I had the pleasure and the privilege in viewing the DEC event in the OVADA gallery in Oxford on the 22.4.10 and participating in the Dance and Academia seminar on Saturday 24.4.10. The event brought together different artists and art lovers; different disciplines and different art forms. The first blessed effect of this event was creating a multi- layer dialogue, both in practice and on Saturday, in theory, between the different art forms. The event consisted of various musicians, visual artists and dance artists engaging in improvisation while captured “in real time” by visual artists, while the latter’s creations were projected on the wall. The creative process was inspired by a poem by the Cambridge poet Robin Kirkpatrick.

I attended the Thursday session, which was a real delight. Susie Crow improvised to the sounds of composer Malcolm Atkins. Crow’s movement, shifting between a classical vocabulary and style, and contemporary elements referring to Atkins’ eclectic soundtrack, exemplified the ability to improvise within a tradition, rather than breaking boundaries as a way to negate the conformed, notated, diachronically captured. Improvisation happens, so Crow showed us, within one’s own language, and from one’s own personality, and thus demands a high ability to present oneself without necessarily narrating oneself. This gave rise to wonderful drawings created by Clare Bassett, Antonia Bruce, Kassandra Isaacson and Susan Moxley, who captured, interpreted, and contributed towards this piece. The piece brought together different artists, all with strong, individual characters, who, through their collaboration capitalized on each other’s talents to create a brilliant piece, with Crow, glowing in the forefront, and celebrating the intermeshing of disciplines.  The combination of the music, mixture of movement shifting between the traditional and the personal and innovative drawing, were a feast for the senses.

Crow was followed by Fiona Millward, who danced to the improvisation of Efthymios Chatzigiannis. Millward used her unique, highly individual language to create countless magical moments. Her movement generated both beautiful spatial configurations, playing around with space, light, and depth of movement; and a careful attention to detail. An energy which shifts between contained, powerful positions, and outbursts of gentle, refined shifts, made this part of the performance a precious gem. The combination between Chatzigiannis’ sound and Millward’s enchanted ability to capture the music, moving between micro moments and long, elaborate lines, was inspiring. The visual artists adhered to this playfulness, while she was moving to and fro their brush strokes, and engaging them, like she did with her audience, in the unique interpretation of movement, music and visual art.

The last piece was performed by Anuradha Chaturvedi to improvisation by Pete McPhail. Improvising through Kathak, Chaturvedi created an interesting end to this three- way conversation. Grace and peacefulness underlined all her movements, and her playful interpretations of the poem’s intersections with this style of dance were a rare blend of not only many art forms, but many spheres of the emergence of art, geographically, culturally and historically. The move between the literal and the symbolic; shifts and pauses; happiness and contemplation; were managed beautifully through Chaturvedi’s interpretation of this language, as her distinct engagements with space and time brought about a piece which reflected an array of emotional responses within her as a performer and within her audience. The visual artists related well to this energy, and soft, elegant pieces brought about an alluring, polished moment of pure bliss.

After a break, all the artists collaborated, bridging gaps between different traditions, different inspirations, and different languages.. The improvisation element unravelled many features within all artists, which might have been negotiated differently in a set piece. I was moved by all parts of this evening, and found all artists inspiring in their individual characters and their exposure in this special, rich, yet somewhat threatening setting. The strongest impression this diachronic and Trans- national collaboration, left me with, was of three powerful and beautiful women, who rise above their individually strong characters to create an enduring conversation.

The seminar, under the title of “Dance and Academia: Moving the Boundaries”, organized by Miranda Laurence, was a good opportunity to reflect on this event. Bringing together practitioners and academics, a blessing in itself, it looked at different elements of improvisation and collaboration; from time perception of the different art forms, to the importance of collaboration in art, and the importance of improvisation in academia. Invited speakers were Robin Kirkpatrick, who described his collaborations with Susie Crow, displacing limits between language and dance, interpretation and creation; Tom Armstrong who presented different approaches to collaboration; and Malcolm Atkins who reflected on the essence of improvisation. Questions concerning the artefacts generated from different art forms, the exposure and danger inherent in improvisation, diachronic and synchronic use of time in various arts, were presented, and to me, one of the great merits of this seminar, was its ability to highlight blind spots within academic writings; problems which were explored in humanities in the past century but are constantly interpreted and negotiated in the various art forms.

All parts of this event were joyous and fascinating, enabling audience and performers alike to really “capture the moment”, and beyond it, to reflect on their own comfort zones and how one might challenge them. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “I say to you: one must still have chaos within, in order to give birth to a dancing star”.[1]

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 15.