Dance and performance artists from across Australia took part in a unique and exciting professional development opportunity ... the "Weave Inclusive Dance Workshop" series was delivered in 2014 as part of a professional development partnership between Weave Movement Theatre and Arts Access Australia (AAA).
A series of workshops culminated in a weekend intensive in September and AAA were delighted to support 9 successful applicants to attend this unique opportunity:
· Emma Hawkins, Victoria;
· Lorcan Hopper, SA;
· Morgan Webb Liddle, Victoria;
· Joshua Pether, WA;
· Stella Barton, Victoria;
· Tiffany Malthouse, NT;
· David Baker, Victoria;
· Joshua Campton, SA; and
· Michael Buxton, Victoria.
This weekend intensive will be facilitated by Caroline Bowditch and Weave Movement Theatre.
Check out what the project involved:
Initiatives such as this are vital in the career progression of artists with disability who often experience difficulty in accessing such opportunities. Funding has been provided by the Australia Council through its “Unfunded Excellence” program for artists from around Australia to attend this exciting event.
Check out our two Facebook Albums for all of the Weave Intensive Images:
Dance Informa wrote a great review of the project ... check it out here.
A number of the project participants have agreed to share their thoughts and ideas as the project unfolds. Read their latest thoughts and ideas here:
As an assistant director from Germany looking for different forms of theatrical art that happen outside the major subsidised houses I was lucky to find Weave and be invited to join them for their dance workshop's intensive weekend in September. It was an unsettling experience. Artist Caroline Bowditch, who directed the workshop, created a space and a mindset for the group of about 20 artists and aspiring artists that allowed each to discover themselves in depth in terms of movement, create an own unique language and transform these findings into a shared experience by tuning them in with varying groups of three to six. The improvisational tasks were challenging, emotionally and physically, and thus produced some beautifully deep results. The individually found images and movements were fused into choreographies interconnecting the participants' unique languages.
Starting off with rather simple tasks such as finding ways to move related to verbal cues like "snow", "snake" or "sleazy" everybody was able to open up to the space Caroline Bowditch created. In a next step the movements were fed from dualisms such as "floating and harsh" or "up and down". Then the findings were taken into the space, learned by the other particpants and developed further in new personal and interpersonal contexts. The complexity culminated in the solo dances depicting beauty, that built up to emotional, fragile and stunning choreographies performed in small groups at the end of the third and final day.
The workshop was a great opportunity to improve skills in creating dance pieces through picturing inner spaces, ideas of beauty, the complexity of private emotion and the personalised perception of the world.
The diversity of the partaking artists meant inspiring encounters and mindblowing ways of creating a common physical language that nonetheless allowed for recognition of each person's individuality.
I dearly hope the future will bring more of these opportunities for collective work and development processes under the lead of Weave Movement Theatre and their collaborations with international artists.
Caroline really stretched our minds and our bodies - I have never felt so tired nor so satisfied after a workshop. There is so much that I can take from this workshop and use in my own theatre practice.
It was great to see so many people from diverse backgrounds who had never previously worked together, actually come together and work as a team. I felt that I was part of the team, that everyone was accepted for who they were and that there was real equality. Today, for the first time ever, I, like many others, walked away in tears. It was such a heart warming experience and really touched my soul. This is one workshop I will never forget.
The two workshops with Michelle Heaven were fantastic. I totally enjoyed being able to let myself go, and see what surprises I would find. Michelle has a wonderful sense for play and adventure. I have yet to learn about creating images and holding them in my mind long enough, for me to move with them is often a tough call, when my physical existence demands so much concentration but through Michelle’s teaching I saw it easily and I could switch into other characters and develop my superhero other self. Very exciting to see our dance changing and evolving with theatre skills of adventure and fun.
For me, I love to explore shifting in and out of my wheelchair and sometimes timing is difficult in a group environment because it does mean I have to be mindful of when and how to make those shifts – and these workshops have been wonderful for developing my ability to do these shifts more effectively and confidently.
Also such a wonderful time with some of my favourite people I simply like to hang out with on a Sunday morning – sharing a laugh with Weave Movement Theatre is the best thing at the best of times and that certainly grows week to week with the great teachers and artists we get to work with.
Weave Movement Theatre travels more deeply into Butoh with Yumi Umiumare
In our second session with Yumi we continued to explore Butoh's territory of allowing internal experiences to guide our movement. Yumi took us through a series of warm-ups designed to open our chest and hearts to one another, like an accordion playing. She describes many images to help us to connect with our inner worlds and experience something so we can communicate it. For example we imagined good and bad memories. She also keeps talking us through it as we work. She uses her own body and face to demonstrate what she is asking us to do.
In one powerful exercise our group was divided in half and 5 or 6 performers stood before us in a line. Each was having an individual experience which was created by the same set of instructions. But as we noted each was such an individual. Those of us watching had a sense that it was an honour to see these performers open their hearts to us. When I performed I imagined I was sharing all the love I had with the small trusted audience. At times we were asked to feel emotions or remember movement and then to suppress it. This made for such a powerful spectacle. The stifling of the emotion making it multiply somehow.
What I love about this form is the power of it: Seeing people display the full gamut of human experience. I also like the way the darkness is just as important as the light. There's room for all our lives in this and after all, we're all in it together.
A comment from Greg (surname?) demonstrated just how much Weave's performers were connecting with the spirit of the experience. Greg is also a visual artist and an indigenous man and he talked about the feeling of 'flow' when he is painting. He said that when he performed the exercise described above he felt like he was flying. "It's like our dreamtime". Karen added "Pure Spirit".
These workshops with Yumi have showed us how we can take our performances to another level. Now we have all experienced the power of Butoh and we know we are capable of taking our audiences somewhere new and wonderful.
At the moment, it is a really exciting time with Weave as we are doing some fantastic training workshops at Dancehouse in Carlton. The workshops started two weeks ago and our first guest artist teacher was Yumi Umiumare, Yumi is the only Japanese Butoh Dancer living in Australia and the creator of Butoh movement. I had heard about Yumi’s work before but this was my first chance to do a workshop with her.
I was already excited about doing the training workshops but even more excited to hear about the line up of artists to be involved. Being involved with Weave Movement Theatre has been a huge part of my dance world since 2010 – I particularly love the diversity of dance and movement we get to experience and be part of.
As a dancer with disability, Weave is the one thing in my life that makes me feel like a person first and an artist second. Weave movement theatre is the most inclusive, public known group I have been involved in.
Getting back to Yumi’s workshop sessions – wow! I loved the journey Yumi took me on, and I enjoyed sharing it with my Weave dancing buddies too. The pace and the space all seemed so beautifully created for us as a group and individually. With Yumi I was able to define my slow movements and work to express them in a way, I have not experienced before… example moving and communicating with my chest and then only my head and tongue… wow, I am still very much tapping into the potential of my own body.
The other thing I am loving about these workshops is having a support worker on the scene – it just means I can ask for help with my personal needs and this gives me more energy to focus on my dance learning and enjoyment. Many thanks Arts Access Australia for your support – it does mean such a lot to me personally and to our troupe.
Michelle Heaven brings out more character in Weave Movement Theatre
Michelle Heaven inspired us to create some characters I hope we see again very soon! We started the day very simply by ‘folding and unfolding’ in ways our bodies needed to move to warm up. (What a pleasure to enter a building and have permission to do just what your body feels like doing. Where else can you do that? ... Dancehouse!)
We did a couple of exercises in using a body part to inspire the movement. How does a heightened awareness of one particular body part make you want to move? Not so much ‘leading with’ that body part, but allowing it to influence the movement. I thought it was a good way to get out of my comfort zone and avoid cliched movement.
As we opened up and became more playful we moved on to a series of instructions: We all travelled around the space with the same instruction - Californian, High catatonic, Low catatonic, passionate, normal, leaden and Alert. Lots of contrast there and I’m sure it was interesting to watch.
Next we worked in small groups to devise a little scene. We were each given characteristics such as ‘big nose’, ‘posh’, ‘twitchy’ or ‘shy’ and a location such as ‘photographic studio’ or ‘dentist surgery’. Laugh? This was a high point of the workshop. I hope to see the dentist surgery scene again in some form. Maybe it will be part of a show sometime. It was a simply scenario - Karen sought medical advice, first checking in the receptionist, Antony, then engaging in a tug-o-war procedure with Greg, the dentist. But the instructions each character had made it hysterically funny.
Lastly we chose an adjective from a list and created a solo based on that feeling. What will we do next? I can’t wait for next week.
My name is Trevor and I was nervous about working with such a renowned Butoh Teacher. I had done some Butoh with the Victorian College of the Arts Drama School which had been slow walking and strict. I was surprised what a happy person Yumi turned out to be and how willing she was to share her work with people who made need to work within their restrictions. The first reassuring thing I heard her say on the first day was that dance could be holding tension in the body and being still as much as moving. She created a safe welcoming space where personal restrictions could be a good thing in order to create interest. Yumi’s creative use of imagery such as a laughing bottom or an accordion in your chest allowed us to enter her world to dance and share the joy and the madness that is Butoh.
Yumi Umiumare manages to present the twisted art of Butoh to the off-centre dance/theatre company, Weave!
It's all there in the history of Butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata's disillusionment with straight lines of traditional dance and his interest in the way the bodies of hard-working peasants moved led to his exploration of alternative ways of conceiving of movement in 1960s Japan.
Yumi has taken us through exercises that reflect Butoh's impetus to move based on what is occurring internally rather than mimicking someone else's movement. For example, last Sunday we imagined moving through sticky substances, smelling revolting things and feeling a delightful breeze on our bodies. This internal motivation respects individual interpretations of stimulus as well as our differing abilities to execute particular moves. It's a bit like having a 'score', which we've often used in the past. For example, 'move through honey - slow and flowing'. The Butoh performer brings to mind the stimulus and responds physically: There's room for a broad array of interpretations amongst the dancers.
It was difficult to hold a 'mask' of our own faces and move in oppositional ways, but it probably look weirdly fabulous. Yumi praised our openness to her instructions and Janice commented that we are 'used to doing lots of weird stuff', like our exploration of the theatrical style of Buffon with Born in a Taxi.
The work is resonating with many of our performers and it's wonderful that we are having several workshops with Yumi in order to develop this on a deeper level.