This year I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected for a mentorship scheme run by glór, which pairs you with a mentor of your choice and funds a series of meetings between you and your mentor- the goal being to progress your professional practice in some way. I was thrilled to get this as I know its a competitive arena, as its such an enticing opportunity for any artist.
I had been observing and following my mentor of choice on social media for a good while- Inma Pavon, a contemporary dance artist and choreographer based in Cork. I was drawn to her work as the images and clips she shared were not typically what I perceived as dance, but more animalistic, more pared back. Very striking and visual and contemporary and gestural. I was interested in how she had arrived at a place in her practice where she was making work of this nature. I contacted Inma and asked her, on an impulse, if she would be interested in working with me through glórs mentorship scheme.
Photos above are ones I took to use for a poster I had to make for performance art workshops I am teaching soon.
I have a very complicated history with the concept of dance. More specifically with me and dance. I spoke with my sister about it a while back as she would have a shared memory of my horror of being made to dance at parties as a child, playing musical statues. The other party goers fun was my utter horror, or so I perceived it. Maybe they were also frozen in miserable self conscious terror also? Thats another blog post. Anyway, my sister, knowing me, was amused and amazed that I would willingly put myself in a situation where dancing was required.
The idea of moving your body in an unselfconscious way to music was not something I could bring myself, make myself do. I imagined dancing was a past-time limited to those comfortable in their skins and with their bodies, neither of which was I. True, I had managed it as a college student but that was at night clubs and raves, fuelled by a cocktail of substances which allowed me a partial shedding of my self consciousness.
I had/have such a hang up around dancing that I am objectively interested in my strong feelings. I even made a performance about it in lockdown entitled ‘Dancing at the Quarry’ (shown as part of BBeyond’s covid online event R-A-W, 2020)
I had spent some time managing to get access to a disused quarry nearby my home at the time. This was/is a huge, deserted industrial space, with rusty looming machinery and structures, and onsite is a huge, deep quarry pool with sheer sides. Super spectral and darkly atmospheric place. I wanted to make a performance, in this space. A space where there was no-one, so no-one to care. Specifically a performance of me dancing. Surely I could fulfil that nauseous phrase, dance like no-one is watching? It was very possibly the hardest performance I’ve made. In my experience an audience will motivate you as they are waiting- watching, to witness you- you doing something. You are motivated by their expectation But the massive looming disquiet of the open deserted space, the echoes, the wind blowing through the rusted metal, the feeling of unease.. pushing movement out against that energy was incredibly hard and felt utterly ridiculous to me. It was also a battle however, a fuck you to myself and the wind and the rusting massive metal things. I would do it. I did.
As I prepared and then made the performance I was interested that I recognised that feeling of frozen panic, of the brain saying get it done, trying to override the gut which is saying GET OUT NOW and telling you you are STUPID UGLY EMBARRASSING AWKWARD BORING OLD RIDICULOUS PREDICTABLE PASSE etc. I always think how impressively powerful our negative thoughts can be. Imagine if you could get the positive thoughts to be as powerful?
So instead of
GET OUT NOW and telling you you are STUPID UGLY EMBARRASSING AWKWARD BORING OLD RIDICULOUS PREDICTABLE PASSE
you would hear
COME ON IN you are CLEVER BEAUTIFUL BODACIOUS GRACEFUL INTERESTING EXPERIENCED IMPORTANT EXCITING RELEVANT
Ha ha this is a serious neuro programming exercise to start trying..
Definition of dance: dance, the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.
I made a performance for LiveStock Live performance group in MART gallery last year. It was called Suspension and was all about trying to explore the moment, in anticipation of the forthcoming scream and after the initial incident, when I feel suspended in time. Referring to when my child cries after getting hurt, that is. We were told years ago that my kids emotional processing ability was affected by their cerebral palsy diagnosis. Meaning, staying angry for longer, finding it hard to calm down from an upsetting situation. Same going for opposite feelings, so laughing for longer also, way after the joke is over and everyone else has moved on. Maybe my emotional processing is faulty too in this case as I identify with this strongly.
So that moment, that interval, that couple of seconds, between the shock of the hurt and the processing of the pain and the body’s response to the pain, that moment can feel like an age. And the performance, Suspension, was all about that moment. And after performing I was watching the other artists and an audience member said to me, ‘Oh I loved your dance’. Which obviously threw me, as it was not dancing as far as I was concerned. But I know enough to know that the audience is allowed interpret your work any which way they like. They saw what they saw. Who am I to contradict them? Ever since then and that seismic brain shift that perhaps I should stop compartmentalising and contextualising everything all the time, I started thinking about my performance and movement a little differently.
I got to meet Inma in Limerick dance studio and we spent 2 hours talking and working. Inma has the experience and the kudos. She has a background in classical dance and is classically trained and can do all that stuff. She talked about finding new ways to move and to think about what dance can be. She has a very cerebral yet instinctive approach to movement. I in turn explained about my dislike of my physical self and my bodily awkwardness alongside my refusal to allow such trifles to stand in the way of doing things. She explained that dance and movement are whatever you wish them to be and that there is no right or wrong. She gave me exercises to try out in the space, with a balloon and then with myself. She and I worked together retracing the actions and developing them. She was an encouraging and kind teacher. I have been practising movement every day since then. I have given up trying to feel relaxed and instinctive. I just do it. Sometimes it’s easier, other times it’s hard and I feel stupid. Keep going for now.
I saw a man walking to his car yesterday and he was employing a kind of hop shuffle, he was elderly and this was obviously his normal movement pattern. It was beautiful in its own way. I realise now that like art dance is everywhere too, and if it’s the crook of an elbow held out at an angle or the slouch hands in pockets of a teenager or a child jumping up and down, you can see if if you look for it. I will keep going for now.