Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I've had the great privilege to take part in two workshops exploring shamanic practice. My interest in this practice lies in the exploration of a non-physical state, a non-ordinary reality - which for me is closely linked with our contemporary performance space. Choreography is for me a method to explore the physical as well as non-physical in space, although the physical is culturally more valued. 

My first workshop (Rainbow Body VI) was with Shaman Hiah Park, who before she became a shaman, was a Korean court dancer - turned avantgarde dancer as part of the post-modern dance movement in the USA and performed as part of John Cage's tour. She doesn't call herself a dancer anymore as she thinks that role was for entertainment purposes. She doesn't entertain as a shaman, she enables healing. Performance is healing. Dancing and movement was nonetheless a huge part of the workshop. Dancing to produce love and healing energy. Ecstatic dancing. Ritualistic dancing. Some Korean court dancing. Dancing to face fear. Dancing the slowest dance to enter into the greatest presence. 

We were an odd group of people who had come to the workshop for various reasons. On the first day, I was the first to answer "what do you want?" and "why are you here?". It was early in the morning and I didn't really feel prepared for these intense questions. I tried to articulate something about finding clarity and learning about shamanic practice. Both answers were quickly scrapped by Hiah as naive and premature. For the rest of the day she kept telling me to WAKE UP!

What followed was a crazy, intense, magic and weird week. I have never experienced anything like it. The work and the shaman herself have been hugely inspirational and as a bonus I also found a new collaborator amongst the participants!

Above are some pictures from around the beautiful Rastenberg (Austria), which is where the workshop took place.

The next week I went back to Scotland to attend the second workshop 'Shamanic Journeying' at Lendrick Lodge. This workshop was taught by shamanic practitioner Stephen Mulhearn and it was a very different experience compared to Hiah's workshop. The focus of this workshop was to go on 'journeys'. It's a type of imaginative visualisation that the shaman would use to enter the 'upper' or 'lower' world of the spirits. In this non-ordinary state you would usually meet spirit guides - they could be animals or in human form. You would ask the guide a question and then receive an answer that you'd bring back to 'reality' for interpretation. These journeys usually happens with the aid of drumming and rattling. It could be a solo activity, a group activity or you could work in a couple. Over this weekend course we managed to cover all kinds of journeys! 

Again, this was a hugely inspirational course for my performance work, but I also feel like I've learnt a new set of skills that I would like to use more, for personal purposes but also for any creative process that I engage with. 

Above are some pictures from Lendrick Lodge. 

I have so much notes, thoughts etc. from these workshops which will in a very literal way become a part of my NICE Thesis (The NICE Institute's thesis project), but also feed into my next performance piece Holy Smoke. I will keep on posting on this progress over the next couple of months, so stay tuned!

This research was supported by Creative Scotland. Thank you for the trust and opportunity!

Instead of doing a formal talk to share this research, I will lead a shamanic experience which includes dancing and meditation in January 2015. This will be free to attend and I will publish details of time and space as soon as it's confirmed!

Some links:

Hiah Park's website with workshop schedule: http://www.hiahpark.com/english/  

Lendrick Lodge website: http://lendricklodge.com/

I had a meeting with this cool venue in Vienna (Brut): http://www.brut-wien.at/en/ 

An interesting article on shamanism and mental health: http://themindunleashed.org/2014/08/shaman-sees-mental-hospital.html

Thursday, January 16, 2014

SEAM13 Symposium + workshop with Mette Edvardsen

SYDNEY! I went to Sydney mid-November 2013! These are some images from around Sydney Opera House!

Between the 11th - 15th of November, Brussels-based choreographer Mette Edvardsen led a workshop entitled 'Doing Things' It was hosted at The Drill Hall, which is the choreographic research centre Critical Path's studio. 

We were 15 people, most of them Australian, but a few (including me) from elsewhere in the world. The group was SO NICE! 

We spent the week 'doing things' through task-based exercises, conversations or group actions. On the first day Mette asked us to find an object in the studio that we somehow connected to. I found this:

A piece of blue chalk. I had to introduce it. This is what my object was all about:

Title: Baby
Colour: Baby Blue Boo Boo
Number: One/1
Movement/action: Licking/sucking/baby nibbling
Word: Gagagaa

We made little solo performances based on the information about our object. I did something which made me look like this:

An Australian blue-tongued skink!

One of the workshop participants, Helen asked me to re-enact a mini-version of my solo to capture the beauty of the blue tongue, and as you can see..


Mette quote from the week: "Thinking is doing and doing is thinking"

We came up with statements and questions around objects. Mine were:

Statement: Objects are sexy because they're not trying to be something.
Question: Is an object, an object before it's been named?

We talked about this a lot, and if a sculpture might be an object without a function.

Other people's statements and questions:

This is Critical Path's building - The Drill Hall:

And this is the view from The Drill Hall:

Not bad!

By the end of the workshop we had an amazing picnic just outside. Lovely people!

I was choosing between this aloe vera plant and the cactus to take part in Intercourse later on in the week. I chose the aloe vera as the cactus was, simply put - phallic. Too phallic for Intercourse! I also liked the aloe vera better for its healing properties.

One evening I had the pleasure of a private tour around Carriageworks - an amazing venue for performances in Sydney. Some pictures:

The entrance hall!

Old features from the buildings previous purpose!

Amazing bar!

The biggest studio space (this is about a forth of its size). It's rented out for TV productions etc. For £, $ and €!

This week they were rehearsing The Lion King (!) Hence the rhino!

Back area!


The entrance hall from above! This space is also used for performances. This is Tess de Quincey rehearsing.

Another picture from above.

Carriageworks from the outside.

Beautiful evening sun!

The SEAM13 Symposium took place over the weekend, some pictures:

We took some fake celebrity photos in front of the SEAM posters!

A brilliant (and performative) talk about Explore Festival with Peter Banki.

Performance with James Cunningham in The Drill Hall.

Performance on the theme of Authorship.

Performance installation in the lobby.

Performance on the porch.

Cool installation with fruits that made percussion sounds when you touched them!

The curators of SEAM; Paul Gazzola, Margie Medlin and Benedict Anderson say thank you and goodbye to the audience on the final night.

Back to the UK, where funnily enough I was going to another symposium - this time arranged by the BELLYFLOP team in London. The symposium was titled Cue Positions where performers, presenters and audience were challenged through the different symposium settings (silence, darkness, slow dancing and dinner) to discuss and interrogate the subject of dance. Very exciting. Here are some pictures taken by Eleanor Sikorski:

As a representative of The NICE Institute I appeared as a gorilla for the first day of the symposium. As the day progressed into the `darkness`session, it was time for my performance contribution - NICE Growl. The gorilla turned into the Master student Louise Ahl with the help of glowsticks and growling.

These activities was kindly supported by Creative Scotland.