playful creativity

Skills Exchange Day 3

Breaking habits, evolving creative thinking

Jo Rhodes


Jo has been an independent dance artist for fifteen years and is passionate about creativity, dance, health, education and partnership working. She has received funding to create and tour issue based work, been commissioned by various youth dance companies and produced a dance and health film project screened nationally and internationally. Jo has developed bespoke training for teachers in school settings, in addition to facilitating and devising professional development courses across the UK, for both specialist and non-specialist practitioners. These include at the Royal Ballet School for Young Creatives (Youth Dance England) and for The Place. She has authored national publications, such as ‘Commissioning Dance for Health and Well-Being’ and spoken at multi-sector conferences about dance as a vehicle for learning. Currently Jo teaches for Children and Youth Dance and the adult programme at The Place, for Siobhan Davies Dance (primary programme), and is an Animateur for Essential Alston. Jo is supported by Dance Enterprise Ideas Fund and Arts Council England in directing a collaborative dance and film project (co-produced by East London Dance), that puts young people at the heart of healthy messages.

To warm-up on day three, Jo shared a number of tasks which demonstrated her thinking around how we might foster creativity in choreography in a playful way whilst connecting things we already know and solving problems.

We explored multiple tasks that encourage listening, observing and responding to a partner by offering a number of choices in improvisation and through game play.

Initially we explored the simple instruction initiated by the words ‘Beside, Beneath, Between, Beyond’. We extended our choices further by layering the conversation with more voices, differing textures and tones of voice, a change in the rate and pace of the conversation and considering deliberate choices to use or not use contact. We discussed playing with the extremes of whole body action and small gestural movement, as well as literal and more abstract material.


Secondly, we developed this into static contact work making shapes in pairs, thinking about the offering of contact from different body parts, and whether it was weight bearing or not. By playing the game and trying out multiple possible ways of creating contact, we naturally changed from known contact to unknown and less habitual material. Pairs were tasked with choosing to ‘stick’ or ‘twist’ with their shape in limited time constraints; asking each other – ‘What Else?’

Stages of layering in this task:

The space in between the shapes - fill the transitions by considering why the shape changes. What initiates the change - asking collaborators to consider afterwards if the duet felt different now? Did it lend itself to a semi-narrative - supportive, hostile, comical, hold tension, reciprocal etc.

Define the focus - make deliberate choices as to where the gaze is directed. What does this add, change, bring to the table?

In order to disrupt the predictability of the duet, pairs were to set the pace of the duet. Joining another pair, they had to respond to a simple stop and go command. In this way the rate of the duet was manipulated in ways that were not natural or anticipated.