Guest Contributor: Kate Marsh, Coventry University
As I enter the studio at the start of the second week with Dan and his collaborators, the venue is notably quiet. I am greeted by Ruth (Metal’s Administrator and Coordinator of Idea1) She explains that the team have not yet arrived and invites me into the studio and encourages me to help myself to tea or coffee. I make myself a cup of tea and enter the space.
I am immediately struck by the way in which this has space held the creative process. The writing is still on the wall, Jenny and Martin’s table is still in situ, strewn with the previous rehearsals notes, pictures and sketches. There is a distinct feel of work being done and work still to come. I luxuriate in this moment of being alone in this space, I settle myself, thinking about where I want to be in this process, in and out at the same time, absorbing without (hopefully) intruding. As an artist and observer I am aware of that delicate balance of an ‘extra’ body in the room ‘too much’ presence versus ‘not enough.’
The three artists arrive shortly after me. I am introduced to Jenny Nordberg who is the designer for Branded Beast. Very quickly she and Martin sit at the table. Dan changes next to me with a familiarity typical of dancers. In this moment I am reminded of my unique position as artist/observer/researcher/friend. I am slightly thrilled by the potential of this position to afford me some unique access to Dan’s process. I am not an outsider observing an artistic process I am native to this environment. Dan and I share a language, of dance yes, of disability maybe? I am intrigued as to what this process will teach me about Dan, about myself about performance, the list goes on.
Today is a ‘movement’ day. Martin tasks Dan with using a word or phrase to create a ‘landscape.’ He sets the task with a painstaking attention to detail:
“Imagine that the letters are there floating in space, that you can place yourself in the letters, so I have the ‘D’ here, I can attach my hip socket to that and do the trajectory of that. You can choose whether you are spelling or whether you are spelt.” MF
Dan works silently for what feels like quite a long time. Martin sits, leaning towards him, watching Dan intently. I can see his eyes following each flick of a finger or shift of the torso. Jenny sketches, she is engrossed. I type in-between watching. For a second I see us a people in four separate bubbles, in the same space. There is a tangible air of creativity in the studio.
On my second visit of this week, the artists have arrived and are just preparing to start. Dan is warming up, marking through yesterday’s work. Jenny is using her laptop to research and Martin moves between a beanbag and a chair. The atmosphere feels very light today, quite removed from the intense concentration of yesterday.
There is a lot of noise in the venue, a group of volunteers have been tending to the (award winning) garden at Chauffer’s Cottage and as they stop for tea, their chat floats into the studio, at one point someone starts to hoover outside, Martin and Dan laugh as the hoover starts when he opens his mouth to speak. I note that this could be an irritation to some, an interruption to the creativity. Not so here. In fact, I get the distinct impression that this is seen as part of the process.
This lightness continues as Dan explores his solo under Martin’s direction, there is even a nod to Jazz hands at one point. Martin walks around the space watching Dan from all angles this movement somehow makes the viewing less intense – I am reminded about Martin’s earlier comments on the potential of the viewer to change the ‘view.’
In this second week, I am hooked. I have made a commitment to this solo, whatever it turns out to be. I know even at this early stage that I will feel connected to this work, that in some way it will speak to me and question me. I cannot say why or how, but I do know that I am intrigued to see what next week brings.