Dancin’ Oxford

Dancin’ Oxford has passed and I only managed to make a few of the many events.  The first was ‘The Pneûma Project’ at St. John the Evangelists Church. Miranda Tufnell in collaboration with David Ward and Sylvia Hallett.  A work that breathed life in to the space and breath into our bodies.  I was moved to write a description of it for Oxford Dance Writers here.

This had followed an interesting and complementary workshop ‘The Body in Mind: Reflections on Research Embodiment’ organised by The Body and Being Network (a research initiative co-founded by Karin Eli (University of Oxford) and Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham).  Sessions were run by artist Cecelia MacFarlane and sociologist Juliet Rayment. A fascinating exchange and sharing of approaches to the body by academics and movement practitioners.

Later that week was the annual ‘Moving with the Times’ platform at The Pegasus Theatre. An opportunity to sample the range of work being made in Oxford with pieces by Marina Collard, Justice in Motion, Cecelia Macfarlane with Hilary Kneale and Melissa Holding and finally a piece by Alan Hutson of Unlock the Chains Collective. Again, I felt like writing about the experience so you can find more detail here

Unfortunately, due to parent duties I had to miss most of ‘Science and Dance – finding Commonalities’ the latest of  the  Dance and Academia: moving the Boundaries series initiated, organised and facilitated by Miranda Lawrence.  This year, held at the Jam factory, contributors included Subathra Subramaniam  Bronwyn Tarr, Nicky Clayton, Clive Wilkins, Morten Kringelbach and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr.  I was glad to catch the end of this stimulating event and the discussions, conversations and reflections it provoked.

Conversations, chance encounters, new ideas, inspirations, provocations, catching up with friends.  Thank you dancin’ Oxford and all the performers, presenters and organisers for creating these opportunities to share.



The buzz of beginning

It is so good to feel the tingle of excitement that an idea you have been brewing is beginning to exit your head and enter those of collaborators and fellow journeymen.  That the seed is planted and little tendrils are beginning to sprout.  That you can feed, nourish, water and watch and shape this thing between you as it grows in to something surprising because there wasn’t a packet with a label on it to say what it will become.

When my Grandfather was a Fish

This is the rather long name of the group I have joined formed by Paola Esposito, Flavia Coube and Malcolm Atkins.  The title was inspired by a short story in Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics.

The current explorations for us have been around interpreting poems by Mohan Rana.  This is a challenge for me as I am not confident with poems in the first place and I find it difficult to escape the literal clutches of words when I am creating movement.  Even when the poems themselves ( being poetry) are not straightforwardly narrative I find myself trying to ‘portray’ specific images or sequences of events.  However, grapple I have and may be I am beginning to lose my fear of all those words!  Still plenty of work to do.

Invited to perform as part of ‘Kymmata‘ the God’s Playmates at the O3 gallery we chose to also work on a poem relevant to the specific theme of the exhibition/installation:  ‘Crow’s Playmates’ by Ted Hughes.  We trialled this the night before at Cafe Reason’s Diamond Nights where it went down well.  Mostly I suspect due to the fabulous masks/headpieces that Paola constructed for us and Malcolm’s music.

Today at the O3 Gallery we performed two 20 minute sets.  The first based on Mohan’s poem ‘In Principio’ and  Hughes poem ‘Crow’s Playmates’.  The second set beginning with a duet by Paola and Flavia based on the poem ‘Photograph’ then a solo by me based on ‘Checkmate’ , finishing with a trio ‘La Riva’ where we decided to use the space itself more fully – including the outside.  This last worked well.  I managed to lose the words from my head and put them in my body finally.

chasing the sun as it falls

A beautiful sky, a beautiful light.  I grab my camera , dither to find my coat and put on my boots. And the magic is gone.  Or nearly. Just the other side of the trees I can still see it. Glints of gold pierce the dark undergrowth and vertical trunks.  If I go round.? I march through the fields racing the falling sun hoping to catch it on the other side.  I round the corner.  It has gone.

The sky is still beautiful and the light catching the underside of the clouds too.  But it is not what I was chasing.

Next time…

jewels in the compost

Today, as I ventured for the first time with my crutches in to the garden and fields to take pictures of the Autumn colours and blue sky my eye was caught by the glinting of what I thought at first was dew on very fine mushrooms by the compost heap.  Not little mushrooms or dew at all but little diamante pins stuck in to the crumbling surface of old board.  A little row of manmade sparkles guarding the decaying organic matter.  Artifice and nature.

How did they get there?  What were they?  I loved how they shone and stood curiously on high while the leaves crept up toward them.

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Affordable regular cross-arts practice

This was one of my motivations in setting up ‘Meeting Points’.  To create a space where there was enough of a pool of artists to share the cost of space in which to practice regularly.  The other was to develop and learn from other practicing artists: be inspired, challenged and share, break or clarify my own creative habits.  In such a space there is a chance to work with a variety of  artists from different practice backgrounds trying new approaches or methods for the generation of or shaping of material.  Each artist has something to offer and each artist can benefit from testing their approaches and rubbing up against unfamiliar ones.

I was already working in  a cross art group – DEC but wanted in addition to our particular collaboration to open up the opportunity to engage with a wider range of practitioners.  I was also curious to see what would happen if you introduced an element of audience within what was essentially an experimental practice session.   Part of my thinking in this was as a motivator for myself – an audience or an observer help me to focus and generate a certain amount of energy by their presence.  Additionally I was hoping to share the rigour, uncertainty, necessary development and variety of processes involved in creating work.  A ‘behind the scenes’ view that would hopefully be of interest to students or public and encourage deeper understanding of contemporary work.

However, perhaps my biggest motivator continues to be the search for magic moments.  Precious times in collaboration and live practice or performance when you are fully engaged in the moment,  where there is communication in the air,  where the creation exists outside your own boundaries and you are truly alive.


 Meeting Points has been enabled through support from Oxford Culture Fund and Oxford Dance Forum


Defining self

Considering taking on a new personality for  a day.  Has anyone else tried this ? ( would love to hear from you if you have)  Just to see if I can change my normal patterns of behaviour.   Easier if playing a role, ‘being’ someone else.  If I succeed, may be I can readjust who I think I am and what I can do.  So easy to be trapped by a certain part of yourself which has become dominant or to fulfill the role assigned to you by those around you.

May Meeting Points

Last Tuesday was my first meeting points since operation.  In it we used maps and drew maps with which to navigate the space and ourselves.  An interesting experiment which led us all to places we were not expecting.  Next we worked with sound -recording and rewinding and playing back.  Task based activity which ‘choreographed’ the movement of bodies in the space and their interactions with each other.  – this was something Paulette has been researching.  We discovered how difficult it was to ‘build’ a story – the fragmentation caused by the wiping and reworking of recorded material live and of course the different ideas, movements and sounds of each person.

Finally we did a short exploration of rhythm -generating movement and movement generating sound.

We had observers who engaged in the process and fed back their experiences.  All in all.  A stimulating evening!  Looking forward to the next one.

speaking bodies and neutral masks

Two days of workshops as part of a research project: ‘Ancient Dance in Modern Dancers’ (ADMD).  What a treat!  Thank you to researchers Helen Slaney, Caroline Potter and Sophie Bocksberger for organising and sharing (support of TORCH and DANSOX).

The first day with Yael Karavan we grappled with the elements, told stories without words and produced words from movement.  On the second day with Marie-Louise Crawley we strove to become neutral and aware bodies ready to wear ‘neutral mask’ and inhabit the moment in a variety of physical and emotional landscapes.  Both workshops emphasised quality of movement and economy of gesture.

Drawing on her experience in butoh and other trainings Yael introduced us to the ‘tools’ our body has to create, inhabit and communicate personality and character.  Leading us to explore and embody different elemental qualities – water, air, earth, fire, oil, wood Yael also drew our attention to the ‘volume’ at which these were playing.  How would gesture be used to communicate clearly and effectively in a huge ampitheatre or auditorium?  How to amplify movement without unnecessary extra ‘noise’.  How effective clarity and conciseness of gesture and form.  The title of this workshop was ‘physical storytelling’ .

In ‘Neutral mask’  with Marie-Louise a series of preparatory exercises brought us into a relaxed and aware state before we were introduced to our masks.  Here there was also physical storytelling and we were all amazed to see the effect of the mask and the way each body conveyed so much information with so little movement and how each imparted character to the mask.  The role of the elements played again in this workshop both through embodiment and as part of an imaginary landscape through which we travelled.

Lots of great practice, lots of thoughts and questions and plenty of tips which all of us can use in our differing projects. Thank you.


Diamond Night 13

Last Saturday night was Cafe Reason’s 13th informal platform of work in progress.   An opportunity to see new works and experiments thanks to Oxford Brookes for use of their drama studio.  In the first half we had poetry from Ayala Kingsley, song from Anne Ryan, spoken word and dance from Jenny Parrott – poignant and funny and dance from Flavia Coube -expressive and moving.  The second half was given over to two or three sections of Cafe Reason’s forthcoming show ‘The Heart’s Desire’ (June 13th and 14th at The Old Firestation) still in the early stages of development.  Exploring the role of the senses we are using a new combination of voice and movement for this production which, along with the complex source material is still presenting us with quite a challenge!  This time we encouraged verbal feedback at the end of the presentation.  This worked quite well with a relaxed discussion throwing up useful comments, questions, creative ideas and constructive criticism which we can certainly use to help in further rehearsals and planning.  Thanks to all who came.