Not what it seems


The right hand image here is “witness” and the left hand was intended as some kind of self-portrait & has the title “Not What It Seems”. If you could flip it over, you’d see the head and shoulders of a standing woman whose cloaked torso forms the bulk of the card. Here’s some writing that goes with it –

I am a traveller, led by omens – intimate with death. My wings are furled, my face hooded. I carry a whip.

I am raven, lion, death. I carry mysteries under my cloak.

Seem to be male, but am female. Seem to be up, but am sideways. Seem open, but am hidden.

I am not what it seems – trust me.

“If you want to work with the unconscious, you need to play”

I went to a really nice workshop at the church today & the leader said the above in her introduction.

It’s a process called “soul collage” aka, cutting up pictures from magazines & sticking them together to make a personalised tarot deck.

The right hand image is of a volcano: at first I felt it represented sexuality: dangerous; too strong to repress forever – but beautiful. Then when it seemed 3 key cards to make were: source; divine spark & witness – I thought it could be source.

Had a lot of trouble trying not to get my shadow into this photo & ended up under the kitchen table – then the flash went off! So I decided it could represent some kind of mysterious moon.


Orley’s 1st attempt at Mr. Ellis’ questions

What have you been doing (as practice)?

  • I started by being still every day for 2 minutes alone, or with others. This could vary, e.g. sitting, lying, standing, in an unusual position but became set as standing up.
  • I have decided today, due to research and development and mild development of psychosis in relation to practice, to start with a new thread. This time I work alone. I choose a photo of myself – I recreate this still image as close to accurate as I can be. Then, due to a need for movement indulgence, I move for the duration of a song of my choice (from my ‘Music that plays with silence’ selection). I come in and out of stillness – related to, with an essence of or re-finding the exact image in the photo. I can play with duration however I see fit at that moment.
  • This practice must start with some sort of warm up beforehand.

Who else has done similar kinds of practices?

  • As this is a new starting point for me I can only say who has interested me in this/that I am reading about.
    Lech Majewski, the film director, poet, writer etc works with still frames that movement appears from, at times subtle so you have this continual vision of the two: a trick of the eye
  • Both Cage and Cunningham work with stillness, silence and absence and test boundaries of durations. I have been reading about Cage and ‘Where the Heart Beats’ has just arrived and will be read soon.
  • I will have been listening a lot to musicians that play with silence: Antye Greie (AGF), Beethoven, Art of Noise etc.

What texts seem influential or relevant to this practice?

  • I have been largely reading photography writings like ‘Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image’, books about Stoics, Articles on mindfulness and TED talks from people like Pico Ayer. But now I am shifting into a new direction, potentially I will change my starting points for reading.

What do you plan on doing for your DPaR project?

  • Now that is a massive question. One I am definitely not ready to answer. I have thought about images, projections. I have thought about a solo choreography. I have thought about a participatory happening. But these are thoughts as I have no idea what direction I going in now. I am just trusting a new lead and how it relates to the original thread.

Why is it important?

  • It is important that it feels important. I need to know that by giving my time to something, daily, that I will develop, learn something new, find a new way of working and approaching ideas.
  • It matters that I find value in what I am doing – half hearted doesn’t work out very well for me. I need to be engaged and interested. I don’t mind how this is manifested: frustration, irritation, joy etc – but I need to care.
  • My decision to study at masters level was to challenge the way I think and affirm/develop what I know and trust all at the same time. I can be stubborn to begin, closed to start, but I always let go and move on from that place quite swiftly. I came to allow that to happen.

How will you do it?

  • Strangely haven’t got a clue what I am answering here and in relation to what although it seems like it should be super obvious!
  • I know I need time. I can’t rush this. I have to go back to making it a daily practice. I have to focus on trying to analyse what I am doing less and just do it. That worked out well in the beginning.
  • I have never worked alone like this. I am a social creature and enjoy working with others even if I am the one leading/making the choices. Thank goodness for the blog. Feel less alone. A way to continually try and communicate and question what I am doing. I never thought I would like writing on a blog (I am a flip phone kinda gal) but it’s really quite enjoyable – just as well I bought myself a laptop before I started.

What plans have you made for documenting producing ‘additional materials’ for the project?

  • I wouldn’t say I have made plans. But I am writing lots. In all sorts of disorganised places and when I feel clearer about what I am doing, I hope I can find a way to bring these writings together.

Simon’s Questions – 1st attempt

  • What have you been doing (as practice)?

Right now, I’m sitting in the church waiting for dawn. It’s still pretty dark, but the 3 circular skylights are a satisfying grey. I have a mug of cocoa – it’s the big, light brown, rounded mug (I don’t think anyone unwrapped it during my presentation). Since I woke up, I’ve been wrestling to: integrate new information from Tuesday’s therapy session; work out how to take the Spanish project forward after the Skype last night & find a good response to these questions. All three feel like essentially the same process & that process is supported by this cocoa (dawn) space.

  • Who else has done similar kinds of practices?

Anyone who’s ever sat down with “a nice cup of tea” to do some emotional processing. People who’ve tried to set up or live in spiritual communities, or anarchic communities. Jung and other shamen who’ve tried to explore the deep psyche.

  • What texts seem influential or relevant to this practice?

Right now, I’m really excited to be reading “The Feast of the Sorcerer: Practices of Consciousness & Power by Bruce Kapferer.

[Just went downstairs to fetch it, so I could get the title right & my dawn alarm was ringing – dawn was officially 7 minutes ago: it’s still very dark here though]

I found it browsing the key texts section after Monday’s session “with an interest in developmental psychology, anxiety, meditation, shared meaning, therapy, relaxation . . .” (quote from my notebook)

Another text I really resonated with was “The Production of Space” by Henri Lefebrve, but it wasn’t the one I borrowed.

[took my socks off & rolled around on a silver gym ball for a bit under the skylights, it’s getting appreciably lighter]

  • What do you plan on doing for your dpar project?

I’m often most excited about surprising people . . . but on the other hand, I’m fairly confident these ideas will change completely: so I freely share my current ones

– there’s a beautiful tree (cedar?) by the lake, just outside the dance department. I imagine everyone finding their place in the branches of that tree.

– I like the idea of inviting people to join me at Putney Bridge (or Barnes) station at dawn & walk silently for an hour

– somehow it’s possible for my studio presentation to invite people into a space where there’s a strong & conscious resonance between what draws their attention in the room and what’s most present for them emotionally (as in a Gestalt session). This last idea feels the most impossible – and is therefore the most creatively stimulating.

  • Why is it important? (How might it matter? So what?)

Responding to Paul last night on the main blog, I was thinking about how confident someone would need to be in their art practice to want to do such unstructured MFAs. It made me remember the simplicity of my motivation to do this MA: to draw on the resources of “the university” to better understand what’s been so revelatory for me in Contact Improvisation. Then I made the further link between Contact & my earlier practice of Quaker worship. I realised that there’s actually a strong continuity between how I’m “practicing” now and the original impulse to try & live into the core Quaker theological insight that everyone has access to some kind of inner guidance & that this is necessarily prior to any external authorities in terms of text or tradition or trusted others.

  • How will you do it?

Errr . . .

  • What plans have you made for documenting or producing ‘additional materials’ for the project?

[just had another roll around on the ball – mainly eyes shut this time, it’s getting pretty light now. I guess the hour after dawn alarm will ring soon. My back felt much better – probably cos I’m pretty happy with how I’ve answered these questions]

My only documentation so far, has been “the notebook of little sit”: a battered, softcover, A4 ledger, which I’ve got very fond of – but I’ve now reached the last page. Initially I tried to record: when I sit & have a cocoa; which mug; what I’m reading; quotes that strike me & the weather + any other thoughts that come to mind. Since Spain, I’ve been trying to have this dawn cocoa in the church. If I make it, I still record which mug & what song comes into my head (none this morning), if I don’t make it, I try to record what else I was doing at dawn instead. I guess I’ll need to find a new notebook now: that may lead to some shift in how I document. I’m also enjoying starting to participate more in the blogs.

[hour after dawn alarm just went off]

Will stop here. Really looking forward to reading what others have been doing!


Care, Find, Anti-Practice.

How do I trust my direction when I am not sure if I chose the right thing to start with? I ask myself should I find something new? Should I find something that matters more to me? What will it take for something to matter more? I need to care. Will that help me understand my practice more clearly? There comes point when being lost may not be useful. I need to be found or to find, ideally soon, and then get lost within a found place. Everything feels like a risk. Start something new and feel the same again? Stick with something that you don’t know you want? I ask these questions. I expect no answers. Although answers are not unwelcome. I just don’t think there are any at the moment. What is my practice? This question is haunting me. I feel that I have to ban it from my thoughts for a good few days before I can think about it again. My practice is trying to work out what my practice is. How horrid is that? ‘Trying’ is also an unpleasant word to be sitting with. Has a hint of ‘no achievement’ but a bloody good effort attached to it. I don’t think I even know what the word means any more. Too much. Too little. Nothing. Something. Not worth it. More. Less. Begin. End. Find something interesting Orley?

I am definitely in phase 3 or 4 of Twyla Tharp’s creative process. But what is scary is I don’t feel I have hit 1 yet! Maybe I am mucking up her order! Sorry Twyla – potentially not as universal as we both thought it was.

Creative process:
This is awesome
This is tricky
This is crap
I am crap
This might be ok
This is awesome

In Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for life

For anyone that might be where I am right now – just think ‘This is awesome’ is on the horizon!

What did I miss!

I notice I’m intensely curious what happened in “the other group” yesterday. So I’m going to post a brief description of the sharings in Simon’s group in case that inspires someone to do the same for Emilyn’s.

I was late and came in just as Mariel was finishing some pointework. This was later referred to as “bourrees”? Simon said it was basic pointework, but I doubt if I’d have experienced it like that, because other comments made it sound fast and rhythmical. Mariel then sat down in a chair in a very comfortable wide-legged stance. When I asked about this, she said it felt good to reground. She said that reconnecting to ballet technique felt like a way to engage with how race affected her ballet experience. Simon questioned how much this had been communicated by what she’d shown.

Marlon then led us through an exercise of using the non-dominant arm to move other joints in order to touch the head to the floor, stand up again and touch the forehead with the other forefinger. I could have got very interested in the challenge of how to get up from the floor with voluntary control of one arm only – I guess you’d need to clarify when other body parts should stay fixed in position & when they can be moved by other parts. Marlon said his interest was the effect on the sense of subject and object when parts of your body are passively moved by others. Simon said the chosen sequence felt somewhat prayer-like. Marlon agreed, but said he wanted it to transcend specific cultures and religions. Simon thought that was hugely ambitious, but Marlon said it just required sufficient simplification.

Next up was Sam, who read aloud from Finnegan’s Wake while listening to other words through headphones and then read a short erotic story while squatting against the wall. It was interesting how the tension induced by the stress position got associated with the story, even though the true cause was obvious. Her underlying practice was finding ways of problematising reading aloud. Simon questioned her relation to the audience & whether the intention was to succeed despite the obstacles or to explore impossible tasks & failure.

Stephanie then gave us all a piece of paper and asked us to write the numbers 1-100 in one minute. She said her interest was to get us to improvise by giving a time constraint that meant we couldn’t think about how to do it. Several people subverted the task by writing “the numbers 1-100”. Personally, I got really engaged by writing numbers as fast as possible. Generally people didn’t think the task did enable improvisation and Simon questioned how it helped us relate to her practice.

Raphan then asked for 2 volunteers and they worked together to make a short movement sequence by taking turns to add. He said his interest was to explore different learning styles & strategies and I did find it interesting to compare how the two volunteers engaged with the task. They then turned to the audience and “performed” the sequence – and then again “dramatically”. I was interested by the interplay between trying to match the others movement in order to learn the sequence & making it “one’s own” to give it dramatic expression. He said his interest was in whether the collaborative creation of the movement could somehow be sensed in the finished choreography. Simon questioned how you could ever know?

Jenny had brought a kettle & a bottle of water in a carrier bag. While it was boiling, she unpacked a collection of mugs wrapped in tissue paper from her rucksack. People were invited to choose a mug and unwrap it, fill it with boiling water and find a comfortable place in the room to be on their own with a hot drink. They could either stay with this for the whole time or join others in conversation – paying attention to what changed internally as they did so. As this score took the full ten minutes, there was no subsequent discussion.

Finally, Courtney had a large roll of paper, a pot of orange paint and a brush. She gave coloured arrow cards to 4 volunteers and as they displayed them she wrote on the paper in Japanese. The relationship between the signs and her writing wasn’t obvious and my attention shifted to how the 4 volunteers were relating to her and to each other or just enjoying the physicality of the brush moving on the paper – especially as it got full and she had to layer the characters over each other. Her daily practice is about translation, but Simon didn’t feel this came through in what she showed because incidentals like the beauty of calligraphy or the struggle to understand the rules of the game being played felt more compelling.

What am I interested in? How can I calm this down? What do I do?

Today was very apparent for me that I want to do to much. Always. By homing in and then fanning back out again I am forced to refine my thinking. But I realise that this pinhole approach always reverts back to something wide, fragmented, eclectic. How can I hold on to something small and use this alone? Or does this even matter if I don’t? How can I trust my instincts and how can I be clearer in my communication of what I am doing and what I want to do? Should I resist the pattern of deviation/development that has arisen over these past few weeks? It is this that keeps adding more….

Practicing explaining

I’ve been inspired to consider the emotional responses to my practice from those that I work with, how those responses manifest themselves and in turn how they can be used to inspire further creativity both personally for myself and professionally for those I teach.

In the process I have come across the tricky practice of ‘explaining’ and how to do so creatively for different groups of people with varying communication needs. I’m also intrigued by the variety of ways that participants engage with a task and the way the product (or in this case the plan for a lesson of choreographic task) can be altered in the moment by responding directly to their creative ideas rather than setting a fixed path which isn’t really possible in a group with complex learning requirements.

This is something I do when making dance or teaching dance – respond to dancers bodies and interpretations of a task in the moment and develop movement using the bodies in front of me as a resource. However it is obviously true that with any creative task if you take this path of discovery led by the participants it can take you in all sorts of interesting directions…

Us practicing:






3rd time lucky?

OK! I’m really hoping that this time the conker photo (different one) goes to you lot & not the Quakers. I picked up 7 originally, on the way to Barnes station: dropped one on the platform; left one on the train; one in the ticket office at Clapham Junction; opened 2 & left 2 for somebody elseIMG_20151005_123136381_HDR