What is independence? Independent from what or whom? And what is training, learning and knowing?
These questions have formed the basis of our approach to this issue. Seemingly simple, these questions have been at the heart of Independent Dance’s work since 1984, when the organisation emerged out of informal collaborations between artists seeking a common ground to share training opportunities across dance forms. Remaining artist-led ever since, ID is preoccupied with supporting learning through dance, and with articulating what that might mean, and for whom.
We were therefore delighted to accept the invitation to guest-edit Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and have aimed to carry these threads throughout. We were also keen to reach beyond the boundaries of our own context and traverse borders between fields and forms. While ID has historically been associated with somatic practices, the range of practices featured in this issue is true both to the original intention of ID to support a very wide breadth of forms, and to our current commitment to supporting research across forms of dance, with questioning and open-ended curiosity being key ingredients, rather than an emphasis on product or aesthetic.
Through an international call-out, we invited proposals illuminating as broad a range of perspectives as possible, exploring how artists create, practice, and develop independent training forms, and what current practitioners consider relevant.
The resulting issue, published in July 2021, includes contributions ranging from articles to one-page ‘postcards’, by the following artists and writers: ‘Funmi Adewole, Casey Avaunt, Katrina Brown, Laura Cervi, Guy Dartnell, Thomasin Gülgeç, Stefan Jovanović, Lliane Loots, Simone Kenyon, Georgia Paizi, Helen Poynor / Hilary Kneale / Paula Kramer, Aswathy Rajan, Carolyn Roy, Stephanie Sachsenmaier, Niamh Dowling / Miranda Tufnell / Lucia Walker, Rebecca Weber, Simon Whitehead. It concludes with an obituary for Nancy Stark Smith written by Colleen Bartley.
The editors have selected the following two articles to be free to access until the end of October:
‘The dance artistry of Diane Alison-Mitchell and Paradigmz: Accounting for professional practice between 1993 and 2003’ by ’Funmi Adewole
‘Impermeable bodies: Women who lion dance in Boston’s Chinatown’ by Casey Avaunt
Impermeable bodies: Women who lion dance in Boston’s Chinatown — Casey Avaunt (Article — free to access in September and October 2021)
The dance artistry of Diane Alison-Mitchell and Paradigmz: Accounting for professional practice between 1993 and 2003’ — Funmi Adewole (Article — free to access in September and October 2021)
Notes on Contributors:
Guest editors, special issue
Henrietta Hale is co-director of Independent Dance (ID) since 2018, leading the curation of an artist-led, dance development and research organisation. She has a 25 year dance artist practice, most significantly as founder member of collective Dog Kennel Hill Project since 2004, creating performance research across theatre, gallery, screen and unusual sites, within a range of producing partnerships such as Whitechapel Gallery, Dance Umbrella, and Brighton CCA. Roles as a dancer/collaborator include Ricochet Dance Productions and Rosemary Lee projects and movement direction with visual artists. She has taught regularly in higher education contexts, significantly, Trinity Laban (2002 − 2013).
Nikki Tomlinson is a producer and dramaturg with a background in curation and performance-making. Over the past 20 years she has developed interests in performance, participation, social justice and interdisciplinarity, advocacy for and with artists and widening access in every sense to experimental work. Her previous roles include Lead Artist Advisor/Producer at Artsadmin, Programme Manager and later co-chair of Chisenhale Dance Space, ESOL Course Leader and Refugee Advisor at Hackney Community College. She joined Independent Dance as co-director in March 2020. Alongside her role with ID she is a Trustee of Home Live Art and continues to work freelance across the UK and internationally.
Sara Reed is an independent academic, researcher, writer, project manager and a qualified Feldenkrais practitioner. With a career that has spanned a wide range of dance, performance, arts and education contexts, she has published widely in the area of embodied-movement, dance, somatic practices and pedagogy. Her experience includes interdisciplinary teaching across art forms. Sara is an Associate Editor for TDPT Training Grounds and on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices and Dance, Movement & Spiritualties. She is Co-chair for Independent Dance and a trustee for Wriggle Dance Theatre – for children and families.
Gitta Wigro is a former co-director of Independent Dance. She is a freelance dance film programmer and curator, and part of the team behind the MA Screendance at London Contemporary Dance School. She has worked in artist and artform development at The Place, Arts Council England, and Independent Dance, as well as in freelance roles. As a dance film specialist, she has worked with many international festivals, including Leeds International Film Festival (UK), COORPI (IT), Festival Quartiers Danses (CA) Dance Umbrella (UK), among many others. She co-ordinates the International Screendance Calendar and other resources to support the dance film field.
Jonathan Pitches is Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds and Head of School of Performance and Cultural Industries. He specialises in the study of performer training and has wider interests in intercultural performance, environmental performance and blended learning. He is founding co-editor of the TDPT and has published several books in this area: Vsevolod Meyerhold (2003), Science and the Stanislavsky Tradition of Acting (2006/9), Russians in Britain (2012) and, Stanislavsky in the World (with Dr Stefan Aquilina 2017). His most recent publications are: Great Stage Directors Vol 3: Komisarjevsky, Copeau Guthrie (sole editor, 2018) and the monograph, Performing Landscapes: Mountains (2020).
Libby Worth is Reader in Contemporary Performance Practices, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a movement practitioner with research interests in the Feldenkrais Method, physical theatres, site-based performance and in folk/traditional and amateur dance. Performances include co-devised duets; Step Feather Stitch (2012) and dance film Passing Between Folds (2017). She is co-editor of TDPT and published texts include Anna Halprin (2004, co-authored), Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist (2012, co-edited), Jasmin Vardimon’s Dance Theatre: Movement, Memory and Metaphor (2016). Chapter contributions include on clog and sword dancing for Time and Performer Training (2019, she co-edited) and ‘Improvisation in Dance and the Movement of Everyday Life’ for the Oxford Handbook of Dance Improvisation (2019).
Funmi Adewole moved from Nigeria to Britain in 1994. She performed with African dance drama and physical theatre companies in Britain for several years before studying for a doctorate in Dance Studies. She is a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Casey Avaunt is Assistant Professor of Dance in the Department of Performing Arts at Elon University. Her research interests include critical dance theory, Asian and Asian American performance, and the role of culture and gender in the production of choreography.
Colleen Bartley is an independent dance artist and improviser who lives with an invisible disability. She co-edited Contact Quarterly CI Newsletter (US) with NSS & co-organises London Contact Improvisation (UK). She holds a degree from Swarthmore College and a diploma from Laban Centre London. She teaches movement & dance and creates film and performance.
Laura Cervi is Serra-Hunter Lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Communication Sciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. PhD in Political Science from the University of Pavia (Italy) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Journalist and amateur dancer. Her main research interest is media literacy and citizen participation.
Niamh Dowling is Head of School of Performance at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance in London. Niamh trained with Monika Pagneux in Paris, Anne Bogart, Nancy Topf and Eva Karczag in New York and as a teacher of the Alexander Technique with Don Burton. She collaborated closely with Teatr Piesn Kozla in Poland for fifteen years. Niamh has been training in Systemic Constellations for 8 years, which has deeply influenced her practice and supported her holistic approach to education and performance training. Niamh is one of the practitioners on the online Routledge Performance Archive.
Stefan Jovanović is a queer-neurodivergent performance-maker who designs spaces and site-specific performances. His artistic practice embraces a maximalist aesthetic, creating speculative fabulations about future-forms of kinship and social healing. As a trained trauma therapist and architect, he incorporates spatial dramaturgy and philosophies of well-being into spaces of cultural production.
Simone Kenyon is an intra-disciplinary artist, dancer and Feldenkrais practitioner. For over twenty years she has developed a practice of expanded choreographies; encompassing movement, ecology, cultural geographies and walking arts to create participatory events for both urban and rural contexts. She is a current PhD researcher at the University of Leeds.
Hilary Kneale is an independent interdisciplinary artist, who works in collaboration with others from different fields. She is a published writer, movement practitioner, educator, guardian of Vision Quest, and healer, living within her own quest to remember the true nature of interrelatedness. Her work is widely body based and includes performance and ritual in the landscape, calling strongly to the ancient stories held deep within the earth. Having trained to embody, develop and teach practices with support of the work of Helen Poynor, and Northern Drum Shamanic Centre, she inhabits ways of opening the body, heart and mind, that reawaken the native soul.
Paula Kramer is an artist-researcher and movement artist based in Berlin. She holds an artistic PhD in Dance (Coventry University) and was a post-doctoral researcher at Uniarts Helsinki (2016–2019). Her work explores intermateriality through site-specific outdoor movement, rooted in Amerta Movement (Suryodarmo) and Non-stylised and Environmental Movement (Poynor). She collaborates with materials of many different orders as active agents in the creation of movement, performance and choreography; as well as daily life practices and sense-making. She publishes widely in the context of artistic research through bodily practices and is a board member of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices.
Lliane Loots holds the position of Dance Lecturer in the Performance Studies Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She completed her PhD in 2018 looking at contemporary dance histories on the African continent. As an artist/scholar her PhD research is framed within an ethnographic and autoethnographic paradigm with a focus on narrative as methodology. Loots founded Flatfoot Dance Company as a professional dance company in 2003 when it grew out of a dance training programme that originally began in 1994. As the artistic director for Flatfoot, she has travelled extensively within the African continent with her dance work.
Helen Poynor is an independent movement artist specialising in site-specific and autobiographical performance and cross-artform collaborations. She runs the Walk of Life training and workshop programmes in Non-stylised and Environmental Movement on the Jurassic coast in East Devon/West Dorset. Helen is acknowledged as a teacher by Anna Halprin and Suprapto Suryodarmo, with whom she trained. She is a mentor for established and emerging dancers and practitioners and a guest associate teacher with Tamalpa UK. Helen has contributed chapters and articles on her work to numerous dance publications including the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices. Helen is a registered dance movement therapist and somatic movement therapist. www.walkoflife.co.uk
Aswathy Rajan is a Lecturer in Dance at the International School of Creative Arts, Cochin, Kerala. She received BPA in Mohiniyattam from Kerala-Kalamandalam (2009) and MPA Dance from University of Hyderabad (2012) with First Rank. She qualified for UGC- Assistant Professor in Dance and started her Ph.D. as a UGC-JRF/SRF at the University of Hyderabad in 2020. During her Ph.D., she worked as a teaching assistant at the Dept. of Dance, UOH. She authored two books; “Dancethesis: An Amalgam of Dance perspectives” and “Aesthetics of Kuchipudi” besides writing several articles.
Carolyn Roy is a London based dancer who performs and teaches in the independent dance sector. Her work is concerned with attention, perception, being-with others and encountering our environment. Her current preoccupation is the political agency of dancing. She has recently completed a PhD at the University of Roehampton.
Stefanie Sachsenmaier (PhD Middlesex University, DEA Sorbonne Nlle, MA Goldsmiths College, SFHEA) is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts at Middlesex University and Programme Leader of BA Theatre Performance and Production. Her research centres on the processual in creative practice, with a particular interest in the ways that performance extends into the socio-political context. She co-edited Collaboration in Performance Practice (Palgrave 2016) and published a series of writings related to her long-term research with British choreographer Rosemary Butcher. She has a background as a performer and is an experienced practitioner of Wu Style tai chi chuan.
Miranda Tufnell is a dance artist, writer and teacher in movement and imagination and also an Alexander teacher and cranio-sacral therapist. She has been teaching and making performances for 40 years. Her work explores the ways movement shapes our sense of meaning, language and perception. With Chris Crickmay, she created a film Dance Without Steps and co-authored two handbooks on sourcing creative work: Body Space Image (1990) and A Widening Field (2004). She has worked extensively in the field of arts and health as documented in her most recent book, When I Open My Eyes – Dance Health Imagination (2017)
Lucia Walker has been teaching Alexander Technique internationally to both individuals and groups since 1987. She is also a movement artist and teacher specialising in contact improvisation and ‘instant’ composition, teaching and collaborating in dance, physical theatre, communication and movement research projects (Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative and Flatfoot Dance Company, South Africa, Rosetta Life, England). She works with a wide range of people including young people, people with chronic illness, professional musicians and singers. Working with performers is a particular interest and Lucia works regularly with classical musicians, singers, actors and dancers. She is also involved in Alexander Technique teacher training and assessment of readiness to teach Alexander Technique.
Rebecca Weber, PhD, MFA, MA, RSME/RSMT/RSDE, THE, FHEA is a Dance Studies lecturer at the University of Auckland. Co-director of Project Trans(m)it, director of Somanaut Dance, and editor for Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, Weber’s research interests include: somatics, technology, choreography, cognition, and pedagogy.
Simon Whitehead is a movement artist and craniosacral therapist living in west Wales. Simon hosts the Locator workshop series and is a member of Maynard, an interdisciplinary artist collective that collaborate on a programme of engaged dance activity in the village of Abercych, working through on-going residencies, the village dance, workshops, local and international partnerships. As part of an AHRC-funded PhD(PaR), based at the University of Glasgow, he is currently exploring what posthuman ecology means with reference to an expanded choreography of touch.