Today I went walking in the rain

This month has been more home based than most of the rest of the year. Re-grouping following the Dance Umbrella stint in London and doing some groundwork for new initiatives. At this point it’s hard to know what will take flight and what will never quite become visible. The precious hours of daylight continue shrinking and mostly I find that I want to curl up and knit…or something…

I realised that I had been missing dancing, and living in the countryside, it’s not possible to walk out the door and straight into a class…but there is always the village hall, so perhaps I should try that. Anyway, I had the pleasure of joining Robbie Synge’s Material Matters workshop at Independent Dance a couple of weeks ago. Robbie’s home is far more isolated than mine, in the Highlands of Scotland, so really I should be able to find a way through this in East Sussex. It was wonderful to have the space to explore my own physical practice alongside peers. I was reminded (yet again) that working ‘in conversation’ is good for me. But not any conversation. I’m rubbish at idle chat. It’s the same when I’m dancing. I easily lose interest if the connection with those that I’m moving alongside doesn’t feel fruitful. Luckily on this occasion it did, and I came away full of nourishment and a body that was so glad I’d dragged it to London on a Saturday in the tipping rain.

I want to keep working through the winter (and not just admin), although we are in-between project funding, which means there isn’t really money to pay anyone. I can manage with not paying myself, but I can’t manage not paying other people. So there I am: acknowledging that I work best in conversation, determined to work, to make new work, to dance more, but without the finance to bring in those others. I don’t think I’m unusual – many (dance) artists face the same dilemmas. There are so many of us independent artists, each on our little isolated islands. Perhaps it’s suits some people. I get the impression that it suits Robbie (but maybe I’m wrong – our perception of how other people are operating is quite wonky a lot of the time. The likes of facebook don’t help much with that). But I also know that for many people, working alone for long periods of time, is far from ideal. Finding ways to come together, to exchange and support is, for me at least essential and generative. It extends my thinking; stretching, questioning, confirming. It keeps me sane. It makes me want to get back to work.

Today, despite the rain, I was decided I would spend much of the day walking. A body in motion. In fairly constant motion. My thoughts cluttered and emptied and cleared and cluttered and emptied. I enjoyed the rhythm of my walking. I enjoyed being alone and not talking. Briefly in one stint of particularly heavy rain I wondered why I’d decided this was a good idea. But then the cloud lifted a little, and a soft blue light opened. Colours became more vibrant. I found that I was singing, my legs kept their regular swinging beat and my arms had begun to dance. Really to dance. It just happened. Spontaneously. From nowhere. No, from the 3 hours of walking that had come before and allowed my body to take flight. I returned muddy and wet and hungry, but fresh faced and wide eyed from the cool winter air. Whatever the weather, get walking.

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