Noticing has become a very pertinent topic in the Collective IDentity process...

Both in the research conversations and in the creative thinking and planning, the word 'noticing' has come up over and over again. Being noticed, being seen, noticing details, giving value to responses...

Below is a short reflection on this topic...

Online, we have been delivering workshops removed from the luxury of touch and proximity. Kinaesthetic empathy has been harder to gain hold of, and our awareness of each other has relied more heavily on the seen and perceived sense – shared through words, gesture, expression; rather than the felt sense – offered through breath, energy shifts in the environment, relationships between people, sharing of weight or lightness.

And yet the online world has opened up a whole new honesty and integrity between us that I was not expecting. Dancers have been vulnerable, shared fears, invited us into their lives, memories, loves and losses… why?

I have a hunch it is to do with presence. Without the other senses available to us due to the restrictions of dancing online, I’ve seen artists naturally go one of two ways.

  1. Deeply connected to the dancers in the present moment, doing away with structure and traditional leading / following approaches and honing an improvisatory practice that draws from the dancers responses.
  2. Drawing closer in to traditional pedagogy and leading with strong technical precision and knowledge fore-fronted by the artist.

Both of these approaches involve presence and I’ve been thinking a lot about how acceptance and noticing relate to mindful presence in our roles as dance artists during the pandemic.

Many of us dance because we feel it brings us closer to ourselves – we feel free and truly at one with ourselves when dancing. This is presence. If we are free of past or future mind traps, we can reside in the moment and can accept what we see, hear, feel, and sense, for what it is. Dance gives us this gift.

Many people push away from this as being present with ourselves leads us to face reality which can be hard. This is true of any dancers I work with, who busy themselves with other activities to distract from their declining health. But if they can find a way to be compassionate with themselves, then the act of noticing is a step towards acceptance and ultimately freedom…

IT is the act of noticing, witnessing, and giving value to the dancers as unique individual human beings, that has made our process a successful one so far.

Working online, the practice of noticing was about seeing – seeing the environment, seeing each other, seeing ourselves. We shared views of our homes, stories of objects within them, and witnessed each other dancing in a clear, framed space on a screen. As the artist leading this, it was my job to notice what was offered in each of the small zoom boxes and respond to it with curiosity – finding ways to weave stories and objects shared into the fabric of each dance session – giving worth and value to every offering in a meaningful and authentic way (it feels strange to say this but giving value or worth to something does involve genuinely seeing it as valuable or worthy – not everyone recognises this but our dancers can sense it).

In the process of filming in our dancers homes, I have drawn on the immediacy of the experience to practice the skill of noticing and responding. Partly we have a need to capture dancers without the time for repeating the process, but mostly this is a deeply mindful practice of really listening, really noticing the dancers and their homes, and staying completely connected to the present moment so as to reflect and offer new movement tasks as they respond to the starting point offerings that we bring them.

And we aren’t starting from assumption either. For each dancer, we are talking with them in advance of their filming session to gather information about their preferences, how they like to move and what they have enjoyed over this last year of dancing online. So that each at-home workshop is begun with a task bespoke to them.

In none of these sessions have I found myself stuck for inspiration, and in none of these sessions have I found it necessary to repeat any previously explored content. Each dancer has been a muse for new approaches and insights as we have noticed, listened, reflected and offered to them the opportunity to be the leader of their own experience.

Danielle Teale