Grass Blades – project reflections

In 2012 I graduated from the Scottish School Of Contemporary Dance and began the process of auditioning for dance companies and independent artists. One audition was in Bristol with Lisa May Thomas for her new research and development project Grass Blades. I was originally not accepted for the audition as Lisa wanted to work with dancers who had a few years experience in the industry but I somehow managed to convince my way to the audition and then ended up getting one of the roles. Not bad going for my 2nd ever professional audition.

Grass Blades was a 3-week project in October 2012, January and March 2013. The first week was at the beautiful Dartington college. End of October. Autumn. Falling leaves. This week was basically a retreat. We stayed in a cottage in the grounds and I remember the studio was one of the most gorgeous spaces I’ve ever danced in. It was magical. This place has some serious energy in it. One can only imagine what it was like to study there in it’s heyday!

Working with Lisa, the other dancers and musicians on this project was a brilliant experience and being fortunate to work on this project early in my career, so much of the creative explorations and play we did has informed and influenced my practice over the past 10 years. Much of the explorations with Lisa stemmed from her working with Michael Parmenter and Janis Claxton who I was fortunate enough to work with whilst studying in Dundee. Since graduating I’ve shifted from pure dance into dance theatre, dance comedy and story telling, even collaborating with a theatre maker to make Beam – a 1 hour solo show where I played a granny – pretty far from where I started at college, never speaking on stage. But I always feel a pull back to my somatic practice and how I was trained and the work with Lisa continues to play a big role in this. 

The work I am currently doing has not been untouched by this early experience. Tonight is our sharing of Handle (me) With Care and my final day of project work for the next 8 months. Collaborating with visual and design artist Noemie Soula, the research is about touch and the care of touch, the nuances of it and many of the tasks and exercises in our first R&D week last year were informed by the work I did with Lisa. Thank you Lisa for that brilliant early experience and allowing me to convince you I should come to the audition! 

This year I’ve thought a lot about touch. Out of lockdown restrictions and back into the studio, it’s been a theme running through many of my projects, as I’m sure it has been for everyone. Touch was the starting point and core theme we explored making Third Bite Dance new work Slugs and Tangled Bodies that we created back in May and premiered in June.

During lockdown I was glued to the screen and connected with lots of people and reconnected with the wonderful Anne-Gaelle Thiriot who I worked with on the Glass Blades project. This first photo captures my joy working with Anne-Gaelle:

I went to a beautiful poetry and dance session with Anne-Gaelle and Petra which inspired and informed my process of making This is how gorgeous it feels with Third Bite Dance and working with writer Andy Owen Cook. Anne-Gaelle then covered a few 50+CDS sessions and everyone loved her gorgeous improvisation class. This blog post doesn’t seem to have a clear theme but I guess it’s about touch, gratitude for early experiences that have informed my practice and how lovely it is to reconnect with beautiful people.

Thank you Alice Hendy photography for the beautiful photos full of life and joy.