Dance4 Research Artist - Sara Giddens

Monday, 5 December 2011

October 2011 - Being alone still together*

And now here, speaking this writing, recalling that memory, those memories (colluding and colliding) of the experience of the event-hood, the experiences of the making of the Dream-Work Walks, alongside but outside of the space-time of the actual experience of it. (Breathe).
Being here now.

Taking Heidegger’s definition of an artwork as a ‘preserving outstanding standing within.’[1] Both and………..I wonder what does this being alone still together feel like from my makers/choreographers/writers POV and when does this ‘preserving outstanding standing within’ occur within the Dream-Work Walks ?

I find it most clearly, feel it most profoundly when we are being alone still together, dwelling in this and those quiet, contemplative space-time(s) of stillness.
These still movers (movers still) you and me.
The one and the other amongst and alongside these other-others (not-oneself, inter-acting, playing our parts). Who am I within this stillness? Not my-self, part-other, an un-whole-other, any-other, now gone and back again.

I wonder how present I can be alongside this your apparent/appearing presence – in this stillness. Still distracted by the other-others who walk on by, pretending not to notice when we are spilling out so publically……

Can we be still for long enough to feel we know in some way(s) this shared still-ing, this still-dance? Some time for stillness filled with and by and alongside you. This stilling ultimately a very individual process now temporally shared through my individual sense of being alone together with you ‘preserving outstanding standing within?’

This place is too vast, too intricate – impossible to have and to hold – so we must listen to a part of it………to find the patterns (and chose to work with them or not). Take notice of the detail, the overlooked.
We bring our ‘theatrical’ sensibilities but we are not the regular users of these places and do not pretend to be such. We are always outside even when we dwell within.

And then turning (away or beyond the performer and you) to the view, the solid, still awe and wonder of this land (J S Mill). 
My body stilling again, daring now not to move amongst this vastness. The view is too big.  Those big open spaces, opening out and offering up a time for contemplation.
Facing the view, into the void with all the possibilities of the future and the heavy presence(s) of the past.

Not yet a quietening of the mind – but perhaps/certainly a focusing – a foregrounding.
My mind can’t yet be still – sorry – always moving from one thought or sensation to the next – I can sense more now! 

And now we stop. The one and the other, amongst the other others – still-moving.
Your quietening – in relation to my quietening.
Face to face in the event-hood of it all.
In this fiction, through this moving fourth wall, face-face in potential.
The one encountering the other (as if again for the first time).
We are held here together – as part of this particular and peculiar etiquette of performance – this consensuality.
Arriving at this dwelling point, here and now.
Making a clearing – within which to dwell.

(Now my eyes are shut tight)
Allowing so many ways of knowing to come to the surface.
My being here, our being alone, still together.

Then once again back to this act of standing alone alongside – speaking these words (re-presented); only when I sit still can I write, I cannot write unless I am still and my mind is focused – cleared of other things (the everyday) as much as possible.

*A few notes from my half of a performance/lecture given as part of the Animation of Public Space through the Arts: Innovation and Sustainability’ symposium from the 28th- 30th of September 2011.  Our participation was financially supported by the Making Artistic Inquiry Visible project hosted at Thompson Rivers University and supported by the SSHRC.

[1] Heidegger 1978 [1927-64]) ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ in Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell, London: Routledge: 192.

September 2011 - Finding (my) reflection through (your) reflection

Making Dream-Walk* for the Wirksworth Festival in Derbyshire (Sunday 18th September 2011) and reflecting on those past walks in Singapore, Nottingham and Bristol.

Originally conceived to be experienced as part of the (morning) commute the Dream-Work walks (with Wirksworth now 4 in total) ask the audience-spectators to share the same time within (the sometimes very) public –space (amongst the host of others) and simultaneously occupy a distinctly different time/temporality from those other-others who pass us by, whose purpose in this time is very different. (We recognize each passer by has their own time and tempo). 

We invite the auditor-spectators to both move with us, often to follow in our footsteps and against the dominant flow of the commute (for the first 3 versions we deliberately choreographed the walks in the morning rush hour against the dominant flow), stepping across, aside, to step outside from it AND to dwell with us (performers/directors/makers), to come alongside, to be-come still (–er).
To stop.
To look, to listen, to smell, to taste and to take stock.
To dwell and to be still-er.

*Video footage was gathered from 6 different performances over Saturday & Sunday 17th & 18th and shown at the University of Northampton’s Annual Postgraduate Conference on the 21st & 22nd of September with my accompanying audio commentary.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Blog 9 July - Looking up with your eyes closed………

Reflections on the June sharing event at University of Northampton.

I was sharing process not practice.
I was exploring how I could take elements from the process and the development of the practice and re-configure them in a practice as research context. How could I share and allude to: traces, documents, documentation and its accompanying technologies whilst activating spectator-performer configurations, through the everyday and the performative?

What is the (right) frame that allows for the sharing of such a reflexive space-time?
This process is different from but intrinsic to my practice.
The everyday within the performative: placing the age-old, everyday sewing (feminine presence) of the huge B&W prints “a reference to books and knowledge” (Vida Midgelow) alongside the everyday modern laptop on the nest of wooden, front room, tables. The domestic alongside and within the theatrical. Daily (yoga) practice helps me sit still alongside the documents and traces of the performative. I sit quietly as the spectators are moving in relation to each other, to me, to the monitors.

Key (self) reflections;
I am exploring stillness through multi-modal avenues.
For me, it was/is a big personal risk putting myself in the sharing.
I wanted to create an exploratory dissemination space that gave/elicited choice. I was interested in the setting up of, the creation of a space that invoked or invited calmness.

Key Questions;
Is quietness a pre-requisite for stillness?
Is sound a pre-requisite for silence?
It is all relational.
The ‘outside’ world is always forcing its way in.
The inter-relationship between silence and stillness (sound and image) amongst and alongside the action (of spectators-performers) and their quietness (sometimes stillness).

It was all so busy – all those parts of the process co-existing. Images and sounds spilling over – border-less, akin to the process. The multiplicity of images – creating their own stillness, pointing to still-ing and yet a single repeated image (the small boy) was/is the closest thing for me and others to finding stillness.

Blog 8 June 2011 - My developing methodology.

My process is changing, both through the development and insistence upon a more self–reflexive space-time and because of the employment of certain approaches and critical frames around and alongside the work. My practice is multi-modal so I feel the need to share it as such and this is currently a significant challenge.

Not unusually, I am working from an arts based practice as research basis which encompasses a range of bodymind processes. These include the employment of methodologies borrowed from other fields such as auto-ethnography and applied within performance and dance studies (see Bacon, Lerman). I am interested in how and where space-time is given to the maker to pay attention to and acknowledge their own embodied responses to the work in part through the location of a “body-sense” (Gendlin 1981:10). This process is taking me to places that I could not have imagined before committing to this time-space; in a recent workshop I found myself writing with my left hand with my eyes closed.

My research has moved from my original proposal (June 2010) concerned with finding ‘focus’ (the draw of the single instant of focus both from a makers and audiences’ POV) to stillness. At the beginning of this year I began developing choreographies from still images, digital and printed; now I find myself searching for ‘stillness’ through and with the still-mover (both maker and spectator) and in doing so using stillness as a compositional tool.

For the recent post-graduate Practice as Research event at Northampton (June 14th) I offered four digital sketches are as part of my process, hoping to create or allow a “moment of contemplation……” (Seremetakis 1996:13), perhaps enabling a still-ing of the bodymind.

You can see 2 of the digital sketches by clicking here and then clicking onto Bodies in Flight on the menu on the left.

Around and about Model Love: Compilation DVD

My research began with building choreographies from still-images often drawn from photographic or web based digital stills. Unsurprisingly working with 2D images in this way only heightened the viscerality and ephemerality of the live, well rehearsed arguments made by Phelan (1993,1997),though it has raised new questions in relation to the elements that constitute my practice or the edges of my practice. How do and can I see, know, unknow, experience and develop the live work through and with these documents? The collection of digital images on the mobile phone and those shot on location and used in the bound books and the loose leaf A2 images all have their own narratives which were used both throughout the process of making and within the theatrical event itself. Here and now of course, they are seen and experienced “as something other than (the) performance itself” (Sofaer in Govinda and Hughes 2000). I am certainly concerned with an exploration of “the potential of performance documentation” as a “hybrid domain” as Lycouris (2000) argues for but what is also of interest is how in the live performances of the work: Model Love , the documents and the processes and techniques used to create and share these documents have led to several re-configurings of the environment for the performance in order to re-intensify the audience-spectator experience and as the Quake footage demonstrates to respond to the particular context of the event.

Through working with these documents I have realised more about what my research is not! Although I am interested in the differences between the framed stillness of the photographic and the composed stillness within the theatrical; I realise now that my real research is in the still-mover and in watching (and remembering) Graeme, whose everyday dance (that is how he dances), falls into stillness, as he is becoming still, with his eyes closed – as we/he enter(s) an interior landscape, in his choosing not to dance.

Dream – Work Compilation DVD : Moving together and dwelling alongside

From the communal, shared stillness space-time at the end of DVD One and the work with the Northampton students relating to choreographing audiences, to Leaving and my nostalgic return to Nottingham Train station where we had made Dream-Work; I arrive in a place where I want to dwell in the complexity of audience and performers both moving and becoming still amongst the weight of the architectural stillness to be found in and amongst the cities. How can stillness enable a re-configuring of an audiences role? How do the senses still an already embodied audience? I am looking back at the recent series of Dream-Walks and looking ahead to Wirksworth & Portugal in autumn 2011. I am considering where is the performance? Who is performing? Who is spectating?


1. Bodymind is used here to suggest an alternative to a Cartesian way of thinking. (See David E Shaner (1985) who moved away from a hyphenated body-mind and Antonio Damasio (1994) amongst many who speak about a bodymind environment not a bodiless brain/mind).

2. In the main the footage was not documented or shot for this specific PaR event.

3. Model Love has been a Bodies in Flight collaboration with photographer Ed Dimsdale, it has been performed most recently at Bristol Drama Department (June 9th 2011).

4. Quake is curated by Dance4 and Deda. Here the performers’ baseline/default was stillness amongst the audiences’ movement and interval chatter.

5. Bodies in Flight first made Dream-Work for Singapore Arts Festival and then for Nott dance in 2009 and Bristol’s Mayfest in 2010. I am beginning to consider how to make the next bespoke version for Wirksworth Art & Architecture trail in 2011

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Blog 7 - May 2011

And so I re-turn to a primary source of Andre Lepecki’s, to anthropologist and writer C Nadia Seremetakis 1994 tome The Senses Still ; through which she offers up a way of weaving the more personal, auto-biographical (auto-ethnographic) alongside the more obviously academic. Her writing demonstrates that only through knowing both is the unique connection in-between the two felt and made. I see a way that different kinds of writings, experiences can be woven through. Her very detailed (she describes in minute detail) and very sensory personal memories of everyday (but extra-ordinary/notable) experiences of e.g. tasting are employed as examples/exemplars, at once playful and poignant as she explores the relationship between language and meaning and the senses – and how that can all change within geographical regional boundaries where the meaning of shared words does not necessarily translate from one country to another, even one region to another (or I might say one context to another). I have had to order the book through the British Library.

“I treat this book with reverence, it feels so old. I wonder whether it will be as revealing as I want it to be. What secrets will it (be)hold? I have a very tactile relationship to it – I smooth over, dust off the hessian bound cover. It’s fraying at the edges (bleeding/pouring out). A regal purple. With the authors name and title on the spine almost invisible – worn away. Printed in 1994 – not that long ago. Taken out 22 times since 1997. It’s tattered and virtually nameless, title-less. It reminds me of past times, it makes me feel nostalgic. A child choosing a book off her grandmother’s shelf. I open it up the paper is worn too, thicker then the other books pages I have on my desk. Someone has marked it with a pencil – that irritates me – a great deal – I do not need to be drawn to the passages they found most interesting or useful (indicated by ticks and square brackets in the contents sections and under-linings, stars and repeats of words-not even comments repeats!)

I turn to the introduction: named the prologue (the theatricality of that word pleases me) written by C. Nadia Seremetakis – I’m skirting around the edges somehow, not daring to begin, I wonder why the C? I remember my last tutorial and the reminder to critique the writers that I have so enjoyed (exonerated), I remind myself that Andre Lepecki and Susan Melrose are not dance-makers, this sits uneasily, it feels too superior, I am replacing one hierarchical system with another.

I read on, Seremetakis’ book is full of felt sensations.

Blog 6 - April 2011

Polly Frame in Dream-Work by Bodies in Flight: nottdance 2009

I am reflecting upon my conversation with Simon (Ellis). Again from this self-reflexive place I currently inhabit I return to my particular uniqueness as a maker-spectator. I remember arriving to witness Simon’s work Leaving at the station, straight off a train, suitcase in tow and fresh from gazing out of the window at the passing landscapes, littered with portraits, and reflecting upon how becoming still was so well used in last nights opera. Of course they know how to employ stillness! Alighting with the sound of the wheels of my suitcase puncturing the stillness, the quietness of the performance, the performers held in embraces on the bridge. The last time I dwelt in this station was in the making of Dream-Work (our audio-performance walk) for nottdance 2009. My dance spilling out onto the streets, beyond its usual boundaries.

Looking back Dream Work was a site for placing stillness within the everyday and moving alongside the everyday (though never the same as…….the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary). Catching the everyday and attending to it. I loved making Dream Work in Nottingham, it was like being home. Being with Simon, dwelling in that site made me feel nostalgic. I luxuriate in the Greek translation. “I ache for……” (Seremetakis: 4).

C Nadia Seremetakis (ed) 1994 The Senses Still: Perception and memory as material culture in modernity. Boulder; Oxford : Westview Press

there’s a little thing going on: Sara Giddens in conversation with Simon Ellis

there’s a little thing going on ………………

Talking with Simon – 13th March 2011

Photographer: Simon Ellis

1st interview
Simon “I hope this is OK …..we don’t have too long but I can see you again after the next set.”

Sara “That’s fine. I intend to respond to the work rather than review it, to just dwell in and around the piece. Vida and Claire thought it would be good for us to meet up and have a dialogue around this piece as my research is focusing on stillness.”

Sara “So how many times have you made this work?”
Simon “We did it last year with a group of dancers actually. 8 dancers at St Pancreas in London and Claire saw it there. It was a commission by the Place and St Pancreas. Then I forgot about it really, and then Claire said would you like to do a version for Nott dance. It makes perfect sense, historically, in terms of what nott dance has been about. Things that are right on the edge or have fallen off the edge in terms of dance practices. This one was a little bit different, because most of these performers have little dance experience. So being in the rehearsal room was very different. I was curious what it would be like. When you’re involved in the embrace a lot goes on. Very basically it’s quite a long time, not that long, but you do start to get a bit sore and it’s also its very emotional. Embracing someone even if you don’t know them…..”

Sara “Or maybe particularly if you don’t know them?”

Simon “Maybe particularly if you don’t know them. In hindsight of course……I find that….well just how significant that act is to humans. We’re not supposed to be statues or anything like that. It’s not about trying to get money from….like buskers. But the guys here that aren’t trained they tend towards that. The idea of moving, doing movement that is not drawing attention is quite hard. Then if I think about my dance training….to scale back is quite difficult.”

Sara”Yes, sometimes when I have worked with dancers, working on the untraining of the bodies, the everyday-ness, has been more challenging than working with performers who are physically competent and aware and knowing but haven’t got those traditional techniques.”

Simon “Yeah, that’s right. Very complex. Those kinds of people would be ideal. Not that I think with this there needs to be a particular kind of person. For me there is something very pleasurable about the idea that it doesn’t need a certain kind of person. Indeed that was one of our ideas because they were all dancers last time they just tend to be a little more uniform, so it’s really lovely that its different ages ….I think that suits the ideas in the work much better.”

Sara”So how do you get them to ’become’ still then?”

Simon “Two weeks ago we had a two hour rehearsal…..with a group of about 5 from the city council and I spent the entire time getting them to a point where they would just be comfortable hugging someone they didn’t know. Then what happened, not surprisingly was that 3 of them, there were all these redundancies being made, so 3 of them have interviews on Monday (tomorrow) so they said we can’t do it. So none of this group were at that rehearsal. So we met yesterday ……laughs….that’s fine, so I really had no time so I said to them well we’re just going to do that. In a way it’s probably better….so what we did was we did a little task in pairs where we would say the things that were on our mind at the moment and at the end of it we had to try and do an awkward hug, what would an awkward hug feel like? There were lots of parodies…….everyone met everyone. It takes quite a long time maybe a whole hour.

I said this work involves two things embracing and waving………………it’s pretty casual and then we set up the exercise and it was interesting because basically we’re interested in each other, humans are interested in each other, how quickly it was for them to get to a point where they were engaging in this prolonged embrace, some of them knew each other but a lot didn’t and that engagement is deeply pleasurable for me. Then there’s the practical things; like how do you get your feet right so that it’s not awkward. So we made a couple of rules, like lets have our feet either side of each other one on the outside one on the inside, little things that people who are not working in body practices are not used to figuring out for themselves. … then they’d shift to the next person and have a conversation about the hug they just had so there’s a sense that if I have a conversation with someone who I didn’t just hug I might be able to say different things and it might inform how I hug this next person. Then it was 2 minutes, 3 minutes, then I tricked them into 4 minutes, then 5.”

Sara “Are you interested in those conversations the performers have, those dialogues?”

Simon “No …… yes. Well, I was trying to give them as much space as possible but because I was also involved I became aware……we’d check in together as a group. If there’s anything that they think is important or if there is anything that they’re not sure about then those conversations reveal a lot about what people are remembering.”

Sara “Where’s the inspiration from? Can you track that?”

Simon “That’s a very unusual experience. I was at the Place in 2009 and I was doing some research in the studio. Chris from The Place stopped me and said we’re applying for some money to do something at St Pancreas next year, are you interested in doing something? At first I thought of a technological thing, embedding screens into the floor but then I said I wasn’t interested in that as I do that a lot I wanted to do something that was right at the other end of the scale. I was thinking about this place, this zone, which I’ve experienced a lot in train stations and airports. Bob and Lee talk about it as a ‘no place.’ The zooming in on a place that is public and open. The significance of that. “

Sara “What’s really interesting as well is how active people are within that space.”

Simon “Yeah. We spent much longer at St Pancreas, so we spent a lot of time just watching. Also St Pancreas is such a different space to this. People notice immediately here whereas in St Pancreas…….. (looks at watch) I need to go.”

Sara “Go.”

2nd interview
Train times tannoy in the background.
Interview cuts in to ……..
Sara “I had to have a practice I could do at 45 I love the way the kind of yoga I do is framed.”
Simon and I talking about yoga – yin yoga
Sara “Just letting go – gravity. It’s to do with fascia you just have to let go in order to be still to meditate.”

Sara “Can we talk about audience?
“My experience is that I had a narrative journey of it, in the sense that I was moving through a number of sections.”
Simon “Yes”
“How significant is it that D4 are giving out a card that says this is a piece in nott dance, connected to a festival? That frames it in a particular way doesn’t it?”

Simon “Yeah. It’s not my ideal situation it’s fair to say. But also I think there’s always those constraints, in understanding the realities of the situation. My idea was if people really show curiosity you might go, here’s a card, so you know, a year ago when we first started talking about it we had postcards……..I wanted the idea that even if its only 4 people in 6 hours I’m not really concerned with the number of people; if they want to know more they can take a card and go and look it upon the website and see a little bit more information…….. But how to manage that (the giving out or availability of that material). It’s been very tight. It’s not a complaint but…..
Even using the word performance is problematic.

1. Yin Yoga contains the ancient, and some say original, form of asana practice. The sages who pioneered the path of yoga used asanas to strengthen the body, so that they could sit for long periods in contemplative meditation. If you have ever sat for a long time with legs crossed, you know the hips and lower back need to be strong and open. The sensations you felt were deep in the connective tissues and the joints. These are the deep yin tissues of the body, relative to the more superficial yang tissues of muscles and skin. Yin Yoga opens up these deep, dense, rarely touched areas.

Yin yoga is relaxing and therapeutic. Yin Yoga uses long holds of supported postures to release fascia. Fasica is the connective tissue that holds us together surrounding muscles and muscle cells, attaching muscles to bones (ligaments) and bones to bones (tendons).

Muscle fibers are red and can only contract. Fascia tissue is white and can only lengthen Fascia takes a long time to warm-up and changes slowly. Once lengthened the changes to fascia are long lasting.