Weaving and Dancing About to Begin

A diverse and balanced crew is coming together for our spring activities with shoe weaving and dancing at Trillium North Park.  As we begin to weave shoes from local materials, I anticipate the continuation of a conversation we have been having for the past year around connection to place through the gathering and harvesting of essential materials.

I have been asking myself: how can I connect to this place through the work I do on the land?  Or conversely, how am I not connected to this place by virtue of my daily life, work, and relationship to food, clothing and shelter?

Partly, the answers to these questions have come in the form of the work itself – as I watch Tracy and Sharon delve into an excited think-tank of materials and techniques, I witness the development and sharing of knowledge that must be put into action in order to move into the future.  They have been immersed in the doing and this is inspiring to me as a dancer.

There is a natural bridge (no pun intended!) between the work it takes to understand and employ local textiles and the ways in which our bodies become the site of our connection to the land.  As we begin to dance this connection, I imagine how we will express personal meanings through movement with sensorial and sculptural qualities.

And, as we will be working with shoes and the connections our feet make to the ground, we will look for rhythmic impulses to infuse our steps with a quality of intention.  Purposeful and playful at the same time, our steps will echo the process of textile discovery and refinement, as weave together our individual experiences through a common pulse.

At least, this is what I have in mind.   We will see where the group experience takes us … – Mirae

Woven Sandal Sample - by Sharon Kallis

Woven Sandal Sample – by Sharon Kallis

 

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Special Guest Artists Announced

As we move towards our spring shoe weaving and dance project, we are happy to announce the participation of two special guest artists, Rebecca Campbell and Dan Gaucher.  Their full bios are here.

Rebecca Campbell is creating a song for the project as a whole, one that will be sung as we work together in the future.  Dan Gaucher will be adding a percussive element to our site-specific work at Trillium North Park, drawing out the rhythmic qualities of our dance.

Welcome Rebecca and Dan!

 

In what ways does our labour become a dance?

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Photo by Yvonne Chew

How can work and play intersect? In what ways can our labour become a dance? When we dance to produce an object, what does it mean?

On September 7th, we celebrated at Trillium North Park, harvesting flax & hanging it to dry, feasting on produce from Hastings Urban Farm, and gathering to witness potential performance material involving music, dance and spinning wheels.

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Photo by Yvonne Chew

Over the past few weeks, we have been generating some material to share as a work-in-progress towards our final installation in the spring of 2015. We became interested in how we could animate the productive process of spinning fibre to make yarn, allowing dance to animate the different stages of the process. Sharon and Karen, both experienced spinners, used special spinning wheels which Martin has turned into percussive machines. Tracy sang a song and David accompanied with his horn. Mirae and Wilson danced the line off and on the wheel, working with Sharon to create a 2-ply length of yarn and finally winding it into a skein.

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Photo by Yvonne Chew

As we pulled the line off the wheel and stretched it through the space of the park, we kept a constant tension on the wool yarn and made different shapes with the line, extending those shapes with our entire bodies. We are inspired by the fact that as we pull the yarn off the wheel, we are in fact dancing the whole length of what was produced by the spinning – we are making apparent the product’s length in relation to the time spent spinning it. So, our dance becomes one about measurement and shape as we crystallize our bodies and the yarn in space. Backed-up musically by David and Tracy, this first part of the dance became intentional and contemplative in tone. These qualities continued through the other sections of the dance as we ran both ends of the line back to Sharon so she could spin the 2-ply again, and then finally unwound the yarn from the wheel a second time and wrapped it into a skein.

This fall, we will continue to investigate the possibilities of producing yarn and dance as simultaneous performative actions. We will also look at weaving and how we can begin to make dances that through their steps and patterns in space can result in woven structures. And, as always, we’ll be warming-up our hands in preparation for dancing and increasing our awareness and sensitivity towards our bodies, each other, and our environment. If all goes well, we will discover a few answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this post, as we create a space for work and expression combined. We’ll be sharing the autumn research on November 9th at Hastings Urban Farm as part of the Heart of the City Festival. More details to follow soon.

Autumn Dance Research, Sundays 12-2 PM

September
14 Hastings Urban Farm
21 Trillium North Park
28 Hastings Urban Farm

October
5 Trillium North Park
12 Hastings Urban Farm
19 Trillium North Park
26 Hastings Urban Farm

November
2 Hastings Urban Farm

Celebration Event: Sunday November 9, 1-3 PM Hastings Urban Farm

our able & expressive hands – a report from the dance process

eucalyptus leaf dye on wool

eucalyptus leaf dye on wool

As we have been working in the gardens this summer, we have been investigating the properties of our hands to both do work and express. And now that we are nearing the end of the season, a series of gestures have collected into a dance for our hands, one that tells the story of our process so far. Yesterday, September 1, With the help of Wilson Liang (dancer) and Mr. Fireman (music) I shared this short hand dance at our celebration event at Means of Production Garden.

Some of the gestures come from working with tools – both general gardening implements and tools specific to fibre production.  I have become particularly interested in the aid tools give us to build, deconstruct, manipulate and ground our intentions and goals – and I’ve begun to think about how tools are a way to connect, transfer, and distribute the energy of our bodies with the environment.  As extensions of our hands, tools accomplish goals and do work in a kind of energetic transfer with the land.

Wilson makes a skein

Wilson makes a skein

As we construct a gestural dance, one that focuses on the relationship between our hands, arms, and head and eyes, it becomes really interesting to see what happens when the tools are taken away.  How do our gestures transform when the focus is on our bodies and our connection to environment, memory, and intention?

At many of our sessions so far, I have introduced a warm-up gestural dance by Irene Dowd, which was taught to me by a colleague, Hailey McCloskey.  I have been thinking a lot about why it fascinates me so much. It is both functional and imagistic. It provides the hands, arms, and shoulders with a really good stretch.  And, it focuses on the connection between our two hands as we press our fingers or palms together and spiral our fingers in and out of connection with each other.  It is this play between our two hands that I realize is an interesting starting point for Terroir because it is the connection that grounds the two halves of our bodies with each other, circulating energy to find balance.  Without tools, our hands are brought in relationship to each other.  We internalize the opportunity to ground and connect with our environment, expressing balance, connection and exchange.

The dance we have been working on contains hand movements from clearing undergrowth, using a drop spindle, drafting fibre, winding skeins … and rather than organize them in a chronology, they are linked together by a play between our hands. Sometimes this connection is very close as we press our palms together; sometimes it is taken to its edge along specific lines in space.  In this way the dance plays with balancing energies between both halves of our bodies, distributing intention to the furthest edges, to interact with our environment and community, and bringing it back to our centres, when we join our hands at our midline in various ways, to bring our left and right halves together.

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Wilson, Mirae, Mr. Fireman – Means of Production Garden, Sept 1 2014

gathering our gestures – a report from the dance process

The world turns around us – the world of sight, sound, texture, smell – and when we stop to listen, it is inside us after-all. The dance is stillness – or at least quiet – as we are always resonating, a community of sensation.

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Apples at Means of Production: traces of human activity in the garden

A few years back, my husband and I arrived home to Vancouver after three years of travel. We had been literally around the world, always travelling east from our point of origin.  It had been a whirlwind trip and a very necessary adventure.  Arriving home, I had a deeper context with which to reform my sense of this place.  And, as a dancer, I had to ask myself: what are dances that come from this place, this land? Terroir is a rich opportunity to begin this investigation, and in these early stages we have explored a variety of dance activities: using sensation as a means to map place, cultivating gestures based on the movements of labour, listening and moving in resonance with sounds, gathering textures and drawing traces of their rhythms.

As we engage with gathering, spinning, cultivating and processing, I am especially fascinated with our hands – their articulate ability to work and express.   So, at our weekly sessions, we have been creating gestures based on natural textures and environmental sounds.  We have also been learning to spin with wheels and drop spindles, and assisting with some general garden maintenance.  Working from the memory of these tasks, we have been creating expressive movements with our hands and transforming them into new gestures through improvisation.   These gestures will be gathered and combined to form a dance for the hands, one that tells the story of our process.

Texture mapping at Hastings Urban Farm

Texture mapping at Hastings Urban Farm

We are now moving past the first harvest and into the late summer and autumn, we will begin to investigate our footsteps and pathways through our garden spaces as we tend and collect our crops. And, we will start to look at patterning based on weaving. We have some spun fibres to work with and when stretched-out between two or more people, there is lots of potential for a weaving dance that displays the length of fibre produced by our wheels.

Fence at Means of Production: an inspiration for movement following weaving & natural rhythms

Fence at Means of Production: an inspiration for movement following weaving & natural rhythms

And of course, we are accompanied by our spinning wheels. We are currently working on ways to transform them into percussive machines – the sound of spinning becomes a gentle and meditative noise, highlighting the cyclical and repetitive nature of work, peppered with human variation in speed, and our need for mistakes, discussion, breaks … With more than one wheel going, the syncopation becomes a kind of free-jazz machine song.  For me, the sound invokes images of slow and deliberate movement, dances which are meditative and connected.

We will see how our dances shape-up in the coming month of August.  There are an exciting number of themes to explore as we trace the activities associated with urban cloth production.  How they begin to form will be shaped by our collaboration – with each other and with the sun, rain, plants, animals, tools, passers-by, traffic … all those elements which create the social and environmental fabric of Terroir. – Mirae