Our Dance Democracy 3: Presenters Abstracts

Full abstracts will be available to all delegates prior to the event but here is just a sample of what will be delivered and discussed.

Day Two: 30th March 2023

9.30am Open for registration
10.30am Keynote – Professor Christopher Bannerman and Dr. ‘Funmi Adewole Elliott
11.40am Workshop: Valerie Ebuwa and Douglas Bateman
1.00pm Lunch
2.00pm Keynote – Thomas F DeFrantz
3.00pm Session 5: Suzi Goligher/Tammi Giselle/Samsul Maarif
Session 6: Sandie Bourne/Nathan Geering/Swati Raut
4.05pm Session 7: (A) Angela Viorja /Melissa Pasut
(B) Lecture Dem: Chevon Edwards and Jenny Rees
4.45pm Session 8 : (A) Emma Jones /Sandie Fisher/Lizzie Fort
(B) Experiment: pavleheidler, Michael Kaddu, Mary Pearson, Elvan Tekin, and Carolina van Eps
5.45pm Film and presentation: Nandi Clarke – Coulibaly
6.15pm Raconteur : Wendy Houstoun
7.30pm Fatherhood – Altered Skin

Opening Keynote

Professor Christopher Bannerman and Dr. ‘Funmi Adewole Elliott

This keynote, which takes a dialogic form, includes personal perspectives which have formed and informed the identities of the presenters and their considerations of the challenges and meaning of participating in Courageous Conversations Positively Democratising Narratives. The dialogic exchange emphasises the processes involved, as well as a key task intrinsic to this endeavour: to make these conversations, exchanges and disruptive reconsiderations a practice, a way of being in the world and in the world of dance.

The conference presentations demonstrate that dance is a way of knowing, a powerful carrier of culture and they ask us to critically reflect on ways to realise a fuller, more truthful knowledge domain, and to achieve meaningful agency in an ecosystem that connects us and that communicates in, about and through the body. Bannerman and Adewole draw on their combined dance experience of more than 50 decades across four continents to recognise the diversity and richness of dance, and those active in dance; and to celebrate the space that the conference opens.


Valerie Ebuwa and Douglas Bateman

A workshop developed and led by Valerie Uchechukwu Ebuwa and Douglas Bateman that focuses on action and accountability in the field of anti racism using modalities of audience participation.

Participants will use the multilayered project ValUE as a starting point. An acronym of the name of its creator, Valerie Uchechukwu Ebuwa dance artist, writer, model and activist. ValUE decodes racial oppression through dance and visual art and is a self reminder of one’s own intrinsic value.

Using A newly developed set of cards co-designed by the MDKollektiv and artist/ conflict specialist Dana Caspersen participants are invited to think choreographically about ValUE, using simple actions they’ll organise ideas in space while reflecting on their own agency, choices and ValUE.

The intention of the workshop is to promote a self empowered dialogue about how we as individuals embedded in collective/patriarchal/white supremecist working systems can investigate and understand our own choices, and to consider what other choices may be made.

While not a dance workshop, participants will be invited to move and will be invited to place their awareness on their own body.

Keynote – Thomas F DeFrantz: Black Dances in Diaspora: Transformation, Identity, and Risk

How do African diaspora movement materials move through dancing bodies that may not have direct relationship to Black life? What might be at stake as dancers engage Black dance? How are the terms of “risk” in dance different according to politics of identity and social placement? What sorts of transformations does Black dance allow, and how does Black dance in diaspora encourage social transformation?

This talk with explore the terms of transformation, identity, and risk in relationship to participation in structures of Black dance.

Parallel sessions

A: Session 5

Susan Goligher

Working expressively with textiles to elicit narratives and conversations about migratory experience. This paper focuses on how working expressively with textiles can elicit narratives and conversations about migratory experiences. Textiles surround us but we pay little attention to them. The study looks at the interaction between textiles and participants, the aim of the study is to understand what knowledge is elicited from the textiles and how exploring this can help support children’s learning. Participants were asked to write about a journey and create a cloth panel using drawings, cutting shapes from pieces of fabric, and sticking them down to illustrate their story. The finished panels were brought together to foster a situation of elicitation through sharing the stories and conversations. Data was collected about the visual and material transformation of this experience in a textile panel. Part of the data looked at capturing the expression of bodies in making processes, movement, and expression, using rhythmanalysis as an interpretative framework. Focussing on how migratory stories are constructed through iterative, expressive, and collective processes. All sessions were drop-in and open to all. This research was conducted in a museum/gallery setting. A variety of themes and reflections were generated proffering new understandings and knowledge however more research is needed.
Key words:Textiles, cloth, children, refugee, education.

Tammi Giselle: Indigenous Dramaturgy in Dance

This presentation will discuss key findings from the ‘Indigenous dramaturgy in dance’ project at Critical Path centre for choreographic research and development (Australia) 2021-2022.

The project bought together emerging, mid-career, established and senior Indigenous dance creatives in action research residencies and knowledge circle gatherings to consider and share perspectives on the nature of dramaturgy in dance generally, and its place specifically within the work of Indigenous Australian dance makers.

Together, this group have initiated vital dialogue around Contemporary Indigenous dance dramaturgies and identified significant areas of consideration expressed in their findings report.

Samsul Maarif: The Eco-religious Dance of Joged Amerta: Decolonizing “culture vs religion” for civic engagement in Indonesia

Friends and followers of Suprapto Suryodarmo, the founder of Joged Amerta of Indonesia perform their art work as eco-religious endeavours for civic engagement. Through their art work, they embody religious as well as ecological practices. The eco-religious embodiment constitutes responsible, ethical and reciprocal interpersonal relations. The ecological is focused on (re)establishing human-nature relations, while the religious focuses on the performance of interpersonal relations. In their art work, personhood is perceived to extend beyond human beings. The water, the wind, the soil, the sun, the moon, the stars, and others, are all cosmic persons to engage with, in artistic endeavours and in interpersonal relationship for civic engagement.

This paper will elaborate on the above art work as decolonializing knowledge systems, especially on religion vs. culture in Indonesia. It will show that the art work has been categorized and so treated in policies based on colonialized knowledge systems as cultural as opposed to religious. The followers may develop their work, but only to the point that they do not commit religious blasphemy. This paper will argue that the eco-religious art work must be engaged in decolonializing knowledge systems, not only for religio-cultural rights but also for eco-religious civic engagement.

B: Session 6

Sandie Bourne: Adaptations of Blackness in narrative ballets

This paper discusses the representation of Black people in traditional narrative ballet repertoires. This is explored through a brief historical overview of these ballets, and a critique of their continuing popularity. I examine whether traditional narrative ballets are still appropriate as a showcase of excellence in ballet, given Britain’s culturally diverse audiences, and ballet companies’ struggle to engage this audience.

Historically, in traditional narrative ballets, Black people were portrayed by white dancers in blackface. King Louis XIV institutionalised ballet by founding the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661. He is documented performing in blackface as a young man. The early racialised character roles influenced the late nineteenth and early twentieth century choreographers like Marius Petipa (1818-1910) and Michel Fokine (1880-1942). Blackness is represented in classics such as: Le Corsaire (1856), The Pharaoh’s Daughter (1862), La Bayadère (1877), Cléopâtra (1909), Petroushka (1911) and Schéhérazade (1910). Many of these racialised character roles depict enslaved people who were eroticised and exoticised.

Choreographers like Petipa and Fokine were inspired by and reflect the ideologies of race and blackness in their era. During that period there were few Black professional ballet dancers and few Black people in the audience. Today many western communities are culturally diverse, and so are the ballet dancers. Some ballet companies are moving slowly to defuse racial stereotypes on the stage and promote a more inclusive and diverse cast. It could be argued that the traditional representation of Black people in ballet narratives, is an opportunity for young inspiring Black dancers to be cast and replace white stars in blackface. Yet, the fact remains that these ballets perpetuate racial stereotypes. Artistic directors hold the power to change the narrative perceptions of Black people by creating innovative ballets with role models who can inspire and educate new audiences with positive representations.

Nathan Geering: ‘Still A Slave’

How can we use art and accessibility as a form of activism to evoke meaningful change in dance and beyond? We will explore ways in which we can turn sources of pain into sources of power and why it is important to challenge institutions and not accept the current status quo. I will draw upon examples of how I have successfully combined art and accessibility to challenge institutions in ways that range from protests, to whistle-blowing and influencing polices. Finally I will explain how I harnessed the energy of dance to heal trauma and keep me emotionally balanced during times of high stress. I will share with the audience my ACTs of Creativity initiative which was developed with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist to combine Hip-Hop dance with meditation and mindfulness to help treat depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Swati-Raut: S/HE – The story of Love, Revenge and Resolve

This R&D is stirred by the story of a lesser known character Amba or are they Shikhandi, from the Indian epic, “Mahabharata” . The protagonist is a transgender character and we aim to draw parallels with the contemporary theme of gender equality.

S/He tells the story of Amba, in love with one man but sent off to be married to another. Her journey as she is rejected by both men, the failure of the then society to help her get justice and her resolve to avenge the wrong. S/HE shows how Bharatanatyam technique and grammar can be used to communicate interesting and challenging narratives.

We started by researching texts both the original in Sanskrit and newer works in English to develop an accessible script. We spend intensive studio time creating a 30-minute choreographic work with 2 professional & 8 emerging dancers. I also worked with Praveen D Rao, an extremely versatile music composer to create music that has formed the very soul of this piece. For the first time we worked alongside a dramaturg to exaggerate and enhance the dramatic element of this already emotionally charged narrative and hence make the work more accessible. We used lyrics from the original text to preserve the Indian sensibility and to reflect on the period of the narrative, but spoken words from the more contemporary works.

A) Session 7

Dr Angela Viora: Performing on Permeable Layers of Dwelling

Through phenomenology, migration and embodiment studies, I discuss the evolution of two intertwined performances-as-research. B.O.D.Y. The Bureau of Domestic Yearning (2020) and The P.R.omised Land (2022).

Philosopher Edward Casey asserts that ‘as the conception of the body alters, the notion of places changes with it’. According to these performances, the reverse can be said as well. Which place(s), and thus, which bodies dwell and perform in context of migration, colonisation, frontiers, and encounters, conceived as ever-evolving phenomena?

B.O.D.Y. is an intimate exploration of the domestic space following Melbourne’s lockdowns, from my point of view as an expat and a temporary resident in Australia. The COVID emergency redefined body-space relationships and ideas of belonging, mobility, and migration. What can I, or cannot, call “home” and why?

Places (geographical, social, bureaucratic, emotional, and more) are revealed through bodies. In The P.R.omised Land, I carry words and phrasings on my skin characterising my life here in Australia as an Italian expat. My performing body is a silent, slow, and steady presence exploring, mapping, reframing, and revealing the surrounding environment. Starting from the venue of the conference, going to the country: I am an immigrant on unceded lands, performing on permeable layers of dwelling.

Casey, Edward S. Getting Back Into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-world. United States: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Viora, Angela. 2023 (forthcoming). Performing on permeable layers of dwelling. B.O.D.Y. The Bureau of Domestic Yearning. Kritika Kultura AJOL, University of Philippines.

Melissa Pasut: The Swan in Butoh: Deconstructing the Pointe Shoe

10-minute film with presentation

This performative lecture will present my recent research conducted through my MRes Degree at the University of Roehampton into the deconstruction of the pointe shoe through butoh using the image of Anna Pavlova’s The Dying Swan. The accompanying film is an extract from the 55-minute live performance of the work entitled All Alone on a Small Island Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere. Through ritual, sacrifice and transformation this research investigated how through butoh philosophy and practice the body and the pointe shoe could be re-contextualized beyond the borders of classical ballet traditions. By defining the iconic image of Anna Pavlova’s The Dying Swan as sacred and associating sacredness onto the objects, labour, space and bodies, I observed how the sacrifice of those elements informed the embodied responses by the dancer (myself) and the collaborators (musicians and costume designer) involved. In order to elicit a transformation and altered conception of the classically trained body and its pointe shoes I set out to destroy the sacred icon that I, as well as many others, revere and associate with the classical ballet, as a ritual sacrifice. This work offered no definitive resolution but posed further questions into how to deconstruct the pointe shoe and the notions of the ballet dancer through butoh towards creating an interdisciplinary practice that is situated outside the traditions of the classical ballet. This research integrated intercultural influences between the East and the West through the embodied approaches of butoh into the western classical ballet. This presentation will emphasise the critical reflections and outcomes of this research project and connects with the themes around transformation, identity, endeavour and risk.

Lecture Demonstration

Chevon Edwards & Jenny Rees: Human Not Dancer

As women choreographers and early career researchers, this paper is driven by the desire to transform our choreographic working practices and to reimagine how dance is experienced by both artists and audiences. It examines the Spinozian notion of ‘Affect’ within the context of movement practices, and in creating performance that evokes a felt response from audiences. We will look at ways in which we can make work that is experienced by the viewer as an affective event and that engages audiences physically and emotionally through its affective impact.

This lecture demonstration will question how we can, with care and compassion transform the audience experience from that of passive viewer to being actively engaged and affected. Within this idea we will explore the creative processes that can expand the somatic experience of movement, where identity and whole self becomes the initiation for developing movement and connection with self and others. This will involve looking at the intrinsic connection between movement and sensation, including that of touch as way of increasing awareness of sensory information through the tactile sensation of contact with another person, making space for being more present in the body.

It is also relevant and important to open up discussion that questions the terms ‘dancer’ and ‘performer’, and the hierarchical structures within traditional choreographic and performance practice, identifying ways in which we can give agency to all involved in collaborative working environment

Session 8

Emma Jones: Using Makaton in Dance.
The aim of this practical workshop is to give participants an insight into ‘Makaton for Dancers’. This is a resource which aims to support dance and movement artists to be able to use Makaton within their own practice so that they can confidently support their participant’s communication.

Makaton is a language programme that uses verbal speech, signs and symbols to communicate. By using Makaton, we add extra visual clues to our speech to clarify the meaning of our words. With research demonstrating the negative impact on people’s communication skills since the onset of the Covid19 pandemic, this resource helps to upskill dance specialists in communication and so can supplement the work that is being asked of schools.

This workshop will open a dialogue and offer a different perspective and additional awareness into how people communicate. This will allow artists to reflect on their own teaching practice and how, by having a greater understanding of communication, they will be able to more effectively support those they work with to communicate.

Sandie Fisher: Building safe and transformative spaces for wellbeing through collaborative, reciprocal learning environments.

This presentation discusses an approach to building safe and transformative spaces for wellbeing through the facilitation of collaborative, reciprocal learning environments linking arts, health and education. The presentation focuses on the findings of a case study About Being; a dance project which provides dance and movement activities for people with lived experience of Stroke.

About Being is an artistic, academic and community partnership project that has been running for five years. The project was designed and is delivered by Susie Tate Projects in partnership with the University of Cumbria. This project brings together, in weekly dance sessions; dance practitioners, health practitioners, academics, university students, and community participants who have lived experience of Stroke.

Reflecting on the findings of an evaluation study undertaken by Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE), at the University of Cumbria this presentation advocates for the need for greater opportunities to collaborate and co-create spaces across and between different disciplines and communities whilst also outlining a framework of collaboration for enabling safe and transformative spaces for learning.

About Being was shortlisted for an Educate The North Awards 2019 and was named as one of the top 100 ‘lifesavers’ health projects in the Made in Uni campaign 2019/20.

Lizzie Fort: Careful propositions for Community Dance: The ‘Inter-dependent Artist’ and an ‘Ecology of Care’

Recent calls for a new ethics and politics of care in our everyday lives have been extended by scholars like James Thompson who argues that care has an aesthetic dimension. The public project, Woolwich Wandering puts ‘care aesthetics’ to work. Placing care at the heart of practice, I ask, Am I wanted here? exploring the possibilities, tensions and knowledges that arise through emplacement in my neighbourhood, Woolwich, SE London. Woolwich Wandering drives the research through three practices of place: wandering-walking, pausing, and writing. Residents created journals, maps and walk routes, followed by walking-resting workshops, generating a ‘Manifesto for Public Space’, exhibited in the local library.

Preliminary findings reveal a new narrative of Woolwich, a place-making story told by residents, characterised by: complex experiences of care and carelessness that blur personal-professional lives; a life sustaining web of caring relationships that transcend people, environment, objects, and issues such as women’s safety, gentrification, and littering.
I propose:
1. The Inter-dependent Artist as an alternative to the Independent Artist,
2. Community dance as a web of care networks that transcend human and more than human worlds.
This research contributes to interrelated fields of community dance, site specific art, placemaking and human geography.

Practice-based experience & experiment: pavleheidler, Michael Kaddu, Mary Pearson, Elvan Tekin, and Carolina van Eps

We are in a place of discovery in a radically different field of performance: livestream improvisation and remote cross-cultural intimacies. As artists who create experiments,

How do we acknowledge and see the value in what we are doing?

How can we give value to what “positively disrupts Western canons”- when this is not yet legible to those systems as something of value?

To articulate how our values relate to our methodology, and how we build relationships in our project, we propose to put the room in the place of an experiment. Moving between reporting and practicing, based on our experience of our project, and the live situation of the conference.

Inside a carefully articulated experiment, we will create a set of live agreements in order to
1 experience encounters, 2 take pause for silence, and 3 respond / reflect.

We choose to explore tender questions, knowingly and carefully taking risks to build relationships in awareness of differently lived experience. Rethinking identity, to what extent do we have agency in how we define ourselves to connect with others? We practice the privilege of offering partial perspectives, in active negotiation with what we choose to say and show.

Based on Witnessed in Translation and WITNESS, a livestream performance project and online course supported by FACT, Together (formerly MDI), Independent Dance, Kitty’s Launderette. Produced by Harriet Warnock and through public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Film: Nandi Clarke – Coulibaly: Fear of Difference (2022)
An Interdisciplinary Dance Film

Nandi Clarke-Coulibaly, Edge Hill University, BA(Hons) Dance and Drama Undergraduate
Why do we humans fear difference? Fear of different races, religions, nationalities, and ideologies causes many of today’s conflicts. In this interdisciplinary dance performance on film, we focus on the fear of ethnic and racial difference. The narrative is based on my personal experience of subconscious racism, and I recruited performers to help tell that story through the body and voice. As a team we experimented with social daily gestures, strutted improvisation, and choreography in the workshops that I delivered. There was a collaboration to establish a relationship between the performers, camera lens and site-specific realization.

Fear of Difference highlights what we see in society from an ethnic minority perspective, and how communities become locked into attitudes and stereotypes, that create social and political unrest, racial mistrust, and psychological insecurities. Our message in the performance focuses on the need to shift attitudes towards race and ethnicity. This practice research intends to set an example for a future in which we continue to learn, grow together, progress and interconnect as a global community, flexing long-held traditions to expand our intercultural wealth and embrace difference. Fear of Difference underscores the importance of embarking upon a journey of continuous and lifelong learning to achieve this natural growth. But as part of this process, there is also an underlying theme of a ‘runway of loneliness’ which reflects the solitary aspect of working through our fear of difference. The work indeed exposes the human need to be on a journey of lifelong learning and discovery. Without this how long can we, the human race survive? Each scene is episodic and reflects a passing of time and a shift of attitudes. The final scene presents an ideal future where there is interconnectivity as a global community, where mankind has now globally unified. Difference is not feared it is welcomed and revered.

Closing Act

Raconteur 2
Wendy Houstoun rounds up the highlights of the day

7.00pm Curtain Raiser: Taciturn

7.30 Fatherhood – Altered Skin