Phase 1 (1996-99)
The Lab, entitled ‘Dance, History and the Body’, was initially conceived as a creative environment for Midgelow’s work with foreign bodies dance, alongside technical and choreographic training opportunities for other regional dancers/dance makers. The Lab aimed to create space for those taking part to experiment and to take risks, allowing work to develop from new and unknown territories.
Groundbreaking choreographers such as Carol Brown, Claire Russ and Charlotte Vincent were invited to offer intensive workshops and were commissioned to collaborate with Midgelow and her company in the making of new works. These works were toured regionally and nationally.
Practitioners participating in this work commented that the Lab offered ‘a safe place in which to try out different approaches to making’ and that ‘the lab opened my body/mind to new beginnings from which to move’.
This work was funded by EMA, A4E, NCC and University of Northampton.
Phase 2 (1999-2000)
In 1999 the Lab received a two-year lottery grant of £17K, as part of a total £30K budget. This funding allowed the Lab to support a number of regional / national companies to work together for intensive periods in order to share and articulate the fragile experience of process. The theme of this phase was ‘Vision and Memory’, an idea that allowed each participating company to explore their own process, sources and techniques through the notion of the visual (in both the live and the filmic) and within the generation of movement materials.
The artist / companies involved in this phase were:
Red Leaf (Jane Bacon), RAIR (Heather Rutland), Vida Midgelow, Rebecca Skelton, Transient (Joanna Parker, Claudia Kappenburg, Andrew Deakin, Jonathan Pile) and Karen Greenhough.
Responses from the participants include comments such as:
‘It’s been brilliant having the time to play and think through these ideas. My work has really moved somewhere different because of this time’ (Heather Rutland)
‘I felt like we were just about to turn a corner when we got to the end of the two weeks… I have been waiting to try out these ideas with masks but there is never any time.’ (Karen Greenhough)
This phase gave rise to at least seven new dance works – works that trace their origins to the important time and feedback structures initiated by the Lab.
Phase 3 (2005-8) ARTICULATING DANCE
Building on the findings of the previous Lab this phase took the form of an extended series of meetings with a group of highly respected movement artists in order to develop creative works and, importantly explore the ways in which we can share and talk about the sensitive processes of creation.
Entitled ‘Articulating Dance’ (£155K, including £62K ACE) the Lab engaged the dance maker/researchers with questions that are of crucial importance to dancers, dance makers, writers and scholars:
How can we share and deepen our understanding of creative processes?
How can we investigate creative processes in modes that are ‘sensitive’ and supportive of the choreographer?
What is the significance of an ability to articulate ‘something’ about our creative processes in choreographic and performance research?
Do we generate ‘new’ knowledges in this process and, if so, what modes of communication are appropriate for the dissemination of these articulations?
Key to the process of the Lab were:
The artists’ commitment to the articulation, exchange and sharing of processes
The availability of studio space, video editing and music editing facilities for extensive blocks of time when artists can pursue their own interests
The participation in workshops and ‘Intensives’ which facilitates discussion and exchange of ideas and information
The artists’ commitment to the creation and dissemination of both independent and collective tangible outcomes
The project had two interrelated elements:
a. individual research projects
b. development and ‘testing’ of ‘articulation models’
a. Individual research projects:
All members of ‘Articulating Dance’ followed independent research projects which embody certain aspects of their working methodologies / creative interests.
Alongside Jane Bacon and Vida Midgelow, the artists involved in ‘Articulating Dance’ Phase Three were a group of wonderful practitioners: Gill Clarke, Simon Ellis, Sara Giddens, Yvon Bonenfant, Guy Dartnell, Anna Furse, Robert Daniels and Kerryn Wise.
Yvon Bonenfant interests lay in the links between somatics, the voice and movement emerging from his work with post-Reichian body oriented psychotherapies. Whereas Gill Clarke worked with a video artist to capture ‘the unconscious dance’ – the moments in-between and the moments before the ‘dancing’. Her work in video had interesting resonances with Sara Giddens’ exploration in action-research in which, through re-making and transposing choreographies, she was able to reflect on the nature of creative methodologies. Also investigating through video is Guy Dartnell. His ongoing processes in movement, voice and emotion in improvisation were here being re-framed in video, testing and amplifying the boundaries of this work. Vida Midgelow investigated what might be called the ontology of improvisation – testing the ‘what is known’ and the ‘what is unknown’ in solo dance improvisation. Simon Ellis worked in intimate settings to consider the perceptual experience of the audience, while Anna Furse researched the notion of the ‘Graphic body’ establishing and recording the principles of her ‘empty space’ aesthetic. Robert Daniels and Kerryn Wise are both regional associate artists. Robert investigated the nature of the ‘performance score’, as it intersects with modes of performer interpretation and documentation, and Kerryn explored the relationship between live and recorded images – focusing on her body based processes/aesthetic.
In these projects they sought to be able to be more ‘articulate’ both within and about their practice. ‘Articulating Dance’ offered artists:
The opportunity to explore aspects of dance and choreography which do not easily fit into programmes of activity elsewhere
The opportunity to explore aspects of dance and movement without pressure to produce a final performance product
The freedom to pursue independent choreographic research
Opportunities to interact with other artists with related interests in order to reflect upon and develop their own choreographic processes
High quality studio space, state of the art video editing and music editing facilities.
Guest Artists, Articulating Dance, Lab Phase 3
Drawing this phase of the Lab’s work together we curated a group exhibition of our work in 2009: Choreographic Lab, ‘On Screen’, presented at The Beetroot Tree Gallery, Derbyshire.
b. development and ‘testing’ of ‘articulation models’
Bacon and Midgelow generated iterations of models for the articulation of creative process which were tested and developed by the larger group of artists with the aim of developing language (written, moving, sounding…) skills for creative processes and for giving and receiving critical feedback. Methods such ‘Focusing’ (as developed by Gendlin and taken into creative contexts by Jane Bacon), Liz Lerman’s critical feedback (which Gill Clarke shared with the group), formal analysis models, plus performative and intertextual writings were explored. The processes draw on the imagination, the felt sense, the critical, the analytical and the physical – bringing together theorising and dancing – conflating the dancing body and theoreticians (traditionally a static writing) body. The modes of articulation seek a questing mode of engagement which facilitates mutability and fluidity instead of stasis. The models enable artists to reflect upon and articulate their working processes and for viewers to structure their feedback to artists such that any such feedback is appropriate, useful and focused.
These explorations eventually lead to the development and publication of the ‘Creative Articulations Process’ (CAP) (LINK)
The ‘individual research’ and the ‘articulation models’ were developed through studio practices, written/documentary reflections and discussions. These two elements fed each other such that the individual inquiry was been supported by collective engagement with articulation models, and in turn, this collaborative work has been illuminated by the individual practices.
Throughout the ‘Articulating Dance’ project there were also a variety of open seminars, workshop presentations and performances. The work undertaken in this project gave rise to significant findings and led to more than twenty new works, exhibitions, writings and the like, disseminating the ideas and outcomes nationally and internationally.