reflecting on the workshop

This from Sara Wookey:

As the one-week workshop has come to an end and I slowly shift to another dance project within another museum context in another cultural context, I take with me many insights, thoughts and musings that will inform my practice, my teaching and current and future projects. It has been an absolutely informative experience wherein I was discovering new terrains of engagement and enjoying a deep trust in process and the flows of a group that was so open to experience. On my travels from London last night I was in the Performance Research Journal (On Labour & Performance Vol 17, No 6) about value outside of the monetary. I began thinking that one of the real values of any dance-related cultural experience is its social value. In the article, “Symphony of the Surplus/Value” by Stevphen Shukaitis, he writes, “Regardless of changing trends in arts and cultural policy, it is this social value of the arts, and cultural labour more generally, how they take part in renewing social bonds and sociality more generally, that is precisely not recognized or rewarded” (p. 53). The being together, the making something in the moment with others, the physical shared space and the general liveness of it all is, as I agree with Shukaitis, of great value and greatly under appreciated or made apparent. This was rendered clear to me as I sat around the table yesterday with the whole group on our last day yesterday listening to the participants share about their experiences of the dance/choreography workshops and I had this wave of thankfulness come over me for being fortunate enough to work within an art form that is inherently social.

I am also very grateful for the shifting of spaces as I am interested in the socio-spatial and the ways in which space affects the social and vice-versa. Therefore, it was intriguing for me to witness how the work that we were doing all week was in dialogue with each changing space. We started in a work-like studio (usually filled with children-which may have left a certain vibe in the space for openness and play(?), then moved to the prestigious and performative East room where we all put great effort into not letting it over power the delicate experiments we were making (one participant suggested we pull some blinds down which then created a more intimate and protective environment for working) and then to a classroom-like room with no windows at all and that we were concerned by its depressive nature but, unexpectedly, it provided a very protective, calm and focused space for our last day of the week together. Each space seemed to adapt to us as we did to it. I believe that the focus, commitment and mutual support that the group developed collectively over the week and the spirit of engagement, curiosity and collaborative-ness of the research team and artists was what made these transitions possible and even productive.

I have many reflections but wanted to share some of them here while they is still fresh on my mind this morning in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and before entering another project. I feel a need to carve out time to reflect, write and respond to the week as a way to remember and to hold onto the wealth of information shared. For it is in reflection where learning seems to really take root for me.

As I move forward, I experience what feels like layers of information across projects. These layers organize as a kind of choreography mapping out and making connections through my interests in the body, movement, public space, value and engagement. I sense that the work with the participants within a dance and choreographic context will live on as traces, fragments, sections and phrases of a whole and new combinations of these experiences, in the approach to the films they will make about their experience, will emerge. Like the translations of an original dance to its many reproductions, their films will reflect a past experience that influences a present moment. What this reveals about the value of their experiences is a wonderful, provocative thought. I look forward to what emerges and to the continued and engaging dialogue through the social and across the spatial that this project has generated. Thank you.

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