August 11, 2015

Notes from a Wallflower: Mon 10th August

I arrived as the performers were breaking for lunch. Nic asks, ‘does anyone want anything from the outside world?’ and I occupy myself thinking about that idea of another world – the world of the rehearsal room.

After lunch is a period of talking. Richard discusses the idea of the constructed memory of an event becoming the memory itself. There are two approaches to remembering: ‘the Game’, which is an ongoing process of remembering that joins up all the people who are playing. In this remembering one memory influences another and a narrative construction emerges organically from the Game. Richard explains that what doesn’t happen (and shouldn’t) is any deep reflection, pulling apart, making sense.

The other approach to remembering is ‘the Archive’; when the performers return to a memory they have already remembered in the game. Richard questions, where does it sit? What do you want to do with it? What it is becoming? This remembering the Archive is a process of looking again at the memory and looking at how you’re looking at it. The questions settle on the floor of the rehearsal room, bedding in.

The group discusses techniques of telling their stories well. James describes the fear of the telling being just that; just telling. He describes how this concern is infecting his daily life. Sonia talks about repetition of a particular dance/story.  Richard describes the process of repetition and how is might lead to finding new relationships with the material. He asks, ‘is there a well in the ongoing performance of the archive?’ I’m not sure if I’ve misheard him, but I like that question and the idea of a well, rather than telling it ‘well’.

Nic talks about awareness. Having an awareness of how you feel on the day, in the present, and bringing that to the performance of the Archive – not in an explicit way, but as a method of being ‘in the moment’, or making that repeated memory fresh. Jo reflects on how bringing your self-awareness is antithetical to the performance of dance – In commercial theatre and dance contexts you’re supposed to ignore how you’re feeling, to get on with it. But here, you’re bringing how you feel to the dance.

Nic says the idea of therapy and therapeutic spaces keeps coming up. ‘Even if I’m not dancing’, she says, ‘I’m reflecting on my own life… there’s a therapeutic value where you’re given space to reflect’. She looks to Sonia and says, ‘watching you do Lauryn Hill is cathartic’. Nic summarises this as a shared therapeutic value intrinsic in the form of the work.

 After talking they are up and moving. They begin the game. Sonia describes a Zumba class; Greg finds Incredible ft. General Levy to play. Jo follows this with a story about dancing on her own at a club called Mainline in the 1980s; Greg plays Don’t Leave Me This Way and Jo dances the night away. James gets up and remembers a time when he used to wear nice clothes to go out, ‘everyone was drunk or on drugs. Not me’. The Ace of Spades blares from the speakers and Jo and Sonia join him. 

A section focused on the Archive follows this; Sonia stands at one end of the room and directs us through a housing estate, down the road towards the doctor’s in the early 1970s. Jo shows the first contemporary dance step she ever learnt; a sliding, diagonal movement across the space, arms outstretched. The opening melody of Riders On The Storm accompanies her. James performs a Mick Jagger impression. Sonia transports us to Notting Hill Carnival.

As I watch this fascinating narrative unfold, I keep thinking about Elizabeth Dempster’s writing on the Choreography of the Pedestrian, and the value she ascribes to everyday movement, particularly because of the way it brings the experiencer towards the work. Ideas around the speciality of the unskilled dancer, the everyday dancer, questions over what constitutes dance, what it is to be professional, bubble to the surface. 

Dani Abulhawa

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