Dance Transports is a Portal by Izzy Brittain
If this pandemic is a portal, as Arundhati Roy suggested in an article back in April 2020, perhaps unexpected developments in practice are the silver lining for us artists? Forced to find other ways of working, we explore radical new diagonals. Initiatives like Dance Transports support this, offering portals of possibility in the form of paid professional development opportunities for artists.
As a dance artist and poet from a working-class background, I believe art’s role is to keep these portals open for all. Having begun my own journey as a mature student, graduating just over five years ago, I am still considered ‘emerging’. Like many artists, I have a ‘portfolio career’ and multiple practices. You can read my blog about my work in dance for older adults here, for example.
Alongside this, I am a poet. In recent years I have been developing an interdisciplinary practice, completing a couple of commissions and taking time to explore the meeting point between dance and poetry whenever possible. This is how I came to attend the Writing Dance workshop, a collaboration between Yorkshire Dance and The Writing Squad.
I arrived in the Zoom room hungry for inspiration; keen to explore new ways to make my words breathe, sweat, smile and sing. I was a little empty and a lot screen fatigued. Welcome to Art-making in the Time of Corona! Fortunately, I was paired with a poet with whom creation occurred instinctively and an easy connection formed. The digital format also provided an interesting freedom in limitation.
The experiment we created was a hybrid of two tasks. First, we were asked to move remembering a dance that gave us great joy. Mine was a dance with my Grandma, who has Alzheimer’s. The poet I was paired with wrote a beautiful piece in response, but the dance you will see accompanying it now originated in a different task; to explore the choreography of language through creating our own.
Longing for clarity among the psychological clutter of my bedroom-studio-office-space, I headed for the only blank bit of white wall available and used the frame of my phone camera to capture the minutiae of the moment. I opted for the language of the body. I just wanted to see what my soft animal body had to say today, in this peculiar ‘lockdown’ situation.
The Time My Body Saved Me meditates on the hinterland, the connection between mind and body, the intuitive space where dance and poetry meet. It touches on trauma and fragility. How do the words land in your body when you watch it? What does it mean for so many of us to be swimming in our own skin – alone and without touch – behind screens?
I discovered some potential solutions and insights in this carefully crafted workshop; a space held by two very thoughtful artists. I began an unexpected digital collaboration which has life beyond the workshop, and blew my practice wide open with the idea of working with film. Mostly, I was deeply grateful for an opportunity to explore despite this ocean of distance.
Digital work has certainly been a source of innovation, joy and knowledge – a powerful connecting force in these times. For me, this workshop really altered the course of my thinking, and potentially my future practice. We need these portals of possibility, perhaps now more than ever.
A dance with my Grandma:
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