A durational dance work exploring time, distance & memory through T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets

Saturday 28 January 2012

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Monday 6 June 2011

little bird in love in liverpool

Tuesday 31st May

A year ago to the day (if not the date) since little bird was first performed in Coventry and I am walking to the parish hall to rehearse again through bright sunshine. (I'm revisiting the piece for the 'poolside Emergency festival at the Bluecoat in Liverpool on Saturday 11th June.)

In a rural idyll you couldn't make up if you tried, I leave my home on the Herefordshire farm to walk across the fields, up the steep steps through the woods, over the iron age hill fort, past the trig point, over the cattle grid, down to the black and white gamekeeper's cottage opposite a thatched church ['So, while the light fails/On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel/History is now and England'...] to collect the keys to the hall. They are hanging on a hook outside, with the wellies...

The poems have been inhabiting my head for over a year. Released from the urgency of knowing and recalling them for the assessed performance for my MA last year, they have become a sporadic soundtrack to my life... a source of a relevant quote to be drawn out of my mind like the white stuff of memories in a Pensieve; a challenge to boredom on a long journey; an accompaniment to seduction; a mantra for a run; snatches of lines spoken in enthusiastic sterero with my mother or my friend Sara who is starting to become as obsessed with them as me. I know them so well now they have taken on a life of their own, a meaning beyond meaning ['We had the experience but missed the meaning/And approach to the meaning restores the experience/In a different form, beyond any meaning/We can assign to happiness...']

I'm excited; I'm nervous. But as I begin to move, with breath, with heart, I realise I'm in charge of the poems now. They have become mine and I can dance to them with utter conviction. The voice of the long dead (male) poet has been assimilated into my (female) memory and dancing body and become 'renewed, transfigured, in another pattern'

I move into and out of the sunlight as it streams into the hall, through windows either side of a ticking, chiming clock measuring 'time not our time' noticing the synchronicity of the words I am speaking as I do so:

'For most of us, there is only the unattended/Moment, the moment in and out of time/The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight...'

(and thanks for the joggers Adam)

Wednesday 27 October 2010


I've been racking my brain for some T. S. Eliot that talks about electronic detoxing, but strangely enough, he wasn't quite prescient enough for that. Oh but what am I saying? Of course he was...what else was he describing but the ghostly glow of the Mac screen (displaying Facebook) when he wrote

'only a flickr (haha)

over the strained, time-ridden faces

distracted from distraction by distraction

filled with fancies

and empty of meaning

tumid apathy with no concentration

men and bits of paper whirled by the cold wind

that blows before and after time'

Burnt Norton, III, Four Quartets

I did my first e-detox in early November last year, which happened to coincide (I later discovered) with an Observer article about how social networking, emailing and texting was 'fracturing our attention spans', reducing human contact and tyrannising our lives. Bit extreme maybe, especially as the article concludes:

Yoram Kalman sounds a cautionary note against using technology as a scapegoat. "Usually, if you look behind the technology, you find culture, social behaviour and you find people," says Kalman. "Technology is neutral, it depends what you use it for.”

So perhaps, in the end, most of us want to be tyrannised.’

I accept this is probably true of myself, but I was glad I’d made the conscious choice not to allow it to happen always.

The irony of blogging about electronic-detoxing is not lost on me (thanks Lewis!) but there's more to it this time, something that needs explaining before I go all quiet: this time I'm e-detoxing for little bird....

A lot of the last piece was about distance: distance in time – between who were and who we are now and distance in space – between us and home and the people we care about. My mum on the phone was sharing stories in real time, but from a place (Aberystwyth) it would take 3 hours 40 minutes to reach on the train from where I was dancing (Coventry). The stories and memories were from her youth, her University education, my childhood and our shared history. We were united across distance and time or a matrix of the two.

Much of the time, technology helps us transcend distance with such speed we tend to get seduced into thinking it somehow compensates for the absence of the people themselves. The speed at which we communicate makes a big difference, not least to our expectations of ‘gratification’ from contact with others. How is this affected when we communicate with more physical materials – by post – letters and parcels and objects that make a journey of their own – with their own untold story – to reach us? Something that takes more physical effort, forethought and care than pressing the send button. And what does it say, energetically, about where they travel from to converge again in one place? How does this map more tangibly than e-phemera (emails, texts) the web of interconnections of our geographical mobility, our social networks?

I will be asking 14 friends who I most often or only communicate with electronically – wordsmiths and dancers – to ‘participate’ in an exchange of materials through the post that will be brought together in the next performance of little bird, listening, weaving more stories into this developing narrative.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Summer Solstice

From East Coker I | Four Quartets

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotised. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.
In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie -
A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
Two and two necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokenth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.
Dawn points and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

Saturday 5 June 2010

so said the little bird, listening in the tree

Realise that I forgot to mention, shock horror, that on the evening of the performance, weary from my 3 hour 40 minute Eliot marathon, I walked like a bag lady to a little park in the middle of Coventry, and sat on a bench under a tree to eat my supper (M&S superwholefood salad which had leaked all over my bag, if you want the bare facts) and a little bird listening in the tree very kindly shat all over my props bag.

I think that says it all really.

art, dance, life, taking yourself too seriously.... no chance

Huge thanks to Vicki Smith for the amazing photos

Wednesday 2 June 2010

mission accomplished

We shall never cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time through the unknown remembered gate when the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning at the source of the longest river the voice of the hidden waterfall the children in the apple tree not known because not looked for but heard half heard between two waves of sea quick now here now always a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything) and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well when the tongues of flame are infolded in the crowned knot of fire and the fire and the rose are one.

And now I need to go on T. S. Eliot de-programming therapy....