Knowing the Dance: a poet and dancer in conversation

‘How can we know the dancer from the dance?’ is the famous question asked by poet WB Yeats as he mused about a world that is in perpetual motion. ‘Knowing the Dance’ is the premiere performance of a new sequence of ‘dance~poems’ created by poet Olive Broderick and dancer Paula Guzzanti with musician Martin Devek, to take place at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick on the 9 September, 7-8.30pm.

‘Knowing the Dance’ brings dance, poetry and live music together in a thought-provoking three-piece sequence which explores themes of identity and connection, gender/social roles, and affects and considerations of everyday life. It is also a showcase of how dance and poetry can inhabit a shared creative space while honouring the individual practices of dance improvisation and poetry composition, with music improvisation supporting this relationship.

The original idea came from Olive’s questions about how the ‘moving parts’ of poetry might be identified, and how to create a middle place where poetry and movement/dance choreography can come together to create collaborative work not based on translation or interpretation but where both artforms occupy an equal place in the conversation.

“Whether diving, flying or falling – movement crops up a lot in my work,” says Olive, “and I was delighted to receive funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through their ACES programme to explore this aspect in my own writing. One part of that was to work with a dancer/choreographer to test out some of the ideas coming from the middle place explorations.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “One of the purposes of our Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES), as well as to recognise achievement, is to help the artist develop new areas of their work. Olive Broderick’s plans for her year with the award were exceptional in that regard, involving cross-artform collaboration in dance and music and partnership with the splendid and progressive Down Arts Centre. This performance, one of the fruits of a year’s thoughtful and energetic work, will be very special and we are delighted to see it come to such a remarkable conclusion.”

Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, has been the ideal location to do this work as Olive and Paula both have strong connections to it. Olive and Paula, who also has a poetry writing practice and a specific interest in choreography and writing, began meeting and working together on a monthly basis from December 2016. Each bringing their own personal frameworks and ideas to the mix.

Paula is currently undertaking a PhD research project at Queen’s University Belfast exploring the relationship between affect and conscious awareness in dance improvisation practice. Her current academic work and her own improvisation practice have played an imprortant role in the development of the project. “Conversation was a key element for me,” says Paula. “The richness of our creative conversations, which included artist/composer Martin Devek as the work developed, has allowed us to build up resonance and affect in the piece while each artists brings the best of their own vision to the overall piece.”

The premiere performance of ‘Knowing the Dance’ takes place at Down Arts Centre on Saturday, 9 September, 7-8.30pm (£5). Earlier in the day there will be a masterclass where those with a poetry practice are invited to bring a poem of their own to work with choreographer/contemporary jewellery designer Sarah Warsop in exploring, using breath and movement, the middle place where the dance/movement of poems reside. This is based on a masterclass held earlier in 2017 at Down Arts Centre. The masterclass is free but needs to be booked in advance as numbers are limited.

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