Half way through. Already. Can’t believe how quick thats gone. Well technically it’s slightly over half way but with the end of the year fast approaching its an obvious mid-way check point. Stopping now and picking the project up as soon as 2017 begins gives me a real sense of purpose and drive for taking the new year and running with it, fuelled with optimism and ambition. However to do this I need to ensure I fully switch off, relax and occupy myself with the usual Christmassy-ness over the next 10 days. I’m not great with giving myself proper time off (point me in the direction of a self employed individual who is?….) and a ‘weekend’ or two consecutive days off has felt that of a myth for a while now, especially since the end of August. So to empty my brain of any wandering thoughts and to neatly tie up those loose ends, let the reflection begin….
Ruido has been on a massive shape shifting journey over the past 65 days. From endless organising dates, meetings, emails and phone calls to seeing those meetings, workshops & performances materialise; then to take all the collected data into the studio (a tricky step and still is as my brain slowly attempts to process all the newly acquired information and allow it to trickle down into my body), to a sharing of my ‘nuggets’ last week at Yorkshire Dance. This is an actual, proper, its own, real, solid, made of the true nitty gritty Project. And I’m loving it…..well most of it.
Day 1 of my first full studio week (studio day 9 overall). ‘It was a difficult start to the week’ is one way of summing up the sky reaching wall of a mental block I was feeling. So far in the studio I’ve felt pressure that ‘something needs to happen and fast because I’m here in my booked allocated studio time’. It’s not been a constant presence – I have been able to work and create and be authentic about it occasionally – but I have struggled with finding a hook in. I have felt a responsibility to the people I am meeting in the community to do them justice. Not to reflect them in the work word for word, but to ensure I’m being sensitive with any material they provide for the project. The responsibility was weighing down heavily and blocking a way in. I was blocking myself and an unburdening had to happen. Monday’s end of day writing:
” The truth of it. I feel paralysed with indecision and uncertainty. If ever there was a creative block for the artist surely this is it. Why can’t I give myself the permission? Why are you blocking it? Why won’t you let it be? What are you afraid of? Being judged? People seeing into your soul? Because its yours? “
Tuesday. I entered the studio, set my stuff down and left immediately. I headed down to the Yorkshire Dance offices to have a chat with Wieke, artistic director of YD. This was a massive help. Just to discuss with someone who knows me and the project and is supporting me in this process. As I realised the day before I’m blocking the creative process and need to find a way to hook in. I have my tangled ball of wool and slowly will find small ends sticking out that can be unravelled (a helpful analogy, thank you Wieke). From here the week went onwards and upwards with me lowering the pressure and expectations and starting to work the creative juices. I wouldn’t say I was swimming in the source consistently but certainly for small pockets of time, with regular breaks for reflection and musings. There are huge benefits of working solo which I thoroughly enjoy but having no one to bounce ideas off and share your vision with is a challenge. It’s not like the laptop, walls or notebook are going to speak back….“Actually I think you might be on to something there, I was thinking a similar thing. You should try it while I sit here motionless and watch….” You have to play both parts and not shoot your ideas down so fast they never get off the ground. Critical sure, extinguishing no.
The sharing on Thursday was nerve racking. Showing work at this stage, so very under developed, is S-C-A-R-Y. I don’t believe in speaking before you share. I know myself, it would start with a proud explanation of the project and the people involved but would soon fizzle away into an apologetic justification for what I was about to show. Of course it was hugely helpful along with a Lerman structured feedback session and after a large red wine in the wardrobe bar next door I began to feel so… Thank you Yorkshire Dance for your continuous support during the week (and the mulled wine of course).
Over the past few months the project has felt most alive when I’ve been within the community. Its in this environment with ‘everyday folk’ where the project has truly ignited and run itself, being fuelled by everyone I meet. The power and energy this creates has been hard to channel in the studio. Again working solo adds difficulty to keep that energy going, but its the people I meet and the beauty in the reality / normality of their lives that moves me and the project forward. Taking this into the studio takes only my memory of the individuals and without the spontaneity and bustling of that community environment it easily evaporates. At the start of Ruido there was a small part of me (a very small part) which regarded the community research as a sideline extra, necessary to secure funding and fuel my choreographic process. In reality this was partly due to nerves surrounding performing in an unknown environment and showing work to a ‘non-arts audience’ and their initial reactions to it. Having developed my community practice over the last few years I’m fully convinced of its value and the importance of public engagement work and specifically what it would give for this project, but reflecting now, this is a major thread to the development of the work. Certainly NOT a sideline add-on.
So far I have visited half the community groups, 2 or 3 times each. The first I visited back in October and is the only Sheffield group involved in the project. The group meet weekly for 3 hours and is a free flowing session with no set activities but conversation, tea, coffee and biscuits in abundance. People had been told there was going to be a performance and to stick around to watch if they could. I was pleased by how many people did and humbled by their enthusiasm and attentiveness to the performance.
When I visited a week later to deliver the workshop many people expected another performance and began moving tables and setting chairs ready to watch. Before the workshop began I was befriended by a 5 year old girl who wanted to have a paper airplane throwing contest with me. She seemed to like me as then held my hand for the whole session and cried when her mum said they were leaving. I didn’t expect to facilitate the entire workshop holding hands with her but it did offer a connection that added to the dynamic of the room; in a circle everyone tall, adult and mostly male contrasting with the only child there. This grounded the workshop in an earthy, mother nature kind of way and I felt it relaxed us ‘the grown ups’ into a state of openness and willingness to play. Initially some people were hesitant about the workshop and wanted to watch rather than do, but overall around 35-40 people participated. I was amazed and thrilled with the number of young men that joined, however this meant a few women who had expressed a keen interest the week before began to retreat from the group and leave. (I hadn’t realised then there is a women’s only group that meet on a different day, which I can investigate to deliver more workshops). This turnout, and with many people asking me afterwards ‘same time next week?’, has inspired me to continue workshops or possibly create a short piece with this group which I will look into when this stage of Ruido has finished.
STAR (Student Action for Refugees) had organised an evening event in collaboration with the FoodHall Project (Sheffield’s pay as you feel dining hall and kitchen) which tied in well with the end of the workshop. They had contacted me previously so that we could advertise each others events and what better way to spend an evening after a dance workshop than with delicious Iranian food with the people you have just danced with! During the evening I continued conversations with a few of the young men who had done the workshop who were from Sudan. They were very interested to learn about the culture here, asking lots of questions which I returned with questions about their culture. My partner came to join in the evening for a short time and for a moment I left him chatting with one of them. I came back and asked what they were talking about to which they replied “Barcelona”. Looking at their faces fully animated I said “its football isn’t it? Not the city!” to which they nodded and laughed. You can be anywhere in the world and will always find a common language that you share with someone!
” The women participated so fully and so movingly – their reactions to the music, the lightness of touch; none seemed embarrassed or threatened. There was laughter but it was light and joyous and they (we) took the ideas totally serious. There was clear commitment and willing participation. In three years of women’s group, I have rarely seen such concentration and enjoyment of a communal activity. All engaged fully and for a few minutes, the real world went away. Thank you so much, Alison x “
– volunteer at a women’s only group, Leeds
Another group I’ve visited is a women’s group in Leeds which is a smaller intimate group with a few young children. On my first visit two of the tiny tots joined me with my solo performance making it a wonderful trio in some parts. I was pleased their mums allowed them to engage with it how they wanted rather than trying to keep them seated and still. Live work is influenced by its environment and I enjoy what makes every performance different. I did two workshops with this group and when I returned the second time I could feel their excitement to continue the dancing and build on the trust we had already established. I was met with enthusiastic hellos, smiles and hugs. All the individuals I have met so far have been amazing and I would love to spend more time with them. I have been met with kindness, generosity of spirit, and a genuine interest in me and the project. But most of all they have enjoyed the dancing and so have I!
Being physical in a space with people and allowing moments of connection to emerge and flourish has been beautiful and peaceful. Running a solo project I’ve found it easy to get distracted with the admin side and lose sight of the importance of the physicality of the work. This comes first, I am a mover, that’s who I am. A new year’s resolution for myself I think: Physicality 1st, emails 2nd. I enjoy the stillness of research and reflection but my body needs its conditioning and stretching time, which is also my thinking time and often where thoughts are made sense of.
In my continued research at home I’ve been finding reading material on language learning quite dense and difficult to read (particularly that which has been suggested by the academics). However TED talks on the other hand are wonderful! One in particular by PoetAli I have really enjoyed and watched a few times. He says:
” I believe we speak far more languages than we realise….The language of experience….You can go up to a stranger and before your even two words in they start finishing your sentences if they’ve had that experience “ (Watch here)
Well, that’s it. Nicely rounded up half way through. I’m really looking forward to beginning 2017 with the continuation of Project Ruido. Now, where are those Christmas films?…