Learning to #dance for Lannigan’s Ball – #Dance House #Dublin #KnowingtheDance

“I stepped out…”

TwineExcited to be heading down to the Dublin for a residential residency at Dance House supported by Dance Ireland from Tuesday-Friday.

The plan of campaign is for Paula Guzzanti (dance artist) and musician Martin Devek and myself to work further on the ‘Knowing the Dance’ performance which has it’s opening performance at Down Arts Centre on the 9 September.

We’ve had some very useful feedback from a work-in-progress performance we had earlier in the summer, and are hoping that we will be able to trial the next stage via the New Movements platform later this week.

It’s wonderful to have this dedicated time and space, with many thanks to Dance Ireland for the support.

‘Knowing the Dance’ is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through their ACES programme, and Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick.

 

 

 

Live in the #Layers – @TopFloorArt #AugCraft17 #Saintfield #KnowingtheDance

Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
                                      Gustave Flaubert
Yet I turn, I turn, / exulting somewhat, / with my will intact to go / wherever I need to go / and every stone on the road / precious to me.
                             (‘The Layers’ extract, Stanley Kunitz)

LayersandReflectionsprogrammesmall

Tomorrow August Craft Month begins – it’s the annual celebration of craft and applied art across Northern Ireland and an amazing opportunity to see, meet and/or work with the finest designer-makers living and working here.

I had a bird’s eye view of all happenings when working on the digital comms side of Craft NI (the originators and the coordinators of the month) and I continue to be staggered not only by the creativity and imagination of the designs but also by the powers of mastery over materials that we call ‘handmade‘.  ‘Angels’ hands‘ was my name for it because I still find it hard to believe a human being actually made what has been made with bare hands. If you happen to be near pretty much anywhere in NI this month check out the August Craft Month programme.

Layers and Reflections @TopFloorArt

A bit of excitment this year for me as there is a bit of a reflection of my work in the ‘Layers’ exhibition that opens at Top Floor Art on Thursday (3 Aug, 7-9pm and on through the month). No making on my part, I add quickly. ‘Live in the Layers’ takes words from Stanley Kunitz inspiring poem ‘The Layers’ (below). The idea of the piece is from my investigations of the moving parts of poems, through the Knowing the Dance project.  Like the child who takes the transistor radio apart to find out how the noise is made, I’ve been digging into the layers of composition that give poems their resonant qualities.

The making part is wonderful and is the result of a conversation with Top Floor Art’s artists and proprietors textile artist Emma Whitehead and fine artist Stephen McClean who is also a sawdoctor. I had the idea of free floating letters of the phrase, like a mobile (not the telephone kind), moving, catching on each other, throwing shadows on the page. Stephen suggested carving the letters from distressed steel using saws – a sort of meeting of his two worlds.  Emma Whitehead ran interference so that the thing actually made sense as a whole piece.  I’ll have photos shortly but couldn’t wait to share the details.

BandBPaperWorkshopIf you are near Saintfield on Thursday eve (3 Aug, 7-9pm), do call in for the preview and the exhibition – including a range of makers of all craft practices and levels of engagement, a solo show by Ruth Walker (Glass), the fabric mountain and the Butterfly Cloud. Get all the details of what’s on at Top Floor Art HERE  

*Images courtesy of Top Floor Art

The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers” from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz.

 

Save the Date: #KnowingtheDance Masterclass (@Down_arts Centre, 9 Sept)

Today, I am putting the finishing touches to the ‘Knowing the Dance’ programme on the 9 September.

In-between & mid-stream in Downpatrick last January

I had the great fortune to work on an extended masterclass with artist, contemporary jewellery designer and choreographer Sarah Warsop in January this year as part of the Knowing the Dance project that I am working on. I’d seen work she had been doing bringing diverse artforms together (not only choreogrpahy and jewellery design), and wanted to investigate her technique with the hope of finding a way to draw out the movement/dance within the poems so as to understand better where the moving parts are in the poems and how to make them work best; creating a middle-place between poetry and dance (this was part of Paula and my work-in-progress), and using the middle place as a ground of creativity in its own right.

Down Art Centre Masterclass

Delighted that Sarah will be hosting a three-hour masterclass based on the techniques we worked on in January at Down Arts Centre on 9th September. The workshop is free to attend and booking will be open shortly.

Liminal 2017

Sarah was the winner of the inaugural Cockpit Arts’ Performance of Craft Award in 2016 has released her new short film ‘LIMINAL’ in 2017. See the video below – find out more about it and her process HERE.

Save the Date: #KnowingtheDance Premiere at @Down_arts Centre (9 Sept)

Twine

Knowing the Dance‘ Premiere

Inspired by WB Yeats’ famous question ‘How can we know the dancer from the dance?’, this performance of a thought-provoking sequence of dance~poems is created and performed by poet Olive Broderick and dancer Paula Guzzanti, joined by musician Martin Devek. The performance is a showcase of how dance and poetry can inhabit a shared creative space while honouring the individual practices of poet and choreographer. Introduced by Damian Smyth (Head of Literature & Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland), the performance will be followed by a Q&A session.

‘Knowing the Dance’ is supported by the Arts Council NI through the ACES Scheme, and Down Arts Centre.

Date: Saturday, 9 September

Venue: Down Arts Centre, 2-6 Irish Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6BP

Time: 7-8.30pm

Price: £5 (ticket booking available from August on 028 4461 0747)

Please note that the performance will be preceded by a workshop 2 hour (3.15-6.15m) ‘Knowing the Dance’ masterclass. More information to follow.

Artists’ websites

www.PaulaGuzzanti.com

www.MartinDevek.com

www.lettersfromladyn.wordpress.com

http://sarahwarsop.com/

Strange hungers – #lettersfromladyn #KnowingtheDance

-and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
the gloom cypresses,
is what I wish to prove.

from ‘That the Science of Cartography is Limited‘ by Eavan Boland

6tag-3088414843-1554372041217788600_3088414843I’ve been writing this in my head while getting my (very late) lunch ready. The title is a misremembered fragment of something that had been said to me about the process of academic research. Something like ‘Strange hungers and unexpected fevers’.. I think it is a famous enough quote but I can’t remember quite how it went.

What do I know?

Part of the ‘Knowing the Dance’ project has been about getting to grips with movement and ‘the dance’ (in the Yeatsian sense) within my own poems. It has been a few months of strange hungers and even stranger reading material. This is not an academic enquiry, and I am now very pushed to say what kind of enquiry it is at all… Maybe a mix of detective work and a memory of a group of poets, let by Michael Donaghy, trying to find our way back from the local hostelry to a writer’s retreat house across from Inch Strand in the middle of a moonless night without a torch.

Strange divinations, and a lot charcoal (and you get a stick of your own if you become in anyway involved in the ‘Knowing the Dance’ process).

Who knows?

And a reading list in this particular order:

‘The Body has its Reasons’  – Bertherat and Berstein

‘A Poetry Handbook’ – Mary Oliver

‘The Rules of the Dance’ – Mary Oliver

‘Lines: A Brief History’ – Tim Ingold

‘The Singing and Dancing: Collected Poems’ – Ann Atkinson

‘The Dance Most of All’ – Jack Gilbert

‘Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michaelangelo to now’ – Isabel Seligman (in conjuction with a British Museum exhibition of the same name).

‘The Making of a Poem’ – Eevan Boland and Mark Strand

‘The Life of Lines’ – Tim Ingold

‘Knowing from the Inside’ – Correspondences – Prof Tim Ingold

‘A Part Song’ – Denise Riley

‘Knowing from the Inside’ – The Voices of the Pages – Caroline Gatt

Coming Round

Choe Keou. Reanimation point. Located at the base of the nose, above the upper lip. Pinch it hard between the thumb and index finger. Very useful in reviving someone who has fainted, this massage can be of great service while waiting for the doctor.

from ‘The Body Has its Reasons’ – Ancient Foundations – Bertherat and Berstein

I am processing this morning that the words aesthetic and anaesthetic are related – even if it is a relationship of opposites. (see also Kroun Loun – the ‘aspirin’ point – located on the foot). And after a few months of pulling words, text, inked lines, sound patterns, surfaces, sounds etc apart from each and trying to find out where the liveliness (?) is..I think it might be time to concentrate on the writing itself. I have a full work in draft and a few interesting ideas on how to progress and a hundred thousand questions on what it is all about anyway.

Final Words

The opening quote is from a poem by Eavan Boland.  It has a geographical location in the famine roads of the West of Ireland, and, to be honest, there is a part of me that is very uncomfortable taking it out of that context. The poem ends

the line which says woodland and cries hunger
and gives out among sweet pines and cyprus,
and finds no horizon
will not be there.

And yes my hope is, after all this strange hungry considering, that such a line might be recovered and reinstated.

‘Materialism’ Poem by #KnowingtheDance workshop participant – #EvolvingFields

Choking
Stuck
Frozen
We restrict ourselves…

So thrilled to have permission to share the full text of this wonderful piece, written by one of the participants in response to an impression from the ‘Knowing the Dance’ performance/workshop at ‘Evolving Fields’ conference at Queen’s University Belfast – and some lovely photos of Paula and I as well from the first piece.

Find ‘Materialism’ on her ‘Inner Citings’ blog HERE.

The shared space was powerful – thanks to all contributed in words or images.

Timing, Tango & Training for the Knowing-Dancers – #lettersfromladyn

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

                                                                  (W.B. Yeats)

Shall we dance?

LightandSpaceIt was at high noon last Tuesday that the unlikely dance-partners – the lovely Sheelagh Colclough and myself  – took to the unlikely dance floor of a QUB’s Lanyon Building lecture theatre under the direction of Federica Banfi who was presenting, by means of a workshop: ‘From ‘active perception’ to connection: Engaging the Senses in Argentine Tango’.

Rhona’s Dance Studio

I love dance – all types – but my preferred kind of dancing has always been couples dancing. And it seems appropriate while attending a conference that dealt with the topics of memory, perception, sensoriality and imagination, that I revisited, in a  half-remembered, half imagined way, my old dancing days at Viva Dance Studio in Cork. The shapes and touches in Tuesday’s workshop throwing up all sorts of old information like so many messages-in-bottles coming in to shore.

‘A few and bad’

‘A few and bad’ (poco y mal – excellently translated) was how a Spanish friend described his dancing and it always makes me smile. I wasn’t actually terrible. In fact, I might have been quite okay except it really was a hobby for me and I didn’t have the time or the willingness to go the more competitive route, which was, to be fair, less about winning things and more about mastery.

Couple Dancing – Men and Women

The Coulters’ set up particularly appealed to me because women never danced with other women. They begged, borrowed and stole male and female bodies to ensure equal numbers in every class. (Yes, there were classes where women had to be drafted in to make up the numbers).  As I continued with the classes it came to me that the project was as much about teaching men and women to be in a cooperative space – albeit for a very short time, with little talking and sympathetic music – as it was about learning dance-steps. On a lighter note I also suffer from petite-womans’ guilt which Sheelagh reminded me of with her ‘tall women always get to play the men’s role’. In Rhona’s dance studio, me and the less height advantaged men, particularly, had a good thing going.

Couple Dancing – Leader and Follower

I remember the leader/follower shake down as happening like this. The men didn’t need to say anything – they had to be the leader and I don’t have any recollection of any of the ‘leaders’ saying ‘This is a bit out of my comfort zone – I’m more of a natural follower’. In the follower’s camp – team woman in this instance – opinion was more divided but only somewhat. Most women owned that leadership position was more in their line – and participated in a way that I like to call ‘leading from the back’. I was the only one I ever came across who had a distinct and happy identification with following. In that world, at that time, I was a natural follower. I always felt when I said it there should be shame attached. But I felt none, what it meant for me is that I punched well above my weight very often in who I danced with. I remember being taken out for a test drive by one of the very serious competitive dancers who was looking for a new partner. He danced me round the room with one arm, metaphorically, hanging out of the window – it felt like flying.

A Balloon and the Individisble Dance of Two People

On Tuesday, Frederica asked us to dance with a balloon in the middle as the only thing holding us together – the idea being to sense the connection that you make in that instance (which was the project behind all exercises). It was a bit up-close-and-personal and I was grateful to have somebody I already knew there on the morning, but I’ve got to say Sheelagh and I weren’t ideally matched for this particular exercise given the height difference but we did what we could in the happy cause of process and understanding.

For me, the balloon was like some kind of brilliant indicator species – here indicating the change in connection from two people battling for control of the space, to two people cooperating – with one taking the forward motion route, and the other the guided path.

The thing about when you are controlling you tend to breath in, in anticipation of resistance. The body tense and held away, many (from my perspective of a follower) of the bodies natural communication channels closed down with a single dominating idea of what should happen and the expection that the other person won’t be on board or able to do what you need them to – or worse a dual between two dominating ideas (from my perspective of, euphemistally-speaking, leading from the back).

When either person went into control mode – the balloon lightly flew off, like a canary, in it’s own direction – connection lost, the space collapsing into ‘yours and mine’.

It wasn’t the purpose of Tuesday’s workshop to work on that core-to-core connection, but my memory brought back some wonderful instances where there was such a flow between me and the man I was dancing with that there was a sense of all-one-ness about it (gathering in the music, other people, the room, everything). I can’t really explain it, like there’s been a shift in gears. Did I mention it felt like flying? It’s as close I think as I will ever come.

Vulnerability and the Knowing-Dancer

And the minute either got a controlling thought, the flight would begin a tail-spin. Easy to correct. In a poem of mine called ‘Social Dance’ (Darkhaired), I talk about the traditional roles of leader and follower being worn away. I mean this, of course, in the gendered sense but also in the sense that the leader and follower roles, no matter the gender/sexuality of the body that plays either role, have to have an equal place in the dance – no matter who the dancers are – or the thing won’t take off. Even in the above, I’ve gifted the leader the poll position but, in my heart of hearts, I know it is not so. The follower has to be equally proficient in their own space – otherwise in the poetic words of an ex of mine ‘it’s a battle for light and space’.

Learning the steps jointly, and two people jointly doing them right, is easier than the vulnerability of giving up control – communicating from the core of yourself – body, mind and spirit – until you arrive at a place of trust of both yourself and your dance partner. But my small experience tells me that what I’m calling the ‘Knowing-Dancers’ (the ones who are dancer and dance and who can tell the difference) have to travel that vulnerable road.

Timing and Leadership

And who sets the time? The composer, the musician or the leader? This line of thinking is prompted by (but not in any way explaining ) an earlier paper in the same conference – ‘Sensing Timing in Participation: an Enactive Approach to Musicking’ by Juan Loaiza Restrepo.

Even if you dance without formal music- an earlier incarnation of the ‘Knowing the Dance‘ dance~poems had natural sound as the accompaniment – the measure it seems to me is taken from the outside and this entrainment, as it were, is a different kind of leadership. A disinterested and not quite visible call to the floor which continues whether  the dancers are flying or falling or sitting it out, but one to whom the partners must surrender in order to move gracefully in the updraught of the air.

A Word of Appreciation

Thanks again to Federica Banfi and all those at the Evolving Fields conference for including ‘Knowing the Dance‘ on the programme. It seemed a very good space to showcase the work of the project and my thanks to those who generously participated in the space/workshop exercises. A big thanks, too, to Paula Guzzanti the dance partner in this project which explores the meeting place between poetry and dance and holds it as a creative place in its own right – and to Martin Della Vecchia for bringing music to the space.