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RiVER-BODY is a site-responsive conversation with a Northumberland river. It seeks to find and define a sense of place through a layering of site explorations across Felton’s landscape. Using the river as a shifting representation of memory, connection and presence, the project involved community participants to explore their own relationship with the landscape. The resulting performance and exhibition of work makes felt the intertwining, immersive relationship that exists between the movement of the human body and the movement of the land.

Coconut Smells

RiVER-BODY began out of a desire to explore and develop the strong sense of place I have when in my homeland of Northumberland, particularly when walking and moving in the outdoor landscape. The project gave me the opportunity to reflect upon my own human-land connection. Creating across the seasons, this prolonged period of exploration developed a distinct movement style when dancing at the sites using an improvisation-led practice.

The River Coquet is a river that rises in the Cheviot Hills, winding through the landscape, and flowing into the North Sea at Amble in Northumberland. It is a prominent feature in Felton and so became an important element in my site explorations and during the community conversations and workshops. The river became a shifting representation of our lived experiences: shifting memories, energies, sense of place and belonging. The common gorse which blooms along parts of the River Coquet's banks (shown in the image above) also became a key element during my explorations in April and in the second outdoor workshop, where some participants shared their memories of gorse in specific locations. The flower's strong smell of coconut was a memorable sensory experience during improvisations, which led to fresh and dried gorse flowers being used in the exhibition in order to share this with the audience.

RiVER-BODY Performance

As a multi-disciplinary artist, visual artwork and poetry is a way for me to document the sense of place I capture in my body without using too many words, recording textures, rhythms, layers. A sketchbook of work for RiVER-BODY was presented at the exhibition - the poetic nature of my movements are reflected in its pages. I used graphic scores to present the rhythm of the body intertwined with the rhythm of the site I was moving in; a visual representation of the human-land connection. The scores were then used by the musician to create a soundscape for the embodied performance in the exhibition.

The scoring was inspired by graphic scores used to notate music. My improvisation-led practice gradually became more structured when working with the scores and music soundscape in the studio. This was largely influenced by Anna Halprin's methods of dance scoring, as used in her development of Circle the Earth (1981) and Planetary Dance (1981-).

RiVER-BODY Performance.jpg

Working with the local community was, from the outset, an important part of the project. People, and their memories, play a role in shaping a place, and therefore connecting with the participants allowed me to further investigate my own sense of place through the layering of memories inserted into the present lived experience, affecting the final performance. During collaborative conversations and movement workshops, I observed how moving in the outdoor sites gave the participants an opportunity to connect to their memories, imagination and presence, developing a new perspective of their relationship with the landscape and fostering a stronger sense of place and belonging. This was reflected in their feedback, suggesting a need for regular opportunities to re-establish the body-place connection through conversations, walking, dancing and stillness. I presented this feedback on 'postcards', shown at the exhibition, which were sent to the participants afterwards as a reminder of our experiences together. 

Researching the concept 'sense of place' began when writing my undergraduate dissertation, and throughout my two-year MFA my practice-as-research continued to focus on this through site-specific exploration and investigating the human-land connection. Rather than establish a definitive definition, through creating RiVER-BODY, I came 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 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 research for this project, I became absorbed in  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. 

RiVER-BODY has established what I potentially knew all along: I want to create, move, dance in landscapes where there are big skies. 


Below is a selected bibliography of work that has informed the project:

About Time Dance Company (2023) Projects. Available at:

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:

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:

Catriona Gallagher (no date) Fell. Available at:

Classic FM (2023) Art and music collide in these 20 stunning graphic scores. Available at:

Eliasson, O. (2008) Artists’ Writings-Seeing Yourself Sensing, in Grynstein, M. (2008) Olafur Eliasson. London: Phaidon Press Limited, pp.126-127.

FactotumFilm (2014) Under the Vaulted Sky Rehearsal. 26 June. Available at:

FEST EN FEST (2022) FEST EN FEST – Programme. Available at:

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: 

People Dancing (2022) Professional Code of Conduct. Available at:

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:

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.

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