Tuesday, 28 June 2016
This work began as a love for a place: a skyline, the unexpectedness of an encounter in the early morning, the breathtaking rise of the glowing sun and most of all, the people and their language. Set in the most Westerly point of Europe, the Outer Hebridean islands lie in the thrashing Atlantic Ocean. A spine of Lewisian Gneiss, rock that is millions of years old, connects the body of these Islands and all who live there. An ancient mummy was dug out of the peat here, the various skeletal parts a fusion of not just one, but three bodies. The burial mounds, the round houses and the stone circles indicate a society with ancient customs and religions. Where the druids praised the goddess of water for the fresh clear springs long before those wells were given Christian names by visiting priests. There is so much that can be said about these islands: the love of music, of the pipes and of the dance; the skill and the knowledge of the craft of spinning, walking and weaving; the fisherman who lost their lives to feed their communities and the tragedies that have been suffered through war and immigration. But it is not the history that I would like you share. It is the present. A present undoubtably linked to its past and it’s future. A moving portrait of a people connected to the ebb and flow, to the tunes, to their kin and to their yarns. If I am honest the piece is called Before Words because I don’t speak the language of these Islands, though I feel to speak the sound of the language through my body. The musicality within Gaelic lightens something in me. I don’t understand the language but I’m happy in the presence of it. It’s this light footedness that comes across in the humour, the stories and the songs that resonates: a physical state brought about in me through language. I miss it. Now the other and mammoth part of this relationship I have with these Islands is through the landscape. The horizon curving almost downwards and around me peels back something in my brain. For a long time periodically I appreciated I was part of a bigger web of life but hadn’t so profoundly experienced it until living there. This perceptual shift has stayed with me. A sort of self- initiated rite of passage. Now the words environment, ecology, interconnectivity, interdependency aren’t concepts to me. They are my reality. Wherever I am. They are me and I them. Rather, they are in me and I am in them. Yes it is a bit like making love. So in the theatre and in dance; the field of contemporary dance, I have found a way, a channel to speak to let these experiences in. I have found artists with whom I feel I can share these thoughts and work. I have a methodology, albeit it not perfect, whereby I feel I can honestly integrate the various elements which are of such great importance to me: space, light, movement and sound. The ephemeral nature of these elements sometimes proves problematic in the reading of my intention to an audience. I have been more recently, I feel due to the absence of words (another reason for the title Before Words), been met with a kind of eagerness to engage, but not a strong enough reaction. With each work I make I try to dig a little deeper, and I will keep digging. First of all there is space around us and within us. These spaces aren’t empty but are in constant motion. Our brains, our hearts, all of our organs and cells have memory. We are impressionable beings. We are malleable through our physical fragility and therefore strong. We have a structure and integrity through our physical bodies that we all deal with every day. Perhaps this canvas, the body, is more porous than we think. As a choreographer I try to expand the interface between inner and outer, between self and other. Not through words but through movement. Why? I’m trying to go backwards, not just to the beginning of my life, but the beginning of the lives of my ancestors to feel what they knew in their cells and what we may have forgotten: that human beings are not separate from, but a part of the animate world. In the very earliest time When both people and animals lived on the earth A person could become an animal if he wanted to And an animal could become a human being Sometimes they were people And sometimes they were animals And there was no difference All spoke the same language… - Knud Rasmussen Mus Ro Faclan Ann – Before Words is a performance with five performers: two musicians and three dancers. It features video material and sound recordings from the Outer Hebrides that will be integrated into the choreography. These elements create a sonic and visual space with multiple screens and sound sources. It may be that the audience travels throughout the space or that the audience space changes throughout the course of the performance. The choreography is built through an accumulative process, inspired by a compositional score called figure/landscape. Taking movement sources from waves, birds in flight and people, the language of the body creates an inter play between the musicality and meaning of the sung Gaelic words. Folk songs are broken down into various layers of sound and words stretching the compositional score across all of the elements.