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Writing Dance by Salma Lynch

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In November 2020 I had the privilege of partaking in a series of workshops called Writing Dance, with Kayo Chingonyi and Ella Mesma. There were twelve of us in total (some dancers, writers, and others both) all ready to explore writing and dance as part of our creative practice. As someone who loves to dance for fun, I was excited to explore it in a more formal setting.

I learnt a lot in these workshops and one of my favourite parts of the sessions was our group discussions. For example, we learnt that historically if you were a poet, you were a dancer and singer too. And so these workshops were an attempt to reconcile these since separated art forms. We did this through several exercises including one where we were put in (conscious) pairs and tasked with taking turns to dance whilst the other wrote down each move our partner made.

I found it interesting and often challenging to tell a story with my body. I found it hard to translate my ideas into movement. And the moves I did think up often felt cliched or obvious. So, I have a newfound respect for movement practitioners who do this successfully.

Through the workshops, I was also introduced to a new way of seeing writing, as not just a mental exercise, but also as a physical act. This notion, (that seems obvious now) wasn’t something I had thought about before and is something I’ve taken with me. Now when I write I am more conscious of my body and therefore experience a more embodied process.

As noted above our facilitators put us in conscious pairings with people they thought would complement one another. I was paired with Jake Evans a dancer based in Leeds whom I had brilliant discussions. One of our most noteworthy conversations was when we spoke about identity, where Jake shared an idea derivative of an Oscar Wilde quote about how ‘all the masks make up the person.’ And I like this idea, it’s quite subversive, as usually when we think of masks, we see them as something that hides the truth of who we are and not something that is part of who we are.

One of my highlights from the project was when we did a series of mindful exercises led by Ella. It came on a day I felt particularly heavy, and it was as if she had telepathic powers and known exactly what I had needed. As part of the exercise, she had us walk slowly to help us get into our bodies and had us also scream silently- which was surprisingly therapeutic and something I have since added to my self-care toolbox.

My second highlight was when we were tasked with creating a group piece inspired by Shakespeare’s poem; Not from the Stars do I my Judgement Pluck. My group and I came up with a boyband-inspired performance (featuring a banana microphone and the cheesiest dance moves.) Safe to say it went down a treat. Some of the others even had tears in their eyes (the good kind.)

Ultimately, this was a great experience and something I benefitted from. The idea of linking writing and dance excites me and this project was a great introduction to doing so. The sessions were well thought of and the facilitators were encouraging and enthusiastic. I enjoyed the interesting group discussions and the fun we had collaborating. This was truly an edifying and fun project and I am glad I was chosen to take part. My only hope is that Yorkshire Dance can make this into a 4–6 week course so we can have more time to further develop our skills and ideas

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