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 One: 29th March 2023

9.30am Open for registration
10.30am Keynote – Khanyisile Mbongwa
11.40am Session 1: Vicky Hunter/Nina Edge/Kiara Mohamed Amin
12.45pm Film: Alexandrina Hemsley (Yewande)
1.15pm Lunch
2.00pm Keynote – Hanna Cormick
3.00pm Session 2 Lucy Nicholson/Rosa Cisneros/Emma Meehan
4.05pm Workshop: Angie Pierre-Louis and Dr. Sarah Black Frizell
4.45pm Session 3: Jacqueline Richards/Deborah Kate Norris/Maxine Brown & Kym Ward
5.45pm Session 4: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance
6.15pm Raconteur: Wendy Houstoun
7.15pm Curtain Raiser by Hope University
7.30pm The Rest of Our Lives – Jo Fong and George Orange

Opening Keynote

Khanyisile Mbongwa: There Is No Table For My Seat

Mbongwa titled her workshop There Is No Table For My Seat which is her ongoing research and positioning of ancestral knowledge systems as fundamental to the imagination of Black & Queer Futurity and the Black Global Diaspora Tradition.

Presentation 1

Victoria Hunter: Dancing Places: Sites, Situations and Taking-Place

In this presentation I share some early-stage research into the mapping of place-based dance practice. The exploration of place-based practice extends the parameters of site-dance scholarship through intersectional approaches that situate place-based and site-specific dance work, created by marginalised groups and individual artists, at the centre of the endeavour. The aim is to map out territories and constellations of non-theatre-based dance shaped by marginalised perspectives and practices as opposed to a modelling of inclusivity that invites this work into or sets it in contrast to dominant (white, male, able-bodied, heteronormative) spaces of discourse and practice. It applies a counter-mapping methodology informed by the work of feminist-led human geographers (Patricia Noxolo, 2021, Joni Seager, 2018, Divya Tolia-Kelly 2016 and Brandi Thomson Summers, 2019) who recognise that spatial experiences, access and privileges are not universally shared and ‘existing cartographic rules unjustly organize human hierarchies in place and reify uneven geographies in familiar, seemingly natural ways’ (Katherine McKittrick, 2006:4). Doing so I consider; what constitutes a dancing place, how does dance take place and enact practices of take-over, inhabitation, and occupation and how do communities, groups and individuals enact politics of ‘take-over’ through their dancing practices, transforming sites into places of embodied performance, celebration, demonstration, and protest?

Nina Edge: Activism and activist art making practices

The presentation expands ideas of equality in cultural production, developed by the artist in Liverpool and London as street interventions. The session uses original documentation, film clips and photographs, to look at three of the artist’s key works in which costumed performers use structured movement to dance truth to power. The aim of the presentation is to examine the innovative radical activist strategies inherent in these works. This is with a view to negotiating the entry of these unorthodox public realm assemblies into academic knowledge production systems. This is a necessary step in establishing visibility for work that challenges colonial narratives, questions centralized dance & performance practice and celebrates access for wider publics.

Kiara Mohamed Amin: Hope making, Deep Imaginings and Dream building as Emergent Strategies

How do we engage in hopemaking in what feels like a hopeless time? How do we learn to build nervous systems strong enough to be heartened and emboldened to embody hope? The road to liberation needs us to allow hopemaking and dreambuilding to be part of our everyday lives as a way of giving presence to what is moving in our inner worlds. Together we explore how hopemaking, which I define as the physical act of creating, moving and holding presence to emerging ideas that lead to liberation. Hope is an emergent strategy that we can engage in together. This Invitation to embodying hope needs our deep imaginations coupled with naming the subtle shifts through use of vagus nerve exercise and EFT. This is an invitation to move deeper into our imaginations with the help of a co-regulated nervous system, so that we may dream bigger dreams and to start to exteriorise those dreams into our physical reality. Dreams of liberation are in our imaginations and we can become cartographers like our ancestors, finding their way to liberation through The Big Dipper.

Film: Alexandrina Hemsley
Rest :: Soft Mess by Alexandrina Hemsley (Founder and Creative Director Yewande 103)

In this video presentation, interdisciplinary dance artist Alexandrina talks through how rest (whether voluntary or involuntary) has shaped her practice, particularly, the need to re-imagine and transform her creative processes. Clips of Alexandrina’s work are interwoven within the presentation. Throughout the presentation are her endless interest in noticing the sensorial within dancing as a way to approach wider systemic frameworks and change.

Rest :: Soft Mess was originally commissioned for Ashok Mistry’s Disability Arts Online ONYX Takeover (Nov-Dec 2022).

Content warning: References to stillbirth and burial


Hanna Cormick: Earth shudders, my body shakes

What do we learn from a body that resists control? What takes over when we surrender to body-processes not of our own making?

An inversion of the extractivist and anthropocentrist systems of dance to describe new scales of body and time-space, in which no body is broken. A personal meditation on being part of this trembling planet that is urging us to remember how we exist as one entity in a web of interdependence. Drawing threads through lived-experience of cripness, climate-disease and neurodivergence, Hanna reflects on what it is to relinquish control, and turn our bodies into spaces through which other beings and systems dance.

Presentation 2

Lucy Elizabeth Nicholson : Moving With…. (film with her son)

Moving With is a short film made in partnership with Jonny Randall, to capture a precious moment in time between mother and son and their local landscape. A celebration of simple things: being together, moving together, listening, and watching all we have on our doorstep. It documents dance artist Lucy Nicholson and her son, Benji’s, regular journeys out and about in their local village of Staveley, Lake District, Cumbria. They pack a bag and walk to their favourite spots and ask themselves, …What can we hear? … What can we see? … How shall we move?

Dr Rosemary (Rosa) Cisneros – Parenting, Roma Feminism and Dance: Cultivating an egalitarian dance-research environment

This paper focusses on the working relationship between the director of an HE institute in the UK, and an artist-researcher navigating the higher education dance working environment and motherhood. The paper draws on personal experiences, sections labelled vignettes that highlight a tension faced by the individual and reflects on how the director of the Centre for Dance Research Institution in the UK facilitated egalitarian work environments through her charismatic leadership style. Such leadership from a senior female colleague allowed me to live out my Romani feminism and encouraged an inclusive work culture within higher education and the dance sector.

Emma Meehan
Dialogue Moves: Amerta Movement in Indonesia

‘Dialogue Moves’ is a research fellowship in Indonesia which examines the ways in which Amerta Movement, developed by the late Javanese movement artists Suprapto Suryodarmo, creates opportunities for dialogue across religious and cultural difference. In this paper, I introduce first how Amerta Movement might be considered a somatic (body-mind) practice. In particular, I address how it challenges perceptions of somatics as self-focused, Western benefitting practices (Eddy 2002, Fortin 2002, Fortin and Grau 2014, Alexander and Kampe 2017), through exploring dynamics of local/global and personal/social. I then go on to consider interviews with six artists in Indonesia who worked closely with Prapto, and their reflections on how dialogue operates in Amerta Movement. Metaphors that they describe include a brush (with individual sticks held together), a junction (where two pathways meet) and algae (with a strong form which moves fluidly with the environment). I will analyse how these each contribute to understandings of ‘dance democracy’, as a means by which to ‘build individuality, self-freedom, but still hold togetherness value in community’ (Suryodarmo 2017). Finally, I address my own role as researcher exploring cross-cultural dialogue in practice, as an Irish researcher based in the UK and undertaking research in Indonesia. I will include video/audio of interviews and movement practice, alongside research journal entries.

Workshop: Angie Pierre -Louis and Dr. Sarah Black Frizell: Offerings tell the stories of our lives in movement

Sarah and angie are dance artists and scholars based in Liverpool, and our practices engage with site, improvisation, ethics and the maternal. During the COVID-19 Pandemic we developed a creative methodology – Offerings[1]. As a methodology Offerings created a space for us to communicate, care and support each other through isolation. Our Offerings were movement explorations, images, anecdotal text, scores, and letters.

In this space, that ODD 3 provides us, and in the context of democratic process, care and compassion, we share Offerings as a provocation for artistic practice for self and others’.

Our process responds to dance scholarship and writing, especially that of Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay (1990, 2004), we borrow from auto-ethnographic practices to explore personal experience (Ellis, 2011), we consider the ethics implications of our practice (Bannon 2018) and anecdotal reflexive writing practices (Baraitser, 2009).

[1] Black Frizell, & pierre-louis, a. (2023). Creative Bodies in Therapy, Performance and Community. Research and Practice that Brings Us Home London: Offerings: Tells us the stories of lives in movement. ROUTLEDGE

Black -Frizell, S & pierre-louis (2023). Flesh and Mortar.  Our dance democracy; Forum Kritika on dancing democracy in a fractured world. Kritika Kultura, issue 40.    

Presentation 3

Dr Jacqueline Richards: Mainstream not Marginalised

Demographics, political, social, and financial change, health and wellbeing and new technology challenge and influence older people’s dance provision. Nowadays, many adults have positive aspirations after fulltime work and bringing up families and are not willing to become invisible, isolated, and marginalised. Many are physically active, energetic, have time and want to learn. However, older people’s dance is still usually for “fun and keep fit” or for specified medical conditions. Most intergenerational projects are short-term. If there are welcoming, trusting environments where participants are respected as equals, they can dance, share a common interest, enjoy being involved and some want to perform. A wider range of choices to meet demand and interests is required. More creative/contemporary dance opportunities are becoming available, but provision remains patchy. Increasing numbers, especially women, want to dance regularly, develop their capabilities with confident well-trained dance-artists, facilitators, and choreographers. This inspires, gives hope to younger generations, audiences, and employment opportunities for dance practitioners. Older people’s dance needs to be taken seriously within the dance world and academia. This new dance genre can then become mainstream. Negative assumptions about older people’s dance needs challenging!

Dance On! …… and On!

Deborah Kate Norris: Re-Emerging to Emerge: Ageism in Dance

The notion that a young person knowingly enters into vocational dance training age eighteen, with certainty that their career as a performer is likely to be over by the time they reach the age of thirty is arguably absurd. However, the dance sector has lived this reality for many years, accepting that you quickly become ‘too old’ to perform and therefore you must become a teacher, or choreographer, or usually find an alternative career in another field. This paper aims to discuss this as an initial starting point but will focus the conversation on what happens next.

Arts organisations endeavour to support young artists, with a wealth of opportunities for ‘emerging artists’ available, including workshops, career development days, funded apprenticeships etc. However, these often come with an age range attached, commonly 18 – 35 years. With a changing landscape in the creative arts, how does a dancer navigate a shift in their focus towards an alternative role within the arts, if they are no longer able to ‘emerge’ due to their age and are as such, unable to access these opportunities which could support their career development.

Positioning my work as a case study using an auto-ethnographic lens, I will explore my role as a woman ballet choreographer. Making my first professional work (outside of an educational setting) in my forties, I am curious to establish a new understanding of this title. The paper will discuss how I am re-emerging as an emerging artist at this significant turning point from dance educator to choreographer whilst maintaining the title of Dance Artist and will draw from a range of sources exploring the effect and issues surrounding ageism in the creative arts.

Maxine Brown & Kym Ward

Dance in care and community settings, for people living with dementia, can be an incredibly important mode of maintaining individuals’ movement practice, as well as lessening social isolation and increasing feelings of confidence in both participants and carers.

Working with dance at the intersection of Arts and Health however, poses specific issues around responding to individuals’ life experiences, cultural background, and understanding their current health condition. Specifically for people living with dementia, dance practices can platform issues surrounding consent, in relation to workshops and also as resolution – providing learning moments for carers and practitioners alike.

Taking our experience of running Music Makes Us! Dance Workshops since 2018, we will present moments of tension and resolution in person centred community dance practice.

Session 4

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance: Participatory art making; engaging the body through the mind and the political

Within our Creative Learning practice, we use Shobana’s research and choreographic process to create new dance pieces and work with other art forms, always in a co-creative and participatory way.

In our session, we will outline how Shobana’s work and movement creation process engages political and current issues. We will most specifically explore two of her most recent works, Material Men redux (2017) and Clorinda Agonistes (2022), which deal with the themes of indentured labour/modern slavery and the current upheavals in the Middle East.
After a brief warm up, we will illustrate how we take Shobana’s research process and movement creation into our participatory work with participants from all ages and abilities. This often results in activist art being made with participants, and new dance teaching and learning practices ascertained.

Raconteur : Wendy Houstoun

Curtain Raiser by Hope University

The Rest of Our Lives – Jo Fong and George Orange