We kicked the cows out of their shed, put down a dance floor and started moving! Unstrapped is happening at Longlands Farm in Whitbourne, Worcester, the home of everyBODY dance and Rachel Freeman my collaborator. Saffy Setohy joins us as a dancer and it’s great to be working with her again! We worked together about 5 years ago, went away, did our own stuff and now we’re finding our feet and rhythm again.
Longlands Farm is a working farm and we really are dancing in a cowshed. As the cows graze in fields during the summer months their shed is used for events and rehearsals. It’s light, airy and this morning sun was lovely to move in, warming us for the day. Our soundtracks are the cows and sheep singing, farm machinery humming as it moves around the farm and chatter from pupils from the local schools who are learning about farming.
This R&D comes at an exciting time in my practice. I’m in year 3 of 4 of the London Feldenkrais training, at the end of year 2 I became a qualified Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Teacher. The training is inviting many more possibilities in my movement patterns and influencing how I dance, opening spaces where I’m able to question my CP and the perceptions of it, pushing against disability boundaries to invite a questioning around perceptions of the body and how we see, talk about and treat disability/dis-ability/(dis)ablity or just ability. There is a sense of curiosity in how Unstrapped came about. Could I playfully create research and development themes using my old splints, walking equipment and many versions of shoe insoles. Into mix add how I shift between the disabled and non-disabled worlds, where my left side is labelled with CP and my right isn’t.
Over the next 3 days Unstrapped will have a residency feel to it, trying out ideas, finding sparks that interest us and following my curiosity to create the beginnings of a live performance piece with installation from film and sound.
At the end of the first day. We cracked open the box of splints, gadgets and equipment I had sent up to Rachel as there was too much to fit in my suitcase! Rachel and Saffy explored with wonder, curiosity and occasionally ‘what the heck is that?’ or ‘how does this work’ or talking about a white long arm splint ‘isn’t this something cricketers wear?!’ They were trying things on, testing equipment out and rummaging through the box to see what else they could play with. This sparked a conversation about my CP and how it is perceived from a medical point of view and the correction of movement the splints and equipment enforce. We spoke about the spaces between my left and right sides, the possibilities this holds for creating choreographic material and how the label of CP is attached, especially when the medical splints are visible.
I demonstrated an FES machine I use. FES, Functional Electrical Stimulation “is a technique used to produce contractions in paralysed muscles by the application of small pulses of electrical stimulation to nerves that supply the paralysed muscle. The stimulation is controlled in such a way that the movement produced provides useful function. FES is used as an aid to assist walking and also as a means of practicing functional movements for therapeutic benefit.” http://www.odstockmedical.com/about-fesFor many years I used FES to activate my left drop-foot movement and to stimulate the movement of my toes, as these are movements I don’t have yet. I say yet as sensations and movements are always shifting, the possibilities of my left side are surprising. Saffy and I danced together, each using, exploring, the movement qualities, feeling the rhythm of the stimulation from the FES as stimulus to explore choreographic tasks. Filming our walking patterns and close ups of feet, we detailed the movements of our left and right toes.
Through the day we took time to stop, to take notes, have chats, have photographers popping in to document the start of our process and had a couple of the farm visitors’ hover at the barn doors watching what we were up to!