Until now, Ludic Collective has worked with adults – or children of over 20 years old – Dancers, writers or performers. Previously, all of our collaborators have encountered devising, laboratory theatre and conceptual art. Over the past two years we have developed our own methods of making choreographies and devised dance-theatre pieces, which we thought were not too abstract and quite straight-forward. But then we arrived at Summerhill. And we had a choreography workshop with one student here. An amazingly talented girl, who is very open to being challenged in any field of art, be it music, visual art or scenography. We asked her to create a movement for the word “pie”, and the rule was that she has to first move her mouth and accumulate energy. When she feels that the energy is bursting out of her, she should then gradually allow herself to move other parts of her body, until she would discover a gesture, or a movement that would, for her, represent the word “pie”.
She got confused…. I mean super confused. And I got confused that she got confused. But then I realised how difficult those techniques are if you are, first of all, not used to moving your body, not to mention if you have never encountered any contemporary dance methods.
Personally, I came to Summerhill thinking that most of the workshops with the students will be movement based. I was expecting the students to be exploring different ways of creating physicalities as well as a choreography, and that they would feel free enough to also improvise and take things further. But the students here are not used to movement – at all. They are geniuses either with their paint brushes or musical instruments. The way they create scenography and develop ambient sounds are better than what I have seen from adults I have ever worked with. Movement, however, is a very distant notion to them. They would love to try it out and their enthusiasm and commitment are very strong. But once they have to explore things with their bodies, they get completely stuck and inhibited.
So I started with the basics with them: ballet. And by ballet I mean floor work, warm-up, learning to control your body, to discover all the muscles of your body and see the basic things that you can do with them. That’s what ballet is to me in the first place: a means of teaching your body to do what your mind tells it to do. And this is much harder than it seems. All those concepts that ballet is making use of –keeping both your hips parallel when lifting a leg, having your bum tucked in while the back is straight, tummy strong, shoulders down, head up, feet turned out, pointed feet, arms and elbow supported from your back muscles – are in my opinion, meant to teach your mind to control an insane amount of muscles all at the same time. And if you learn to “multi-task” with your body this way, then you can feel more free to experiment in movement and dance.
I can’t express how impressed I was by all the girls’ devotion to doing all this ‘boring’ floor work every single day!! No matter how much I warned them that they will not be able to do the pretty jumps, or impressive pirouettes, but that we will be doing the basics of the basics, they loved it. We began with one hour of ballet a day and we ended up doing 4 hours of ballet a day! Not to mention the other movement workshops that we held on top of ballet. I was so tired and physically exhausted, while the girls were just happy to be doing it all and wanted more and more and more.