SOD OFF Creative Weekends: "Each of the 6 creative weekends are facilitated by 3-4 artists who will collaboratively bring participants through a variety of materials, processes and experiments in keeping with SOD OFFs theme: Stories Of District & Of Family & Friends."
About SOD OFF Dance & Performance Weekend (March 29-30): "The dynamic doctors are setting in, or rather are setting out to pull the performing protagonist from the petrified pessimist. Offering advice and guidance, tricks and gifts the artists will explore unorthodox methods of movement and performance to support your stories in their development. Whether transformed into energetic gripping gestures or mindful movement meditations these physical practitioners are here to help." Read more on the SOD OFF website.
Saturday, Day 1
AVCAVA Studios, Faroe Road - Quaint West London
The explorative nature of the SOD OFF Dance and Performance weekend saw six very different sessions offer tools, techniques and tenderness for transforming memories into creative activity.
After an introduction on active listening (a way of listening without judgment, opposition or stimulated imaginations distracting the concentrated focus of others), the first session, “Irrelevant Household Truths,” began with participants introducing themselves through an average household object. While sharing small anecdotes in pairs, a joint personality was formed with a new name and through a performed ensemble: one person doing hand gestures and the second introducing the new character. Leading the session, visual artist Veronica Cordova from Mexico introduced her work and a Mexican doll to the participants. Later, Cardova saw the doll come to life as groups took to writing its history through reenactments of stories they created.
The next session, led by Greek artist Stavroula Kounderia, was all about truth. She drew on her background in performance with interests in testing individuals' capabilities for ‘being on stage.’ The warm-up for her theater session involved highlighting the audience’s relationship to an experience in the spotlight.
Later, she directed the group to jot down three things they knew too be true, finding similarities among participants while working within groups to create a short piece . The piece incorporated the truths from the group, as well as other sources including a random page from the daily newspaper. The outcome was heartwarming and hilarious, ranging from performances in a garden chanting to plants to a story of a dramatic holiday romance gone wrong.
In the day's final session, movement and dance artist Anthony Goh, brought the day to a close with some movement meditations. He offered four questions accompanied by music. The questions were based on Koans, or questions that are unanswerable though thought alone: What is Walking, What is Feeling, What is Choice and What is Performance. He asked the audience to let go of thinking as it arises through activity, instead allowing for the body to find its own answers through the movements.
Sunday, Day 2
Siobhan Davies Dance Center, Elephant & Castle - Busy Central London
On Sunday dancer Kate Rubens kicked off the intensive dance day with some West African dance moves. Her direction was influenced by her experiences studying dance in both New York and Senegal. With drummer Kostis Alex Blintzios on djembe drums and the weekend's relaxed non-judgmental atmosphere, the group was led through a series of movements, which they where invited to make their own. The session ended with a lot of sweat and excited conversation.
The second collaborative session included a combination of movement techniques for the piece, “Accessing Memory Fields,” by Nicole Cataldo Davies. This drew upon several types of contemporary improvisation dance forms such as “the Skinner Release Technique,” “Open Source Form" work, and “Access & Embody" work. The piece involved the embodiment of four body parts, bones, blood, muscles, and nerves, through physical movements. While moving between these bodily states to the sounds of improvised cello music played by Matthew Ratcliffe, participants could take time to reflect on or write about memories. The resonance of the cello with the architecture of the dance center's roof studio brought the groups' personal movements together, culminating in the participants dancing together as one body. After the session, this resulted in feedback from the participants focused on the therapeutic side of movement work.
Following from “Accessing Memory Fields,” eurythmics expert Michel Hunter led a session on the experience of sound and music. The group reflected on the dimensional gestures of sound, such as the heightening and lowering of pitch, the left or right movement, the balance of the beats, and the forward and backward qualities of melody. This brought up realizations about the direct experience of movement to music. Using the octave as a starting point and noticing where in the body the music notes resonated, the group worked together in the movements choreographed by Hunter. This produced a sense of community discussed during the feedback session.
Exhausted, yet inspired, participants offered their insights and experiences as the day came to a close. They were reminded that group movement creates a safe space for self-expression. It also allows us to assess where we are on our creative journeys and how collaboration, sharing, and exploring aids personal artistic practice and development.
Nicole Cataldo-Davies is a UK-based artist, teacher, performer and choreographer. She completed a Masters in Social Sculpture in 2012 from Oxford Brookes University. Read more about her work on her website.