Choreopoetry by Hannah Finnimore
I was incredibly excited to be selected for the Dance Transports workshop with Yorkshire Dance, as I come from a dance background but want to incorporate text and spoken word into my practice. I was also looking forward to meeting writers and poets and learn from dance artist Ella Mesma and poet/writer Kayo Chingonyi. Being able to connect with other artists is so invaluable from a continuing professional development perspective, but also socially, especially when everyone is isolated at the moment.
After a movement warm up with Ella, the first writing task was ’10 Lines of Love’ – writing a poem to a part of your body, or personality trait. I really enjoyed this task as it can be unusual to focus on the positive aspect of yourself, especially in the performance world, when making progress often means zeroing in on your flaws. Also, as a writing task, I found it incredibly useful to focus on single element at least when starting, as thinking about the details or memories I connected with my chosen part inspired the short poem below:
To my collarbones,
I don’t know which one of you I broke
reaching out to catch myself
you healed so well.
Gliding under skin,
A reminder of arnica,
and of her
who broke them twice before you.
We were then paired into breakout rooms where I got meet Helen and undertake the task of written responses to movement (one person moves, another writes what they see). I have done this type of work in choreographic workshops before so I was quite comfortable, and I really appreciated Helen’s commitment the task, as it can be really intimidating. One phrase that stood out from my automatic writing of her movement was a ‘torso full of books’ which referred to her turning as her bookshelf peaked out.
We also discussed our backgrounds and how poetry and dance both have classical, courtly roots (such as classic poetical form versus to codified ballet technique), where there is a history that influences the modern forms greatly, and how much our work is informed by this (or deliberately contrasts with it).
In the next part of the workshop, we focused on drawing choreography and poetry even more closely together. Kayo discussed how poetry was often performed with dancing in its origins, which feels evident in it’s use of verbal rhythms. To better capture this, we did a vocal warm up, and then focused on sonnets, which we were encouraged to think of as arguments.
In a trio, we selected a few lines from a famous sonnet, and created a movement sequence to camera as we delivered it. We were encouraged by Ella to think of what is unique about the camera frame and how to play with that in terms of physical distance from the camera, which I will continue to play with as I experiment with choreography at home. I also found it useful reconstructing existing writing to play with meaning, rhythm and introduce absurdity.
Overall, I found the workshop balanced dance and poetry tasks (and those that blurred those lines between the two mediums) really well, was incredibly welcoming and introduced me to new people, subjects and approaches that I have begun to explore and collaborate with in more depth in my own practice.