ACE evaluation submitted, Leeds Inspired evaluation submitted; with the formal writing and box ticking complete I can now begin my own reflections on project Ruido. Its amusing that I started to write this on the 6th March, only 6 days after my final performance thinking that I would be able to reflect and do it well at that moment. Oh how naive. Now 8 weeks later the dust has begun to settle, the clouds lifting and my mind starting to clear. Looking back October to March was under a thick dense fog that on occasion was pierced by moments of clarity such as with the community groups, but otherwise felt like a slow stumble through. Overall I’m pleased and proud of the project and what was achieved, but the fog was definitely there. So after 8 weeks of papers, notebooks and cables strewn across the spare room floor having been chucked there after my last sharing unbearable to look at, I finally begin to sort through, wipe the slate clean and reflect…
“What is it?”
I’ve been asking myself this question for some time and still cannot fully articulate an answer. When I first began this R&D in October last year I had thought that by the end I would have an almost finished piece of work and as the project was coming to an end and the prospective sharing’s were looming, I did feel a pressure to have an answer and a clear direction the work was heading in. Back in February I really didn’t know whereas now I do have a clearer idea. What I have created is a piece that has two main strands which pull in different directions. The first is exploring language quite objectively: how we learn, communicate, brain functionality, our differences to animals etc (all of which was explored through academic research). The second is reference to the refugee and migration crisis and the current politics surrounding this (which of course is influenced by research in the community). The two are connected and through this research one leads to another. However the work needs to layer and integrate so there is space for both, otherwise one piece may not do both justice. There are also a number of other threads that didn’t find their place in the work yet or weren’t explored during this R&D such as British Sign Language / body language and my personal connection to this work. Going back to 2014 and remembering why I began exploring these ideas to begin with: my relationship with someone who has english as a second language, my aim to learn a second language (something I never seriously thought I would do!) and experiencing Mexico. These personal connections have been lost during this process. People ask why is the piece called ‘Ruido’ ? or how is the title linked to the work? ‘Ruido’ means noise in Spanish and even though I decided the work isn’t specifically about the English and Spanish languages but about language as a whole, to take away this initial inspiration looses the personal and human connection.
With this personal connection in mind I’ve come to the decision that the work is a solo. I was undecided whether it was a duet with a musician, a BSL interpreter or a trio as both have shared the performance space with me at one time or another. At the beginning I had intended to use a loop pedal to manipulate and distort sound live on stage. However, I quickly realised that learning to use the loop pedal confidently would take some time, time that I wanted to prioritise elsewhere (sit & stare at my creative block for one thing). And so Jano created the majority of sound live in the performance responding off me and vice versa, which of course can be read as a duet. With this in mind the loop pedal will need fetching from the shelf in the near future however I still intend to further develop the sound with Jano. The BSL interpreter was going to share the space with me and a facilitator during the Q&A but made the decision to interpret for the performance as well in order to communicate to the deaf audience members. I hadn’t anticipated this and so it presented a choreographic choice. Who is the piece for?… Do I need to consider this at this stage in development?…
“Did you create what you intended to create?”
No not really and I felt slightly deflated about this, as though it hadn’t come from me which of course it had. I was fortunate in March to see ‘Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)’ by Ben Duke at Nottingham Playhouse which resonated hugely with me. This beautiful and inspiring piece of dance theatre offered me a lot as an audience member and inspired me as a solo work. Never was the piece lacking in anything or grey or unclear, it told the story of multiple characters from one performer, a dramatic technique I had played with in the studio. However I convinced myself this was appropriate for a comedian or stand up and that it wasn’t ‘for me’. I realise now its not about putting yourself in a box – dancer, actor, comedian, story teller – but about choosing which mediums or theatrical devices are going to best convey your message at that particular point in the piece. What I did create felt serious and that it hadn’t come from me. I thoroughly enjoyed the research in the community however it pinned me down with responsibility (in my mind) and took away from my personal experience. It doesn’t need to be so serious. Of course the work has been affected by the current political climate, but that doesn’t mean you need to get the audience in and cry about it (well you can, but I don’t want to). When I had my initial residency at Yorkshire Dance in 2014 I knew little about the migration crisis/refugee movement and had made no link between my ideas and this political topic. My interest and awareness in this came later through the community research, which initially I decided to do to support and strengthen my application for funding (as well as knowing it would be good to develop my community practice).
“Do you feel happy?”
Now that 8 weeks have gone by and the fog is clear, I feel happiness but I suppose in retrospect. It was tough working independently for so long and the challenges that come with solo work (I could have done with a personal hugger, tea maker and confidence booster at times!) As mentioned above and in a past blog the community work was amazing and the highlight of the project. There were hundreds of wonderful, inspiring and life affirming moments which would have been great to capture for documentation but then would have lost their magic and intimacy. I love that I am at ease in these settings and I love my work in these settings. For future I will consider having another practitioner on board to lead this work with, to support the workshops and to share in these moments.
I enjoyed the process and all that made it what it was however I did at times feel like I was ticking off a list and was aware of time and nearing an ‘end’. Even though I felt supported there was no one to share the vision and weight of the project with and it became isolating. Soon after finishing I worked with a company Spiltmilk Dance on a project called ‘The Little Love Cabaret’. As suggested by the title this was fun, energetic and just what was needed after working solo. In jumping straight into this and continuing with regular teaching commitments, I could unconsciously digest and process the project. Also immediately after I treated myself to a months yoga pass which was super refreshing and much needed. During the project I allowed my physicality to slip as a priority because at the time felt that the admin and organising required immediate attention, which obviously affected my health and well being. (In this line of work sometimes it makes me laugh how little I actually dance!)
Working with mentors Charlotte Vincent and Beth Cassani at different points in the project was hugely beneficial. Both mentors supported in different ways and helped keep me on track through shaping questions, offering objective feedback and sometimes just pointing out the obvious that was right in front of my face! I would be intrigued to travel back and witness myself attempting to articulate my thoughts, aims and challenges at that time, the latter being the dominant feeling! My brain felt such a mush.
For both sharing’s I was extremely humbled by the number of people that attended from the community groups and how enthusiastic and open people were with their offerings of thoughts and feedback. I’m still processing this feedback and will enjoy continuing to do so further down the line.
“What would you like to do next?”
Through collaboration with academic research, Ruido has been programmed as part of the University of Sheffield’s Arts and Humanities Festival running in May which celebrates collaboration between research at the uni and the arts sector. I was keen to have support and recognition of the project from both universities particularly the Uni Of Sheffield as I’m also collaborating with Richard Stacey who works as a BSL awareness consultant and Jano who is studying for a PhD. Immediately after my sharing’s in February I was concerned Ruido wouldn’t be a right fit for this festival as the piece is currently more influenced by the community group research and participant stories rather than academic research. The research I gathered from the academics hasn’t opened up for me in the studio yet and when I met with the academics I was never sure what I specifically wanted to know, just that I wanted to learn more about their fascinating research. I had quite a few reading materials suggested to me which I did look into and flick through however they were slightly too dense for my foggy brain at that time and found TED Talks, youtube videos and Disney’s ‘Inside Out’ a much friendlier way in (yes the Disney film was actual research).
However now my foggy brain has cleared, I realise presenting the work in whatever form its in at that current stage and not worrying about whether it ‘fits’ will be most beneficial to its development. I remember attending Hannah Buckley’s sharing of ‘S/HE’ in Leeds in 2015 and enjoying how raw the material was that was shared and it offered a deep insight into the creative process. I am now looking forward to sharing the work with a different audience, a more academic audience and learning from this experience how it can develop thereafter. After a break I will continue learning BSL, revisit the community groups with the aim to lead a series of workshops over a number of weeks and I will begin phase 2 of project Ruido.
A few months ago project Ruido felt like a 6 month project (which it was that’s what I’ve been reflecting on) however now I can see the project as a whole from when it started in 2014 to now and how it will continue to develop for as long as it needs. I feel the most relaxed and clearest I have felt about the work since last September (actually more like June as writing applications is no picnic) and can now see the piece for its potential and be proud of whats been achieved so far. Receiving funding is great and we should get paid for the good work we do but it has weighed me down with expectation during this creative process. Of course it was necessary to run the R&D and reflecting now I can see that going through the fog was also necessary in order to get where I am now… A step closer in making the work.