Watch this Space
produced by Suzanne Walker
The Symposium Reported by Sian Kendall, General Manager at Dance UK
Following on from our last ‘Space’ issue, Dance UK, in collaboration with Dance Umbrella and the Royal Institute of British Architecture, hosted the Watch this Space symposium on the 28 October at the Royal Festival Hall. The aim was to provide a meeting point for dance and architecture to explore the relationship between the two disciplines.
John Lyall, Managing Director of John Lyall Architects, chaired the event drawing on his successful collaborative experiences with Rosemary Butcher. The international cast of speakers were Frédérick Flamand, Artistic Director of Charleroi Danses, Carol Brown, Choreographer, Performer, Writer and Teacher, Siobhan Davies, Artistic Director and Choreographer and Sarah Wigglesworth, Architect. With 150 attendees and a long waiting list of eager participants, the evening was welcomed with much interest and anticipation.
As well as looking at a number of specific building projects for dance, the speakers also drew on their individual experiences to discuss the more favourable constructs and limitations of dance spaces, how the architect and dance artist work together and the battle between abstraction and figurative.
Frédérick Flamand took us on a journey through his process of experimentation with dance and space, recalling the first time he understood architecture as being, ‘everything that’s happening between the skin of a human person and the skin of another human person’. Carol Brown began by looking at the history of space, discussing the assumed normative types, i.e. the traditional ‘theatre’ and the empty black box. Referencing two of her pieces, Nerve and Tower of Touch, Carol focused on her work in the traditional boundaries of space whilst also contesting these same assumptions.
It was great to have both Siobhan Davies and Sarah Wigglesworth with us to present, first hand, how their collaboration works. Siobhan Davies talked about the clash between being abstract and figurative, questioning why, ‘when one deals with abstract ideas of space, time and dynamic are all the places we end up with very clean, clear uncluttered spaces.’ Sarah Wigglesworth spoke of her understanding of architecture as being defined by the social interaction within it. The emphasis therefore, lay on the difficulty in creating a space for dance that is both inspirational and also an empty vessel capable of being inhabited and defined by exterior influences.
After such an array of speakers the floor was buzzing with echoed discussions as everyone talked through the evenings presentations. The discussion to follow was considerably enriched with contributions from Malcolm Fraser, architect of Dance Base in Edinburgh and Mark Foley, author of ‘Dance Spaces’. Questions were asked about whether we can still look at the conventional black box as a good model for dance or whether this is primarily used to meet the economical need to do well at the box office. Communication was also analysed, establishing how this can work through drawings, models and video.
The evening was suitably concluded with a final thought from Mark Foley who left us questioning the order of this collaborative process:
‘I think it’s the question of the chicken and the egg, of whether you create the architecture space first before the choreography can really engage with the environment or whether the choreographer is working and the architect just becomes a prop to that space’ This article will appear in the next issue of Dance UK News and for for full notes on Watch this Space please see www.danceuk.org (from late March, 2003)