary collaborative Arts project, interweaving the skills and experiences of local women in Art and Industry to create a multi-layered journey encompassing Textiles, Dance and Sound. Through a series of workshops with a group of local ex-Mill working women aged 55+ the project will engage with Calderdale’s rich Textile heritage to explore wider themes of womanhood, work and industry. It will culminate in a residency followed by a Live Event and Installation reinterpreting local heritage though experimental art and sound, taking place at the 1830 Gallery at The Artworks during Heritage Open Weekend. The project will be documented through a diverse range of media, including blog, film & photography.

Since there’s no word count on this blog, I’ll begin at the beginning. Three ’emerging’ artists (that’s what they call us!), sat in a room. Look out at hillside and mills. Consider collaboration. Put heads together. Goes a little something like this…

Apparently, landscapes remind a person of who he or she is. In the belief that we can only begin where we are, we asked; what about the Mills that are written across our local landscape? Such man-made industrial environments and machinery were at the forefront of a revolution which changed the way human beings lived and worked forever, not only in our local region, but across the world. What of the women who worked in them in years gone by; our families, our ancestors, our sisters across time? We make Art, they made Industry. What’s the connection between past and present, people and place, art and industry? How can we explore those loosely bound threads and weave it all together anew?

Through a process of excavating the stories of a group of local women, combined with construction, occasional deconstruction, and live performance, this collaborative project aims to re-envisage and re-animate The Artworks’ 1830 Gallery, formerly Shaw Lodge Mills (one of the longest running Textile Mills in the local area, owned by the Holdsworth Family, it remained open until as late as 2008).

The Artworks; left, exterior of the building, right, interior of the 1830 Gallery

things fall apart

Things Fall Apart, Exhibition by Katy Devereux, 2010

Based in an understanding of the often under-appreciated embodied intelligence present in all kinds of physical work, the project will explore the experiences of a group of women who worked in Calderdale’s Textile Industry. We want to listen to their stories and experiences, and yup, you guessed it, interweave these with our arty shenanigans!

Perhaps we’ve been reading too much Studs Terkel (author of bestseller ‘Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about it’. Check it out, it’s fascinating and we highly recommend), but we want this project to offer a space for the re-interpretation of the humanity and poetry of the Mill worker in texture, sound and motion, as remembered and lived through the body by local ex-Mill workers.

We want to explore the relationship between man (or woman, in this case) and machine. Between community, industry, transience and transformation. Between three art-forms traditionally associated with the feminine, and the inner workings of the factory floor in the once great Textile Industry of our local area.

Once upon a time in the days of old, workers kept time by song. When the industrial revolution arrived, mechanical time took over and workers would lipread over the sound of heavy machinery. Repetitious and laborious tasks were not universally hated, although they were by some (we have already gathered many a tale of health & safety nightmare, accidents and incidents occurring none too infrequently at times); yet several women have already spoken to us about their enjoyment of this work, of being ‘tomboys’, of it’s smells and sounds.

GEORGIE

Vocal Artist Georgie Buchanan making magical sounds with a ragtag of instruments and her exquisite voice in an attic somewhere. Sneaky peek of her tones on the link below:

One woman who worked in the Mills in latter years even has a theory that certain classic Northern Soul dance moves originated in the movements made by Mill workers! We wonder, can we as live human performers become an art machine of sorts, a human choir choreographed, with machinery all mingled in with the found sounds and noises made possible by the next step in the industrial revolution – electricity! For this, electronic musician and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Smith, who produces under the name ‘Ruma Gilah’ (Malaysian for ‘Madhouse’), will join us.

We’re not sure what it will look or sound like, because there’s still so many stories to hear and experiences to encounter, but we hope you enjoy following us, from weft to wight or wherever we go.

Too rarely is the honest work of local people in industry honoured. So many things these days are boxed up and prettified, dissociated from where they came from, and much gets lost in the process. This project is a chance to tell some stories differently: it won’t be the same, because everything changes, but it will be a little bit of a lot of things, all woven together again.

I’ll leave you with a little dance I did a while ago. Complete with the dulcet tones of our very own Yorkshire born David Thomas Broughton, on forgetting where you come from and returning, along with some words of wisdom on the value of movement by the legendary Dance Artist Steve Paxton.

 

*A local lady we met at an art group told us about ‘shoddy’ getting stuck up the pipes where she worked. Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Recycled or remanufactured wool. Historically generated from loosely woven materials. Benjamin Law invented shoddy and mungo, as such, in England in 1813. He was the first to organise, on a larger scale, the activity of taking old clothes and grinding them down into a fibrous state that could be re-spun into yarn. The shoddy industry was centred on the towns of Batley, Morley, Dewsbury and Ossett in West Yorkshire, and concentrated on the recovery of wool from rags. The importance of the industry can be gauged by the fact that even in 1860 the town of Batley was producing over 7000 tonnes of shoddy. At the time there were 80 firms employing a total of 550 people sorting the rags. These were then sold to shoddy manufacturers of which there were about 130 in the West Riding. Shoddy is inferior to the original wool; “shoddy” has come to mean “of poor quality” in general (not related to clothing), and the original meaning is largely obsolete”. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Creative Visions 09: The Art Party – FILM SCREENING | home

I’m now working  part-time for a network for the Creative and Digital Industries in my area called Creative Calderdale. Here’s a copy of the first article I wrote for the website about an event we’re organizing in February. I’ll post summat about the rest of my recent shenanigans when I get a mo. For now, peruse this at your pleasure…

Creative Visions 09: Art Party – FILM SCREENING

Creative Calderdale is delighted to announce a screening of the unique and provocative Art Party at 6pm on Thursday February 4th at The Elsie Whiteley Centre. The film is the latest in a series of cutting-edge collaborations between artist Bob and Roberta Smith, and filmmaker Tim Newton. Part documentary, part punk-road movie and part political fantasy, Art Party charts the journey to the 2013 Art Party Conference, where Bob and Roberta Smith and other speakers championed the importance of art, its place in the education system, and in society in general. The screening, made possible courtesy of HOME Artist Film, will also be followed by a panel discussion led by regional arts and education professionals. Book your ticket for Creative Visions 09: Art Party here.

Presumably, Bob and Roberta Smith’s dual-personality moniker is inspired by his sister – who happens to be a psychiatric nurse who goes by the name of Roberta. This choice of name implicitly suggests a creativity which is inseparable from more overtly pragmatic social issues, and indicates the boundary breaking nature of Smith’s work. Smith clearly has a preoccupation with using art as a tool to create positive social change, and is also interested in notions of amateurism and failure.

Smith is primarily known for his ‘slogan art’, a practice which involves the daubing of a few choice words in brightly coloured lettering on banners or discarded boards of wood. These slogans are usually humorous, irreverent, politically-charged musings which often support his activist campaigns, such as the 2002 amnesty on bad art at Pierogi Gallery, New York. This approach has ensured that Smith is an artist who is respected, but perhaps not wholly accepted by the mainstream ‘high art’ world, and we might safely imagine that this is a position Bob and Roberta would approve of!

Nevertheless, Smith has exhibited worldwide and has also been the curator of several public art projects, such as Art U Need and Peace Camp. Back in 2011 Bob and Roberta made waves with Letter to Michael Gove, the oversized painted-word response to the former Education Secretary’s proposed eradication of art from the British school syllabus. This was the work from which the 2013 Art Party Conference evolved.

Held in Scarborough and supported by The Art Fund (the national charity for art), The Art Party offered an opportunity for a diverse range of artists and organisations to discuss and celebrate the importance of art. The National Society for Education in Art & Design launched their alternative curriculum at the conference, and a range of film screenings, interviews, debates, discussions and workshops were held. In true Bob and Roberta style, this was accompanied by banners, readings, performances, artworks, calls for action, and a touch of humour and mischief. As night fell the ‘party’ was put into Art Party by an array of live bands and DJ sets.

Throughout both preparations and conference, filmmaker Tim Newton was on hand to capture the various ‘happenings’. The resultant film contains an unusual blend of performance, interviews and imagined scenes; it is a genre-bending creation portraying a slightly surreal journey to and through the Art Party Conference. We’re looking forward to a very inspiring screening, alongside a lively and enlightening discussion about the place of art in both education and wider society, right here in the heart of lovely Calderdale!

THE ART OF ACTION (in the eye of the shitstorm)

winterrice

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/winterrice-helping-young-refugee-families-survive#/

CLICK ON THIS LINK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This may well not turn out to be the most coherent string of words I’ve ever sewn together (it’s late and I’m tired), but then again, that’s not the whole story. Coherence is like debate – it can sound convincing, but be simltaneously utterly devoid of humanity. This post is coming from a different place. I’m writing it, person to person, in the understanding that some things need to be felt in your bones, and that this, my friends, is one of ’em. Some stuff spews from the guts. It ain’t always pretty, but I’ve come to realise, nevertheless, that it’s totally fucking necessary.

If you’re connected to me already, whether by blood, friendship, hell or high water, you’ll no doubt already have encountered my ranting, chanting and carrying on regarding the refugee crisis in recent months. My obsessive-compulsive social media sharing, and general banging on about articles, blog posts and campaigns, have received less comments, shares and likes (!) than I might have hoped for. Perhaps I’ve even done everybody’s nut in and come across as holier than thou…?!

Anyhoo, in the end I would like to publicly say SOD IT, FUCK IT, and as girl after my own heart, Kate Brittain, recently put it …. #SORRYNOTSORRY !!! I’ll continue ranting, chanting and carrying on, with all the Yorkshire-rowdiness and flexing of the freedom of expression muscles that I can currently maneuver. Because whilst I love the dancing (ohhh yup I really love that dancing!), I have come to the stark and shocking realisation that protest-dance has a supremely limited ability to help the folk freezing, drowning, and having a totally bloody dire time as they attempt to reach the relative safety of ‘Fortress Europe’.

This blog is called izzabellanecessary for a reason. It’s about calling a spade a spade and an arse an arse. It’s about lessening the gap between what’s considered ‘necessary’ or ‘useful’, ‘intelligent’, ‘arty’ or ‘creative’. It’s something to do with expanding my mind-body matrix in order to see, be and do what’s appropriate. What is necessary in order to navigate the complexity of this world; how can I slowly weed out the ways in which I’ve been furtively trained to see, be and act by society?

I’m now beginning to realise that this new approach can really encompass anything. We don’t all have to specialise and separate, creating artificial borders between art, work, life, our ‘selves’ and all other assorted humans, creatures and earthly wonders. There are ways and means of expanding beyond the microcosm.

In recent years my life has revolved around the learning the embodied art of dancing, and practising the odd bit of poetry to go with it. Meanwhile, under the surface, several other concerns have been taking seed. I’ve been composting thoughts, germinating ideas, and more overtly direct practices of ordinary magic had begun to seem necessary. To translate this into less of a tongue twister, I’m beginning to dip my dancing feet and dainty mitts into the art of taking practical action – whether that means weaving willow into a garden fence with my pals, taking baby-steps towards learning about bees and growing food, or tentatively engaging in actual direct action (somewhat delicately, like this little book suggests).

I’ve made a new commitment to collaboration, collective creativity, and taking a pragmatic, integrative approach in helping to heal the problems facing our world. Gahhhh, it’s not like I’m on a crusade friends, but some kind of sea-change has undoubtedly begun.

This might all sound suspiciously like my own personal new-era manifesto, and I will get to the point eventually, promise… However, I’m mentioning all this because I do believe that personal pleas are important. Scrap that, they’re essential, vital, and again, totally fucking necessary!!! People to people solidarity and grassroots responses have provided much of the backbone of humanitarian support across Europe, throughout this all-encompassing, ongoing shitstorm of a very sorry situation.

With this in mind and body, I’m asking you to feel beyond the boundaries of your own situation, and think about sharing, supporting and engaging with this ‘ere little initiative (go back to that link at the top, click it, read, share, and donate if you can). It may seem small, a drop in the ocean even, but it all matters. 

This particular initiative, aiming to provide 100 families with emergency surival kits for starters, has been set up by a super inspiring group of artists in Greece. I spent time learning lots of wisdom and wonder-things with them this summer at The Ricean School of Dance, in relative luxury on an idyllic Greek Island, not far from where refugees are still arriving in their thousands. They are enduring horrendous hardships, inhumane conditions, and have far, far too slender a hope of some shelter from the storm. Whilst summertime RICE focused on creating a temporary, experimental space to explore non-hierarchical, binary-bending, boundary-breaking approaches to art + life, WINTERRICE is a pragmatic response to an urgent situation of epic proportions. It made me smile to see RICE described alternatively in the conext of WINTERRICE as standing for a ‘real institute of civic engagement’. The two initiatives are perfect companions in the book of balance 🙂

Donations to WINTERRICE began thick and fast. I got into my cosy bed one night, and arose to find $1000 more in generosity flowing straight towards some of the people who need it most. After sharing till our fingers bled, we reached our target in record time! Happy days! The decision was then made to increase our target in order to improve the quality of the kits, include longer-lasting food, and to buy and staff a tent for refugees in Mytilene, Lesvos with two volunteers, including a nurse, who would also distribute the emergency kits.  We were ‘featured’ and we were ‘trending’, at the peak of the appeal, but donations have, of course, now slowed.

And so it is. The time has come to rant some more in a bid to keep that trickle a-coming. There’s only six days left, so now is the time!

Consider this a call to action and a serious shout out for a show of solidarity, if you will. I am begging / pleading / requesting that you please please please support and share this initiative! If you feel disconnected from the reality of the refugees it aims to help, or perhaps not fully aware of the extent of the refugee crisis, I ask that you make it a priority to check out the many blogs and articles online (often written by grassroots volunteers who are currently working, organising and helping on the ground across Europe, see the bottom of this post for links).

We all have our own realities, and struggles and action comes in many different shapes, sizes and varieties. I want to emphasize that right now, a series of historical moments are occurring. The full weight of what’s happening in the world, from refugee crisis to climate change, encompassing the full kaleidoscopic multitude of madnesses and back again, will become wholly evident only in hindsight.

I’m asking you to help ensure RIGHT NOW that these people are not forgotten, that these stories are told, and that we make ourselves necessary to the softening of this particular problem.

If you can’t donate, I feel ya. Let’s face it, I’m totally and utterly shambolically skint myself. I recently extended my overdraft again in order to, firstly, eat, and also to give a mere $20 to the very campaign that I’m pleading for. It’s not all about the cash-money. There are many ways to get involved and show your solidarity. You can write letters, raise awareness, share stories, organise a fundraiser, or make links with organisations supporting asylum seekers in your local area. Just give a shit and do something, basically. Use your big mouth and your unique life, to whatever extent you’re able.

We desparately need to see this situation for what it is, and not merely how the limited vision of the usual media channels represent it.Our governments are not doing enough – almost bugger all in fact, for a bloody change! Border policy and nationalist self-protection, along with ‘economic imperatives’ come first for them. I write simply and from a place of common sense, as you can see. I’m no political commentator.

Even so, what I do know is that this form of knowledge is as valid as any. I don’t need to back up this post with theory and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the complex political maneuvers that have contributed to this crisis. I know enough. I know that we are capable of putting the pressure on those governments, and that we can certainly choose to open our own personal borders to let the compassion out. It might only be a trickle at first, but eventually it can build into a booming expression of the interconnectedness of all things.

We’re all deeply implicated, whether we know it or not. I feel this deep in my bones, in the gurgling processing-pit at the bottom of my belly, and in the blood that boils when I consider the state we’re in. I also experience it in the beauty of the rich and diverse pragmatic practices of ordinary magic ocurring moment to moment, all across the world. It’s in the intelligence of nature, the individuals and communities creating amazing things everywhere, and in the awe-inspiring, warmth-inducing possibilities of the things we might potentially create together. We are a collective of flawed and yet well-intentioned humans, who might just have the ability to see what needs doing, and to spontaneously do it. It’s an invitation innit 😉

Directly after my time at The Ricean School of Dance this summer, I got on a bike (having not cycled in two years, I was really just following an intuition that this was something I wanted / needed to do), and joined the Critical Mass to Calais in order to donate bikes to the people there. It was an experience which was both eye-opening and transformative, and you can read / watch more about it herehere and here. Confronted with the reality of the refugees there, I began to more fully understand the extent of the inherent violence of borders. Policy, policy, policy, but what about people? #noborders #yourborderskill #fucktheborders. That is all I have to say.

The trip to Calais was not without it’s challenges and complications, oh aye; co-ordination and cohesive action is a craft, an art and a lifelong learning curve in itself. However, the kindness and compassion in Calais and the experiments in disrupting the usual modes of communication at RSOD, both served to make it blindingly clear that everything begins with dialogue and connection. This communication between self – environment – other is occurring always, on multiple levels. Much of the act of meeting has occurred before physical touch or ‘action’, as we usually conceive of it, occurs. I came to observe that there is a delicate activism occurring in the communication between everything, all of the time.

So I’ve been thinking about these things. Such as: what is the art of hosting conversations that matter? How does change happen? Does it start with a tiny seed and expand outwards, in a mycellium-like structure, just as mushrooms communicate underground? Is it essentially an organic process? Leading questions, I know, but both Critical Mass Calais and RSOD emphasized and developed further in me the necessity of standing in solidarity with fellow humans, other animals, and also the earth (which is also a part of us, not just another, separate story).

Recent experiences have demonstrated to me that we can develop the resilience that allows us to see these things, and not turn away. It is possible to learn the art of open dialogue and to translate that into the art of action. We can call a spade a spade, an arse an arse, and take on the eye of the shitstorm, in which spades and arses can often become confused and convoluted things, mutated beyond all original intention… You only need to read the news to see that.

We can do all this, amongst other, necessary stories… and fuckshitswine, I’m going to sound like a crappy motivational speaker (pfft, again #SORRYNOTSORRY) … but what I’m trying to spit out is that WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER.

#winterrice #danceswithoutborders #artofaction #yourborderskill

See below for some related articles, videos and blog posts from recent months…. it’s like a weird little link diary via my social media over-share  and the bookmarks folder that I ironically, originally labelled ‘going home‘. This whole thing began for me by cycling to Calais to donate bikes and other supplies, as research for a DIY 12 Live Art Development Agency workshop, which I never even made it to in the end. Art sent me to action, and action sent me back to art, and I realised that there need be no difference between the two.

Before I sign off… WINTERRICE! WINTERRICE! WINTERRICE! Please be part of this real institute of civic engagement, or start your own … like my hi-vis jacket says on the back, DON’T JUST WALK ON BY! DO SUMMAT!*

*Yorkshire-speak for ‘something’.

TA FOR READING. OVER AND OUT XXX

http://www.huckmagazine.com/perspectives/reportage-2/life-inside-calais-notorious-jungle-refugee-camp/

http://www.weareplanc.org/blog/channelling-compassion-calais-solidarity-and-where-we-go-from-here/

http://mashable.com/2015/09/10/calais-camp-jungle-aid/#RE42PMX96uqR

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/morocco-no-borders-the-forgotten-refugee-crisis/x/12605954#/story

http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/sep/16/first-refugees-head-for-croatia-after-hungarys-border-crackdown-live-updates?CMP=share_btn_fb

https://www.facebook.com/clare.moseley.98/videos/144114715937682/?pnref=story

https://www.facebook.com/theworldwidetribe/photos/a.1613492195603208.1073741829.1526014994350929/1626569714295456/?type=3&fref=nf&pnref=story

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/zero-refugees-guess-which-countries-have-taken-not-one-of-the-60-million-fleeing-war/#_=_

https://twitter.com/calaisolidarity/status/646331196700553216

http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/september/dougal-wilson-reports-on-secret-cinemas-secret-protest-at-the-calais-jungle-camp/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2015/sep/22/kiss-knows-no-borders-photographing-refugee-couple-budapest

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-crisis-the-true-extent-of-the-british-publics-extraordinary-response-revealed-10514341.html

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/five-explanations-to-why-the-majority-of-refugees/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/banksys-dismaland-moves-to-calais-to-provide-shelter-for-refugees-a6669156.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/27/un-official-asylum-assessment-centre-calais-france-britain?CMP=twt_gu

https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-alliance-for-a-safe-world/urgent-france-to-deport-asylum-seekers-to-sudan-on-thursday-four-young-men-from-/764462416996440?pnref=story

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/sep/29/magistrate-nigel-allcoat-resigns-after-paying-destitute-asylum-seekers-court-fine

https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2015/british-artists-launch-theatre-in-calais-migrant-camp/

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/sep/29/magistrate-nigel-allcoat-resigns-after-paying-destitute-asylum-seekers-court-fine

https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tatiana-garavito/migrants-rights-protest-st-pancras-ticket-barrier-shut-down-eurostar

http://time.com/4077370/refugee-crisis-calais-death/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lliana-bird/refugee-crisis-lesbos_b_8388988.html

http://mariennapw.com/2015/10/29/entry-iii-the-sinking-of-the-nameless-recollections-of-a-volunteerjournalist/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/yvette-cooper/refugee-crisis-lesbos_b_8418988.html

http://gauge-mag.com/

http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2015-10-30/otley-aid-worker-could-face-jail-for-smuggling-4-year-old-back-to-family/

http://balkanist.net/guardians-of-the-frontier-migration-racism-solidarities-balkan-corridor/ 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/07/europe-refugees-david-cameron-united-nations-warning?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Facebook

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/11/09/whos-in-charge-of-the-migrants-arriving-in-greece-the-answer-will-surprise-you/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/greek-concerns-mount-refugees-balkan-countries-restrict-entry

the black box sessions

Some relaxed solo raves, from a tired day in a black box, when I was knackered and at the end of my tether. Performance day was on it’s way and I felt uncertain, like I didn’t really know what I was doing. This was attempt number three at finding some sort of coherence. Big thanks be to Robbie Pallet for filming 🙂

relaxed solo raving

a highly-improvised, terrifyingly unstructured idiosyncratic space and time warp sound and dance documentary, in which i do my very best to;

channel whatever is appropriate from my own mind-body matrix

in relation to

a) you (the people in the room with me),

b) the inherent preoccupations of relaxed solo raving as a practice and performance mode

and

c) whatever else might arise in that particular moment.

i imagine it will go a little bit like this =

from wobbly legs to funny walks, and why spirituality is really about the body… (might even make a pit stop at the meaning of death dance if we’re feeling up to it).

this dance is dedicated to all the secret dances and social dances, the sadly missed and un-danced dances. to the sweat and the motion and the many feel-good-sharing-moments. and to kids dancing on youtube, because it’s better than kittens!

most of all, i dedicate this dance to a very impressive woman – one Winsome Broomhall, who danced and lived with both grit and grace until a grand old age.

PS. feel free to bob about a bit, pretend you’re at a gig, a rave or in your own kitchen instead of a contemporary art soiree. there is a dance outside of right and wrong… i’ll meet you there?

performed / sound arranged by izzy brittain*.

(*track list to follow. in order to dance with danger and prance on the edge, each solo rave is unique, so your guess is as good as mine at this point*)

relaxed solo rave was first shared with an audience at the performance laboratory, laurie grove building, new cross on 16/7/2015

the next sharing will take place at SIN (saturday improvisation night) in york on 26/9/2015. i will also be teaching a workshop earlier that day…

the workshop will be from 2.30-5.30pm at 41 Monkgate, York and costs £20 for the 3 hour session. numbers are limited so booking early is advisable. to book for the workshop and/or a slot at SIN, please contact Stacey@sixlips.co.uk

WORKSHOP STRUCTURE / CONTENT

Beginning with a release-based warm-up class, the workshop will focus on opening up new pathways within the body and attuning the dancer’s senses to their environment. It will slowly and organically break down the ‘mystery’ of movement improvisation, providing practical and playful tools with which to approach our dancing with confidence.

Through following pleasure and finding freedom, the unique practice of ‘relaxed solo raving’ will be introduced. Through this improvisational structure the workshop will offer the opportunity to look at the art of being yourself, the youtube disco / ted-talk phenomenon, the mind-body connection, and why there are many reasons to be a mover.

Most crucial of all will be to unearth motion which feels good, and to develop awareness in our own dancing as we share a friendly space for solo dancing together.  

There is a dance outside of right and wrong. I’ll see you there !!

Screenshot 2015-07-13 21.30.39 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.27.45 Screenshot 2015-07-13 21.00.28 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.34.15 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.55.01 Screenshot 2015-02-07 21.38.34 - CopyScreenshot 2015-07-13 20.45.11 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.59.48 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.53.15 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.35.56 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.55.49 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.52.34 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.39.56 numero uno Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.44.02 Screenshot 2015-07-13 20.38.17

check out the relaxed solo raves playlist here 🙂

dancing / borders / bicycles / crossings (and other matters)

People are on my mind. After the amazing, discombobulating and enlightening experiences of RICE on Hydra and Critical Mass to Calais with Bikes Beyond Borders… here are some words to get out of my head and into the world as soon as possible. It’s sort of an update / poem in progress / repetitive, related mashup of bits and bobs that I wrote here after the Climate March in September. More detailed write-ups to come on both experiences / events later, when the bladdy thesis is fnished… !!
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photos by minou tsambika (the circle, my new non-dualistic symbol for love, the universe and everything), zoe tsaff (map of the sunrise to sunset dances on hydra for which i took on the role of nomadic care-giver), and two crappy phone shots by me (a bird flying free between dover and calais, and three well-intentioned pairs of cyclist’s feet, on their way to donate bikes to people in ‘the jungle’, calais).
what i am interested in is the borderline. the crossing. the communication between individuals and the whole. the tipping point. how the individuals make the whole. how change must, and can only happen organically. how everything is organic really. how each person does what he or she can, under their particular circumstances. how radical compassion must mean radical understanding. because i am you, you are me and the world is us, yes, but it’s all so easily misunderstood ! for years I was living with i am you, you are me and the world is us, so why can’t you be a little bit more like me, please? and i never even noticed. how anger and and action and force might be necessary, sometimes. how they open the way for the rest of us. but how not to forget the quiet ones, or the ones who compose thoughts more slowly and speak more carefully… and what are all the different ways of knowing anyway?

how to be a practical, pragmatic poet?

because, make no mistake about it,

i just love dancing and writing poems,

and whilst i’ve toyed with the idea

of becoming a full time activist and living in a tree –

for the moment, i’ve just got to accept that i’m me.

i can plant small seeds, help ideas germinate,

i can create. but i can also do flash mops

to the sound of 80s electro-punk

and make myself izzabella necessary on occasion.

how to be useful…

it’s all even more complicated than i thought.

how to build a boat. how to build bridges.

how to take bicycles beyond borders

and build radical dance schools of the future.

how to get clean water.

how to facilitate. how to have a different kind of conversation.

what is the art of hosting conversations that matter?

how to be tolerant but not be a dead fish…

how to live a good life but know that you’ll always

have to co-exist with the whole world and it’s plentiful shit?

how not to ignore it, but not sink in it either.

there is no shortcut through that shit! like my wise mum says.

how to just live well and be helpful, in a world as complicated as this?

relaxed solo raves

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(Me and Saara being dramatic in the name of Transitions publicity. I’ve even got full make up on and half a tin of hairspray in my locks! Tres bizarre)

I haven’t been so clear about what I’m doing this year on this blog. Mostly because I’ve been too hectic with the doing of it to be writing about it. So, to clarify, this year I’m doing an MA as part of Transitions Dance Company at Laban. We’ll be touring a triple bill of works created with three different choreographers (Bawren Tavaziva, Zoi Dimitriou and Miguel Pereira), which is pretty damn exciting…! It’s really a beautiful thing to be involved in, alongside a very warm, interesting and inspiring group of individuals, and with amazing opportunities coming our way on a daily basis. Much to be grateful for.

Each of the pieces in the triple bill is unique and almost entirely different in it’s demands and aesthetic than the others. It’s a fertile learning situation that I find myself in, and I’m making the most of it. At the moment we’re rehearsing the pieces in preparation for the previews on the 5th and 6th of February. But more about all that to come another time…

The other side of this MA is that I’ll be completing a thesis. My ideas are just getting past the initial composting stage (as Natalie Goldberg calls it, in this lovely book about writing), but this is the general gist of it so far.

To me, improvisation is dance. All dance was improvisation once. So I want to explore dancing (and solo improvisation specifically) as a way of thinking and a form of embodied knowledge. Thinking doesn’t just happen in the brain. Oh no, I have come to know that our whole being is a thinking, perceiving, receiving body of knowledge. We communicate with our bodies just as much as we do through the words we speak or read in books. See a sprinkle of my thoughts on that here.

With my ‘I am a dancer and I have to write a thesis’ head on, I’ve started to explore the inkling that the fullest expression of embodied perception, knowledge and an ability to move more fluidly, both physically and mentally, between different states, textures and modes of thinking, can be experienced through developing my practice of improvisation. Yes that was a mouthful. Yes I much prefer writing in a non-academic way. But yes I am going to write this bloody thing and learn something new and useful from it.

I’m interested in solo improvisation as a rich site for breaking down the mind-body dichotomy, and as a way to experience my dancing body as in conversation with a world not entirely delineated by the barriers of time and space. Again, sounds pretentious, but really all I mean is this….

  • Our bodies hold memory, history, learning. We develop from a unique set of circumstances, inclinations, talents, limitations. We absorb the knowledge of others, and are also in constant dialogue with our past selves, relationships, ideas, places, even objects.
  • We are composite, complex creations. If I look at my practice, in the context of researching and creating a solo work, maybe I can unearth and better understand my own individual skills and idiosyncrasies. How can I bring all the diversity of my ‘self’ and all the complexities of my ‘life’ into my practice, which is, yes, you guessed it, ‘my dance’?!
  • Like Miguel Pereira asked, what the hell is ‘my dance’ anyway, when all the technique teachers and other interested folk have gone home, what do I do? What’s ‘my thing’? If ever there was a time for me to epxlore this, it’s now. Before, that is, I head out onto the cold streets of life as an artist beyond the confines of this lovely cotton-wool institution.

With this in mind my mixed media thesis will consist of a large amount of practice-based research, with myself as solo improviser and subject, and also as performer/creator. I’ll be exploring ‘my dance’. I want to develop and encourage in myself this embodied knowledge, alongside a repertoire of ‘ways of knowing’. I’ll be focusing on the often under-appreciated ‘slower ways of knowing’, such as inutition, focusing on inner states and mindfulness, in dialogue with the favourite of our culture, the analytical mind, as and when appropriate. NOTE: ‘As and when appropriate’ being the key term here.

The research will eventually develop into a performance (potentially structured improvisation), in which the aim would be to make what I’ve discussed visible. I want to explore how to engage both the senses and the imagination. Integration of mind and body. Subtlety, freedom, ease, flow, letting go of control whilst remaining attentive and precise, imagery, detail, the physics of the body. How can you create a space in which the audience can experience this, rather than simply observe or understand it analytically? How can it remain primarily about play, following pleasure and finding freedom – but also reaching greater self awareness in my dancing?

Hopefully I’ll then come to some enlightening conclusions about all this, with a view to understanding how I could impart this tentative know-how to others at a similar stage in their dancing in future. We don’t really teach improvisation. It’s something we do and hope that we’ll get better at through a process of trial and error. Is there some way to approach this which breaks down the ‘mystery’ of it all?

Also, what does it mean for me specifically, at this point, to improvise, dance, create and perform ‘alone’? Are we ever really ‘alone’, and whatever the answer to this, since life is always in relationship, how can I share my ‘alone-ness’? Improvisation as a way of dancing, and improving, my relationship with the world…. feeling connected even when I’m dancing alone… or something like that?! Hopefully it makes some sense…

And of course, let’s not forget the most important thing, my friends… priority numero uno… find the flow and enjoy it. Perhaps then other people might enjoy it or even join me.

‘There is a field outside of right and wrong… I’ll meet you there!”  Don’t know who said it but I like it.

Welcome to my first impromptu friday night relaxed solo rave. From plain old warm up to wobbly legs and funny walks, with a bit of enthusiastic song-miming and amateur dramatics chucked in. And all finished off in a trippy tropical colour (to make it seem more rave-like)… and because that’s what people do these days innit? Instagram and all that. Keepin’ up with the kids 😉

Enjoy my meandering dance into silliness in the name of ‘research’. This is basically me doing what I do when left to my own devices.

dysfunctional collaboration

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The Journey was a cross arts collaborative project I was involved in back in May. Seems like a very long time ago now, but I suppose it wasn’t really, it’s just that a lot has happened. The Journey took a group of unsuspecting travellers on a minibus ride to a mystery location. Driven by a lovely 70 year old sculptor named Jon Volger from Roundhay, and assisted by the neurotic Hostess Mackerron, the travellers discovered that all would not proceed as planned. From safety demos in three different languages to mastering the ‘protect yourself position’, no traveller was allowed to sit back and simply relax. Their participation was expected from the get go.

As the minibus meandered its unlikely route around the back streets and alleys of Chapeltown, a host of unscheduled wee-stops, wrong turnings and suchlike, led the travellers deeper into this nonsensical world, where a diverse range of characters were intercepted at intervals. From the modern folk troubadour and an embedded recorder-playing folk singer, to a pair of scowling cowgirls at the end of the world. Of course, no journey would be complete without a blessing of the bus, dishes of rebalancing served by an Elfin creature straight out of Lord of The Rings, and a call to arms, issued by King Sven of The House of Svenson – a Swedish Knight in dire need of an army.

Unfortunately, the diversity of stuff going on in The Journey was the result of a really rough journey for us as collaborators. Nobody likes to dwell on negative happenings, which is probably why I never published this way back when it all occurred. It was too stressful. Just thinking about the experience made me feel tense. Now I feel like enough time has passed to publish what I wrote about it all those months ago, in a fit of disbelief and incomprehension. As I am constantly reminding myself, every ‘problem’ is an opportunity for learning! Looking back, it seems obvious that a collaborative line-up of such strong characters would cause issues. Perhaps my positivity prior to beginning the process had blinded me a little to reality…

This is how it went down…

3rd June 2014

How is it possible that you can work with various people in a variety of contexts and have no problem whatsoever, yet when you all try to work together collaboratively it escalates into the dance artist’s version of a WWF smackdown?! We’re all capable of being vicious given certain circumstances. Put so many bossy britches together in one group and you’re asking for trouble. Such situations can bring out the worst in us, as we will take no prisoners when we believe that our idea (or field in our case – this being a piece about ‘the journey’ that ends with a singalong in a field), is ‘the best’. All usual social conventions fly out of the studio window, and it’s just a later-in-life version of the schoolyard chant ‘my [insert item here] is better than your [insert item here]’.

What we are left with then is seven stubborn individuals, who previously called themselves friends. Although the styles of conflict are different in each person, the effect is the same. Not one person in the group can rise above the collective dysfunction. Each of us behaves in ways we would never normally behave. Frankly, the experience of working with this group has been nothing short of an absolutely awful nightmare. In smaller groups, it’s fine. Collectively, we’re a microcosm of all that’s wrong with human relations. Conflict reigns supreme and it’s person against person, ego against ego, idea against idea.

The whole thing has really been that bad – it’s been unsavoury, from top to bottom. We stopped short of physical violence, but I’ll admit that I visualised high kicking one or more of my collaborators in the face, and that the hours of endless discussion around the table felt pretty embittered most of the time. As we sat around the table staring at each other, it felt like broken down peace talks between warring nation states. There seemed to be little regard for what started the particular debate in the first place. It had devolved into protectionism; each person simply protecting their own little piece of power at all costs.

I now understand how friendships can be broken by such scenarios. This is when the worst sides of human nature rear their ugly heads. I can recognise the absolute frustration of trying to communicate with people in a situation where communication repeatedly breaks down in a series of negative cycles. The project (or relationship, or whatever! this is a transferrable scenario) is just set up to be a very difficult one. Maybe it’s all about specificity. Some people can work together, in certain situations, at certain times. Other times it’s always going to be a struggle. Change any variable and you might potentially have problems. It’s all even more delicate than I realised.

As the weeks wore on, my shoulders tightened, my teeth clenched, and I couldn’t get to sleep at night. It was extremely difficult to relax and let go of the stresses of this scenario. I love all of the people in the group, but we really drove each other crazy. The combination just didn’t make for a pleasant process. Personally, I made a conscious decision to voice my views and opinions, rather than gritting my teeth and keeping shtum for the sake of keeping the peace. If I felt something was unreasonable, I said so. I tried to retain my integrity without being too inflexible, but I did lose my rag a couple of times out of sheer frustration.

In the end, we pulled through and created something decent, albeit slightly schizophrenic. This process did teach me some valuable lessons though. Perhaps the most important part of collaboration is choosing a realistic group of collaborators?! Then again, you don’t always get to choose who you work with and you can’t always foresee the potential pitfalls, which makes it instead a case of learning to handle these situations more effectively. I don’t deal particularly well with conflict and prefer to avoid it where possible, but it is a part of life like everything else. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT FOR NEXT TIME

What matters more – the piece of work or the human beings in it? On one hand I instinctively say the people, but on the other it must be the piece of work. If the people work together, the work will benefit, but you can’t force people to work well together! Making the best of a difficult situation and learning from it is sometimes enough.

Look for more patience and more tolerance (there is always more tolerance possible inside you if you look hard enough). Nevertheless, don’t tolerate crap. It’s not about being steamrollered.

And, everybody, PLEASE!! Retain your perspective! Do some deep breathing or something. Like Jonathan Burrows says … it’s only a stupid dance, after all.

FLOCK

My friend Maz-Bird talks FLOCK. Good work you magical creature! Big up to all the enthusiastic baby-birds, gender-bending-birds and beautiful-new-friend-birds that joined us on our flights of fantastic lunacy at Avant Garden and Shambala. Extra-massive love and thanks to Georgie Buchanan for being the birdy brains of the outfit (literally, she thunk it up, she made the wings, she showed us how to fly!) Here’s to many more happy FLOCKventures and festivals. WE LOVE FLOCK!! XXX

Un petit bout de femme

A piece choreographed by Maud Brambach for her third year Independent Project, and performed again as part of a collaboration between NSCD and Fresh at Dance City in Newcastle!

Performers: Me, Tora Hed, Annika Kompart, Maud Brambach, Yara Li Mennel, Marianne Tuckman, Lia Ujcic, Sara Macqueen, Elspeth Mackeever, Anna Carmichael