Through the Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary Charlotte Spencer attended a one day workshop with Simon Whitehead and a week long intensive with Rosalind Crisp.
Here, she reflects on her experience and how it will impact on her own dancing practice.
I was delighted to be offered one of the Pebble Trust Flourish Bursaries by South East Dance earlier in the autumn. As an independent, freelance artist it can all too often be difficult to prioritise professional development opportunities over the need to earn money. Also, my primary roles as choreographer, facilitator and teacher mean that I am mainly in positions of responsibility – for decision making, for time-keeping, for deciding what happens, for taking care of the people I am working with. Don't get me wrong, it is a self-chosen position, and mostly I enjoy it, but the opportunity that this fund afforded for me to be the 'participant' and focus on my own dancing was really welcome.
I decided to take a one day workshop with Simon Whitehead in November and a week long intensive with Rosalind Crisp last week. Both workshops were programmed by Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Studios in London.
With Simon we worked closely with pieces of furniture that we had brought from home. Wondering what I might bring on my bike on the train from Lewes that was more exciting than a cushion was an interesting proposition and I was really proud to neatly fold up my anglepoise lamp into my pannier and reveal it in the studio! I loved working with the lamp – it's weight, it's folds, it's almost person-like character. As the light of the afternoon faded Simon didn't turn the lights on in the studio and gradually we worked into the darkness.
In the dimming light, my focus closed in and I found myself ever more absorbed in the creative world that I was investigating with my body and my lamp. Glad to be dwelling in the invitations of someone else that gave me boundaries and freedoms in which to explore, I found myself focused and energised by my quiet curiosity. Simon's instructions were deceptively engaging – seemingly simple, but filled with rich potential, and space for prolonged investigation. I could have stayed in that world for a lot longer. Working with objects as the light shifted triggered a series of thoughts and ideas in relation to the piece that I am currently working on – Is this a Waste Land? - this new work which is designed for disused urban spaces will take place at twilight. I had been anticipating the need to hire lighting to support visibility for audiences as day shifts into night, and I may still decide to pursue this avenue. Something strong in Simon's workshop left a lingering curiosity about how we might extend our 'normal' experiences of light or lack of light within the mode of this performance work.
The week with Rosalind Crisp was utterly and refreshingly different – I wouldn't afterall want two experiences that were similar! With Rosalind we danced a lot every day. We danced solo dances with very particular parameters – moving one surface of the body in one direction; two surfaces of the body towards and away from each other; giving rules to our partner's dancing 'stay with that' or 'leave that'. As Rosalind describes them they are tools for dancing that have emerged for her through 30 years of investigation whilst dancing. We danced for ourselves, for a partner and sometimes for several others. We were constantly exchanging roles between doing, and watching and supporting. In many ways, precisely what the tools are is not important. What felt extremely important though was what they enabled – for me to be more deeply engaged in my dancing; in attending to each and every part of my moving body all of the time; in attending in the present moment. It was exhilarating and exhausting.
I was profoundly inspired by Rosalind herself – her evidently boundless enquiry that was absolutely rooted in a practice of dancing (rather than talking about dancing) and which remains so alive and urgent for her. It allowed me to give permission for myself to renew my commitment to my own dancing, separate (but not in isolation) from my work as choreographer and teacher. I think I fell in love with dancing all over again and I came away with lots of questions about how I can integrate this work into my daily life and my current practices. I appreciated the serious dedication to working that was wrapped up in playfulness and humour.
And of course I took away a whole host of new ideas for teaching and sharing practice. As a teacher it felt like a wonderful resource to be led by such an experienced and accomplished teacher and I have observed lots of subtle techniques for unlocking dancing and dancers; for enabling trust, support and closeness within a group whilst maintaining focus and momentum.
Thank you South East Dance and The Pebble Trust for enabling me to have these remarkable experiences. They are written into my body.
Image credit: © Sam Cohen