Saturday, 26 January 2013

Jo - Artistic Statement

As we are about to do another Inclusive Dance Theatre Day, I made myself type up my old artistic statement - or something like an artistic statement. I wrote it in response to a comment by someone in the contemporary dance world. It was written in one long 'exhalation' but carries most of the points inherent in my approach to my work and process with Shallal.

Shallal has it’s place in the dance world, rather like naive and outsider art have their place in the visual art world. (Alfred Wallis, Brian Pearce)
It comes from a community, a philosophy, a world view of each persons value and contribution, beauty in truth, integrity, authenticity, and these are high ideals and high claims, which is why we try not to speak of them for at anytime we might fail more than usual and then it is all just empty talk.
It is similar to going to an art class and being asked to paint the blue jug on the table, but encouraged to follow your own creative response, which may have little or nothing to do with the jug.
There is a belief in trust the process. There is the history that we have seen it acheived before so we’ll try again.
There is a lot of mutual respect and relationship, and a discipline to hold your peace unless it’s constructive.
You are asked to be sensitive, aware and supportive, but not patronising, this is a world where we can practise what it’s hard to preach outside.
It’s a held safe enviroment, with ideally sufficient support for peoples needs, and we are all people, artists, and involved in a creative process.
We know that people have been moved, challenged and changed by watching, this is not intentional and we are not political except, in the strong sense that the person is political.
I sometimes forget that the work changed my life, but this gives me the courage and trust to keep going. I believe in allowing people the freedom and discipline, joy and sharing of the creative process, and have worked in this all my adult life.
Choice and freedom are especially important for people who have less say than most over what happens in their lives (for whatever reason).

We do not wish to tell people how to move, we are much more interested in learning from them and seeing their inner beauty.
Ideally the work would run parallel to various technique classes so people could access what they need to extend their range and expression of movement.
But I get bored seeing dancers copy other people or work in limited vocabularies and styles.
So, I was deeply impressed by Wolfgang Stange’s work and his ability to reach people.
And then I read Peter Slade’s Natural Dance.
“In general it is the beauty of individual style, which catches me, the sheer unique quality of each personality.”
And I read Isadora Duncan,
“Dance was always an experience for her. Not merely a performance, and never movement for it’s own sake.”
And then I explored Body Mind Centring work, and anything else cheap and interesting where you didn’t have to wear a leotard!
And I believe everyone can create and contribute.
The facilitators role is to allow that to happen, and help that person find the way in and access that world, it is not so much reliant on skill more it tests out your belief system, if you believe this will you try to allow it to happen, by adapting, changing, maintaining communication until something breaks through.
This is why I think some people walk in and understand the work, and other people never really get it, do you believe it, are you commited to trying to let it happen, will you let go of your preconcieved ideas to allow someone else to engage in the experience, how attached are you to the outcome, can you engage in the work to allow someone with different skills and needs to participate, can you follow their ideas and inspiration, why must they follow yours.
You can lend them your experience, your confidence in the work.
The work involves a lot of thinking on your feet, grabbing the moment, the feeling, it requires some tact and patience. Let the process be explored, we do not need a product all the time, it is all on the way to that place.
It allows a giveaway or sharing which frees it from the therapeutic model, others watch our work, others carry and support, inspire and encourage us, as we do to them.
We may not learn technique but we learn from each other. 
How to work with the other, but not loose ourselves, at it’s best how to be with each other with mutual respect and without control.
There is safety in structure and there is freedom in the spirit, because in the discipline of improvisation you can always go further take risks. It is tried and tested and always new.
This makes it edgy and sometimes untidy, but we live with that as some dancers live with over control, generally we prefer it and keep learning.
There can be a lot of personnal reflection, and not too much planning, a lot of balancing goes on.
And you never really know if it will happen again.
We hope to help each person be aware of, trust and be comfortable with their creative process and how they best work.
Because work is shown and shared constantly there is a fairly relaxed attitude in front of the audience less of an us and them, and hopefully more of an inclusive atmosphere.
When all goes well, the fun, support, warmth and sharing come across on stage, we claim little, hope you like us, realise it’s not everyone’s taste, and get enough joy from doing it to do it again, and people have seen us more than once ( not just our families).
And people have often asked to join the company after a show, and we have been invited to perform elsewhere, so we carry on.
To return to the beginning we are fairly marginal in the traditional dance performance world (though people from that world have and do work with us) and we come to dance through a process that possibly has more in common with the visual arts.

( We have grown out of an international impulse, but we are also very much a product of a place, Penwith, Penzance and Newlyn, have a very open artistic culture, which pervades the atmosphere, attitudes of the people, which support and appreciates the work.)

copyright Jo Willis
None of the above can be reproduced without permission

Wolfgang Stange and Amici,

Isadora Duncan “The Art of the Dance”

Bodymind Centring 

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