For the past week, Tabernacle has been in residency at El Graner in Barcelona, a brand new space run by Mercat de les Flors where we perform this week. El Graner is in a refurbished Phillips lightbulb factory and we’ve been working in a huge studio with a suitably cathedral-like height.
When I was organising this residency, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to continue refining Tabernacle – so that it does not become a fixed product continues to evolve as a living process. For that reason, I also wanted to make a connection between the work and the place where we would perform. So through Mercat and El Graner, we organised a free workshop for local dancers. I specify free because when we finished the workshops yesterday one of the dancers thanked me for having something for free in this time of high unemployment and economic difficulty in Spain. Though such work is never without cost – though that cost was born by Culture Ireland, modul-dance and Mercat de les Flors and Project Art Centre, in this instance.
Things the workshop has taught me
1. It’s the shape it is because it was necessary
By which I mean Tabernacle grew gradually out of the coming together of the people (dancers, collaborators, visitors) that I invited into the space I created under the title Tabernacle. To give the workshop participants here in Barcelona a sense of the truth of the work, and not just a picture of the form that emerged from the process of creation, I wanted them to get a sense of the diversity of people who have come together to create the work and for those Barcelona participants to realise that they too have entered into it.
For the five days of our workshop, each of the five Tabernacle dancers (Matthew, Bernadette, Stéphane, have led the warm up and exercises that share something of their journey through the piece. They’ve also taught my originating Mo Mhórchoir Féin solo as the point of departure that they share for their path through the work. And Sarah Browne who is here to make a new Appendix for the performances of Tabernacle at Mercat de les Flors also spoke to the participants about her involvement in the process, sharing images and setting a stimulating task for everyone to imagine what it would be like to have the body of a saint.
Early in the week, I was anxious that the change of workshop leader each day, the change of focus, change of movement style, change of entry point into the dance and creativity would be confusing and unclear. But little by little, I realised that the variety of perspectives meant that the many dimensions of Tabernacle, its open, multi-faceted structure had to be conveyed by this kind of approach. No one of the dancers can communicate the whole piece though each carries an essential element of it. And each brings something of me to the piece so that through them and their differences, I recognise myself in the work though I don’t dance in it.
2. You don’t find community, you make it.
By the time we finished the workshop yesterday, it felt like we had built a new, albeit temporary community with these dancers from Barcelona and that the existing group of Tabernacle performers had had a chance to deepen its connections internally by extending outwards to other people.
To end the workshop the dancers did a run of Tabernacle in the studio but with the local performers joining in the solo that starts and ends the piece. It was particularly moving and joyful for me to have the participants follow the journey of the piece by watching it and then stand up to join in the dance that ends the piece. In Dublin, I imagined that kind of participation but couldn’t imagine the process that would allow it to happen. It is wonderful that the workshop and residency here has given me that though I hadn’t planned it to do so.
It’s also great to know that when we perform in Mercat, there will be friends already in the audience who can extend the Tabernacle community beyond me and the Tabernacle dancers.