Under Uncertain Skies by Still Some-1

Under Uncertain Skies by Still Some-1

April 2020: Jane and I had just finished performing in a large outdoor dance event at Queens’ College, Cambridge for the retirement of the President, who had generously supported the college dance classes and workshops during his tenure. Five days later we entered the first national lockdown.

May 2020: Jane persuaded me that, as getting together to dance was clearly not going to be an option any time soon, we needed to do something creative remotely.  We had made a couple of dance films together previously, so this seemed the obvious direction to go in.  I had an idea ‘on the back boiler’ about wanting to make a duet for two people in different locations, as an experiment to see if it was possible to collaborate without ever physically connecting.  This seemed like the perfect scenario.  Jane contacted her dance friend, Kate, who lives in Reading. She immediately came on board and Still Some-1 was formed.

June 2020: With no real ‘theme’ or intention, aside from a virtual duet, I started the process by sending both the dancers a tiny close-up of an artwork that had caught my eye a little while ago in Cambridge. The image is from a bronze two-story high sculpture on the wall of Newnham College, by Cathy de Monchaux called Beyond Thinking

It was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own” and created as a celebration of women’s education at Cambridge. 

I wanted all the movement tasks to be as open-ended as possible, so I sent out the image with no other explanation to the dancers except the request to ‘create a 30 second piece of movement inspired by this image. Please record your response on your iPhone’.

The returned film clips, were, not surprisingly, very different from each other.  However, we quite quickly seemed to adopt a method of working. The dancers sent me their videos, I made comments, possible adjustments, or alterations, and they then sent a second set of videos which I ‘filed’ ready for editing.  Jane and Kate were encouraged to ask questions or request clarification by messaging at any time. We didn’t ever speak to each other, and very often Jane and Kate had no idea what each other was creating. 

This method was so different from being together in a studio space, where we would constantly be sharing material and offering further ideas or suggestions or experimenting together.  Each task the dancers were sent had a turn-around time of about a week, so that we could keep the momentum going.

The second task was more specifically movement based; and I shared some of the response material between the two dancers, asking them to re-do their solos incorporating sections from each other’s work. 

As it was being created during lockdown the dancers had to film in whatever space they had available, a lot of material was filmed outdoors. This then became part of the piece for me, as I enjoy engaging with nature. The third task required the dancers to move following a specific pathway, created from tracing a line on a piece of bark that I had photographed. 

I still, however, had no real direction for the piece, but was happy just to let the material be created, hoping that eventually, it all might come together to make sense!

July/August 2020: Hues of various ‘nature inspired’ paint colours were used for the fourth task – requesting the dancers respond initially by sending me descriptive words for each colour. Once their words were returned, I formed them into short phrases, and returned four phrases each to choose two to work from.

By now, the tasks had more complex instructions; were longer and had specific requests for certain outdoor locations, where possible.

September 2020: I had a fine collection (192 in all!) of short movement clips in a variety of locations with no specific connection. I decided it was time to stop creating and start the process of ‘choreographing’ the material. I also needed to choose some music.

October 2020: It was only when Jane had asked me for the 4th time how the editing was going, and I had lied 4 times that it was coming along ‘slowly’ (for that read ‘not even started’) that I felt I really needed just to plunge in and ‘make the film’. The beautiful music I chose (and managed to get kind permission from the musicians to use) was so lovely to work with. Once I started, I managed to immerse myself in the editing process. Because some of the locations didn’t quite fit my decision to use ‘nature and outdoors’ I found I had to use quite a lot of layering to hide some of the backgrounds. I also chose to add in several stills of forests I had taken over the years and used the changing skies of the summer of 2020 to link the sections and give it its title.

November 2020: Under Uncertain Skies emerged. An experiment in creating a duet between two dancers and a choreographer who never met, and who filmed all their own material on iPhone. I still haven’t met Kate and look forward to the opportunity of doing so at HOST!

Hilary Goodall

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