Ensemble and Collectivity

Skills Exchange Day 3

Group, individual, autonomy and leadership

On Skills Exchange Day 3, Hannah and Danielle collaborated to deliver a workshop exploring their joint interest of collectivity and ensemble from very different perspectives. 

Hannah shared her thoughts on the ensemble as a uniting concept in which dancers communicate through shared action. Questions and thoughts arising from Hannah's workshop included:

  • The concept of knowing your role within a group and feeling a sense of achievement from the defined boundaries that are established
  • The rhythmic nature of moving as a tribe and how this unites us in our breath and action. The power of the collective
  • The natural hierarchy of our senses - exploring how we tune in to each other through sight and sound and then finding ways to tune in without using our primary - exploring ways to tune in to one another through style of movement, touch
  • How do we make decisions as a collective without a leader? What influences us? What makes us move? What makes us stop? How can we make the boundaries between us clearer in order to be a truly non hierarchic collective? (links to the notion of our role as an artist and ways to blur the lines between artist and dancer in order to break down the structures of power - see the role of the artist)
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Hannah's workshop tasks highlighted these concepts and left us questioning: 

  • How aware are we of the space? Of each other? Of our options?
  • When we facilitate ‘ensemble working’, how are decisions made? Who’s voice is heard? What are our frustrations with the process? What limits us?

These concepts encouraged us to question how we give autonomy to participants working as a collective when there is one overall leader; which leads us to the theme of my recent research Collectivity and Intimacy.

In my workshop I shared the working processed behind my research with people with Parkinson's. The Collectivity and Intimacy project was developed out of a curiosity for the teaching method of collectivity which is used in dance for Parkinson's to make best use of mirror neurons and external cueing, which is a highly researched and a proven tool for supporting people with Parkinson's to move with more fluidity and intention.

My research interrogates this teaching practice and questions whether it can be considered inclusive, as it is led by external direction (either visual, auditory, verbal or tactile) by the artist. In the process of researching I have worked with dancers with Parkinson's to experiment with handing over the autonomy to the dancers and how we go about this. I am interested in how we could embed tools for internal cueing within our artistic teaching practice. Some of the tools I experimented with included somatic, mind-body imagery; guided visual imagery; breath; interpretation of words. All of these stimuli were used to encourage freedom of interpretation in the body.

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The discussion occurring from this session included

  • Blurring lines between artistic practice and therapy - how do we ensure that we are providing an artistic experience which is inspired by ideas and concepts, rather than developing content which is responsive to need and disability
  • What is the value of dance designed FOR..? Is this a different form of inclusive dance, made accessible to a particular demographic due to highly streamlined and meticulously constructed methodology, rather than due to its open access and inclusive approach to all people?
  • How are we inclusive when working with collective or Ensemble style approaches to dance
  • How do we find a balance between directive approaches to delivery versus democratic leadership in artistic and teaching practice? Where do we place the most value?
  • There is a power in collective initiation of movement, change or action
  • There is a power in self determined initiation of movement, change or action
  • Refreshing and updating our approaches to these two contrasting states can enable participants to continue to experience the power of both