Sunday 16 April 2017
What a creative few months it has been! When I found out that I was going to be part of the South East Dance’s Collaborate programme towards the end of last year, ‘Inky Matter’ didn’t exist. All I knew was that this was a solo that I desperately wanted to make happen and that I felt a deep connection to the subject matter of letters – whether that be reading them, writing them, the stories that unfold through them or indeed, the nature of the communication that evolves between those writing to each another. Cut to now, and I have a solo!
Yes, there is still work to be done, but ‘Inky Matter’ exists; it has ‘become’ something.
I am quite surprised at the sense of relief I feel. I had allowed myself to forget just how much of ‘me’, gets involved when I am working as a choreographer. If it’s possible, this was even more the case with ‘Inky Matter’ as I could relate to writing in a very personal way. I realised that I turned to writing when there were things that I couldn’t say aloud . Furthermore, there were letters I had written to people that I wished they’d read, but I had never had the courage to post them.
Surely I couldn’t be the only one who related to writing in this way?
Working with Dramaturg, Lou Cope, in this process of developing ‘Inky Matter’ into a solo work was a delight and such an enriching experience in so many ways. The concerns I had around creating a solo on myself were abated almost immediately once I had spoken to Lou. The openness, honesty and the genuine curiousity that was the foundation of our discussions, meetings and our time in the studio was a huge reassurance and pushed me to dig further into the layers of ‘Inky Matter’.
I knew making ‘Inky Matter’ was going to be a challenge as I was choosing to explore the things we can’t/don’t/haven’t said or written. For me, this meant that these unwritten letters are ‘held’ in our bodies. Although, I was able to identify the specific parts of me where my unwritten letters resided relatively easily; how I conveyed the unwritten through these parts of me was destined to be a greater hurdle. It would require me to ‘step (or rather, wheel!) out of my comfort zone’ and address my own tendencies of ‘half-saying’ things and thus, allow myself to be ‘seen’ by the audience (both literally and figuratively) over time.
The value of writing is something that I have been mindful of for a long time. Similarly, the links between communication, what is unsaid and our own mental health felt important to acknowledge within the work, but personally, also very daunting. Again, Lou, was hugely valuable here. She help me find my route through a complex and potentially fragile tangle.
As a choreographer, the relationship that the performer creates with the audience is something that I enjoy exploring and playing with. I always envisaged this solo as an intimate performance. Working with Lou meant that I could really test how this intimacy and connection could be created. A relationship between performer and audience needed to grow and develop throughout the ‘Inky Matter’. This connection feels essential to me – as much as I needed to gain the trust of the audience; the trajectory of the solo also required me (as the performer) to gradually draw the audience in by ‘unpeeling layers’.
Eye contact played a key part in building this relationship. What’s more, it is something that I would like to continue investigating as I continue working on ‘Inky Matter’.
During this creative process, I was reminded of a class I took recently with the wonderful Charlotte Darbyshire – where the focus was on the link between the head and heart. This resonated with me when I was working with the letters. The connection between head and heart felt natural and honest – particularly when it came to the nature of the writing that was to be explored. Furthermore, this felt a very fruitful source of movement exploration when it came to switching between the embodiment of writing and the actual act of letter-writing.
In addition, time proved to be an influential tool within ‘Inky Matter’.
Allowing yourself to write a letter to someone takes time and requires the writer to fully apply themselves to the task. Through discussions with Lou, we realised that this is one of the reasons that handwritten letters feel so special – the writer values the recipient enough to take the time to write to them. (This is particularly poignant nowadays as the pace and demands of daily life are so high!). Therefore, dramaturgically it made complete sense to utilise time, firstly to convey the difficulty of writing your unwritten letter, but also to allow the audience time to listen, ponder, be curious; and to (hopefully!) invest in the experience for themselves.
I hope we meet again over ‘Inky Matter’ in the near future.
Image by Lou Cope