Where to start…

Where to start… On Monday the 10th August I finally get to walk into a studio again to begin making a new dance work. This project feels particularly significant to me because it’s the first time I have been accepted into Choreodrome at The Place, and I can tell you quite honestly, that has been a massive achievement in itself. I’ve decided to use this blog to document my process, not because I said I would on my GforA to the Arts Council (which I did, but is irrelevant since I didn’t receive a GforA), but because I need you all to hold me accountable to my thoughts, whims and ideas and since I’m in the business of ‘putting it all out there’ (not my phrase) I decided I may as well start putting it out there already. The idea: to use analogue sound devices to playback text audio which the dancer manipulates and (here’s the word I’ve started to hate) ‘interacts’ with (sorry). Some years ago I heard a sound recording of three record players, playing the same lines of text in precise canon. (So, the idea is semi-stolen.) The image evolved in my head to a mangle of lines and movement (like a bowl of spaghetti) both clearly identifiable, but also pleasingly complicated. The idea stuck and is now six months down the line of visualizing due to become real by the end of August. Interestingly: In the past I would never have admitted to visualising what a work could look like. I only realised this a few months ago when one of my collaborators asked me to describe how the set up would look: are the turntables all in a row, side by side, in the centre of the stage, on different levels? I instantly hit back with “does it matter?” to which he responded that he wanted to ‘see’ it in his head. The funny thing is that it did matter to me, and yes I did know where the devices would be because I already had some image in my mind. I wonder if I’ve been so overly obsessed with the idea of ‘process led work’ that I’ve actually denied my own actual process for years. Interesting… I’ve spent the last 6 months looking for a collaborator (Tom Richards), applying for Arts Council Funding (which failed), creating two possible cash flows, two possible schedules etc in case we didn’t get the funding (just as well), and applying for Arts Council Funding again (which also failed). I have to say that apart from the fact that I won’t be able to pay myself and my collaborator, I’m quite relieved that this project will be a small one. And now I don’t have to manage a budget I can just focus on what I’m here to do: make something. It means I’ll also be forced to perform this myself which is significantly more pressure than just sitting on my choreographer’s chair and telling someone else what to do. I have to be both dancer and director and I have to embody those two different roles if I’m going to survive working in a studio for 5 hours on my own, everyday, for three weeks… So to help me shift into a new head space I spent the last few weeks going into my ‘drift’ mode. Naturally I’m still teaching and studying around all this creative ‘stuff’, but the lighter summer schedule has given me a bit of space to roam. To focus my brain and keep the fear and sheer dread of falling flat on my face at bay, I’ve been working with different meditations. To bring that focus into movement I’ve upped my Feldenkrais routines and, thanks to Caroline Scott‘s classes at ID the other week, I found a way of extending that internal conversation into dancing. I spent two hours playing make-shift instruments while wearing a blindfold in Michael Picknett’s Lab at Tripspace, and I had a semi-conversation with Amy Bell in the reading room at the Wellcome Trust where she danced out my thoughts on gender and movement. Looking for some affirmation that even the best of us find it tough, I watched ‘Strictly Bolshoi‘, the Ballet Boys’ documentary on Christopher Wheeldon’s experience of choreographing on the Bolshoi. He was 33 at the time (as old as I am now), and he’d aimed to create a ballet around Hamlet (which featured in my last piece, ‘Where am I?’) and, like me, he too came to the realization that “Hamlet is Dead”. The similarities end there. Those all seem like very oblique strategies to me, they’re nothing really to do with the actual work I’m making, just ways of entering into the space I need to be in to make. My more direct research involved spending hours in Tom’s small studio surrounded by all things analogue, listening to the same lines of text over and over whilst Tom patiently tried to explain the difference between an echo and a reverb. I re-read Mrs Dalloway to find the lines that I was using, (they’re not quite the way I remembered, but I think I prefer my version to the original so we’ll probably keep that) and I listened to a podcast about the book. I have one more week to go before the most feared moment of any process: walking into an empty studio with nothing, to begin making something. Our starting point is this rough sketch that came out of my meeting with Tom. I can tell you that it’s about endings and beginnings and it will have circles in it (a big departure for me as I normally make dances in squares). Oh and it may include the following slightly adulterated lines from Virginia Wolf’s Mrs Dalloway: “Still the sun shines. Still one gets over things. Still life has a way of putting one day in front of another.” Follow my process here and you can even make a donation to the work by clicking on the “DONATION” button on the side column. This will help me cover the costs of buying and transporting equipment throughout the project. Thank You!

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