Outstretched arm | Collective Identity

Throughout the pandemic I was drawn to reflect on change, transition and acceptance as key features of the lockdown experience. Pre-lockdown was the place we once were – a place full of expectation and taking things for granted, busy, unaware of the structures we all relied on day to day. Lockdown burst the bubble, catapulting us into what felt like a temporary time-warp of a changing and unknown world, on hold from reality, with the dream of post-lockdown freedom dangling just out of reach – an enticing, mythical place we were ever-hopeful we would reach.

Soon I found myself very aware though, that whilst fantasy and hopefulness were useful for positive mindset in the short term, acceptance would be a more grounded place to find myself. The path of presence would be the best one to follow as we transitioned into what was likely to be a very different world to the one we used to be in.

Acceptance therefore required acknowledging that what we have all been through over the last 18 months has been traumatic, life-changing, debilitating for some, vulnerable for others. A genuine question of survival for many of the dancers I work with every week.

We already began conversations with our dancers about this transitionary time – during the summer of 2020 our conversations led us to share a small gallery of images and words in the Connection in Isolation Project and the resulting film Looking Down.

The dancers I work with continue to inspire me as an artist and as a human being, as we so quickly and effortlessly fall into conversation about what it means to be living here and now, and how life looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds in all its raw and sometimes ugliness, especially during COVID-19. Focusing on real stories, and reality in the here and now, led to an evolving practice of mind-body presence and awareness with the dancers which has led to some beautiful, intimate, warm and often hilarious results!

We now find ourselves at a transitionary stage once again in the COVID landscape, and the Collective IDentity Project has been specifically designed to hold space for the dancers as we navigate that change.

The project is taking us from the zoom studio into the in-person world, starting this week with a face-to-face filming process, and photography opportunity, capturing our dancers in their homes and gardens. This phase of the project is timed so that after three months of dancing online, we have built impenetrable bonds of friendship and trust that hold us in a safe space to be vulnerable together and share the stories and experiences we have had over the last 18 months. This phase has also been designed as a one-to-one, bespoke creative workshop process for each dancer to bring something of themselves and their vision of their artistic world to our making process.

Not only does this process honour the transition from the safety of our zoom studio, to dancing face-to-face; it also honours the co-creative approach that my making process is founded on. No single interaction with each of our dancers will mimic another. We will come, open and responsive, to every home or garden that we are invited into, and offer the dancers the chance to shape, direct, and feature in their own story.

I’m honoured to begin this special filming process with our wonderful dancers. Alongside Jaka Skapin and Pavel Radu, we hope to produce a raw and honest piece of work grounded in acceptance of what is.

The filming process will be captured in images for our gallery exhibition touring later in the year by long time collaborator, Sara Hibbert (all site imagery). Her work encapsulates the Collective IDentity core themes of empathy, intimacy and care. I’m delighted to invite her into this transition process, to sit in-between pre and post COVID with us, and consider how this has changed our worlds… 

Danielle Teale