Q&A with OCD commissioned artist Olivia Kerr

Olivia Kerr has an impressive CV which has seen her develop unique dance and movement skills from the UK to Norway and Borneo.  She has a particular interest in working with early years and is training toward becoming a dance movement therapist. Olivia is one of four artists commissioned to create work specially for Our City Dances and has been working with the children at Puffin Nursery to develop her dance play session which takes place as part of the festival on Saturday 29 June at 3pm. We asked her to share a bit about her history and interests… and a favourite joke.

We understand your specialist field is in Contemporary African Dance. Can you tell us what prompted your interest in this style and how you incorporate it into your current work?

Whilst at University I was really taken with Contemporary African Dance. Amongst other things, the rhythms, isolations and grounded movement were difficult to grasp but felt fantastic, and so I chose to specialise in this form. I also had a wonderful teacher, Francis Angol, who cultivated in me a deeper understanding of the form and a playful approach to dance. In my current work, I use Contemporary African Dance like a backdrop - its presence is felt in the music, warm-ups and the way I express movement, but taking centre stage are the children and the movement which they explore and create.

You worked in Borneo as an English and Dance teacher which must have been an incredible experience! What brought you to Borneo and did your time there influence your work with children? 

Quite simply, what took me to Borneo was frustration with 9-5 working life; I had the urge to do something completely different, and found this fantastic opportunity and so followed it! My time there taught me how to ‘go with the flow’, and it instilled in me a sense of wonder for the world around us, so yes, I’d say it has influenced my work with children because of how I now approach tasks.

What is it about working with young children that you find so exciting or inspiring? 

Children look at the world differently to adults, there is this sort of unfiltered, unbiased, excitable outlook which makes them a lot of fun to work with; every day is new and you never quite know what’s going to happen!

Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you use props in your work with young children? 

Giving children something to feel and play with helps them to create their own movement (sometimes without them even realising), and it means there is minimal need for language, making it a very accessible way in to dance. The props that I use have distinct qualities to them - there are balls that roll and bounce, feathers that are soft and light, Slinkys which bend and wobble - the children might try to replicate these qualities in their own bodies or they may simply dance with the object.

What’s your favourite animal? 

Goats! They have a clever cheekiness which I adore.

Can you tell us a joke? 

This is embarrassing because my favourite jokes are the really terrible ones that make everyone groan – why do giraffes have long necks? Because their feet smell! 

Q&A with OCD commissioned artist Olivia Kerr