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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Dancing Precarity: An Open Letter A Spam A Resistance

I just got this and it’s excellent!!

“Dear community & beyond,
This is,
A spam A letter A resistance A performance,
In dancing & despair & destitution,
To whom it regards, in solidarity.
Don’t be wary, I am not a fraudulent spam.
No money, no cheques, no hacking of bodily software.
Here is an Open Letter as video letter attached.
Youtube: 

I appreciate your listening.
Thanks in advance.
From Anonymous Artist in London”

yorkshire till i die

My pal is in this video. I was almost in it, but I knew I was going on a bender the night before and would be sleep-deprived, so I ducked out of it. I’m a lightweight and not afraid to admit it. In all honesty, I was all set to hate it anyway – distasteful Devvo and his pisstake Chav-antics. No tar. Arty lover of subtlety over here, yada yada yada. Anyway, I’m a div. When I actually watched it, I found this video sad, touching and honest. It’s a pretty good depiction of a life, as experienced by some Yorkshire folk.

Lately, I’ve started reading the comments section under articles and videos on the internet, in order to gauge a selection of folk’s true feelings, as expressed from a safely hidden spot behind their screens.  This can often be both disturbing and rage-inducing, but this time I spotted the below comment;

“If you look past the comedy there’s a pretty powerful social commentary that I feel will be lost on a lot of people. So weird to see the streets of Leeds again in a video like this.

Thanks for this video, I actually cried whilst watching to think of the times when I used to walk on those very streets and look about and think ‘this is my life, what do I really have? People don’t even know of the desperate state some of Yorkshire is in…”

I watched this a while back, when I’d only just decided to escape the big smoke, head for the hills and move back up North. I remember thinking, YES!! YORKSHIRE, I’M COMIN’ ‘OME!!! (coz there’s also green fields, rolling hills and my beloved dry stone walls, and it’s not called ‘God’s own Country’ for nowt.) It reminded me of some of the first lines of poetry I ever penned, of a street I used to live on, and of plenty of times, people and places from my life both past and present.

hull, hell and halifax, so the saying goes
a miserable elegy for my home, sweet home,
a place of pebble dash – and pubs,
some diamonds, lotsa rough…
but who can hate a place, i ask,
where everyone’s called love?

Yup, there’s no doubt about it. I am YORKSHIRE TILL I DIE !! xxx

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

humanimals, and the art of empathy

“Animals are so much more empathic than humans. They feel everything and they’re with you, but not because they expect to get anything… it’s just the most primal form of nurture … a way of release and interaction” says Nai Palm…

Lately I’ve been thinking, not just with my conscious mind, but with my whole mind-body matrix thing. I’m realising that one way for humans to learn to be more empathic towards the earth, animals and each other – is by healing the mind-body split within their own bundle of cells/skin/soul/bones, expanding their sensorial connectedness, and developing the ability to sense each other rather than constantly making ideas about each other.

MUCH LIKE THIS FELLA IS DOING HERE … MAN COMFORTS GORILLA WHO JUST LOST HIS MOM

We just need a wider, deeper understanding of how communication occurs and what consciousness is (see my earlier thoughts here), in order to appreciate and utilise the many forms of knowing available to us. There’s so much going on at a subtle level, and I believe that we need to cultivate the skills to listen to it. 

Check out this dude and his Chimpanzee work, for a practical example of the kind of sensorial development that I’m talking about. After spending two months volunteering in a sanctuary in Cameroon, this fella decided to create a ‘movement-based workshop exploring trans-species kinship with our closest relatives’. Check out his blog here for more info.

PS. Body-based healing practices and dancing are both pragmatic and useful! So there… and logic and ‘rational’ thought aren’t always the best way to respond (Just sayin’ yo).

PPS. I want to be the kind of artist that the Chimp workshop guy is – grounding my practice in the wider world. Facilitating experiences where change might happen, through this wider understanding of the relevance of movement/dance/whatever ya wanna call it. Trying not to compartmentalise so much and this is the point at which language starts to break down. My increasing over-sensitivity to this stuff makes it harder and harder to label, separate and symbolise.

PPS. I love nai palm !!!!!!!!!

poims @ parcel bar

Back at the start of August I was the visiting poet at Puzzle Poets up in Sowerby Bridge, in my hometown Halifax.

I’m fairly used to doing one or two poems, ten minutes of poetic ramble here or there … but this was a proper opportunity for some longer ranting, chanting and carrying on 😉 I had a super-good night, and folk there were very appreciative of my new poems, which is lovely and encouraging! After a year devoted entirely to the daaannce, it was a good while since I’d got my poetry on.

The compere, one John Foggin – well, I dunno how he does it. Flummoxes me how he comes up with those descriptions on the spot! And the open mic was just brimming with wordy goodness. I particularly loved ‘Barry The Bacteria’ and the one about public libraries – just ‘don’t mention the books’ these days – it’s all about new wave digital whatever communication… It was pretty spot on as an event, with poems covering folk festivals, the Trans-Siberian Express, dropping in splashes of haunting lyricism, ‘the sack of history’, and some Binyon and Hardy and Yeats to ‘remind us where we all come from’ (Foggin’s words!)

Afterwards, a lady grabbed me and asked me to do a gig at her bar in Hebden Bridge. Well shittin’ hell! That was my first request for a proper poetry gig by someone I’d never met before – not a group I’m involved with or a mate running an event or whatever… WOWZA. Exciting times. HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY !!!!

Feel free to have a gander at what I did…

Poim listing as follows…

once again, i find myself in a relationship with a character from the beat generation
mind-body remix
the white rug of love
night-bus
the battle
crap consciousness
i’m not a nun, but…
stop making sense song
the good life
the healing fields
fuckyoga.com

the meaning of death dance

my relaxed solo rave to stephen jenkinson’s meaning of death video. the topic might seem heavy for a tuesday morning, but it’s seriously worthwhile heavyweight wisdom! i promise 😉

it’s taken me many viewings of his video to capture the fullness of what he’s saying – i got the general gist but chunks of it eluded me… however i kept feeling drawn to returning to his words, and every time i watched the video again i started to understand a little bit more about what he was saying, and what it means for the way we live…

somehow after a while it all starts to get just a little bit less heavy.

anyway, i did a dance to it. will let his words do the rest of the talking. enjoy 🙂

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 🙂

a slightly psychedelic solo rave (because dancing is good for us)

Here I am, back in the studio post-tour, and enjoying myself by getting stuck into the relaxed solo raving again 🙂 This is the third recording of a series of improvisations leading to my thesis performance in mid July. I think this one confuses the senses somewhat, which I enjoy, so I put some silly effects on it to make it a bit more confusing.

I started off thinking about doing something ‘subtle’ for my thesis performance, since I’m a contemporary dancer and this is ‘dance as high art dahling’ (bleurgh, excuse me while I puke at my own bullshit). Whilst contemporary dance is quite clearly niche, in usual black sheep fashion I’ve found myself taking up residence in an even smaller niche.

This is, nevertheless, a very lovely little niche full of release-based dance, somatic practices and improvisation. It’s where my heart lies, alongside a growing appreciation/love for African dance (which will probably be the next thing I explore after this project). All these practices reflect my most pleasant philosophies on life and wholeness, and how it can be if only we’ll all play nicely and nobody gets hurt…

HOWEVER, nothing is perfect and everything in dancing isn’t ‘nice’, just as choreographer Miguel Pereira said to me a while ago. Relaxed solo raves is a project about wholeness and integration. I’m making a bid to integrate some of the many sides of my own current self through ther medium of dance, and I can only begin from the starting point, which is now!

I may have turned into part contemporary dancing poetry-loving prancer, but I’ll always be half salt of the earth Yorkshire lass, hailing from a reasonably rough Northern town full of pebble dash and pubs! I’m one part bit of a princess, one part pikey. My head loves knocking about in the clouds and being a stray, unpredictable thing at times (it’s taken some taming but ultimately I’ve learned that there is always a psychological silver lining), butI do my best to keep my feet in the earth where possible.

I wish I was more disciplined, but I still love staying up all night sometimes and being a responsibly irresponsible rebel. I’ve stopped smoking countless times, but I always seem to start again. I am certainly imperfect, and I would now like to share my imperfectness with others 🙂

What I’m saying is this: sod the subtlety just a tiny bit. In homage to this, it now seems that I’m leaning towards getting some projections, crappy disco lights/strobe and a bit of haze involved in the performance. I’m thinking, start off in somatic-sensory world but then transform the space so it becomes progressively more rave-like as the piece goes on…!

It’s an ongoing balancing act between my love for the experimental, yet also wanting to do things that imperfect people like me can connect to. Warmth is important, and I’m now slowly learning to enjoy silence, empty spaces and down time, but the urge for ‘freedom’, adventure and a not-so-healthy bit of chaos is in ongoing dialogue with my more contented, calm, harmonious self…

Lately, I’ve watched a few good videos of kiddywinkles dancing (everyone loves ’em, it’s wholesome, feel good, and better than kittens!!). Watching these lovely little movers brought it home to me – it’s such a natural thing to want to move your body and explore it’s possibilities, and yet that playful instinct is slowly socialized out of us.

I’ve just spent five years training to be ‘a dancer’, but I agree with Steve Paxton when he says that getting into dance was more about ‘finishing my movement development’ than the ambition to become anything. (PS. Have a gander at my response to Steve’s ‘about reasons to be a mover’ here.)

This little man, whose video went viral on facebook, was a particular inspiration – so much so that I did my own version. It’s the first thing that happens in the video at the top of this post 🙂 but you can check out his original funky maneuvers here… 

Relaxed solo raves are quite clearly about the relationship between music and movement. Watching the band Goat perform an amazing gig of wacky world fusion music (despite being from bloody Sweden!!), swathed in festival colours and an assortment of patterned garms from around the globe, I sat there and wondered if contemporary dance could also be that much fun?!

Can I do a solo thing that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Isn’t it ace when watching dance makes you want to spontaneously dive out of your seat and do the wild dance of abandon yourself?!

Asking what comes first, the movement or the music, is like talking about the chicken and the egg. Movement is life, but music and movement do go hand in hand. It’s usually only the trained dancer who has been taught to work against the music, or to discover their own internal rhythms and impulses without pre-set steps or even sounds to work with.

For most, music is the access point used to spontaneously enter the flow of the dance state! It’s unfortunate but understandable, given the society we live in, that a large proportion of adults also require the presence of several stiff drinks, simply in order to get uninhibited enough to shake their ass a bit. I was also that person before I started training in dance…

So now I’m wondering about the dances that go un-danced as a result of this, and also the secret dances and social dances, from dad dances at weddings to more rave-like scenarios… to how you might bust a few moves in your kitchen (if you have a big enough kitchen) while cooking and after caning a bottle of wine meant for the stew and comandeering the wooden spoon as a microphone.

I want to channel some of that feeling (see Johanna Channels Aretha), so that even though I’m dancing on my own there might be some sense of feel good sharing. I want to half act the clown and be over dramatic in the way that six year olds dance at a party. I am hugely inspired by the kid in the film Little Miss Sunshine, and her heart-warming Superfreak dance at the beauty pageant.

Due in part to my background, and due also to my preoccupation with empathy, connection and a belief that life is relationship, I am all for performance as communication. I’m not necessarily preoccupied with providing some kind of finite, concrete performance, but with sharing an experience or creating an atmosphere.

I guess that’s why I want to keep it a little loose and improvised, so that I’m free to be responsive in the moment, and because I think that the atmosphere improvisation can create has something vulnerable, open and on the edge, in a way that set material rarely achieves.

Although I’m choosing to practice being physically alone in my solo raves (are we ever really alone? see my original post on solo rave numero uno), I’m also hoping that the audience will be with me in spirit – but somehow without having to get them involved in engineered audience participation. Maybe all this has something to do with making myself vulnerable?

Performance poet Candy Royalle says vulnerability is the new cool, Kate Tempest is preaching radical empathy, and it’s also something I can see in the work of Theo Clinkard (man of the moment for the contemporary dancers-in-training).

I love weight, the feeling of falling, the experience of flow and engaging with space and time. I have learnt the value of following sensation, embodied knowledge, and that there’s a wisdom in the body that my conscious brain is always one step behind. I love all those contemporary dance things and learning about them is opening up possibilities that I never knew existed.

Ultimately though, humanity interests me just as much. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s no good rolling around on the floor on your own (or only with other contemporary dancers) all the time...

“As a creator, my artistic ethos is this: I create in order to connect. I seek to connect in order to remove the idea of “otherness” that divides us. By removing the division of “us” and “them”, I try to highlight those things that actually bind us. Here is where our connection is found”. (Candy Royalle)

Cheers for reading/watching 🙂

sia and maddie

chandelier

elastic heart

big girl’s cry

A while back the final video installment in the tryptich of Sia & Maddie collaborations came out. I had been watching these videos with absolute fascination since this unexpected collaboration began. Sia the Ozzie pop star who describes fame as being like ‘an abusive mother-in-law’, met Maddie the child prodigy of TV reality show Dance Moms. However I only recently realised recently that this distaste for fame was the reason Sia had decided to opt out of the limelight, replacing herself with Maddie in a lookalike wig in her music videos instead (debatable… somewhat?!)

I’m not much of a pop music fan – I can take or leave Sia’s songs and I also probably wouldn’t be as interested in Maddie’s dancing if I was handcuffed and forced to watch Dance Moms, but this particular whole thing together? Weirdly compelling, extremely interesting and raises lots of questions for me. I enjoy the fact that this brings contemporary dance into pop culture. I was particularly impressed with Elastic Heart and the collaboration with Shia La Boeuf. I think this video is full of metaphor and visual poetry. It says a lot about innocence versus experience, and the way mainstream culture cages both little girls and grown men in to restrictive stereotypes. It’s tender, somehow.

I like these videos. That’s all I wanted to say really…