In favour of touching

Image: Sara Popowa. Land into Light, 2012. Dancers Jennifer-Lynn Crawford and Charlotte Spencer. 

As I approach the birth of my first child I find myself in a time of radical change. My body changes noticeably from one day to the next, my sense of myself is in flux and I am all too aware of the precious time I have all to myself to sit and think in a way that will be abruptly forgotten once the wee one has arrived.

All the books I’ve been reading about preparing for child birth and the early days of parenting re-iterate one common necessity – touch. During labour, being touched by your partner, Doula, friend, mid-wife is invaluable for managing the physical and emotional intensity of contractions. Massage, hair brushing, hugging, stroking, reflexology, acupressure…whatever helps you relax, it’s all good. As soon as the baby is born, skin to skin contact is essential. It will make the baby feel calmer, safer. It will aid with bonding. It is instinctive from both mother and baby. And babies need to be held and touched a lot. If they aren’t then they simply don’t develop properly physically or emotionally. Indeed if babies and young children don’t receive regular loving touch in their first two years of life, then the damage that that causes is irreversible. They suffer from attachment disorders, cognitive delay, their growth is stunted, their digestive and immune systems don’t develop properly.

I am looking forward to giving birth. That might sound slightly strange, but I am. I am curious about the demand that it will place on me physically, mentally and emotionally. I am so curious about this other life that has been growing inside me these past almost 9 months. Who are you? I keep saying.

I am so relieved to be in the midst of a process that is so directly entangled with what it is to be alive, to be human, to be in and with my physical body. So much of life today seems to be removed from that – it is virtual, on-screen, brainy, insubstantial. I don’t think you can get much more real time, real life, real sensation than giving birth. It is full of all of the senses.

Until the past couple of weeks I didn’t engage much with buying stuff in preparation for this baby, but I have been quite busy being in touch, getting in touch, being touched. It doesn’t feel like new work but it does sometimes feel luxurious. I find myself repeatedly grateful for the dance training that I had, for all the years that I’ve spent working with my body. I feel better equipped somehow.

When I think back to it, those years of full time training were so particular – long days that were so physically and emotionally demanding. Endless sweating. Sitting in a heap at the end of the day on the benches in the changing room, gathering energy to shower and change. Falling asleep in the body conditioning studio. Crying, a lot. Friendships were intense, supportive, fierce. There were plenty of hugs and massages and arguments. We touched each other a lot. Formally and informally we learnt many ways of touching, of being in touch with ourselves and each other. Of giving and receiving. Of knowing where our edges were. Sometimes we were clumsy, unclear, unsure. Sometimes we got the touch wrong. But we practiced a lot.

It is now almost 15 years since I graduated and in those intervening years sometimes I’ve danced a lot. Sometimes very little. I definitely touch other people less than I did then. Somehow there is less opportunity. Do I miss it? Yes probably.

Over the past year I’ve worked intermittently on a farm that specialises in growing Japanese vegetables. I have appreciated having a job of little responsibility that is 10 mins cycle ride from where I live, is outdoors and is physical.

We’re a friendly bunch and our working environment is pretty informal. And still we don’t touch each other at all regularly. We don’t hug or shake hands at the beginning or the end of the day. I worked with the same colleagues from June til December last year and it wasn’t until we said goodnight after our Christmas get-together that I actually hugged any of my co-workers. I noticed the absence of any physical contact during those months of working together and I missed it, but somehow I also didn’t instigate any sort of change or shift. Like in dance projects, we also worked intimately. We started work anywhere between 2 and 4am, we worked hard physically and supported each other when we were beyond tired. We shared jokes and as we worked we shared little snippets of our lives. In many ways it’s a wonderful environment for work. Meditative, outdoors, working with the land, hands in the soil – the work itself is a deeply tactile experience. And the conversations, relationships that develop through that working environment have the potential to be deeper, more intimate, more open precisely because of the context and the nature of the work. And yet we never actually touched each other. No pats on the back, no light brush of the hand. Nothing. It’s normal. And something always felt at odds with that.

I read that we are in the midst of a crisis of touch. Adults don’t touch each other much. Increasingly adults aren’t allowed to touch children who aren’t their own. There have been too many stories of abuse, too many scandals and we’ve become a scared nation. In the attempt to empower young people in being able to assert their touch boundaries, I find myself wondering what has been lost and what is the cost of that loss? Have we forgotten what non-sexual loving touch can be? Have we lost the ability to be able to give and receive nuanced touch? If so, we are indeed in crisis. Touch is life-giving after all. It is essential.

There has been (and probably continues to be) so much abuse of touch – the proliferation of the #metoo campaign reveals this all too clearly. And that’s only just the start. It’s certainly thorny territory. I’m curious to see how we can develop healthy, honest touch experiences. Ones which make us feel safer, more confident, more connected to ourselves and to others, less fearful, more optimistic about the riches that touch can offer. And I wonder what the experience of dancing, dance training, dance performance has to offer here. I have a feeling it is quite a lot.

Image: Kimbal Bumstead. Embodied Drawing, 2012. Dancers Thomas Goodwin and Charlotte Spencer

Everything went quiet – what’s happening? Reflections on Cycle Stories

We’ve been quiet for a while, and it’s definitely time for an update. In short, after a hugely busy and fun summer season with Cycle Stories, I am hibernating.

The longer version is that I am currently in the hugely fortunate position of writing this from a small Spanish village in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I have taken a little bit of time out to reflect, to watch and assimilate my thoughts. Perhaps most importantly I have taken time out to be less busy with dashing from meeting to meeting, and fill my time more with a physical engagement of daily living – chopping wood, making fires, walking 3 hours to market, receiving small exchanges of friendliness and warmth from these tiny remote communities, watching birds and sitting amongst the land as the seasons change. I watch and listen a lot more. I am unused to having so much space, and I find myself treading uncertain territory – navigating the unknown and watching empty space. I am hesitant to rush into new ideas – to try and grab them before they’ve had time to settle. However some things into the future are clear and exciting and I’m happy to have them as landmarks that reach out towards the horizon and provide a little bit of structure.     

tree         leaves

Date for your diaries: 17 January 2014
We are delighted to be invited back by our friends at Greenwich Dance to curate their first Supper Room night. We love this new series which allows us to work across art forms to produce an informal, interactive and exciting (we hope) experience. What to expect? – there will be the first screening of our film, Cycle Stories; live music from our sound artists; a world of hidden clues and little surprises to explore; a human clock; things to listen to; things to add to; we’ll eat delicious food prepared by our very own chef – yes we have a chef! and then we’ll clear the hall for dancing.

So exactly what have I been reflecting on in my hibernation mode?

Cycle Stories and Walking Stories – reflections of each other
Cycle Stories was like delving into the unknown. It was ambitious, bold and ventured dance into unfamiliar territory both in terms of the process through which it was created and the formats of presentation it proposed.

It was perhaps a slightly surprising undertaking for a choreographer to decide to make a multi-stranded hour length audio walk, Walking Stories; to decide to make it through a series of creative residencies in England and France linked together by bicycle; and to make a documentary film at the same time. I’d never worked in this format before, I’d never written a script, I’d never made a film and I’d never done any cycle touring. It was an extraordinary, and wonderful experience, a huge learning curve and involved many months of not much sleep and lots of clambering around a long sheet of paper with all the scripts blue tac-ed to it calling out time codes to the sound artists at 3am and cycling 3000km! I was incredibly fortunate to have been supported by an exceptionally skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic artistic team; a hugely patient and practical tour manager (also cook, bike fixer, and website maker) and an amazing management team who calmly picked up all the slack, writing the necessary emails, contracts, paying people, invoicing, keeping the books etc whilst I was clambering around the sacred scripts…

Cycling and walking
I was asked repeatedly through the project why we were cycling all this way. Was it a separate project? What did it have to do with Walking Stories? For me the connection was always clear, but this constant questioning made me re-evaluate the connection and the necessity for it.

We set out to create a digital recipe for a participatory performance where the audience become the creators, performers and spectators of the choreographic experience we designed for them: an hour length audio walk, for city parks and green spaces for a group of people to do together. I wanted to make a work that was deeply choreographic but hugely accessible and inclusive. I wanted to dismantle the edge between performance and audience space/ stage and life, to invite our audience into a physical and tactile experience of the work almost without them noticing. And I decided that in order to be able to do this well, we the creators of that walk also needed to take a journey together. A long one. To remain in the landscape and feel the work seeping into us, not just think about it in a ‘brainy’ way from the bubble of a studio. We took our walk for a cycle, and together the artistic team travelled between each creative residency by bicycle. We remained in the landscape, close to the ground. A little community – camping, eating, sleeping and working together. It sounds idyllic and in many ways it was, but it was also exhausting and the relationship between the travelling and the work we created didn’t perhaps connect together in the ways we anticipated at the outset.

Interestingly some of the collaborators working on the project didn’t feel the link and I think I start to understand why. Cycling between residencies, across France, camping and the physicality of that experience – its challenges, elations and discomforts had little in common with our mostly computerised experience of creating Walking Stories. Making Walking Stories was technical, theoretical, hypothetical, static. Meticulously crafting and designing an experience for others to take. Trying to imagine how unknown/variable groups of people MIGHT respond. It involved an imagined space, required a degree in psychology, accuracy and an eye for detail. It is very controlled, exact and known. But then when Walking Stories goes live, when we hand it over to an unknown, unpredictable audience, we simultaneously hand over our control. The individual experience is unpredictable, unexpected, unknown. It is this living Walking Stories (rather than the making of it) that mirrors our lived experience of Cycle Stories so fully. It was full of unknown, uncertainty, challenge, surprise and stretch. And sometimes that was unsettling.

When we were on the road, the exertion of cycling actually took up most of our time and energy and there was little remaining capacity to do more. Perhaps I had anticipated too much what this long journey might bring directly to the creativity of Walking Stories. The unsettling experience that it wasn’t bringing what I had hoped/expected was a good reminder that ‘creativity’ can’t be churned out on tap when requested, and is certainly not a linear entity. It is far messier and inter-related than that. Instead we gradually realised as we gathered the miles across France that this journey wasn’t so much about what Walking Stories would become (we were pretty clear already about what it was) but rather was the start of many new creative journeys that were yet to find their form. It was like the research and development, the fieldwork for the next things, still unknown.

If we look at the ‘Cycle Stories’ system more broadly, I think the correlation between the lived experience of Cycle Stories and the lived experience of Walking Stories have much in common. My logistical phase pre-trip was perhaps the equivalent of the computer driven experience of making Walking Stories for Tom and Tristan – I thought about all the components for a very long time, engineered them as precisely as I could so that the technology could withstand the possibilities of anything. I try to keep everyone together -not dissimilar from hand out headphones and mp3 players… instead I gave the artistic team bikes and jobs. We can replace walk with cycle; headphones with bikes; verbal communication with directive/prescriptive thinking.

The edge between our lives and this project became distinctly murky – the project was our life (and this didn’t come without it’s challenges). Is cycling across France not something of a holiday? Well, yes, it could be, but this felt exceptionally different from a holiday – something in my attention and focus; something about how every experience was framed within the context of the project and the journey that was unfolding; something about the responsibility that I held for ensuring that we arrived on time, with everyone together; the responsibility of it having been worthwhile. The edge between performance, performer, spectator, stage all get whirled up in Walking Stories. I don’t like boxes much, and Cycle Stories certainly dismantled the edges of many boxes which was both liberating and at times disorientating.

Walking Stories
I feel exceptionally satisfied by Walking Stories. It was a hugely complex piece of work to devise and the requirements of it were high – we wanted it to be accessible and appealing to a really broad range of people and for it to ‘do’ many things – to re-engage people with green spaces; to bring them into a closer relationship with themselves; to build community; to take them on a journey; to give space for listening and watching; to give space and opportunity for transformation; to allow excited and energetic people to run and equally allow others to be quiet and still; to encourage people to do things that perhaps they might not normally be comfortable doing, and then realise how lovely those activities are. We trusted that this chosen format could work, but it was fairly unknown and untested ground.

The feedback and responses we’ve received have been overwhelmingly positive. I find facilitating the walk endlessly fascinating and beautiful to witness. I watch people gradually sink into themselves, they leave refreshed, more present, more themselves. I love knowing that hundreds of people have clambered around inside this walk, each time making it their own.

Building and maintaining Community
Since the project finished I have noticed that all members of the core artistic team have been keen to put time and energy into ensuring that Walking Stories continues to tour next year. I have not asked for this, and certainly didn’t expect it, but this active engagement and energy demonstrates  the shared commitment that we all have to the project. I believe strongly that this arises from the feeling of togetherness and community that we built through the creation of Walking Stories. Walking Stories in this way is not ‘my’ work – it is co-owned and all of the contributors feel a sense of ownership towards the project because indeed they invested so much of themselves into its creation. When our audience finish Walking Stories they leave with a feeling of ownership of their experience and kinship with the others that they shared the walk with. Similarly the artists who lived and breathed Cycle Stories have a unique and shared experience. For all its intensity, it drew us closer together. The concrete outcomes of that can be seen in the programming of Walking Stories for 2014. The less concrete outcomes will continue to surface through the work and approach to work/life of the artistic team in the months and years to come – in how this experience perhaps changes Jennifer or David’s teaching methodologies; how it informs Tristan’s ways of making music; my thoughts about choreography and dance; our collective ideas about travel or time.

Film – finding a suitable framework
David McCormick has worked tirelessly and far beyond the call of duty on making a film for this project. A huge asset was his ninja like cycling ability to race ahead, whip out camera in time to capture us whizzing by, let us drift into the distance, then quickly pack up and race ahead again (good job he was the fittest of us all!) Not an easy job. He played a crucial role in quietly recording, listening, witnessing and questioning our process as it happened.

The challenge for us both when it came to crafting the film was to find a suitable structure that would both make the project clear for an audience unfamiliar with the project; and at the same time reflect the complexity and web like threads that wound around the project. I was keen that the film did not become a chronological archiving of the project and that it also drew its audience into a more tactile/physical experience of Cycle Stories – that the film would provide another medium for supporting our over-riding aims to increase connectivity to self, place and community. In the end we decided to write a script for the film – almost like a visual essay. I think it does a wonderful job in giving a flavour for the lived experience, a taste of the journey – its revelations and challenges and the narration manages to give a context to the over-arching and deeply interwoven ideas that the project as a whole, and Walking Stories in particular navigates. If nothing else it makes you want to get outside more – to take a long journey on a bicycle or a short one in the park. Seek out adventures to unknown destinations. They bring us to new and exciting places.

We are in the final throws of polishing and tweaking the film (or rather David and Tristan are!) and I contribute probably quite irritating notes/changes/demands every now and again. Our first screening is on 17 January as part of the Supper Room at Greenwich Dance. See you there. Oh, and if you ever have the chance to go and hibernate one winter – like really hibernate, then snap up the opportunity, I highly recommend it!

Cycling, maps, uncertainty – Jennifer-Lynn Crawford

Cycling, Maps and Uncertainty.

I have a particular flair for getting lost. I have many ideas about why this is, or comes to be, but they mostly consist of self-justifications for what is a skill highly under-rated in densely populated and constructed cities. How can I get lost around the corner from where I am staying in London despite staying in the same neck of the woods on every visit for the past 6 years? I know London is a big place – but I am not built like a goldfish. I do remember streets, houses, landmarks; just not, it would seem, in the same order as they appear on maps.

Doing more cycling in less familiar places has only increased my ability to get lost… I can now get lost very quickly. Because of a general reluctance to stop cycling once I am in motion, I tend to keep going, which means I increase the length of time it will take to ‘find out’ where I am. It also means I avoid consulting the map. Hence I get lost quickly and increasingly thoroughly when I’m not with anyone else. Another curiosity is that I tend to speed up if I feel very lost (rather than medium lost, or just plain lost) – probably out of a desire to find something that seems familiar (even if it isn’t).

Cycling with people that I feel to be both fairly skilled map readers and more experienced cyclists has been odd for me. There is always someone who knows where we are going. This in itself is a radically different way of being on a bike. There is also usually someone who knows where we are, according to a map, and occasionally, there are several people who have slightly different ideas about where we are/going.

I’ve been grateful for the fact that others understand how important arrival at a pre-decided final destination is and that they have hold of the map and not me. Particularly after mile 40.

Orientation is a question mark for me (it would seem); I enjoy not knowing where I am and/or having an ambiguous destination. This is definitely a useful thing, as I seem to have some internal scrambling device that activates whenever I get near a map. Or, another way to put it: my experiential map (how getting to a place feels/felt as physically sensed) and my 2-d map don’t communicate with a common language.


Language indicates ‘lost’ is a state, or a quality of a thing… an activity, a status, and also, refers to something past/no longer

“I got lost”
“I am lost”
“I will get lost”
“Lost and Found”
“Lost time”
“Lost in thought”
“I lost my head/temper/heart”
“A losing battle”

Lost is also gone – I lost something means that I no longer have it. To be lost in thought is to be absorbed (into something else). Maybe a base metaphor is that lost is not to hand? It is beyond my grasp, my knowing. Lost is taken (away) and lost is not-knowing. Lost is a state/quality defined by negation, as the absence of clarity or knowing. Lost is also a metaphor for death, the most permanent kind of absence. There are also, of course, winners and losers… ‘Loser’ being the preferred insult of my 10 year old self, if memory serves. Losing is less desirable than winning if not strategic in terms of games, arguments, money/possessions and vitality. But losing is hugely desirable if joining the body-commodification movement.

In being lost, I have lost my way – even if I don’t follow the map, I have a ‘way’, something that is mine. When lost to or in something, I am absorbed by the something to the degree that it becomes my compass. To existentialist-leaning sorts (like myself), this signals some shift in ontology, or how we ‘are’; there is less attempt at owning a situation and greater permeability to perceived elements in/making up the situation.

This is articulated in improvisation practices by Kent De Spain as ‘non-centred/de-centred intentionality’:

“…if I am commingled with the elements of the moment so that I do not sense or even care where the ideas and actions are coming from, I can go for a joyride, instead of carrying the car on my back.”

(feel free to replace ‘car’ with transport mode of choice)… but it is mostly the same phenomenon when lost-on-bike. Regardless, it is very hard to ‘lose’ this metaphor of purpose as destination and both as desirable. They indicate knowing.


Journeys make paths or follow them – paths are specific surfaces inscribed on the land. Paths are knowledge in that they tell us someone was here before – human or not, another creature has gone this way. In making a path from scratch, we make a statement to other pathway-takers that there is something going on. Obstacles are things or events that prevent us from following the path easily, possibly blocking it entirely. This is an easy relationship to draw across to our bodies and movement habits as well – those habits, those neural paths that we work daily (tooth-brushing, hand-writing, garlic-chopping) are pretty well-maintained paths. They are knowledge, knowing in moving towards destinations such as clean teeth and notes and a meal. We sense obstacles here when we cannot access our habitual way (such as using the same hand).

In my case, I am very skilled at becoming my own ‘obstacle’ when I have hold of a map – or I am very skilled at finding ways to avoid my destination. I’m not sure which it is yet. It might depend whether I think I’m going somewhere or nowhere. I seem to prefer the ‘joyride’ over carrying the bike on my back (i.e., aiming at the landscape from the map) and have difficulty negotiating the difference in ontology proposed by finding my way, rather than a-way (lost).

Maps emerge from the landscape… and then we paste them back on. This rests on our understanding of space as somehow structural – time flows, but space… endures. It remains. I reckon the land itself, as well as any creature blessed with any kind of perceptual system, would beg to differ that it remains the same. Space changes; space is always contingent and inhabited. Even if we refuse to annex space in terms of time, space shifts. Where does the notion of static space come from? A desire to get hold of something perhaps; to centre our knowing and make it portable within ourselves, or at least, something we can carry with us.

The notion of space as structure and thus inherently fixed is a particular Western/Euro metaphor. Attempts to address difficulties within this perspective go all the way back to Heraclitus and the river that we can’t step into twice. They move all the way forwards through Einstein’s Relativity to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and a choice to know about either a particle’s momentum or its location, but not both simultaneously. It goes past that through the popular acceptance of various versions of chaos theory, systems-based approaches, post-post frameworks… and where does it land in this work we are working on now?


How do we practice space – or practice with space? How do we space a practice?

These are two questions I keep re-arriving at from various activities over the past several years. To some degree, I’m still lost here. But of course, these are not the sorts of questions that prompt arrival at destinations.

At the moment, they propose that we need to consider location as un-fixed – as interactive or better, something that we are implicated in/by – which is a clear follow-on from any kind of environmental concern, yet one that isn’t made nearly explicit enough in current social/political climes. It seems that we spend a good deal of time trying to forget that spaces are not fixed – or trying to ‘fix’ them into staying. To know that we are affected by space (think cave vs. mountain top) is also to know that we affect space (think empty stadium vs full). How is it then ‘forgotten’ that if we don’t steward our spaces ‘well’ (perhaps in some kind of sustainable, or even more mindful, practice), our spaces will no longer be? In order to work with space, even just to take care of it, we need to acknowledge that space changes. Space is not fixed. Even leaving space as it is, it moves, it rearranges itself, displaces itself, as much as time – this might also offer some explanation of Western philosophy’s favouring of time.

I suppose I wonder what we look at when we are looking at maps. And if we are we looking at flat versions of space, what does that tell us about our feeling for space?

To be continued….

Thoughts after the Greenwich residency 20th-24th May 2013 – Rohanna

I’ve been reflecting during and after the week on how this model of a creative process is very different from many others that I have experienced. Rather then a traditional hierarchical working relationship between director (Charlotte) and the collaborators (Tristan, Tom, Jennifer, Rohanna and Bruno and more) there is a sense that although Charlotte is ‘holding’ the project with an overall vision and direction, each person is valued for different skills which contribute to the creative process.  My sense is that Charlotte does a good job of steering what could be a tricky situation: when you bring a group of people together, ask them for their ideas and input you could potentially be left with ‘too many cooks’ where someone dominates or controls what’s happening.  Perhaps because the team is comprised of people from different backgrounds, dance, music and writing, each person comes to the project with a different lens for looking at the work.  I personally have found this interesting as it gives you some distance from your own skills, by looking from someone else’s viewpoint I realise what I take for granted in my own position.  In a way this relates to Walking Stories in general in that it makes you step outside of your everyday way of being and asks you to look at the world slightly differently.  I like how this project inherently plays with the relationships between director, collaborators, performers and audience, one becoming interchangeable with another.

My sense of this week was that it was longer than a week.  I enjoy how your sense of time stretches when you’re absorbed in something.  Time both speeds up in the moment, but when you look back to the beginning of the week it seems further away then normal.  Monday and tuesday I was trying to wrap my head around coming back to the project following the autumn’s research period and catch up with where things had moved on to.  On wednesday we went out into the park to do the walk with a group of 18/19 which was near on the maximum for each performance.

Following the feedback session afterwards it reminded me that something I really enjoyed from the research in the autumn was that you could transform things, for example the group make a pile of found objects then you’re asked to stand and look at it, hearing the sound of fire transforming the pile into something which is burning.  Elemental sounds, can transform the landscape.

While we were doing the walk, which we did twice starting from different locations in the park, I used my phone to track our route using an app.  When we’d finished you can look at a map of the route you’ve taken.  I was surprised at how straight it was as in a line on a map, when my sensation of doing the walk was really multi-directional.  I suppose this disparity could be because direction and orientation are different things.  I might move in one direction, but along the way I can change where I’m looking and my facing or orientation giving me a sense that things aren’t linear.  We’ve talked about maps, routes, pathways, lines on the ground: I’d love it if you could record each person in the group’s route and overlay them creating a map of the walking stories route, different each time with a new group and location.

On thursday we had a session in the afternoon where each person wrote down some thoughts for what could happen next.  Here were some of mine:

Run as far away from the group as you dare, then hear something to do with imagining where everyone has gone? Look from above at the configuration.  Perimeters, gates changing?  Trespassing?  Can you identify an area that’s no go?

You could also have some sort of task where you select someone from the group, memorise what they’re wearing, some details about them.  You close your eyes when you open them they’ve gone and you have to find them?  You could do this in conjunction with the first one, half of the group having each instruction.

Get people to copy each other, create unison.  Could also have plants?

Take something to an extreme.  Get on the edges.  Do something impossible.

Rohanna Eade

Jennifer-Lynn Crawford teaching a workshop at Plymouth Uni 9th, 10th June

Jennifer-Lynn Crawford will teaching a workshop at Plymouth University
Sat 9th and Sun 10th June. (studio 307)
10.30 – 12.30am Solo Dancing: Patterns for 3-Dimensional Bodies (Release-based technique class)
1.30-3.30pm Working With Skin: Tactile Intelligence (exploratory workshop)
For more details see the events, classes, workshops page.


It seems that this is a year about LAND. In February I made a new short work for Turner Contemporary Gallery ‘Becoming Land’. It was part of their late night ‘Elemental’ series and fittingly the performance took place in the surroundings of walking artist, Hamish Fulton’s retrospective. I have recently started work on a Big Dance commission from Siobhan Davies Dance creative projects Together with Janine Harrington and Vanessa Cook, we are making large scale new promenade work, LAND. LAND will be performed by 40 young people from 7 South London Boroughs on 7th July, on a beautiful National Trust site, Morden Hall Park. I feel that I have spent much of this Spring in the LAND spanning from North Yorkshire, to the Spanish Pyrenees, the Cotswolds and closer to home, my regular meanderings across the South Downs.

‘Becoming Land’ started its life last July whilst I was on residency at the K3 Choreographic Centre, Hamburg, Germany and Le Pacifique CDC, Grenoble, France. During that time I became increasingly interested in these ideas landing, becoming the land, composting. What is it to land? How is that different from falling, crumbling, collapsing? What tone does it hold in the body? If we allow the body to truly surrender to the ground on which we lie, how much can we become the land? How much is this about dying and being born – about the cycles of living and dying. At that point, I didn’t know exactly where this investigation was taking me, and so at the end of the residency times, we kind of left it hanging. Left it to settle, to find it’s form. And it seems that 7 months later, readily it found it’s place easily for Turner Contemporary.


I feel that it will find it’s place also among new works over the coming months. Certainly LAND for the Big Dance commission from Siobhan Davies will incorporate aspects of these ideas. Indeed, LAND as whole looks to highlight the land that we find at Morden Hall Park. The performance seeks to enable a new experience of the park for both the audience and the participants by drawing on the sculpture, rhythm, form of the landscape that is already there. In accordance with this, it seems appropriate and necessary to spend as much time in the ‘land’ as possible. To notice small details and sweeping sensations. To see where the movement lies. To see where the body can sit in that land and add something exciting and new.




Revealing Process – some pictures

On 29th January 2012, I held a small, intimate event, Revealing Process at Siobhan Davies Studios, London. It was an opportunity for me to share some thoughts about my working processes, and my current threads of choreographic enquiry.

Here are a few photos – care of Sara Popowa. Thank you to everyone who helped to make the evening run smoothly and created such a delightful atmosphere of interest, curiosity and sharing.

Touch, movement and drawing

I am starting to prepare for my next residency at The Point, Eastleigh, at the beginning of January 2012. I plan the time to be a laboratory of experiments working in collaboration with visual artist, Kimbal Bumstead, and a collection of dancers and sound artists. We will look closely at 3 shared research strands: touch; movement and drawing; and the interplay between process and product.

As a central point of departure, we plan to use a touch based improvisation tool ‘sacrum dances’ that I first came into contact with through working with choreographer, Rosemary Lee in 2010, and then adapted and used extensively during the process of creation of The Nature of Things.  I have been wondering why these dances are so resonant. What is it about them that time and time again bring dances that are so rich both to witness and to be inside? On the train to London one Friday last month to meet with Kimbal, and having just read a fantastic article by Gill Clarke ‘Mind as in Motion’ and re-visited the notes I made during rehearsals this summer in Hamburg, something clicked – something about touch which I will come to in a moment.

Sacrum dancing operates primarily in a felt space. It is a process and therefore draws our attention to the nature of process itself. In moving from process to product, by finding a way to create drawings through these intimate touch dances, work in a new medium unfolds. The drawings that are made during these experiments are equally both process and product, and thus, can be considered artefacts/works in their own right. Such drawings might then be used to create new choreographic and visual art work, in an environment where the creative decisions are informed by touch – felt experiences and are handled through intellectual (more cerebral) processes. In this way, we integrate a variety of mental spaces – noticing how our intellectual decision making is more embodied, more lived, more intuitive.

Having recently visited Siobhan Davies Commissions exhibition at The Bargehouse on the Southbank, I was delighted and excited to observe a likeness in this interplay between process and product, between movement, choreography and drawing that was shared in the work that Sarah Warsop and Tracy Rowledge produced.

Touch is a sensory experience. The vast number of nerve endings in our hands enable us to read and give information far more immediately and accurately than when a directing, primarily intellectual space intervenes. Touch is intimate and personal and is therefore a potent mechanism for bringing us into a different relationship with our physical/sensory experience(s) and, as social entities, therefore potentially closer to others. This micropolitical awareness changes us and our relationships with people and our environment. It changes the people we touch in our professional and personal lives. In turn, it changes the people that they touch from the change in our touch and so it ripples outwards into the world through an endless chain of intimate interactions. In this way there is huge value and potential contribution that movement/ embodied knowledge can make to broader social and environmental concerns. This touch puts us, our audience and our participants in a more receptive and responsive space to be able to make radical changes in our lives.

This research is about people, journeys and tracing, about using touch to tease out greater connectivity between different brain centres – both intuitive and intellectual spaces. It will examine how we can use touch and drawing as a way of capturing the sensitivity of intuitive interaction between dancing bodies without undermining the intellectual brain centre. Our aim is to produce rich food for further choreographic, visual and performance art work that emerges from a more tactile way of working, re-affirming the importance of touch, movement, eye/hand practices to enable fuller integration of multiple mental spaces.

Start again…

sharing some notes from residencies at K3, Hamburg and Le Pacifique |CDC, Grenoble, July 2011:

An ocean of landing
helped into landing
and then rising
the ocean moving into the distance
is this how dying looks?
about rising
how can we melt into the sky?
into flight
pushing, reaching
flow moving upwards
brimming over
so much up that the body can’t 
contain it anymore
and so you go up
each landing is as if it’s the only one
and once you have become the ground you are born again so that you can land again.

sharing energy to make more

becoming the ground
How much down is there in going up?
How much sky in the ground?
How polar/dual, how whole is this rising, landing, taking off, becoming the ground thing?
keeping going, keep on being
start again
i keep going
we keep being
the world is hanging
we are just drawing it down into a plane of ‘now time’, ‘today time’
what is the nature of your relationship?
what happens?
start again
what is it that makes these sacrum dances so special?
over-whelming feeling from witnessing/watching/participating – dancing is good for people. that’s enough. 

start again


Performance this Saturday 13th August

Jennifer-Lynn Crawford and I will be performing THIS Saturday 13th August. At: Bold Tendencies, 95A Rye Lane, Peckham 7-9pm Free but ticketed. As part of: The Elephant and the Nun Festival. We will be dancing ‘Cycle Stories‘ a dance that is about me and about Jennifer and about you and your dreams. You can dance too. That would be lovely! Come!

Bold Tendencies is an Sculpture park in a disused car park in Peckham. The current exhibition is running until the end of September.

Charlotte and Jennifer