I’ve been trying to assimilate my thoughts on returning from not only Washington but New York too and I’ve been thinking about how I can incorporate some methods and practice into the work I do with artists at The Point, and more generally ideas around how we, as creative people, can be a little more imaginative in how we work.
I was struck by how Dance Exchange are good at blurring boundaries, and it might be at these boundaries where the interesting stuff happens. We are always so keen and impatient, to label, to know, to have the answers, to be sure – especially when we are in the subsidized sector and making the ask for money, that is demanded of us. Dance Exchange is run by thinking artists, and this is felt strongly. It’s great that there are 3 resident artists who have their own interests and practice, but contribute to the organisation and its aims, each having their body of work whether it be classes and education, marketing, grant writing etc. And it seems a lot of the discussion and thinking about the organisation is allowed to be explored through the body – great!
When we returned from the Senior’s workshop we were asked to create a solo response to our experience – as well as later discussing in a circle. Through responding to the questions
-Something that you found exciting or that struck you?
-What was a moment you felt uncomfortable?
-What was a happy surprise?
It’s a way of letting the thinking go deeper and become structured in a different way. My memory of my reflection is through movement. A week later I can remember the solo, and that means I can remember with greater clarity the answers to the questions. A magnifying moment. But it wasn’t for everyone, and one person just couldn’t make anything. But it’s an interesting proposition, and one where I am reminded that someone working in dance and with the body has a whole ‘other’ language with which to communicate. How can we bring this into our strategy meetings, our funding brainstorms, our responses to seeing performance. Why do we favour the spoken word so much??
A simple approach that I will ‘borrow’ (As Liz advocates) will be the ‘walk and talk’ meetings that Dance Exchange does. There’s something about trying to find the solution to a problem that can be unlocked with a walk in the fresh air, the sub conscious released, the body and mind in more of a flowing state (Its also interesting that my teenage daughter lets conversation flow much more freely when she’s outdoors and not looking straight at me. So it must work!). Writing furious notes takes place on getting back to the office. Another distillation mechanism to just remember the key points?
The other major approach of Dance Exchange is the importance of Storytelling. It’s the way we connect and literally everyone can do it. We are bodies with history and this is a rich area to explore. During Liz’s brief time with us on the Saturday, she briefly mentions current thinking and research in neuroscience around how we connect socially. Jane and I stumble upon a great bookshop in Dupont Circle and I see the book by Matthew Liebermann ‘Social: Why our brains are wired to connect’ where his groundbreaking research in social neuroscience has revealed that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter. It feels like this chimes with the vision and ethos of Dance Exchange facilitating connections through dance, through stories and through the body.
The language of the body was powerfully witnessed later on during our stay as on Martin Luther King day, we witnessed a silent protest of about 50 people lying in the middle of the highway next to the US department of Justice building. It’s a controlled protest with a time limit. People hold placards ‘Black Lives Matter’. It is a protest about all the of recent shootings of black people by policemen over the last 6 months. Set against the back drop of the Justice Building ‘Justice is founded by the rights bestowed by nature upon man. Liberty is maintained in the security of Justice’. The silence and prone body is powerful, where perhaps spoken language would seem too complex to find simple unification.
I’m reminded of the power of the language of the body and its ability to communicate.
I end my blog thinking about the last act of our collective group. A visioning exercise the ‘circle of possibilities’. We are asked to project ourselves into the future. What have we done since the Winter Institute? My response was focussed on being able to unlock the potential in others. I’ve returned from my trips feeling open to thinking in different ways, refreshed, inspired and hoping to spread some of this learning a little further afield, to the artists I work with, my colleagues, and the sector as a whole