The Unknown = Discovery

Recently I’ve been trying to fold in some more scientific language when talking about what I do and this ‘thing’ called creative practice. Science has a way of sitting comfortably, and wholeheartedly, in the space of the unknown. To scientists the unknown is where discovery happens. It is the unknown that guides the purpose for the research that is to be conducted. As creative practitioners we all know this intrinsically, we know that making art is about discovery and exploration. It is the uncovering the answers that is the wonder of the process. (You mean when the unknown becomes known?)

…but somehow as artists we have also become to fear the unknown. (Am I using the royal ‘we’ inappropriately here? Am I generalising?!) We find it challenging to say ‘Actually I don’t know’.  As if we will be perceived as (or perceive ourselves to be) ‘failing’. My youngest boys teacher says ‘if you are not making mistakes you are not learning’  – and I like to apply this philosophy of learning to my creative inquisitions.

Another (current) favourite mantra inspired by the sciences is: ‘Have a hypothesis, not an absolute’… but that’s a bit off track so I’ll go back to my original thread.

Recently I took another block of sessions at QUT, this time with the first year Bachelor Fine Arts (Dance) students. These sessions are a really great experiences. It forces me to be clear and succinct about how I approach my practice, describe what my practice is and how I sustain the curiosity and inquisition over time. I don’t usual have much time with them and this particular unit was a total of 9 hours –  if they came to every session!  There is a varied level of experience in practice/improvisation/contemporary dance and their knowledge of the diversity of dance related jobs/interests/approaches to making work/collaboration can be only just forming.

What I was able to do was to demonstrate the philosophies that have developed over time in relation to my community practice, by introducing them to the students via their own lived experience of my sessions. It becomes less about teaching content – but about teaching an approach.

Look, if I’m to be really honest – these are philosophies to live life by – but that might be taking things a little too far!

Be present.

Don’t think about making the next movement or series of movements and don’t undertake choreography – that is ‘dance making’. Don’t get trapped (although it is also fine if you do) by making meaning – or giving meaning – or developing narrative (even thought this will happen as we are only human!).Be in the moment that is currently unfolding – without predicting where it will lead or end up.

IMG_8384No judgement.

The movement practice/improvisation must be undertaken with a ‘no judgment policy’. We do not practice to make a judgement on ourselves about how we move or what we are feeling (if anything at all). We are not here to judge if something is ‘interesting’ or not – for ourselves or for each other. We witness each other in movement to support – not to judge.

We are all responsible for holding the space for risk taking, learning and reflection. Experimenting requires courage. Courage can exist when there is no judgement.

 

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Take time to questions/debunk/reflect on inherited constructs.

People often say to me ‘but I’m not a dancer’ or ‘I haven’t done any dance classes for years’. The most common comment is ‘I can’t even touch my toes’!’ So my first objective is to unpack the ‘inherited construct’. What is it that you think you will be asked to do? What do you believe ‘dance’ should look like? Why should it be like that?

This was the same at QUT. What are the movements a dancer at QUT should be doing? What movement does that ‘inherited contruct’ of a dancer look like/feel like? If we note it and accept it as the truth – then fine. However, what if we note it and test it? What if we identify it as an ‘inherited construct’ that we might want to challenge? What happens next? (Fingers crossed – it is discovery – but lets not pre-empt here)

What I really enjoy doing is facilitating insights and experiences that help to develop an individual’s own construct of what it is to be ‘in dance’. For YOU and YOUR MOVING BODY. To conversation with your body in a movement practice. To learn more about yourself while moving.

This can be an important tool in community projects, where you might be able to test the notion of ‘inherited constructs’ in day-to-day life, and even in contemporary society.

Another philosophy I often offer in this scenario is: “Everything you bring/have/experience is absolutely enough”. That is – no need to be able to touch your toes to experience dance and movement!! Movement is for everyone.

IMG_8382The power of the somatic experience.

I use the term ‘somatic experience’ in relation to asking the mover to be more focused on  HOW the movement feels rather than how it looks. In western teaching and training methodologies this can sometimes be over looked, or not the time and space to organically develop. The type of dance training that happens today is often in the physical.

Anatomical alignment. Placement. Face this way, or that way. Stand in rows. Leg kicks in ‘that’ direction, at a particular height. Undertake exams that give you a graded result based on an assessment of your performance and technique.

These are important training models. Don’t get me wrong. These are some of the models that I trained through and they are building blocks to dance training. Knowledge and understanding of safe dance practice is vital. But so are perceiving body sensations. What is the energy that informs a movement? How does it feel? What of the imagination exists for you in a movement?

What happens when you observe someone moving and ‘try on’ what you think they are feeling in that moment? What happens when this occurs and you find your own version of someone else’s dance?

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Transmission.

In improvisation we are attuning to, waiting for or even conjuring ….a flow. What the flow feels like, how it arises and how it unfolds is different and varied. There is no one model, recipe or score. However the approach is to be equal parts receptive to opportunities (which requires noticing) and equal parts transmitting (or offering).  (Pretty much sums up a community projects actually!)

Sometimes your offerings are stronger and that leads to a response from those around you – sometimes we occupy a more receptive space. The flow happens when there is balance of these parts and the edges between are blurred.

Magic happens when all those that are present negotiate equally – in balance and in sync. Try this notion out as you go about tomorrow, today, the next day.

Equilibrium. Balanced Transmission. Equal parts receiving and offering. Flow.

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Reconnecting To My Inner Teaching Artist

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of delivering a series of sessions at QUT with the third year Dance students. The aim was to discuss and explore the role of the Teaching Artist. Within this frame we discussed the concept, philosophy and application of this field of work in education and community contexts, as well giving students an opportunity to find their individual delivery styles and methods drawing on their studies at QUT and individual interests.

It has served as a great reminder to reconnect with this part of my practice, as it is the real reason my love of the creative industries even exists. Yes. It was the amazing teaching artists that I have had the pleasure to learn from, be mentored by and work with on a variety of projects across many states that ignited my interest and they still continue to inspire me. THEY are the reason and they know who they are.

IMG_8829According to Eric Booth, the author of The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible: Becoming a Virtuoso Educator (2009), a teaching artist is  “…an artist who chooses to include artfully educating others, beyond technique to the art form, as an active part of a career.” Booth goes on to add that a teaching artist is ‘…the model of the twenty-first century artist and simultaneously a model for high-engagement learning in education.”

I relished the opportunity to condense and reflect on my own journey as a teaching artist and community dance artist, as well as think about the most useful parts of this experience for students about to complete their studies.

Ausdance Educators Network Queensland  – ‘Future Moves’ Annual Conference (May 2018)

For the third year running, I facilitated a session as part of the annual dance teachers professional development conference hosted by the Ausdance Educators Network Queensland. As part of my offering, ‘Moving in relationship with others’, I was keen to approach the teaching artist experience from the other direction. Not from the ‘teaching’ side, but the ‘artist’ (creative practice) side. So, what was I going to do with an energetic bunch of dance educators, who often swam (upriver) in a range of school frameworks like assessment tasks, moderation, curriculum, parent interviews, choreographing multiple performances, departmental politics and behaviour management in the (studio) classroom.

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Photo credit: Renee Place (Instagram)

The invitation to the delegates was to consider themselves artists before educators. I asked them to swim/lay/enjoy an hour of creative practice that included reflective components, improvisation and play. To be ‘in practice’.

…and, just quietly, it was wonderous!

When you facilitate and leave feeling more energised than when you arrived, it’s a good sign it went well! Space. Time. Reflection. Uncovering. Watering. Fertilising. And play.

With play come insights. And when we play with peers in the spirit of exchange there is rich learning in our observations (of each other and ourselves). And it felt like an idea that has been brewing for some time is close to budding. Watch this space! It’s exciting.

For both the QUT Dance and AEQ conference I was particularly inspired the following passage in Deborah Hay’s book My Body the Buddhist:

“There are two different animals. The practice is like the conscious heartbeat of the dance. The choreography is simultaneously the conscious choices I am making within the form.”

Bachelor of Creative Industries – ‘Creative Futures’ unit (QUT)

Another highlight of this year is being one of 11 Tutors for the Bachelor of Creative Industries first year unit – Creative Futures. Not only do I get to work along side some dynamic, inspirational and vibrant creative industries practitioners, who don’t mind a laugh or two, but also assist the delivery of professional planning with the students and while I’m working, I get to learn about future forecasting trends in the Creative Industries!

Here are some (hot) tips for survival in the Creative Industries:

  • Adaptability
  • Portfolio Career
  • Versatile skills appropriate to you discipline area (and also others not related)
  • Good networks maintained, developed and authentic in nature
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Creativity (of course!)
  • Critical thinking
  • There’s no one size fits all way, make your own pathway

A few things that stuck with me regards to future trends forecasting include:

  1. Fast fashion is killing the planet (don’t buy any more jeans!)
  2. Artificial Intelligence will be here sooner than you think (in fact it is already here!)
  3. The circular economy model can be greatly assisted by big business
  4. Veganism is in (totes!)
  5. Technology, technology, technology (um…did I mention technology?)

In last week’s tutorial, we did some JOURNEY MAPPING. It’s really a task of ‘what do you know now? Where do you want to go? How can you get there?’

Exciting discussion, right? Yes. And it is also very overwhelming.

I was impressed by the way the students took to this task, which plotted steps (or strategies) towards their ultimate career goal. Having the time and the space to consider the direction of your career seems like a luxury, but it is valuable reflection time we don’t often take for ourselves as ‘responsive, opportunity hungry’ portfolio ‘say yes to everything’ creative industries freelancers. Most of the tutors remember not knowing what they wanted to be when we were 19 years old, let alone as their adult (looking) selves, but the process of plotting one possible pathway is an appropriate start. And for these QUT students – that journey starts now.

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Here’s to teaching, facilitating and life long learning.

It’s an exchange.

We give and we receive.

….just like in an improvisation.

Long shall it continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Immersed in eMErgence

In 2017, a collective of like-minded artists and I received a residency at MetroArts called, eMErgence.

Click to the MetroArts website and you can read what we wrote about eMErgence before we even began the studio sessions. (It’s so interesting to read these after the journey and to see if the questions still remain relevant)

I’ve never been involved in a studio-based research residency that has spanned over this many months. Actually I haven’t been involved in anything quite like this before. Full stop. End of sentence.

This is a first for me. Exploratory in structure and in essence. Non-hierarchical. Collective discoveries. Constant discoveries. Self discoveries! And well, without sounding too surprised, what we wrote about eMErgence last year is still completely and utterly valid. In fact, I think we have far surpassed even our own expectations and the residency is far from being over. Quite possibly, the best is yet to come!

We arrive, we attune and through movement we gaze inward and outward of ourselves and of each other. Even though we pass through, something always lingers.

So why is it that when people ask me about eMErgence I struggle with a short and succinct answer? It’s because I’m struggling to find a way to describe the multi-dimensionality of the process we are in. It’s other-worldly. It taps into our human energies and it connects us in ways that are life altering, that linger with us long beyond a given moment of magic comes…and goes.

eMErgence is a system and method for creative self-discovery. 

So the research must continue … and it will. Soon we will invite others into the studio to experience with us – to share our learnings, expand our understandings and to grow the the experience with more minds, more bodies and more shared experiences. Connectivity is the key.

Much gratitude to my fellow studio companions, Denise Comba and Meredith Elton. We have journeyed far together, our questions have lead to more questions and there is a sense that we have many more moments of moving yet to come.

Feeling full. Full of gratitude.

Some days I barely know which to-do list to tackle first. Recently someone posted an Instagram update saying they were ‘behind on everything’ and I completely know what that feels like. Somehow my ‘behind’ never translates to ‘disastrously too late’ and so I’m going to notch that up to a good sign that I’m keeping my head just above the water line!

Life is full. And for that I feel extremely grateful.

Here’s an update on what has been filling my cup of late:

  1. We All Dance (QPAC, Royal Ballet and Micah Projects)

A ten week workshop series facilitating dance and movement sessions for Micah Projects clients. This community access and participation project, delivered by Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) to coincide with the Royal Ballet’s visit to Brisbane. Seven groups in Brisbane, Logan and Ipswich worked towards a big community performance event held at QPAC on 2nd July 2017. Just quietly, ‘big’ doesn’t begin to describe the size and scale of the project, it was EPIC! (To use a phrase my 8 yr old likes to throw about!)

This project challenged me in many new and wonderful ways. The rewards of which I am still processing and feeling immense gratitude for. I feel like it has helped me to continue to develop my group facilitation skills within a community development project, and it proved once again that dance and movement holds great power to connect, engage and empower.

The trust we built within the group, the challenges and fears we conquered (individually and collectively) and the final public performance – so many great triumphs for all involved. And the biggest ‘take away/s’ from the We All Dance project? A tangible reminder of the profound impact human can bring to everyone’s lives.

There’s no way I can talk about this project without singing the praises of the inspiring and dedicated support staff that work within Micah projects. So much respect for the quiet heroes that work within the wonderful community organisation – Micah Projects.

2. The Beauty Index (Denmark, WA)

An inspiring week-long intensive in Denmark (WA not Europe) for Annette Carmichael’s community dance project, The Beauty Index. The cast is made up of 17 Men from the local region of the Great Southern. Amazing right? Yes indeed! And what a fabulous bunch of lads – from farmers to chefs to nurses and cabinet makers – and everything in between. More about this project later, but for now here are some images to inspire you.

So grateful for the warm and welcoming community that greet me with open arms when I visit. Being involved in local artist (*cough* celebrity) Annette Carmichael goes along way of course! But it is lovely to be greeted with smiles and warm embraces in the supermarket and/or in one of the many yoga classes all the same. 2017 marks the third year I have been visiting Denmark (WA not Europe!) to work on one of Annette’s projects. What a ‘cup filler’ and ‘soul lifter’ it is too!

Time and time again, all around me, I experience and observe the palpable and tangible affects that community projects have on all involved – communities, participants and facilitators alike. This thing we do … community arts and cultural development … it is pretty special alright.

Gratitude.

Hey there 2017…

Last year was really focused on making new connections, saying ‘yes’ to anything that popped up and spending time getting amongst as many things as possible. And I’m happy to say that there have been many wonderful opportunities that have emerged from that time last year spent in active observation.

The Beauty Index: Men

Annette Carmichael in Denmark (WA – not Europe!) continues to work tirelessly in the lead up to her 2017 project and I am so thrilled to continue working with her as her Producer.IMG_0127

There is nothing like the gift of sitting within a project that has such strong roots in the community and this one is woven deep. The connections and conversations are so authentic, the interest and energy palpable, and that in itself is infectious in the best of ways. Look out for more on this project as it unfolds!

No Difference

Supported by The Arts Centre Gold Coast, No Difference is a disability-inclusive community dance project lead by Philip Channells (Dance Integrated Australia), Gavin Webber (The Farm) and Marisa Burgess (Gold Coast artist and ex-Moulin Rouge). In February 2017, we came together for a week-long creative development period to play with ideas and concepts and to deepen our understanding of each other as individuals and as a collective group. At the heart of this project is acceptance and respect – to ourselves – and of each other.

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Kayah and Travers (Photo: Sam James)

There were many highlights to this week, but getting to work alongside some amazing individuals and talented artists never really feels like ‘work’. To find out more about some of the team – click on their names here: Lauren WatsonKayah GuentherTom HoganSam JamesPhilip Channells and Gavin Webber .

eMErgence

Now that the MetroArts 2017 program is LIVE (woohoo!) we can begin to start sending some good vibes out in the development of this ‘baby’.

Pref #1 (original to come) Credit: Jonathan Sinatra

Photo: Jonathan Sinatra

eMErgence is a series of movement based workshops aimed to develop a deeper understanding of how improvisations can provide a structure for reflections on our daily life. 

….and together with a group of diverse artists we will embark on some practice-led research over the second part of 2017. You, yes you(!), will have opportunities to come and experience these workshops with us – so stay tuned for more information.

It’s going to be a special one….

 

 

 

What’s up, Doc?

It’s been a great few months! I’m very happy to report that it’s been a pretty action packed few months with a wonderful mix of doing and dancing.

I’ve been busy working with Annette Carmichael (Denmark, WA) as her Producer on her next community dance project. We’ve been busy raising the resources (read: writing multiple grant applications) and planning the initial stages of The Beauty Index.

The Beauty Index, will be a collaboration with men from the Great Southern region to develop a site-specific dance performance that will investigate the experience of beauty within a world dominated by unpredictable violence and acts of terrorism.

The performance will investigate a series of questions: How does the creative power of humanity respond to terrorism? How do these world events affect regional Western Australia? What is the role of beauty and the arts in the face of random acts of terrorism?

(except from Annette’s project synopsis)

I’ve also ‘lurched’ into a tutoring position at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for the Bachelor of Creative Industries faculty. It’s for a first year foundation unit (read: compulsory unit) called ‘Making Connections’. The unit looks at creative enterprise and ideation theory and then asks students to apply that knowledge to develop a group project concept and pitch. Lend Lease has partnered with QUT for this uniimg_8953t and are inviting proposals from students  to be included in their plans for the Brisbane Showgrounds King Street redevelopment precinct.

A handful of students will be chosen to pitch directly to Lend Lease with a chance to secure some resources to roll out their project idea in early 2017.

What a cool first year project!!! It almost has me enrolling in the course to be part of that opportunity!

Lets just say that the re-entry into tertiary environment has been ….interesting. After all it has been some *cough* substantial period of time *cough* since I was a student myself *cough splutter cough*. Just quietly, it was long before the age of having individual laptops and tablets. I used to have to make a booking to use one of a few computers in the library.

Another highlight of the past few months is getting re-acquainted with my ‘moving self’. With an intention to keep a regular studio practice going in collaboration with a couple of artists I’ve met here in Brisbane, we have been meeting fortnightly (sometimes weekly, if I’m lucky enough) in the studio. A beautiful mix of improvising, writing, moving and reflecting. It’s been a very grounding time with some possibilities starting to emerge. It feels like a reawakening to channel the movement within and exploring the space (in)between mind and body.

Oh yeah – and look out for an artist profile that the lovely Nina Levy wrote for Dance Australia. It was part of a Careers Special she compiled for the magazine and you can read a bit more about all the juggling that happens in my neck of the woods.

You can find the Dance Australia article here.

 

 

 

2016 is well underway….

What a year this has been already! I can feel a great groundswell of energy forming…there have been many wonderful and exhilarating experiences and conversations so far and I feel really positive about what lies ahead.

I’ve been Dancing, I’ve been Mothering, I’ve been Producing, I’ve been Experiencing (life), I’ve been Yoga-ing. And what a great time. Something that has resonated with me lately is the benefit of investing in yourself. I think if you invest in yourself, you become a better Human. That is, you have better relationships, you make better decisions… maybe you will also make better ‘Art’? It all starts with YOU. You have all you need but you have to find the time and space to listen to what you have from within. In the busy lives we all lead – this is not always a priority and we can be at risk of losing that connection with ourselves.

Having the past few months to consider my art making, my process and what defines my practice has been so valuable. In and amongst domesticity, I have been considering what might lie ahead. I’m percolating ideas and I’m considering options. I’ve had the time and space to throw ideas around (sometimes just in my head, sometimes with my Hubby and sometimes with others. Woohoo!) and then I have let those ideas swirl around within me. There’s been no hurry to force them to do anything more than swirl around – bumping into each other, growing and morphing as they desire. How glorious!

Not until I’m ready (or when I remember) to, do I reflect on how the ideas are getting along. However, the time is drawing closer. The time where those lovely ideas will begin to transform into lovely actions.

Time and space. Two very big, beautiful, glorious luxuries. Luxuries worth carving out for yourself, might I add.

If you have ideas of your own that you want to begin to transform into action and you would like some help to do so – here’s how you can find me:

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