‘Welcome to the everything that rises must dance digital Movement Archive. This site documents the creative processes that were involved in the making of a Complicité Theatre Company large-scale dance work first presented in public spaces as part of the 2018 Dance Umbrella festival in London.
Complicité is an international touring theatre company based in London led by Artistic Director and co-founder Simon McBurney. This dance work by Complicité Associates choreographer Sasha Milavic Davies and composer Lucy Railton stems from a spirit of collective enquiry and collaborative curiosity that has been at the heart of the Company’s work since it was established in 1983. Complicité Associates are those extraordinarily talented artists and theatre makers who have travelled with Simon McBurney and the Company on a journey of theatrical experimentation. This strand of work offers opportunities for these Associates to work with Complicité to research, develop or to fully realise intriguing theatrical ideas, supported by the Company’s networks, knowledge and production resources. www.complicite.org
For ResCen, established in 1999 with a core group of six artists, 2016 saw the beginnings of a shift to a stronger focus on partnerships with the professional arts sector involving collaborations with independent artists, producers and organisations in the UK and internationally, principally in East Asia. This project is part of that new focus and reflects ResCen’s broad research concerns which continue to cohere around processes, practices and contexts of performance as it is conceived, created, presented and made available through and in the arts marketplace. www.rescen.net
For both Complicité and ResCen, change and movement are natural and being static is unthinkable. Both organisations embody an approach that allows methods to be adopted and adapted according to the needs of each project which has made this collaboration productive and a pleasure. We hope that you enjoy the website.’
— Professor Christopher Bannerman, Director ResCen Research Centre
This Movement Archive is a digital version of the living archive of movement created from Complicité theatre company’s production of everything that rises must dance. The digital Movement Archive has been created by Complicité in partnership with ResCen Research Centre. Every woman who took part in the project at different locations offered eight gestures that represented activities in their daily lives; these were refined throughout the process of making the work and formed the basis of the choreography. At every venue visited, the team filmed each woman’s individual sequence of gestures, in order to form this living archive of female movement that will be added to as more groups of women take part in the project.
‘We wanted to create a living archive of contemporary female movement and to celebrate its history and future. It’s a political gesture, an anthropological exercise and an attempt to locate the individual within the collective. When 200 women occupy a space we begin to ask – how do the gestures we make express our identity? Is movement – non-verbal communication – a hidden code to understand a culture, a society, our ancestry or our future? Quite apart from the larger political themes, the piece is a joyous communion, the creation of a new ritual.’
— Sasha Milavic Davies and Lucy Railton
everything that rises must dance is a participatory dance piece for up to 200 women of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. It is a celebration of female relationships, an ode to the way women have danced throughout history, and a living archive of contemporary female movement. The performance amplifies women in an extraordinary, moving and profound way, exploring the complexities of modern female relationships and a conversation between old and new rituals of dance, femininity and culture. It weaves together the physical, emotional and cultural roots of all involved, giving audiences a living, breathing, poetic sense of where we’ve come from, and where we might be going.
The piece is created anew in every location by a company of women recruited to be truly representative of the local demographic. Rippling choreography which reproduces the small movements of daily life, the performance sets expressive, physical action to an evolving sonic score. The performance is always free to audiences, meaning some of whom will plan to see it, while others will stumble across it.
First presented as part of the Dance Umbrella Festival in 2018, the performance toured at Somerset House, Greenwich Peninsula and Boxpark Croydon. The piece then moved on to Hong Kong, with the creative team working with a new group of 200 women to create a performance for the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2019. The team will continue to take the piece to new locations, once again creating a brand new performance using the same methodology.
An adapted piece (originally set for March 2020) was performed virtually due to COVID-19. This virtual gathering of women, recorded live on 20 June 2020, celebrated womens’ relationships with other women around them during the pandemic. The online version explored how they moved in their own space, drawing on the gestural language of their individual environments to build a new choreography: a connected archive of female movement during a time of separation.
‘Like a lightning flash, the virus has illuminated our landscape exposing suffering, inequality, and the deep fragmentation that has set in due to decades of prioritising growth over care. Now we need to build a culture of listening, respect, and solidarity. This 10 minute piece contributes to building that culture, one movement at a time. In its original form, our show is a live dance piece for 200 women. It archives female movement in order to hold up a mirror, showing us the society we’re living in today. In this online version the women were gathered from a cancelled workshop in March. Over one week they noted movements they saw other women do – on television, in the street, in their homes, through their windows. It’s a snapshot of our world in flux, of our world turned upside down, and hopefully of our world becoming a better place.’
— Sasha Milavic Davies and Lucy Railton
At the heart of the project is the aim of working with as diverse a group of participants, who identify as women, as possible. This includes ages (16+), body types, abilities, sexual preferences, professions, ethnicities. It particularly aims to gather people who are not used to attending performances in theatres or festivals. No specific skills or experience of performing are required.
The rehearsal schedule is flexible and accessible, enabling as many participants as possible to engage around their already existing work and family commitments. The process centres on a ‘festival model’ of engagement where interested women attend taster classes with professional choreographers/dancers/teachers, talks and other events where they can get a flavour of different dance styles and methods of moving. In the run-up to the performance, the team deliver at least 34 hours of workshops, masterclass and rehearsals with all 200 participants.
During the rehearsals, the movement sessions are augmented by masterclasses facilitated by five visiting local choreographers, each with their own specialism, each of them representative of the cultures that make up the fabric of a place. The rehearsal process is a participation opportunity for women who like to move and want to share their ideas about identity, the female community and their own cultural references. The choreography, by Sasha Milavic Davies in collaboration with the participants, comprises of two strands: minutely reproduced movements of daily life, gathered through close observation of women at bus stops, lunch queues, in bars, clubs and other public spaces; and fragments of women’s folk dances from around the world. The piece is set to a bespoke, original soundscape created during the project by composer Lucy Railton. We also tour a digital strand, which includes this digital archive. At every venue visited, the team filmed the individual sequence of gestures choreographed by each woman, some of which are available to view on this website.
‘… One woman enters the large circle formed by spectators with a number on her back… She performs some slow, minimal movements in silence before beckoning to others who join her from around the courtyard… As loud blasts of trumpets are heard in Lucy Railton’s crescendoing, meditative musical composition, more and more women assemble in the courtyard – all numbered – like a mass audition, except this gathering is not about competition, virtuosity or selection – each woman’s individual input is of vital importance to the collective whole… The women collectively repeat movements which are both quotidian, (smoking, eating, typing on a computer) and stylised dance moves, (freestyle boogying, skipping or technical steps from contemporary dance and folk). At times the women are still, sitting on the ground watching other groups perform: there’s a satisfying ripple of commotion as movement is passed along one row of women. In their lines they constantly change direction, facing every side of the courtyard as well as one other – in a strong display of mutual appreciation and comradery… The experience of standing amongst the audience who watch them so lovingly and admiringly, comes close to a utopian one.’
— Josephine Leask, DanceTabs