Here’s an article written by Rebecca Miles, one of the ArtsCross London dancers.

by Rebecca Miles — ArtsCross experience

Leaving home and being elsewhere is not so much the idea of moving places but the transition of a state of mind. I believe that ‘Home’ and ‘elsewhere’ are subjects of a continually changing context, in which we are the creators and definers. Both myself, the Chinese and the Taiwanese dancers were in a place of elsewhere, London, by varying degree was the home town for none of us. In saying this, over the three weeks of rehearsals the sense of ‘elsewhere’ was slowly dismantled whilst the sense of ‘home’ and familiarity, at least within our group identity, slowly crept up upon us. As true to the saying ‘you don’t know what you have got until it’s gone’ I felt a strange sense of absence from the moment I left the Robin Howard theatre after the final show. I have noticed that there is something truly magical, remarkable and universal that happens when dancers and choreographers work together on a piece. As dancers we take for granted that we get in other peoples’ personal space; touch and physical contact are a given rather than something that is shied away from. In fact, when working in a group as was required for Su Wei Chia’s choreography, there were times when the concept of ‘personal space’ became a shared entity even in times when this was not choreographically intended. The age old notion of trust also played a part in our group dynamic and the forming of a family like status; many rehearsals were spent working in partners, improvising and moving around each other to find points of support to shape our own journeys through the contact of another’s body. Added with this were many points of being lost in translation — I found communication to include gestures, exaggerated mime and the interchanging tone of  Su Wei Chia’s voice in multiple languages — the confusion sometimes formed from this was often followed by laughter, accident and complete collapse on the floor — all of which can do wonders to develop friendships. By no means do any of these suggest a lack of professional environment; in fact it only reiterates the sense of accident, chance and play that is so fundamental in the development of performance art and so often lost in other areas of society.

My overall experience of the project could honestly relate to a rollercoaster ride — no matter how cliché the analogy. Having literally walked at my graduation ceremony the previous day, Kerry Nichols’ audition class was a short sharp shock — although a very fun, highly energetic, challenging and creative one — into the graduating world. I have now realised that as creatures of habit, perhaps in some cases less habit more creatures constrained by time and means, we often do what we know and then we perpetuate this stance of knowing and shy away from stepping out into the unknown as there is the potential that we may not know what to do if presented with this situation. I digress with these thoughts however, for me this was what opened me up to really thinking about the way in which it is possible to see the world. The experience of Arts Cross introduced me, politely and delicately but definitely not without passion to the dancing world so close outside my own imposed ‘University Blinder’ and gave me the opportunity to experience another culture in a way which I would not otherwise have encountered so intimately even if I were to travel the world.

To dance is to breathe and live and for three weeks I had the chance to breathe and live outside of my comfort zone for which I am incredibly grateful. Experience is a gift which can be received without realising its true worth and hindsight is definitely a wonderfully frustrating thing, however I have no regrets from this experience, only treasured memories and at least one pen pal on the other side of the world! It took me almost a week to learn how to say ‘backpack’, (ho-bay-bow — for those who need constant syllabic reassurance in learning new words as I did) ‘I don’t know’, ‘Upper’ and ‘lower leg’ (I really couldn’t tell you what obscurity these conversations derived from) and most of the time I needed a prompt for the first syllable of each word and with that I also think my pronunciations provided everyone with a laugh from time to time. It is these memories which will stick with me, but also the opportunity to work within a different choreographic framework than perhaps before, however I find myself toying with the idea that for dancers and choreographers alike the studio or rehearsal space will always pick up the notion of ‘home’. With this and the way in which it shapes the space as a shared workplace there is a common thread and organisation of thought that runs through this practice no matter where in the world you come from. Perhaps it is the nature of the people that choose or are drawn toward choreographic work, but I found a sense of ease and familiarity within the tasks and approach to the practice which grew throughout the process of the project. The unknown, in a way became known or malleable within my understanding and I came to enjoy and indulge in a different approach to movement both in terms of technique and expression. Su Wei Chia mentioned at one point whilst talking about the intention of the choreography, that the audience would see what they wanted to see and would find their own interpretations. His emphasis was on wanting us to show some emotion, to show the shade and shape of this emotion which changes gradually though our progression through the piece. In hindsight I can understand his patience as there were days when this emotion was not honestly felt and he could always tell, and always dissuaded us from the faking of this emotion. As a piece based entirely on improvisation, the need to be present in every moment was at first overwhelming — of course no dancer should ever go into auto pilot — however the relationship between though and movement became an interesting one to observe — even within my own body. The temptation to think or do, or think and then do, or think too much whilst trying to do, especially when processing verbal instruction sometimes got the better of me within the improvisations, and at such a time, this observation was pointed out and many a time the task would be stripped back to its bare basics of feeling and moving, for that was where the gold dust lay.

The whole process of the project left me thinking for quite some time, I believe that ArtsCross only further fuelled my belief in the beauty and the power that dance has to offer in all its differences as a way to come together and exchange our creative journeys through life.

ArtsCross experience

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