Sam is a young dancer who lives in Waltham Forest. He takes classes at The Place and through his mum, he found out I was dancing on the Wetlands and sent me a video of a dance he made inspired by flying. So I invited him and his mum to join me for an afternoon on the Wetlands where we talked about the things we saw there and how I dance with some of those things in my mind. Sam noticed floating feathers and rigid, prickly seed heads that burst and disperse. He saw the water levels rising and falling on the reservoirs. He saw bees and dragonflies. We also discussed pirates. And danced.
I had crossed paths with Isabella Oberlander and with Wanjiru Kamuyu on my travels over the past year and, as with Annie Hanauer, knew I wanted to dance with them. Isabella I’ve known since she arrived in Limerick to take part in the Daghdha Mentoring Programme. More recently, she was a participant in a festival organised by Dance Limerick that I helped to facilitate and in which she presented her own fierce dancing. Wanjiru performed her solo choreography at Firkin Crane while I was curator there and we met again when I saw her dance in Paris during my residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais. I mention these links because they are predicated on international mobility: this residency at the Wetlands in Walthamstow has given me an opportunity to connect ‘home’ in London to the extended, global dance that many of us are involved in. And of course, the Wetlands itself is a place that supports and sustains in birds this international migration and movement.
I appreciated the generosity and courage of Isabella, Wanjiru and Annie to dive in to the process so publicly, dancing with unfamiliar bodies in a shifting environment and climate, supporting me in bringing into being a way of human/non-human interaction on the Wetlands. Into and alongside our quartet, I invited Teresa Elwes, a photographer, passionate dancer and local resident to document some of the dancing. Her sensitive images are in this post and many more on her website.
Dancing as a quartet made us more visible, more clearly an ‘event’. I loved that some of the security guards stopped to watch our dancing, filming us and engaging in conversation about what we were doing. Our number also multiplied the energy of the dancing in a way that I couldn’t have achieved on my own. You can see some of the playful liveliness in this video sketch:
I’d seen Annie Hanauer perform and knew her energy and articulate physicality up close from having been in class with her, but it wasn’t until I saw her dancing in Emmauel Gat’s ‘Sunny’ at the Dublin Dance Festival that we had a chance to talk. And from that conversation, I knew I’d want to dance with her some more. I’ve never held an audition, so it’s mostly through these encounters that I’ve been able to work with the dance artists I have. The Wetlands residency has given me an opportunity to extend hospitality to others, and to have a framework within which to try out new creative relationships and that’s what I did with Annie. Of course, I felt I had to explain that there was no conventional dance studio, that we would be outdoors, that we would be public all the time and that all of that would be exciting and artistically nourishing, and surprisingly tiring, demanding a different kind of physicality and presence to what one might usually use in a studio. Fortunately, Annie didn’t need to be convinced at all and was happy to join me in inserting dance into the spaces available to us on the Wetlands.
It was particularly useful for me to have to explain to someone else the process of working I use and take for granted in my dancing on the Wetlands. This has less to do with how to move than where to put one’s attention, to notice the external/internal stimuli and impulses that might then manifest as movement or transformations of our bodies. And it was such a pleasure to be able to share the work with such a receptive and intelligent movement expert.
Here’s a long dance we made on the slope of Lockwood Reservoir. It goes from being a solo, to a duet, to a quintet when young men happen on us. In fact it’s a symphony of sensations and references, human and non-human that animate our interaction. We are dancing interdependence
I’ve been aware from the outset that the Wetlands is a sanctuary and a refuge, for humans and non-humans, for anglers and walkers and parents and choreographers and, not least, a place for migrant birds. It’s made sense to me therefore to connect my dance workshops for MicroRainbow International (an organisation that works globally to end LGBTI poverty and, in the UK, focuses its activities on supporting LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers) to this residency. It’s partly about seeing the residency as an opportunity to host people, to share the privilege of my time in this beautiful location and also to ensure that the kind of public that benefits from the Wetlands is as inclusive as possible.
This week we hosted the second of our MicroRainbow dance workshops on the Wetlands, thanks to the generosity of the Wetlands team (especially Ada and Ralph who’ve given free time to guide us around the site) and to Wilsons LLP, a law firm in nearby Tottenham that has sponsored the travel expenses of the participants (it’s not enough to offer a free workshop to foster inclusion if people can’t afford to get to it).
It was great to be able to share the beauty of the Wetlands in the evening sunshine, to see people relax and appreciate air and space, to see people enjoying friendship. It underlined to me again how choreography can also be developed by attending to the circumstances to which bodies are exposed. And, as a result, I’ve been trying to work through the residency as a kind of choreography, a performance of the kind of relationships and exchanges between diverse human and non-human bodies I’d like to support in the world.
Here are some of the photos that Ralph Hanus took of the event: