Sue MacLaine’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

Sue MacLaine reflects on her experience of working with leading choreographer Jonathan Burrows as part of research and development (R&D) for her new work, supported by South East Dance’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary. 

The bursary enabled me to have time with Jonathan Burrows to assist my dramaturgical thinking alongside dancers/dance performers in a studio space to explore ideas of 'radical togetherness' and 'radical aloneness'.  This feeds into a new work I am making entitled 'Vessel', that has been co-commissioned by the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Battersea Arts Centre and will premiere in 2018. The work is currently in research & development funded by Arts Council England.

I am conceiving the work for an ensemble of five with an emphasis of performers whose own life history can contribute to the themes and ideas and so at this point in the R&D, I’m seeking dancers/dance performers with complex and multiple physical disabilities.  To assist my thinking through the ethical and practical implications of this, Sarah Pickthall; a disability, equality and inclusion advisor is also part of the team.

I wanted to begin a discussion about what my definition of 'choreographic' would be in this work and to think about notions of the choreographic field, the imagined choreographic and symbolic choreography.  In addition to our work in the studio, I was guided to look at other artists work, in particular Mette Edvardsen’s 'Black' that explores a choreography that is about making things appear and the relationship between spoken word and space and being 'present' for an audience, the writing by Nigel Thrift about resistance, expressive embodiment and dance, the contemplation of the geographies of dance and of course meaning making when non-traditional bodies and the histories they carry are placed in conversation with the choreographic. 

My interest is about the capacities of language to provide the choreographic framework for a work and the question of whether language can actually choreograph the space.  It is probably important to say my vision for the work sees the audience and performers within a shared space and so choreographic space will be a vital and visceral experience for both audience and ensemble. 

Research & Development image from 'Vessel' by Sue MacLaine with Simon Startin, Julie Cleves, Sarah Pickthall and Jonathan Burrows.

© Kitty Shaw
Sue MacLaine’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection