Interpretation, accompaniment

How much do I retain a sense of what I’m doing in the face of interpretation, or accompaniment?



‘I move. Another person moves. It is in a studio,­ a space for signifying, not getting something done or getting somewhere, or existing. Yet using the signifiers from our other lives in what we do. How much do I retain a sense of what I’m doing in the face of interpretation, or accompaniment?

…how much do I have to hold on to this?

How do I interpret this other person? I may feel that the movements and sounds are playing me, like sticks on a drum or much less directly, like radio waves with interference on my ear. I may feel an impression has been absorbed and is finding a way to emerge from me.

What impressions do I receive? The general idea of the other person, speeds, patterns, rhythm perhaps. And then if they are absorbing the same from me, then I receive the new altered phrases.

…The meaning as against the sound of the words – hard to escape these strong triggers generating associations. We tried to move as if the words were a music score.’

Words from a dancer’s notes

Hybrid forms, New languages

How can interdisciplinary research tools, that cross music and dance worlds, be used in performance contexts?


Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus

I was inspired by this surreal and unsettling book, full of detailed illustrations from the imagination of an architect improvising through his drawings. It is captioned in a language that looks real, yet no fans have yet been able to decipher so far.

One of Serafini’s intentions was to let the reader experience it as if a child is browsing a book before they can read, or listening to a language before they can fully understand, recreating feelings of both wonder and confusion.

…Of not understanding how all the ‘rules’ of the world fit together, but having a freedom to play around with different possibilities of what they could imagine.

Head, face, breakable objects

Lab 8 on 30th June 2016.

This session was inspired by a dinner in the dark…

A restaurant called Dans Le Noir offers you meals in the dark, for a new sensory experience. Served by blind waiters, and immersed in pitch blackness, I eventually emerged from this restaurant a few hours later, into the bright sun. The rest of the evening was stunning – all sounds around me became very spatial and informative in a physical way, and the surface of my eyes felt as if they had merged a little with the ‘external space’ around me. I felt super comfortable observing others in the space- it was as if some of the usual barriers between myself and others had been removed, I felt more free to interact with the sensations around me.

In this lab I wanted to explore how to access this kind of freedom in our dancing and sounding.

We explored movements to change the angle of our head in space, in order to affect our listening and navigation through the space, while keeping our eyes open. What would the eyes do when you focused on your listening?

We also explored movements to become more aware of the flesh and muscular tone around the face, eyes and skull. How might these release or lengthen in connection to our imagination and emotions?

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In the second half of the session, we added objects into the mix.

We worked in the past sessions only with objects that were malleable and substantial in size or weight. This week we focused on things that seemed fixed in their function, were complex to handle, or had a usual system to interact with it. What are the rules and how might they be more fluid?




Music scales of the body (sunglasses needed)

Lab 7 on 23rd July 2016.

Transmitting sensation through the body; or pin-pointing one spot. Painting the square black & white, room with sweeps of sound/movement. Waking up through vocalising. Invisible and inaudible trying to emerge. – dancer’s notes

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At the start of this session we looked at producing one single mark or sound – i.e. one action that had a clear start and finish. We did this first as a group drawing, and then in the space with our voices:

  1. through the physical act of leaving a mark with thick blotting pens on white paper
  2. changing the weight within that mark
  3. making a single ‘note’ with our voice (I called this a ‘block’ of ‘colour’ in the space)
  4. playing with dynamics within that block
  5. improvisation together by taking turns (voice or drawing)

We also prepared our dancing by exploring a range of different states, treating the exercises like music scales for a musician, or preparation of a palette of colours for a painter. States we explored were:

  1. Love/Care (specific study of one’s anatomy efficiency, in particular the function of joints/fascia)
  2. Hangout (in different positions to feel upper and lower sides at rest)
  3. Don’t Care (the space is all yours, how do you truly want to move)
  4. Ease (imagine where your torso will go next, then travel there)

Sunglasses were worn so that each dancer might feel more in their own space and not worry about having to do the ‘right thing’.

In the last section of the lab, we played with objects and sound (including voice/body) using the suggestions below to create group pieces of improvisation:

  1. Make an audible sound by physically interacting with the object (or your voice/body)
  2. Now, with the same object, recreate the feeling of the sound that the object made in space, without making the sound audibly (e.g. through emotion, movement, weight, speed)
  3. Make movement with the object’s weight as part of your body, marking the space as if it were a canvas.

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Weight of the matter, substance, rhythm

Lab 6 on 16th June 2016.

This week we worked with ‘substance’, the weight of our matter, and rhythm.

We tuned into the intricacies of how we read our own body in space, through weight, gravity and location.  How to sense and articulate our full body, extended into props – a broom, a chair, a metal bin-lid, a giant cushion. In our perception, we played with separating the parts of our body and re-configuring our perception of it, in relation to gravity.

The objects became somewhat animated and took on a presence. Dancers had a story with this object- they were related in some familiarly unfamiliar way. The objects were a bit like mysterious tools or instruments. The dancer played the object – the object played the dancer. 

. . .

The second half of the session we worked on a rhythmic experiment. We repeated the spoken syllables Da Gin Din Mi on a loop together, establishing a rhythm that allowed rest between each syllable.

We explored solo rhythms, weaving our own syllables that came easily to us, moving to this in a way that made sense personally. Each dancer worked on ending up with one set sequence of spoken rhythm for themselves that connected to their own way of moving; their pace and mood at that moment in time. What emerged were spacious, syncopated, organic and punctuated rhythms.

This fed into the final experiments of group instant composition, building on our set rhythms and our growing relationship to the objects in space.

maria mass drawing small

Instrument as Breath as Texture as Body

Lab 5 on 9th June 2016.

Once a dancer mentioned in a previous lab, ‘ when I play with an object in space it’s easy, I can make it do what I want, but when I want to play my body in space my ego gets in the way.’

Perhaps there is a way to learn from the act of ‘playing’ something, like one might play a musical instrument, like we used to ‘play’ things as a kid, as to how we could open up more dynamics and choices in expressing through the body. One takes an instrument and feeds their expression through that, the musician disappears and can be the music itself, the dancer is also an instrument in her/himself, the body as the mind as the body.

cushion exercise ana thelma jan

I see this malleability as a sort of texture, as breath moves through body tissues, as we move physical props, or a pianist plays his/her piano, as their imagination melts through the keys, through space. I asked dancers to note down their experiences through the lens of physical texture and material, through metaphors of natural phenomena or actions that can be applied to physical mass. Perhaps these could be ways to get a glimpse of how texture works through body experience and to access it again.

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We worked through a Body Mind Centering inspired warm up, vocalising through organ or body mass, using a hissing sound to focus compression and expansion to the area, giving the body mass more agency to sense, feel, think- to move.

We played with the texture of large cushions, creating a stream of new functions for them other than their usual one…re-imagining each new idea in its normalcy, then translating this also for the way we explore our body mass. Humour too… one dancer wrote in her notes below:

Ana humour drawing

Below more notes from the explorations:

Da Gu Da

Beats. A heart playing. Continuing beat and silence into an urgent pattern. The breath as agent of expansion and compression. Reaching. Then the breath deriving from an inner body part. I compress and allow the body part to move me.

Da Gu Da was a loose set of rhythm rules I gave to the dancers to explore. I was inspired by a Konnakol lesson I just had (South Indian vocal percussion using spoken syllables). Although the rhythms were not directly lifted from what I learnt of Konnakol I was inspired by the structure the teacher created for me, like in jazz score where one might have a set of known structures and then create known gaps around it to be left for improvisation.  Here we looked at a basic rhythm I made up in 4/4 with a subdivided on and off beat using Da and Gu.  The pink is the part we spoke or repeated.

Da (Gu) (Da) (Gu) (Da) (Gu) Da Gu Da

We explored improvising in between the pink syllables in voice and in movement.

One of the dancers mentioned she had had past negative experiences of learning piano! She was told she was bad at it, and subsequently she gets stressed now when she has to be ‘on time’ inside of a musical frame of mind…  We added this into the mix. We acknowledged these feelings of being late or too early or not getting it right, as part of the material, part of the texture, which brought out the face and the eyes.

Later we explored also juxtaposing this rhythm with another rhythm that was more neutral or pedestrian or functional.  Like drinking water, walking, reading a book. It gave some nice contrasts and made me more fascinated to include the complex timings of our everyday actions, as music, as dance, as material for the stage.

jan thelma cross read small

Voice, intention, essence, communication, I hear you

Lab 4: 19th May 2016.  This session took as its starting point the voice as a tool to notice and craft intention and communication in movement.

We talked about how the voice might help us to ‘hear’ ourselves and others while dancing – how it might be a way to clarify communication, and help find resonance with others. Perhaps to be compassionate when others don’t hear you,  or if even you can’t hear yourself.

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I introduced a few yoga and vocal exercises to help connect the breath with the spine and the different caverns in our body that our voice resonates in (inspired by human voice-movement training with Margaret Pikes/Roy Hart Theatre/Neil Paris).  

We brought this into movement, noticing the in and out breath. Each spinal vertabrae could be seen as an autonomous ‘mind’ with a face and a mouth that breathed and voiced, that expressed a trail of intention through space. What movements travelled across the body and emerged from these impulses? What helped us to fall, release, rise, tone up, down?

We experimented also with not aiming to produce vocal sound but instead producing the bodily sensations that give you the imagination of voice. It seemed that breath was important, and that one might utilise all parts of the stream of breath to find different navigations.

Voice could emerge over the wave of the breath.

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We experimented with empathising with another’s ‘voice’:  By imagining in our own minds how another dancer would be voicing their movement, we would copy those movements, although we wouldn’t copy anything that we couldn’t imagine a voice alongside.  It was an experiment to see what was communicated and what was not.

One dancer mentioned enjoying the rhythms that emerged.  Another commented, ‘It’s easy to be taken by my voice…’

We also tried imagining what the audience could ‘hear’ of our voice.  We slipped in and out of the task being the focus and letting go of the task. Once a dancer mentioned that the performers merged in and out of characters; or the ‘voice’ or ‘sound’ came in and out of being present.

I fell a lot, my voice throwing my body around. Others had a lighter dance with their voice, seduced into moving to their own song. It was funny often. Sometimes we ended a piece in laughter. I wondered whether laughter might be a good starting point for another session- an organic crossing point of movement and sound…

I noticed a clarity and a particular sense of calmness in the listening. It outlined the dancer somehow in space, and gave them a sort of palette of punctuation marks.

I asked each dancer to document their experiences in a number of ways to add to the collective archive that we are building up in this project. A drawing, a news headline, a poem, a storyboard, a name for a possible piece…

Short Story

The giant stood on the hilltop.

If he threw the boulder, the hill would fall too.

He hesitated.

storyboard 1 smallstoryboard 2 smallstoryboard 3 small