Light & Shadow

Light & shadow, good and bad. Interested or indifferent, engaged or bored. Delighted or dulled. Challenged or not.

The Berlin experience so far is many colours. I soak it up as a human, as an artist, as a dancer. I soak it up as an ignorant tourist, and sometimes it’s this mode where I can let a lot in. Having received a grant and organised myself, my life, and my ambition to get myself over here. I sit here now in Cuccuma, a coffee shop/workspace next door to where I stay. It has great wi i and very nice coffee. I am willing to reflect on anything and everything, but will be specific to my dance experiences first up.

I am already stimulated by simply being in Berlin, wandering free and meeting the atmosphere and the tempo of the people and traffic whilst trying to remember to get off the bike track as I ponder my next move.

Tanz Fabrik where I will do most of my dancing while I am here is a short bike ride from where I’m staying. After I register for my first workshop I make my way to Studio 3 for Rob Hayden’s workshop ‘The Awakened body’ . I turn up everyday for 4 hours to see what will be asked of me and to see how the group will evolve together. Some conceptual questions are posed to us. We needn’t answer them now, just reflect on “why we are here? What is our greatest joy / greatest fear? ” Ha! That is my greatest fear, being asked to make sense of a question like this or make an honest answer of a question like this. Anyway it was left in the air. The workshop involved many modes from completely open improvisation following long guided meditations of dissolving our human form and then rebuilding it so that we might meet the space with pure sensation. How well did this work? It worked better on day two. It worked better I would muse because the connections and trust had progressed between the group. I felt bolder in my choices and felt more allowing and that allowing seems to make things more interesting for me. If I feel free to do things and follow impulses with others in the space, then I am stimulated and if I’m stimulated and free to be, then I am also creative and interested. As an artist I have a desire to be interested and engaged while I’m working, and if I’m performing I have a desire to be interesting and engaging. In a workshop setting I can usually put a hold on the later and just focus on how I notice the former growing or diminishing in my being.

We followed many other invitations over the 4 days . We met each other through the eyes. We did sweet dances of meeting, married, died, and gifted each other back to life again and again. We struggled with obsessive partners till we were gasping for breath. Sounds like a psychological rebirthing when I write it like that. It did leave some impressions on the psyche, I think it was supposed to. It was all real you see. We really died, we really fell for each other, caught each other, and gently lay each other on the floor. It was all very tender until it got obsessive. How does this all filter back into the dancing… Good question. What stays, what can be contacted later when it’s needed or when you have an impulse. I guess if a group of movers have practiced these states then it is possible, however over 4 short days it was not really the case. I do have traces of experiences that are lingering almost a week later when I am working in different contexts. Moving on day three was a like boot camp of heavy partnering work which was a bit tough. I missed my slow dying and rebirth into open impro that day. Day 4 should have wrapped it all up but somehow it didn’t come together in a satisfying way for me. Maybe too much was put into the three days prior for that to happen, or perhaps the structure of day 4 just could not capture all we had done in a satisfying way. It’s a tricky task taking a group through something and finding a good ending.

This was my other inquiry besides being present to what is being asked of me when I’m in a workshop, I am also deeply interested in how the teacher is holding guiding, offering and supporting the the process. I am keenly interested in the way they do this and noticing if they do it well, (from my point of view as a participant) and if not why not. This is useful to me as a teacher. I try to keep it a secondary task and often only reflect when it is all over. Of course I cannot always control my urge to notice what is going on and how well it is ‘working’ or not. When the ball is in the air and when it is noticeably on the ground for example.

Frey Faust and Axis Syllabus was my choice for evening workshop 5:30-8:30 for 4 days following on from my morning workshop. I took this class for a pure movement experience and because it fit into my schedule and filled my day completely. With a 3hr break in the afternoon it was doable. Energy would sometimes wane and if Frey talked to long I would indeed get a little sleepy. As soon as he started dancing however and we followed him down the room I was awake. His rhythm has African influences to me, and his constant swinging and throwing of limbs is pure ‘release based technique’.

If you clicked on the link and read about how axis syllabus describes itself you may understand a bit of how the form is discussed. It’s not really a form, more evolving principles. For the most part, in class people are just trying to copy the movement which is quite effortless and free without being overly technically. I was having constant flash backs to dancing with the late, great Janis Claxton with all the flying and release. So I was a bit confused by all the technical anatomical talking which seemed to be unnecessary to me. I come from a style of learning that involved the use of imagery to facilitate understanding in the body. Frey Faust is offering a very different often clumsily anatomical way in. It seems a bit out of balance with how the learning really occurs in the room, which is by watching and doing, and hopefully getting some special attention. Everyone learns differently however and some of the anatomy discussions I found interesting but much of it I also let go of following. The amount of talking doesn’t seem the point. In the end people who struggle to “get it” need one on one attention to be told where they stop their flow and where their support should be, to enable this or that move to happen more easily. This is all very easy for me to say, and it is only my experience of being in the room, noticing doing and sharing the space with 30 other movers. What I loved about my 3 hour evening was the dancing that eventually took over from the talking and went down the room again and again in a flow of joy and release. It was fun, and towards the end of each session Frey would get creative an put some of the moves together and invite us to dance them close together in small groups and this was fun, and the best way to assimilate any movement is by tuning in with others.

Berlin Note: Since I landed and I found my way to Susanne’s flat in Kreuzberg. I realised pretty quick that she lives in a very cool part of Berlin. Lucky me. Like all cool places the arty people who live here have lived here for a long time, otherwise they couldn’t afford to live here at all. The landlords just wait for them to leave so they can double or triple the rent. Until then those that are already in can only have their rent raised 3% a year.

Just as a wrap up, I went to a stimulating garden party on May 1st, I’ve seen a show at Dock 11, and I plan to see more. I’m alive. I’m inspired. I’ve thought many things as I participated in workshops and classes, and sometimes no thought – just fully in the experience, maybe grunting in order to do what was being asked of me or tenderly doing so, and many shades in between.


Photo Credit: Ingrid Pullen.
Performance On the Roof 2017

Soon I will be heading overseas to Berlin and Vienna for a month of dance exchange and collaboration. I’m very excited to be supported by Ausdance NSW, and Create NSW, as without this funding, I doubt I’d be making such a trip this year.

I will spend just over two weeks in Berlin doing workshops at Tanz Fabrik’s Oster Tanz and collaborating in exchange with Dance Artist Susanne Martin exploring dance making and improvisation practice. The following two weeks will be spent in Vienna, a city I am very fond of since first studying there in 1997 as a young emerging dancer. I will be in residence with Susanne at Im_flieger studio for one week and will also be able to take professional morning training sessions at TQW.

I feel very privileged to be supported by Ausdance and the DPI program to undertake this month of immersive professional development at this time in my career.

The seed was planted in 2018 when I accepted a lovely invitation to travel to Austria for a holiday. It was my first time being back in Austria after 20 years, and with the help of a beautiful friend I had a wonderful 3 week holiday reconnecting with Vienna and old friends. Professionally I had the opportunity to perform my solo the Funeral Plan at an incredible artists run venue URHOF20 in Grünbach. I also offered a community dance class of Curious Body and although I had some doubts that it might not transfer, it was successful in bringing cohesive improvisational play to those that gathered.

Austria has some amazing spa opportunities and a day trip to the Hundertwasser designed Rogner Bad Blumau spa was a fantastic birthday gift to myself on every level.

This year as I head to Europe for another Spring season I will be stepping up as a grant recipient travelling in order to innovate and extend my practice, my network, and myself as I engage deeply with fellow artists and take up residence. I am looking forward to the adventure and to spending a month in a zone of blue sky research. Literally not knowing yet staying curious in my workshops with Rob Hayden, and Frey Faust at Oster Tanz and my exchanges with Susanne and anyone else I meet during my month of innovating my practice in Europe.

Curious Body