Author Archives: Richard Cross

On Ageism in Dance

Another brilliant question from Cultured Mongrel’s “There Are No Stupid Questions” You can find more on there work here: https://www.culturedmongrel.org/blogs/2020/6/17/there-are-no-stupid-questions

Delighted to have been asked this ‘anonymous’ question and very much enjoyed writing this response

“What are the main drivers of dance being ageist?

How can we uncouple white middle-classism and notions of what is permissible to the white male gaze, from the energy and progression of dance performance in terms of age?

Older dancers can jump too y’know.”

Ah ageism, very close to my heart. What a great question, thanks, and so much to unpick.

Here goes…a very personal perspective

We live in an ageist society. A recent World Health Organisation report estimated that one in two of us are ageist. One in two – that’s quite a statistic! And, many people reckon that to be an under-estimation. Once I started to think of age this way I began to see ageism everywhere. It is endemic, systemic, unconscious and deeply engrained and embedded into our language, behaviour, attitudes, beliefs and way of life. Quite a force to be reckoned with. I am even ageist against myself!

Looking at myself in the mirror or experience myself dancing I sometimes have the thought “I am wearing well for my age”, and feel chuffed about that, proud even, and relieved. But it’s actually really shocking. It is not a benign thing to say because embedded within that thought is the sense that there is an ideal that we are constantly measuring ourselves against, and that ageing is all about loss and decline.

We all know it well – to be old is not acceptable, to look younger is better. Older age is synonymous with reduction, loss, deficit, something to be held at bay, and we have fear around that too. We constantly do ‘battle’ with it, and affirm ourselves when we perceive a win. We simply don’t want to go there, can’t embrace it, pride ourselves for beating or conquering it. We want to anti-age, arrest it, prevent its development, and society perpetuates and mirrors this and supports us on that journey. Ageism undoubtably results from a complex conspiring weave of intertwining factors, there is a lot to understand and unpick, and this is only just scratching the surface. But it is insidious and prevalent and wraps itself around everything we do.

And then there is dance! Dance sits within this complex pervasive field and, is in itself, an art form that elevates the young and the movement qualities, skills and, by default, the aesthetic languages that only a young body can create. Dance is synonymous with a particular image of perfection, one that it has created itself and one that is also aligned to youthfulness.

Take ballet for example and its historical place in our cultural and societal history. Ballet is the dance of the courts, aligned with privilege, ascension, ethereality, heaven, gods, symmetry, thinness, whiteness, weightlessness, illusion, and non-earthly (non-bodily?!) presence, transporting us away from earthly boundedness and burdens to an idealised place where everything is good and we have no worries.

Then there are phenomenon’s like Strictly – which is all about the attainment and mastery of steps and executing them ‘perfectly’ according to a pre-set regulated form of what is right and what is best, a particular set of competencies with particular physical attributes, registers and styles. It says there are right ways and wrong ways to dance, good dancers and not good dancers. We actually laugh at people who can’t do the steps. Or we embrace them, root for them, take them to our hearts, rooting for the underdog. Perhaps we recognize ourselves in there and whilst this is a compassionate thing and a positive human attribute, we never ever seem to ask  – but why is dance only this?

Dance in its very essence, at least in our cultural understanding and valuing of it, is a hierarchical art-form that favours, perpetuates and aspires to certain aesthetic languages over others, certain body types over others, certain movement languages over others and certain styles and forms over others. Agility, speed, flexibility, athleticism and all the dazzling physical feats of monumental proportions that we all love, have all been normalised but are actually elitist and non-normative, because they are unattainable for most people and require a particular idealised physicality to attain.  Youth and the physical attributes of the youthful body is part of this, and culture, high and low, is screaming out this message of what dance should be and trapping us in a perpetual cycle that supports this hierarchy of dance.

So, it is within all of this that older dancers sit. There is nothing wrong with any of the above. All are thrilling, moving, meaningful, there to be admired, felt, experienced and enjoyed. For me, the fact that this is what is being valued is the problem, and any other form by any other body type is seen as being of less value and a lesser form of dance.

We need to start asking who can dance and what can dance be?

What is perfection?

On whose terms?

Many inroads have been made by disabled dancers who have fought for the recognition and right to have their non-normative physicality and movement vocabularies accepted as a valid dance aesthetic in all of its diversity. This has been a long hard journey and is still on-going and not yet fully accepted or acceptable in the mainstream. But undoubtably, disabled makers and performers have started to change, not only our understanding and expectation of dance, but the structure and form and language of it. In other words, the work of disabled dancers is challenging, changing and adding to what we think of as dance, and who can be a dance and also expanded what we want from dance as makers, performers and audience.

In dance, because of the presence of the body, we are always faced with a physical representation of ourselves. We don’t want to confront our own ageing. We are fearful, in avoidance, only see deficit, and decline in our minds eye and in our emotional register. Ageing is never seen as something to embrace. When do we ever say ‘bring it on, I can’t wait.’ Also embedded in there is a brush with the end of life, and as a culture and society that denies death and rarely speaks about it openly, to be faced with an ageing older body is perhaps too confrontational.

So, I think also that perhaps the ageing body brings with it its own particular prejudiced drivers.

We need to push against ingrained stereotypes, attitudes and expectations, but how?

Much of my life’s work has been about moving the vertical dance hierarchy to the horizontal plane, away from the aesthetics of sameness and symmetry towards the aesthetics of difference and asymmetry, away from heaven to earth, away from fixed ideals.

Where are the alternative images, the art that reveals and shows age as natural and the diversity, difference and individuality there is amongst older people?

We need to be aware of the politics of the practice and the bigger frame that dance sits within. Dance is not just about mastery and a fixed ideal of beauty. Age is not just about decline

We need to keep asking questions of ourselves and of society.

We need to persist.

We need to be patient.

We need to do this in our own style and in our own way – make work gently, subversively, noisily, feistily, quietly, sassily, with humour, with gravitas, with poignance, shout from the rooftops  – to excite, to empower, to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed, all of these ways are necessary and will make a difference.

And our greatest strength? Actual physical presence. In dance because the body is visible and present, the ageing body is there in the flesh so to speak. Perhaps almost too much for audiences to bear because the fear of ageing sits so deep and the prejudices and judgements are so conditioned and pervasive, but this is where the hope lies. In dance you are the thing that it’s about, we represent ourselves when performing. In this way dance performance is a radicle act, a form of direct action, a step to bringing change.

And as for, “older people can jump ye’ know”. Maybe we can start by asking do they need to? Does dance need jumps in order to be dance? As an older person of 63 I no longer enjoy jumping, certainly not in the leaping way, nor can I twirl anymore. That’s cool with me. Neither good nor bad, just how it is for me, and where my body is at.

We are all different and that’s what’s exciting.

And what I can do and love is create movement from other, new, places. We all can. I have less of some things which by default, brings more of other things – slowness, being closer to the earth, soft skin, stillness, a softness in my muscles, a presence and confidence.

It was dancer and choreographer Erick Hawkins, I think, who said : “tight muscles don’t feel”

I’ll take that!

Janice Parker May 2021

 

 

 

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Being Asked and Answering

This was written as part of Cultured Mongrel’s on-going work : ‘There are no stupid questions” A pleasure to be asked and get my thinking cap on. The question (below) is asked anonymously and you can find lots more on Cultured Mongrel’s website here. https://www.culturedmongrel.org/blogs/2020/6/17/there-are-no-stupid-questions

A bit of a rambly answer from me but hope there is something there that gives some context, support and food for thought 

“What happens when young amateur dancers (those with no intention to attend college) become adults and where do they go?

Open classes exist for choreography and technique, but where’s the creativity?

Should this aspect of dance be done alone or not at all?

(I can read bitterness, sorry)”

Bitterness accepted and legitimate! Thanks for the question which I’ll circle around, and hopefully shed some light on.

First a wee history lesson. My background is in what was originally called ‘Community Dance’. I began in the early 80’s on the crest of the Community Dance wave. Leading this in Scotland were Royston Maldoom at The Arts in Fife and Tamara McLorg with Stirling Council and as director of Dundee Rep Dance Company, now Scottish Dance Theatre.

This was a big time for contemporary dance development and signalled a change in terms of participation and opportunity for ‘ordinary’ people to dance, and who were not, and had no intention of training and becoming professional. It is the bedrock of what we now think of as participatory practice or social engagement.

There’s a massive history and legacy here to be shared at some point, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say for now that this exciting and groundbreaking era laid the groundwork for much of Scotland’s Contemporary dance scene as we know it today – both community and professional practice.

There’s also some terminology to get clear on here – the distinction between amateur practice and community/socially engaged/participatory practice. Here in the UK, they don’t mean quite the same thing. The former is associated more with self-organising constituted groups or associations who organize themselves to produce art works (think amateur dramatics) whereas the latter is more about people’s right to access the arts through and with the professional arts scene and professionally trained artists. I’m assuming here we are talking about the latter – community/participatory/ socially engaged.

So, back to the 80’s. Adults were very much part of the Community Dance scene. My own contribution in parallel with Tammy and Royston was in the development of disability-led practice and the right of disabled people to be included and have access to dance. I’ve continued with this work including working again with Tammy and Royston to develop Community Dance Practice in Europe. The philosophy focuses on movement as a human right, on everybody’s right to access dance as an art-form and on the contribution people can make to current contemporary practice.,

However, even from the beginning, there has been more emphasis on youth. The legacy of the Scottish Youth Dance Festival, initiated by Tammy and Royston in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and the development of Youth Dance Companies across Scotland continues today. Adults were always in second place

I’m no expert, but off the top of my head I think there are a number of reasons for this

  • Investment in youth is seen as an investment in the future of society
  • We live in an ageist society (the latest World Health Organisation report concludes that 1 in 2 of us are ageist)
  • Dance is a powerful educational tool that support more traditional learning, so it went into schools
  • Creativity itself is regarded as a tenant of the young unless of course you decide to train and make it your career. As if it is ‘natural’ to children but not to adults
  • And funding of course followed this thinking and artists follow the funding in order to be able to earn a living

So, part of the reason for limited focus on adults is embedded in the very history of participatory dance development, it has aye been, and youth are invested in as an investment in the future.

There are other reasons too.

There’s a split between performance created by trained dancers and performance created by community non-professionally trained participants. The latter has always been judged as lesser than, of less value, and often not as art at all. We ascribe particular aesthetics and registers to dance, then we aspire to that and judge anything else to be not as good as ‘the real thing’. Our idea of dance is in many ways very elitist. This narrow perspective of what good dance is, is also dominated by youth and young bodies who sit at the top of the hierarchy in our mind’s eye and our belief system. Community performance is therefore rarely regarded as a serious aesthetic form or language in its own right. This limits the possibilities and potential and our very idea of what dance can be and who gets to be a dancer.

In 2014 I made a piece called Glory in Tramway in Glasgow. It was part of the Commonwealth Games cultural programme. Deliberately and consciously, politically and aesthetically I wanted to involve the biggest mixture of dancers I could find. There were absolutely no auditions, all movements were equally valid and valued, as were all body types and levels of experience. Professional and experienced dancers, moved alongside first-time dancers, with ages ranging from late teens to 60’s and 70’s, both disabled and non-disabled dancers and dancers of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds all moving together. Glory was, amongst other things, a statement, cutting across this hierarchy, moving dance from its vertical hierarchy to a horizontal platform that embraces diversity and different aesthetic registers and movement vocabularies. Movement is a language as diverse and individual as people are and dance is more than one thing – it can be, and is, many things.

The same goes for how vocabulary and content is devised. I think this what is being referred to in the question – “where is the creativity?” – where the body is an expressive tool, engaged in its own materiality as a way of discovering and creating dance vocabulary.

Again, creativity, and self-expression as it is sometimes loosely and referred to, is seen as belonging to the young, and often only the very young. This working from the inside out, from sensory and felt experience, and from the imagination is very rare in standard dance practice, professional or community. This way to developing and finding vocabulary, image and story for choreography, and as material to dance with and dance as, has gone out of fashion. Dance in our minds eye has become something else, often a set of steps or a form to be ‘mastered’ and learned from the outside in. As opposed to the liberation and experience of a vocabulary that is innate and already existing as potential in each of us. Accessing one’s own creativity and body language, is, in my opinion – in fact more than an opinion, it is my working method and practice – an equally valid place from which to build and create choreography. Our attitude to and understanding of dance, popularised by TV has become a two-dimensional athletic action to be learned and mastered rather than a three-dimensional living and breathing creative act.

The instrumentalization of dance I’m sure has contributed to this. We know this well. Dance being seen as a tool to counter and support social deprivation, inequalities, and mental health amongst other things. These are important and necessary, and dance can and does in the right hands, have that capacity. We have brilliant teachers, classes, workshops and infrastructures that all have an impact and make a difference in these areas, but we also have missing things.

This way of quantifying the purpose and value of dance can take us even further away from the artistry and creative aspects of it and adds to our increasingly limited and limiting understanding of what dance can be, what it is for, and how it is made. Classes become neat and packaged, easily understood, compact, quantifiable and recognizable. And we become removed from, perhaps we even become afraid of, creativity and the potential exposure to ‘getting it wrong’ emotionally and physically.  Also, to understand and value creativity you have to engage with it and know it experientially. Only talking about it, causes our understanding of creativity to stay in the realm of the abstract and the obscure, and this further removes and reduces any sense of the intrinsic value that the creative dance process can have.

To sum up and finish, I am very heartened by this question. And “should this aspect of dance be done alone or not at all?” It most definitely should be done, and it can be done alone and/or connect to other areas of dance provision. Think of it as a radicle practice – adults contributing to dance, adults mattering and being part of building the future, creative movement from the inside out as a vital life force, an alternative to the current limiting hierarchy in dance, and swimming against the tide to offer choice and access to a way of moving that belongs to us all.

There are some good adult classes in improvisation around – have a look for them, you might enjoy the creative practice that they offer

And finally, going back to the 80’s and the time of self-initiated ‘movements’, perhaps you could think about self-organising – getting a group of you together who want to explore a similar thing and way of working, finding premises, or working outdoors and then finding a teacher who works in this way. We don’t always have to wait for our big institutions and organisations to take the lead.

Janice Parker May 2021

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Marking The Moment

MARKING THE MOMENT

On the cusp of the first of 2021’s easing of Covid lockdown, I wanted to mark the moment. This easing allowed up to 15 people to meet outdoors for exercise. What is exercise if not movement, and what is movement but a way of connecting to our physical selves, to each other and also, new for me, to nature. The prospect of being able to stand in a big wide circle in the presence of other people filled me with a deep and nourishing delight. As I write this post we are almost at the end of this series of workshops and it has been both a privilege and a wonder. The energy of a human-made circle, even without physical contact, is a palpable and emotional thing. Being present to that and taking in the moment is visceral and profound, and gets right underneath the skin if you let it in. It feels like a liminal space and time of collective acknowledgement, unspoken, but deeply felt.

We are a small group, deliberately so, who have met for an hour on a weekly basis, to share in some of my experiences and learnings from the past year of moving, outside, with nature

I made the invitation via my twitter feed, wanting to be fleet of foot and light on administration and organisation. I have loved teaching and facilitating and bringing people into body and into a connection with nature and the natural world. I’ve found myself saying:

“feel the weather, and the surface of the ground underfoot; let yourself inhabit the open space and move into the full volume of your body taking up as much space as you can and want and need; touch the earth and touch the sky; what do you hear and what do you see; listen inside and outside at the same time; listen to your body and move in ways that you love; oil your joints; bring energy into the body; switch off thinking & judgement and move into feeling and sensing; pick a tree – what is its invitation, what capacity does it liberate in you, how can you move with the tree in ways you couldn’t move alone – a duet of sorts, what is its ask, feel your strength in its strength, the properties of the tree & the properties of you, the connection and dialogue between you and the tree, discover its texture and feel, be kind to it, say thank-you; move from functional, to qualitative, to expressive movement; know the feeling of running; the dance of the balancing of a stick on your wrist, and always, always,  feeling the weather”

Everything is an invitation and, as always for me, only if it feels good for your body in this moment. To sense inside, to physically listen and switch on your awareness of yourself moving, is to awaken the body’s natural intelligence and is a way of moving that you can have with you for ever onwards. It is yours and always has been and is there for all of us, simply for the asking. Connecting this with nature seems the most natural thing in the world. I’m shocked that I haven’t done this before now and deeply grateful to have found it. Dancing with trees! Ha, who would have thought

Thanks to everyone who came and for marking this big moment in time with our collective energy and presence. I very much hope to offer more workshops with nature in the future.

 

 

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Small Acts of Hope and Lament

I made a series of small films during lockdown 2020/21 – see Works.

They grew out of a daily practice which was my response to living through and with the global pandemic. It was not only a response, being outdoors was the one thing that was permissible. I leaned into it as they say and found myself dancing daily outdoors in the park that I live beside.

This new outdoor practice evolved slowly at first. It was consistent and had constancy. It was always there for me during this year of uncertainty and loss, and of everything I’d known ‘till know changing. It became a lifeline and a security.

I need to dance and move. It’s not really an option. It is my primary language, and way of thinking, sensing and being in the world. If you’ve got to dance you’ve got to dance, if you’ve got to move you’ve got to move. I’d lost awareness of this simple fact. The need and economic demands to make something of it, from it and out of it had obscured that. Movement for me is simply a necessity and will always be there for me no matter what. What a joy, this daily outdoor practice was, and a nourishment and strength.

It comes as no surprise that, of course, I was also making and manifesting something. Nothing was planned. It grew out of instinct, desire and a response to what was present. My daily dancing practice was shared with others in the moment, through chance encounters in the park. Then I began to share on twitter, at first as a way to connect with folks ‘out there’ and say hello ‘I’m here and I’m okay. How are you, are you okay?’.  People liked it and it was resonating with folks and meant something. So, I kept going, sharing small film clips on twitter as a way to connect and as a way to nourish and resource not only myself but others too.

Then the opportunity came to make a series of small films. Each film focuses on something that either rose to the surface because of my daily outdoor moving or that I had been sitting with for a while – the necessity of movement and moving for us all as part of our possibility and potential, the over-commodification of our movement and physicality yet it is just there for the asking, the need for free civic space to inhabit and connect with other people as a place of belonging, the need for green space in the city as a necessity to living well, a deep and growing love and respect for the land, awe and wonder as necessary experiences, a knowing of the land because of relating to it through movement, the inhibition we feel as a culture to move freely and expansively in outdoor public spaces………and oh, so much more.

The films are rough and ready. I love that about them. They are essentially a dialogue between what was present that day in the land and the weather, and what the camera on my mobile phone picked up as it was propped on a tree or in a hole in the ground.

This personal daily practice, an essential way for me to process and respond to what is happening in the world right now, became work in the world. Quiet and unassuming, constant and consistent, both a still point and a generator. I’m keeping going for as long as the spirit is willing.

 

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A Year Like No Other

It has been a while. I had no intention of not writing and there has definitely been news – we are all living through it. I hope everyone is well and finding ways through. There is a lot to deal with and consider right now, and so much to learn and take in.

I can’t quite get my head round the fact that a year has passed. I have been lucky, and found ways and means to live quietly and gently and frugally, and to take stock. After working 40 years at a pace I now cannot quite believe, I have wanted to reflect and ‘lean into’ this time, to live quietly, slowly and gently and to notice, think and feel, away from anything that was close to ‘normal’ or known. The ability to rest has been a gift, as has experiencing what it meant to not be swept up in and by the whirlwind of my working life, as much as I loved it at the time.

Do I even exist without my work? Is their a separate identity in there waiting to come out into the light? I am happy to say that there is both and even though these pandemic times have not all been easy or plain sailing they have been good for me, and I am glad I made the choices that I did.

So, I haven’t zoomed much, or had a routine, or any deadlines. I have been quiet and removed, living in my own time, (HSP time – I’ll talk about that in my next post) with no neccessity of creative outputs driven by the arts infrastructures, systems and marketplace to which I belong. I have however, done and achieved more than I could possibly have imagined.

Of course, I have missed people, deeply, and lost people whom I’ve had to grieve from afar.

Not least two of my dear colleagues from An Audience With…  Betty Clarkson and Doreen Leighton-Ward – magnificent women, who had both reached a great age, but still departed to the ‘Big Cabaret in the Sky’ far too soon. My last post here on the website, that long year ago, was about the future of our work together and all the potential that held. Things do change and move on, sometimes when we least expect them to.

To honour them, their work and careers, and our work together I worked with the wonderful Dominic Corr to create a website that profiles our four years of working together, and each women’s career and contribution to dance and variety theatre.

The Big Cabaret in the Sky was a term coined by June Don-Murray, another Audience With… stalwart who departed at the end of 2019, and whose legacy funded the website. I’m happy to think of them, and all their many friends and colleagues that they talked about, dancing up there together. It will be one heck of a party that’s for sure.

The rest of  the troupe, Marie Duthie, Katie Miller and me are very much looking forward to the party we will have on this earthly plane, as and when we can. It will also be one heck of a party.

There is a lot more to post about the past year and what’s to come, but for now, I’ll leave you with An Audience With…  website: an-audience-with.com

I hope you enjoy

Take lots of care and stay safe

Janice x

 

 

 

 

 

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An Audience With… aka. The Kitchenettes

First post of the new year and much is on the go.

An Audience With… is off to a flying start and a new chapter. We are ‘on the road’ and currently meeting in each others homes and dancing in the kitchen. Our new name for ourselves is “The Kitchenettes”! We are also working on a big funding application to enable the women, their lived experience and knowledge of Variety Theatre and physical embodied knowledge to become available as an archive of national significance. Watch this space! In the meantime we hope to make another podcast or two that involves some other dancers from the Variety Era. Will keep you posted on this. In the meantime enjoy this wee video clip of Marie Duthie and Libby Daye,  in the kitchen of course !

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The end of a year and the start of a new one

There is always much to share and never enough time to share it but suffice to say it has been a busy, unexpected and good year. Unexpected because, unplanned opportunities emerged and all of them with good people. Here is one of them. It’s European. It’s with older folks. It had no auditions. It connected with stone and rock and time and millennia and movement and the body and hopes for the future. Here’s to all of us connecting and creating a better future.  As James Hutton founder of modern geology said “The future is constantly being created in the present”.  All the best everyone for 2020

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Autumn Glories: National Galleries Scotland | Amatao | Toronto Festival of Authors

It’s November already. Oh, how I love the dark days and the golden leaves that fall. A definate time for coorie-ing in and hopefully some catching up on what I now call ‘the back-log’ of the list of things to do and people to contact which seems to grow and grow and grow. Apologies if you are on the list but we do, we really do, all of us, work too much.

It’s been busy of course. And here is a wee snap-shot of JPP’s late summer and early Autumn.

September began with ‘Writing The Body’.  A delicious and glorious piece of work with the National Galleires of Scotland responding to and immersing in the writings of Bridget Riley. Following an open call, 17 people, some brand new to dance and some experienced (I love a mixture) were able to commit to the process. They were great. We went deep and we went fast, making work in only 6 evening rehearsals for a sold out public sharing on 18th September.  It was such a privelege to work with these dancers and with Bridget Riley’s work. Here are some rehearsal images

 

Next came ‘Don’t Look Back’,  a 3 day workshop process with Amateo – a European network supporting and developing community and participatory arts. The focus was art and older people and how brilliant it was to be working with 14 older folks from 7 European Countries, sharing their wisdom and experience, physically and intellectually.  Collaborating with fellow artist Luke Pell, 350million year old Arthur’s Seat and geologist James Hutton’s concept of deep-time were our focus. Along with film-maker Tao-Anas Le Thanh we, together, made the short film ‘The future is constantly being created in the present” to be released shortly. Here are a few photos in the meantime

And here is one of the wonderful Jim Tough, from Amateo, and me presenting the film at Voluntary Arts, Epic Awards in Edinburgh

 

Finally for Autumn was “Playing with Books” as part of The Toronto International Festival of Authors, working with Miriam Toews book ‘Talking Woman’ scripted by Linda McLean and directed by Orla O’Loughlin. We originally did this for the Edinburgh International Book Festival and The Edinburgh Lyceum Theatre with a cast of brilliant Scottish actors. This time we had equally brilliant Canadian actors and felt the spirit of all 16 with us in the room. It’s a really important book, a privilege to be part of and the world need these women’s voices. Some photos

There’s more. But that’s enough for now

Thanks

Janice

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Sharing August in October

So, we are in October already. It rains as I write this, and Edinburgh glistens. I’m unusual in that I love both the rain and the dark and always feel more settled and at home in these kinds of days. An introverts paradise is how I think of them. However time does fly, work continues to blossom and here is some info on the three shows I worked on way-back in August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe and The International Book Festival.

The Basque Showcase at Dance Base in the Edinburgh Fringe went well. Earlier in the year I spent a week with Proyecto Collectivo HQPC in Donostia-San Sebastian mentoring and supporting them in their preparations for Edinburgh. After 3 days of Fringe performances they went off renewed in the politics and practice of their work, having made connections and contacts that will support and sustain their future, and were  also renewed in their sense of cultural identity and where and how it overlaps with other spaces and places. A wheelchair using choreographer, Maylis Arrabit,  is a rare phenomenon indeed. Bravo to Dance Base’s Morag Deyes for programming this diversity in and amongst an already gloriously diverse programme of work. It was a pleasure to be a small part of it.  Here we  all  are  after  the final  rehearsal  in San Sebastian

 

I also had the pleasure of witnessing musician Rowan Rheingan’s performance of “Dispatches on the Red Dress”. A few months earlier Rowan and dramaturg         Liam Hurley had invited me to spend a couple of days working with Rowan on the movement and physicality of the newly-forming show. I’ve started to language this work as facilitating artists to become embodied and emboldened – to discover and bring to the surface the movement language that they are searching for, a language that already exists somewhere in the body but is as yet undiscovered, unknown and sometimes hiding itself from the limelight. Anyhow, this was Rowan’s first piece of gig-theatre and I’m delighted to say that this self-funded bold and passionate adventure went on to win a Scotsman Fringe First Award (and also nominations for The Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award and the Filipa Braganca Award for Best Emerging Female Artist.) Thanks to the wonderful Karine Polwart for connecting us.

The next and final August sojourn was to work with the ever amazing Linda McLean and Orla O’Loughin on Playing With Books, a partnership between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Linda adapted Canadian author Miriam Toews’ novel ‘Talking Women’ into a stage play and together with 8 stellar Scottish actors, directed by Orla we worked together over 4 days  to create a sold out public sharing of the work in the Spiegaltent at the Book Festival. The book is tough, harrowing and ultimately supremely hopeful. Based on true events, ‘Talking Women’ is a testament to women and their means and mechanisms of survival and contribution to the world. The author has given each of the women characters a deep and particular gestural and movement language which is why I was there, supporting the understanding and embodiement of  its place in the overall work and in each of the characters. The world needs these women and I’m delighted to say that at the end of this month Linda, Orla and I are going to the Toronto International Festival of Authors to repeat the process and this time with 8 Canadian actors.

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Scotland Goes Basque

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KW Berlin – unexpected connections

SO great to share this and to have been a small part of making it happen and bringing it into being, thanks to the brilliant Emmie McLuskey and 1973 – Archiving The Live. The traces of 40 years of practice continues to make unexpected connections

To: my future body

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What to do with all the photos…

Truth be known I’m not so good at all this social media and putting things out in the world stuff. I’ve just this minute published a post from a few months back that I’ve only just realised had gone unpublished. I have a very brilliant web-site creator – Richard Cross of  Controlx – who  patiently teaches me the same things over and over again, and keeps hearing me say the words I’m going to be working on the web-site soon!

Anyhow I guess I’m working on it now, in this moment. What has struck me is the inconsistency in all the posts under works – the amount and type of information available, the quality of the images and all the work that is missing. I see this as a reflection of what resources were available at the time e.g. I have no digital photos prior to 2003 (although my iphoto library does register something as 1923!?) and hardly any photos at all prior to that. The images used are very poor quality screen grabs from film footage. My iphoto library also shows me that my first good(ish) phone camera arrived around 2009 when the volume of photos in my library becomes abundant.

Also affecting the amount and quality of information and imagery in each works post is the resources which surrounded each of the choreographies and projects. Often work with non-traditionally trained dancers is not particularly valued or well resourced so there is literally no budget for a photographer or photos. When I started working in Germany a lot around 2005 developing Community Dance with Royston MaldoomTamara McLorg, Mags Byrne and Suz Broughton our work was really valued and starting then I have an abundance of very gorgeous photographs of the work and the people in it – those glorious dancing people.

The question is – what to do with them all? I feel I owe it to the dancers and the work that they made to have their photographs live in the world somehow

 

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It’s Been A While….

It’s been a while. Truth be known I find it hard to keep up with all the social media outlets and as a natural introvert am never quite at ease writing and posting. But the folks and organizations I work with and collaborate with deserve it. So here’s a wee update on An Audience With…

An Audience With… at the Festival Theatre is going strong. These women, professional dancers from the Variety Era are strong and feisty! We dance regularly, teach tap class, run a workshop for a local care home and are working with the Festival Theatre on their archive – naming the performers in the photographs and bringing life to the acts in which they performed. Bear in mind Marie Duthie, Doreen Leighton-Ward, June Don-Murray and Betty Clarkson are aged between 86 and 98 and know, or performed in and with, many of the acts on the playbills that line the walls of the Festival Theatre. It’s exciting, heady stuff!

We also had a visit from Jackie Dennis, Scotland’s first pop-star, what a generous and gracious man he is, with many a story to tell. It was a pleasure to meet him

And we are looking for TAP SHOES – any size, style, colour, condition. If you’ve a pair going spare please hand them in to Festival Theatre STAGE DOOR or contact me directly. We want more folks to tap without fear and with joy and style !

 

 

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Working On the Website – updating, trimming and contemplating its purpose

So, at last I’m giving some priority to sitting down and reacquainting my self with the website. I hope to be working on it over the next few months, up-dating its content, trimming it down and thinking about its point and purpose in these times of overload and need to be known on-line. I think for me the website is a way of acknowledging and recognizing the people, the partnerships, and the collaborations that I have met and worked with over the years. And perhaps it is a way of knowing the shoulders we stand on. I do know that if the website exists at all then for me, it will have to be detailed, accurate, nuanced and personal. Talking of shoulders we stand on here’s a video of  An Audience With… Variety Era Dancers Doreen Leighton-Ward and Marie Duthie, aged 86 and 95 respectively. I am privileged to know and work with these women. We recently had well over 3,000 views for a slightly longer version of this video on twitter (@janicemparker ) and are quite overwhelmed at the response to one of our regular Monday gatherings at Edinburgh’s, Festival Theatre. Enjoy!

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Creative Scotland RFO funding statement

Hello everyone,
 
Firstly we at JPP want to thank everyone for their support and concern – overwhelming in the best of ways and very, very appreciated. Thank you. We are currently reflecting on and working out what no longer being an RFO means for us and our way of working. We will keep you posted as we develop and change.
 
A wee word from Janice:
 
Thanks folks for all your support and good wishes – they really help and mean a lot! It is certainly a tumultuous time and I feel saddened, shocked, perplexed and concerned. I am not talking about me specifically or us at JPP here, though we are certainly in the mix, I am talking about the bigger picture of our cultural landscape, our sustainability, the simplicity, complexity and suitability of funding structures for all kinds of artists, our diversity, our development and how we move forward from this point. I will be, and am, addressing this on many levels.
 
There are questions to be asked and actions to be taken.
 
We are an incredible nation of vibrant heart-full, diverse, intelligent, responsible and very accountable artists, with a worldwide reputation in participatory arts, disability-led arts, children’s theatre and work with older people. I am really proud to be part of that landscape, culture and heritage. We need to work together to nurture, maintain and continue to develop this. Lets do it…..
 
I am also delighted at all the good news held within the 2018-2021 RFO ‘portfolio’ – Go for it ! x
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Saltire Winners’ Presentations

We are delighted to share these presentations from our two Saltire Society Bursary artists – Aby Watson and Julia McGhee. What’s been exciting for us is to witness how both artists, as a result of the bursary, have moved into unexpected places and directions and have also developed the participatory and community aspects of their practice. Dance and people – nice!

The bursary finished at the end of 2017 and we wish both Aby & Julia much luck for the future. Look out for them!

Aby Watson Presentation (PDF)

Julia McGhee Presentation (PDF)

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An Audience With… at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Pic Greg Macvean 

We are at capacity for our three shows of ‘An Audience With…‘ at the Empire Rooms at Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Janice, June, Doreen, Marie, Daisy and Katie are ready to dance (and chat!) on 21, 26 & 28 October. Read all about the project here.

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New Board Members sought

We are looking for new members to join our Board of Directors.

We welcome applications from individuals with a variety of experiences and backgrounds in:
– dance world;
– small arts organisations and their strategic development;
– artistic participatory practice;
– marginalised and under-represented communities;
– D/deaf and disabled people.

Full details here.

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Janice Parker: Disabled Leaders in Dance

In November 2015 Janice began work on a mentoring project in Barcelona aimed at supporting the professional development of local disabled dancers in choreographic practice. The project is led by British Council Spain.

Janice reflects on the project in this extract from Disability Arts International: “The politics of my practice lies in the area of ‘who and what is not yet valued, why is it not and what are we missing because of this?’  When the British Council invited me to lead this nine-day workshop aimed at supporting the professional development of local disabled dancers in choreographic practice, I thought this was right up my street… the start of a new revolution,  new voices and visions,  investment in the next generation of innovative, provocative dance-makers, aiming for excellence… I could go on.

“Ten dancers signed up. We began with questions about choreography.  We talked about the politics of disability-led dance and where it sits in the world currently and historically. And we looked at each person’s kernel of an idea as the start of an enquiry, as an investigation and as a deep desire to make and create dance.  It was a process, not of training as such, but one of sharing and exchange, a dialogue and collaboration that unfolds, where the emergent choreographers were authors from the start.

“The vocabulary, because of the bodies creating it, was deliciously diverse and innovative. I witnessed people work deeply and thoroughly into their own movement possibility.  Some of that vocabulary was breathtaking and hugely exciting. Some of it was funny, or politically pointed.  My belief is that dance needs these new vocabularies. We need innovation in form and function. Art is not and never has been in its essence, something that has stood still. Diversity and difference in body types, languages and vocabularies of movement, and in life experience bring with it the potential for deep innovation, radical challenge and a development of current contemporary practice.

“For me, what was particular about Barcelona, was the sheer number of disabled dancers attending the workshop,  along with their confidence in and awareness of the landscape of their own bodies. They are hungry and on fire, ready to go further into choreographic practice and thinking, and to take risks. There is also real potential, and interest, within the city and its cultural organisations to further develop the existing infrastructure, resources and opportunities for these emerging choreographers to continue on their journey.  Through sharing practice, politics and experience we can do this on an international level and on a local level at the same time, building partnerships and working collaboratively together.”

You can read the full article from Disability Arts International, here.

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Unlimited Emerging Artist Commission

We are thrilled at the news that ‘One Way Or Another’ by one of our Saltire Awardees, Aby Watson, has just been announced as one of this year’s Unlimited Emerging Artist Commissions. Congratulations to Aby, and we look forward to what’s to come next. We are so glad to be able to support her on her journey.

You can find out more here: http://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/watson-one-way-another/

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Professional Development Workshops with Garvald Edinburgh

Here’s a taste of our recent professional development workshops with performers from Garvald Edinburgh. Janice said of the workshops:

‘We so need to value what these performers bring to our studios and stages. Thanks to Edinburgh Festival Theatre and all who contributed.

 

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Performers needed for new work

Aby Watson, one of our Saltire Society Bursary recipients, is currently on the search for fellow dyspraxic performers to take part in her new work called ‘One way or another’. There’s more information about the project and the call out at the link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/380887818961749/

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1973 at Glasgow Women’s Library

In February, Janice was joined by archivist students of St Andrew’s University, who expressed great interest in the 1973 archival exhibition at Glasgow Women’s Library:

 

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Glasgow Women’s Library: Reflecting on Working in Public

Influential feminist artist Suzanne Lacy visited Scotland in 2007, and invited sixteen artists, theorists and curators to form an intense, unique learning space entitled Working in Public. Records of this gathering found in Janice’s archive are the starting point of a discussion between Adele Patrick (GWL), Janice and other Working in Public participants about creative legacies and feminist archiving, as Glasgow Women’s Library celebrates its 25th anniversary.

1973: Reflections on ‘Working in Public’

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A day of conversation at City Art Centre

Some pictures from our day of conversations around 1973 – Archiving The Live, in the stunning top floor gallery at City Art Centre, with a sun-drenched Edinburgh as the backdrop.

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Janice in Conversation with our Makar Jackie Kay

In January, Janice was joined by our Makar Jackie Kay, at City Art Centre (Edinburgh), to discuss Janice’s archival exhibition 1973, and Jackie’s own archive and on knowing the present in objects of the past…

 

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1973 – Archiving the Live opens this week

Don’t forget, our exhibition 1973 – Archiving The Live opens this Wed 18th January at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre. Come and peruse Janice’s collection of 44 years’ worth of memorabilia in the 5th Floor Gallery. Engage in some great chat with Janice about what the archive means to her, and to you, whilst enjoying stunning views of the Forth. If you can’t join us in Edinburgh, then catch us at Glasgow Women’s Library 30 Jan – 11 Feb.

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1973 – Archiving The Live

City Art Centre (5th Floor)
18/19/20/22/25/26 Jan 2017 / 11am-4.30pm

Glasgow Women’s Library
30 Jan – 11 Feb 2017 / 11am–4pm (Sat 12pm-4pm, Closed Sun)

This performative exhibition of Janice’s personal collection of 44 years charts her practice through time and social history. What began as a memory aid now has a touch of the collector’s obsession about it.

1973 exists as a catalyst and generator of questions, reflections and exchange. Janice and collaborator Luke Pell will invite thinkers, doers and dance-makers to join them over four weeks in two different cities and spaces.

1973 will be constantly active, convivial and performative, hosting a think-tank, conversations and dancing. It is open to the public throughout each day – you are warmly invited to drop by anytime, or join us at one of our special events.

View a PDF of the full exhibition programme here.

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The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart: Selling out New York!

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, with movement direction by Janice, is selling out at the McKittrick Hotel in New York, and has been listed in the New York Times Top 5 shows this season. Brilliant news for a brilliant cast and crew!

https://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/content/default.asp?page=home_prudenciahart

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TWO winners for our first Dance Artist Development Bursary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are delighted to announce that last night we awarded TWO winners of our first Dance Artist Development Bursary in partnership with The Saltire Society. Thanks to match funding from JPP, both Aby Watson and Julia McGhee are proud recipients. Aby was there at the Saltire Awards at Oran Mor to receive her award with Janice.

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Screening of ‘You Said You Liked the Dancing’ at Scottish Care Conference

‘You Said You Liked The Dancing’ made with folks from Town Break Stirling was screened to start off Scottish Care’s conference today in Glasgow. What a lovely thing – we hope the conference is a good day of deep and inspired thinking and sharing for everyone involved.

http://www.scottishcare.org/

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Wind Resistance at Celtic Connections 2017

The Celtic Connections 2017 programme has just been announced, including Karine Polwart’s beautiful Wind Resistance, which features movement direction by Janice. It’s another packed programme with acts from across the globe: http://www.celticconnections.com/

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Platform 10th Birthday Celebrations

Janice is delighted to be celebrating with Platform today for their EPIC Celebration Day, marking the end of their 10th birthday celebrations.

The day will feature the première of a specially commissioned film documenting the tenth year in the life of Platform by Geraldine Heaney, live performance of the composition When We Grow Younger created by Malcolm Lindsay in collaboration with pupils from Sunnyside Primary, talks by Matthew Ward and David McCluskey from Sense Scotland, Rhiana Laws, Janice Parker and our recent artist in residence Deirdre Nelson. We are also delighted to announce that Joanna Ostrom and Chris Sonnex from Good Chance Calais Project will present a film followed by a presentation. The day will end with a special performance of Rules of the Dancefloor – perfect for all ages.

“Happy 10th anniversary Platform – what great work and a great programme!”

http://www.platform-online.co.uk/whats-on/event/200/

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1973 Workshop at Cove Park

We love these pictures taken by the marvellous Eoin Carey at Janice’s ‘1973’ workshop with over 50s at Cove Park last week:

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An evening of dance-themed films at Cove Park

This Thursday Janice is at Cove Park for an evening of dance themed short films selected by herself and young dancers from Cove & Kilcreggan Youth Cafe. The Dance Film Night is for 11-18 year olds in Argyll & Bute with a passion for all and any dance, whether you’re a performer or not. The films will be introduced by the dancers, who will invite you to share and discuss your thoughts on the films.

 

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Dance and Movement Workshop at Cove Park

This Friday at Cove Park, Argyll & Bute, Janice is hosting a free dance and movement workshop for anyone over 50. The workshop is built around her archive of 43 years of creating dance with people (her archive will be on display during the day) and is for all abilities (participants will dance seated and standing) and levels of experience, from first timers to professional dancers. Spread the word!

 

 

 

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New Dance Bursary in partnership with The Saltire Society

Just ONE WEEK LEFT to apply for our brand new dance bursary, created in partnership with The Saltire Society. The recipient will be awarded £2,500, plus a membership to the Saltire Society and regular support from Janice Parker Projects.

http://www.saltiresociety.org.uk/

 

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Workshop in Malmo, Sweden

This week, Janice is in Malmo, Sweden for dance festival Forever DANCE, where she is leading a workshop for dance teachers, dancers and people working within health and medicine. More information on their fabulous website:

http://www.skanesdansteater.se/en

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Scotland’s Dementia Awards

On Thursday we had a wonderful time at Scotland’s Dementia Awards in Glasgow, where we were runners up in the ‘Best Dementia Friendly Community Initiative’ category for our Forget Me Not Project with Festival City Theatre Trust. More information about this brilliant project soon…

 

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New Dance Award announced

Janice Parker Projects are delighted to announce their new Dance Artist Development Bursary in partnership with The Saltire Society.

 As part of The Saltire Society’s ‘Inspiring Scotland” programme and 80th Anniversary celebrations, Janice Parker Projects are thrilled to be offering, for the first time, a Dance Artist Development Bursary to support an emerging artist who puts people, place and collaboration at the centre of their work. The bursary recipient will be awarded £2,500, enabling them to undertake a project over the course of a year. In addition, the artist will be offered a one-year membership to the Saltire Society and regular support from Janice Parker Projects.

Janice Parker Projects are known for their passion for and commitment to diversity in dance. They want to work with dance artists who are different, who are inspired by people, place and collaboration, to put forward proposals on how they would use this bursary to develop their practice and contribute to the current and future ecology of dance. The artist will have the opportunity to develop a project of their own in response to this call out, with support from Janice Parker Projects over the course of the year. The award will be made to an emerging dance artist, of any age, who offers an imaginative and searching enquiry and can demonstrate how the award and working with Janice Parker Projects can benefit their artistic development.

Download the application form here: JPP Bursary Application Form Final

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