Research for RiVER-BODY began long before I knew what the project would be. Investigating the creative process of people-environment-land through sensing, experiencing, and place-making has intrigued my artistic practice for several years.
Between the Art is a blog I started in lockdown, November 2020. A creative exploration between art and place, each month I post a conversation I have had with an artist, creative thinker, maker, doer, to understand how their creative practice connects to the ecology of land and how their artistic process plays a role in place-making through art. Although the blog covers artists of all disciplines, whilst researching and producing RiVER-BODY, I have talked to several dance artists who all engage in site-specific or site-responsive work:
Jenny Reeves (November 2022) - Jenny speaks of working and collaborating with local people and how to illuminate what is already part of the land from a different perspective through dance.
Emma Dunn (March 2023) - Emma is a dance artist in Northumberland, who participated in the workshops for RiVER-BODY after talking with her about how our shared local land has influenced our dance practices.
Celeste Nazeli Snowber (April 2023) - Celeste's published books and literature have played a strong part in my research and creation process for this project; in particular, her explorations into the body as a portal to make connections between place, ecology, physicality and spirituality (2022: 89).
Anne Colvin (May 2023) - Anne's company Imprint has inspired several projects during my MFA as of their approach to making dance accessible through participatory performance work that connects wild environments with memories and stories.
RiVER-BODY feels like a continuation of my work as a dance artist, where I have been able to actualise ideas, in particular working with local people and bringing my dance practice back to my home county. Researching the concept 'sense of place' began when writing my undergraduate dissertation, and throughout my two-year MFA my practice-as-research has continued to focus on this through site-specific exploration and investigating the human-land connection through dance. I have chosen to base a few of my MFA projects in my homeland, almost as an act of relocating, to soften the disconnect between myself and the land, derived from a life lived in the city of London. These smaller projects allowed me to begin developing an embodied understanding of my own definition of sense of place and why I feel this most when in the forests and hills of Northumberland, which I have expanded upon during the creation of RiVER-BODY.
Rather than establish a definitive definition, through researching and creating RiVER-BODY I have come to the realisation that sense of place cannot be defined by one person's experiences, yet it is distinguished by an individual's lived experience of a particular place. The workshops for this project have made this apparent: the people and their memories are just as important as all of the sensory experiences of the place itself. Perception, connection and space are interwoven to form an ecological web of place. RiVER-BODY shares this understanding through my embodiment of my own sense of place found along the River Coquet, in connection with people of the community.
Throughout my research I have been engaging with nature-based, ecological writing, in particular the work of Robert MacFarlane, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Nan Shepherd. Their work has enabled me to apply ecological thinking to my site-specific practice. Additionally, I have been inspired by artist Catriona Gallagher's work (who I also interviewed for Between the Art in 2021), specifically Fell (2021) created at VARC in Northumberland as part of their ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. programme (2019-2021), with the aim of art contributing to conversations about an ecology of place. Understanding the ecology of place allows me to see my artistic work as part of the larger whole
Below is a selected bibliography of work that has informed the project:
About Time Dance Company (2023) Projects. Available at: https://abouttimedancecompany.co.uk/projects/.
Adams, S. (2013) The Dwelling Body, in Reeve, S. (ed.) Body and performance: ways of being a body. First edn. Devon, England: Triarchy Press, pp. 67-83.
Anna Halprin Digital Archive (no date) Mapping Dance: The Scores of Anna Halprin. Available at: https://annahalprindigitalarchive.omeka.net/exhibits/show/mapping-dance.
Barbour, K. N., Hunter, V. and Kloetzel, M. (2019) (re)positioning site dance : local acts, global perspectives. Bristol: Intellect.
Beaconsfield (2021) B_T5 Ioana Marinescu PAST PRESENT – VISUAL DIARY. Available at: https://beaconsfield.ltd.uk/b_t5-ioana-marinescu-past-present-visual-diary/.
Catriona Gallagher (no date) Fell. Available at: https://www.catrionargallagher.com/fell.
Classic FM (2023) Art and music collide in these 20 stunning graphic scores. Available at: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/graphic-scores-art-music-pictures/.
Eliasson, O. (2008) Artists’ Writings-Seeing Yourself Sensing, in Grynstein, M. et.al (2008) Olafur Eliasson. London: Phaidon Press Limited, pp.126-127.
FactotumFilm (2014) Under the Vaulted Sky Rehearsal. 26 June. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMmWLao25Vs.
FEST EN FEST (2022) FEST EN FEST – Programme. Available at: http://festenfest.info/fest-en-fest/.
Fraleigh, S. (2018) Back to the Dance Itself: Phenomenologies of the Body in Performance, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Halprin, A. and Kaplan, R. (2019) Making Dances That Matter: Resources for Community Creativity. Wesleyan University Press.
Hunter, V. (2015) Moving Sites: investigating site-specific dance performance. Oxon, UK; New York, USA: Routledge.
Kimmerer, R. W. (2013) Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis Minnesota: Milkweed Editions.
MacFarlane, R. (2013) The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. London: Penguin Books.
National Theatre of Scotland (2019) How The Earth Must See Itself. Available at: https://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/past-performances/how-the-earth-must-see-itself.
People Dancing (2022) Professional Code of Conduct. Available at: https://www.communitydance.org.uk/membership-services-and-join/professional-code-of-conduct.
Reeve, S. (ed.) (2013) Body and Performance: Ways of Being a Body. First edn. Devon, England: Triarchy Press.
Reeve, S. (2011) Nine Ways of Seeing a Body. Devon: Triarchy Press.
Sarco-Thomas, M. (2015) Diving into the Wild: Ecologies of performance in Devon and Cornwall, in Hunter, V. (ed.) Moving Sites: Investigating Site-Specific Dance Performance, Oxon, UK; New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 342-363.
Shepherd, N. (2011) The Living Mountain. Edinburgh: Canongate Books.
Solnit, R. (2002) Wanderlust: A History of Walking. London: Verso.
Snowber, C. (2022) Dance, Place, and Poetics: site-specific performance as a portal to knowing. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan.
Snowber, C. (2016) Embodied inquiry: writing, living and being through the body. Rotterdam: Sense.
Stewart, N. (2010) Dancing the Face of Place: Environmental Dance and Eco-phenomenology, Performance Research, 15 (4), pp. 32-39.
Trigg, D. (2012) The Memory of Place: a phenomenology of the uncanny. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Visual Artists in Rural Communities (no date) ENTWINED Artists Catriona Gallagher. Available at: https://varc.org.uk/entwined/artists/catriona-gallagher/.
Woods, P. (2013) The Resonant Body, in Reeve, S. (ed.) Body and Performance: Ways of Being a Body. First edn. Devon, England: Triarchy Press, pp. 53-66.