My current research looks at how immersive performance can offer a different and experiential approach to dance and performance work with diverse communities. Drawing on the experiences of professional performers and workshop participants, the practice is both auto-ethnographic and ethnographic, and draws on verbatim performance. It unpacks the ethics of creating work with diverse groups in London in the 2010s, including audiences and also foregrounds the political and community building potential of immersive performance without compromising the aesthetic.
I am currently working on practice as research project ‘Invitation’
Invitation is a simple piece that investigates the act of participation in a dance based work. It is 20-25 minutes long for up to 15 people. During Invitation, separate soloists invite solo audience members to dance in two simple dances, which are repeated by a range of different dancers and audience members. The piece focuses on what it is to join another, in life and on stage. It is a series of duets between a performer and an audient, and eventually between audient and audient. Yet within this simple structure there are important questions about dance, performance and commucation that are referred to, asking what is the impulse to join another in their space, and looks at human frailty on stage.
The piece also considers and contrasts restoration and released based material and asks who can dance on stage. Particularly, Invitation offers and values a somatic experience for its audience, and contrasts knowing and inexperienced performers.
The work investigates the difficulties of participatory performance – considering what makes someone want to join another, which is often nothing to do with thought processes, and much to do with a sensing that our body has decided for us. Sometimes we have done things before we know it before our mind and thought processes have caught up. For Invitation there is a square taped in the middle of the floor, and audience sit around the edges of the space. One dancer enters and plays using clowning techniques of eye contact, breath as well as chasing, ignoring, advancing, retreating, gesturing and pulling, each movement exposing the action and emotion of an audient into joining the dancer in the performance space. The moment of physical joining is the heart of the piece, and it is repeated many times in the show by a male then female performer enacting restoration dances, then doing simple released and emotive movement.
- Unknowing bodies beside experienced bodies – Invitation presents the exquisite quality of trained dancing bodies alongside the possibly untrained bodies and those that are unfamiliar with the dance material. We wish to expose and delight in the struggle to learn dance, the pleasure of watching the vulnerable audient being guided.
- The audience are given the opportunity be on stage. So the fear of rejection is witnessed, the desire to dance with a particular person is shown. At times allowing an audience member to say ‘no’ allows another to enter the stage. Particularly, we wish to highlight that technique is distancing for an audience and vulnerability is engaging. Dancing is guided by their dancer partner giving the audience a delicate physical human exchange, so highlighting the pleasure and value of bodily communication