Vida Midgelow and Jane Bacon, co-directors of Choreographic Lab, spent a good amount of the summer and early autumn of 2019 in residence at Dance4 developing the performance practice BreathBone – the first half of a two-part project BreathBone : Present Tense.
We described this work as an improvised choreography of the felt sense and plan, as we enter the studio, to use methods drawn from the Creative Articulations Process (CAP), mindfulness and Focusing (Eugene Gendlin) to explore the qualities and processes of reflective practice in and as performance.
What follows are fragments of our process in the form of selected notes / photos that give a taste of our time in residence at Dance4. Any full document should also include tales of the many cups of tea, pondering over sound desks, trailing of sound cables and David’s kind transporting of chairs between studios (thank you David)!
Language and the felt sense
Building on our earlier work – Scratch – we have been using creative strategies and interior processes that give rise to language. We take time to let our attention be drawn to the ‘felt sense’ of our interior worlds and we try to find words… words for the sensations, colours, textures, vibrations, shapes we find therein.
‘Light shooting, firing out and up’,
‘Blue, a blue roundness’,
‘Ink spilling, deep and wide, seeping crawling sticking and spreading down and out’,
‘Engulfed, a dense weight pulling in the pit of the belly’
‘Standing, a pressing from behind…’
We work to allow the language to arise in the moment, speaking only what we notice each day. Staying true to the process is difficult and whilst strategies arise to help us stay present and to guide our attentions, improvised speaking from the felt sense brings unknowns forward, it feels both exposing and significant. The meanings of the arising words are perhaps nonsensical to a listener. Yet we remain committed to the processes and that by holding rigorously to interior processes a significant ‘something ‘ (a presence, an atmosphere, a resonance?) arises between us, in the room and with/for others.
Coming to language: What of my interior world and what words do I have access to at this moment? What words? How to be with the process, naming, thickly describing, evoking and being with the ‘thingness of the thing’? How to let go of concerns about ‘sense making’ – letting go of the desire to explain and all those normative structures of communicative speech?
Words that move, words that touch, teasing at the edge of the tongue and the bottom of the belly, for as Cixous’s has said about words: ‘I do not write to keep. I write to feel. I write to touch the body of the instant with the tips of the words’ (1998: 146).
Bodies alive with sensation, resonances, emotions, histories…
Words that tingle flutter drift flicker flit
Bodies that quiver shiver tremble
Words that hover shift slide
Bodies that vibrate agitate flitter fluctuate
Bodies that oscillate palpitate pulsate
Words that ripple and shake
In the Studio with Bob Whalley
(author of Between Us: Audiences, Affect and the In between and acupuncturist)
We have been so carefully working with types of words imagining these might be different sections of the work. What is the difference between words that describe the anatomical process of breathing to those that name the experience of a moment of breathing?
So carefully do we name the anatomy of breathing, learning the science of breathing.
Then, Bob says to us; ‘the significance of the words might not matter for an audience’. What to do with this thought?
It seems the audience experience is one of atmosphere generated by soundscapes and our minimal gestural movements as well as the proximity to us as we move around the space seemingly enveloped in our inner experience.
And yet, somehow we want the words to matter. The matter of my experience. The exactitude of the words found to express this present moment. These words are found through a careful, often treacherous mining process like in an archaeological dig. We hold them lightly, with care, attending to the specificity of the word itself and its resonance with our bodily felt experience. Our words come together and move apart, our embodied voices become physical punctuation.
This remains a conundrum…
An invitation / task sent to us from Bob Whalley (thank you Bob)
We develop scores to structure the work, giving shape to the arising improvisatory materials and structure to the encounter with each other, space and audience. These scores offer shape and focus for the macro arc of the work, our dueting, and our micro interior attentions.
Waiting / opening
Inner / outer
After a studio session with Guy Dartnell
(Performer, Performance maker and Humanistic Integrative Counsellor)
Suddenly we have an unexpected, highly theatrical, ending to the piece. And yet it feels right in this studio. The dark of the studio now punctuated by the final drawing back of the curtains to reveal the light, the sky and the world in which we live. It settles me as I sit looking to the clouds in the distance, a sense of completeness that may have nothing to do with the work but resides pleasurably in my chest and face.
Guy challenges us with his more theatrical approach. We improvise and move into all his suggestions, open to what might land and what might move through and away.
Mumbling, not finding words
Playing with the act of speaking – stuttering, using the mistakes, staying with struggle
Amplification, as located and or everywhere
Revealing your process, audience recognising the processes of listening
Who we are, being tougher in the space
Blacking out the light source, ghost-like shimmering quality
Audience moving to and or away from sound
Situating by looking
the disruption of the structure of work … playing with disruption
How long do you wait?
We are interested to create a work in which audiences are invited to enter an intimate performance – becoming part of our duetting. The focus will be gesture, voice and sound that generate an evocative and meditative experience. We are drawn to quiet, reflective and immersive spaces where audiences might themselves experience a heightened inner awareness through our attention to our own inner experience. How to do this?
Capturing words and an electrocoustic score by Tom Williams (Composer)
In the basement studio of Dance4’s neighbour, Confetti tv and recording studios, we audio record ourselves using some of the different strategies we have been developing through the weeks at Dance4. The process feels rather make-shift. We find a corner in which additional sounds are as muted as possible – but still – in the quiet process of listening, the hum of electrical equipment feels exceptionally loud!
These spoken recordings are formed into a sound-score that electroacoustically explores and deconstructs our spoken word. The full score created by Tom is in three parts and is 45 minutes long in total: https://pureportal.coventry.ac.uk/en/publications/breathbone
Seeing, Gesturing, Walking
The nature and purpose of eye movement, gestures and steps in this pared back vocally oriented work repeatedly become questions.
Gestures as a finding – helping us draw out and touch interior worlds.
Eyes open or closed, looking inward or outward – connecting to each other, to the space, to the reflective interior
Walking and sitting for purpose – a specific place to be, to be with, to speak from, to notice from
Setting up in Studio One
Scores for participants
As a parting gift for participants, we create a set of short scores that seek to enable the resonance of the experience of being with us in the performance to continue..
The (un) familiar
The (un) reachable
And another score….
Time of inner senses
Words for interior spaces
These mini-scores each start and end with a mode of attending, drawing us to deepening of attention (to the breath, pulse or place for example). Each invites the reader to find words or to reflect on or map the things that arise in this noticing