A Day in Creation
By Elena Alava Hilgert
“Wait, what was I doing? Let’s try again”
Today marks the beginning of the third week of creation at Swindon Dance. Parts are starting to come together, transitions are made, there is lots of going back and forth. Accompanying this process is a game we play. We try to pass a ball around in a circle as many times as possible and you can only touch it once. Our record is 23 passes. When the ball falls, we laugh, we pick it up and try again, building up the number of passes. In many ways, this relates closely to our current process.
It’s a grey Monday in Swindon and we are sharing some weekend anecdotes while we arrive back in the studio. Coffee is being made as Jackie, the choreographer, shares the plan for the day.
“We have a full schedule, but it will all start to make more sense this week.”
Jackie and the performers, Duja, Christina and Elsabet check in with their bodies and how they are feeling. This is followed by an energetic warm up together to activate body and mind for the day. We then jump into the piece, trying out a new travel sequence using different directions and pathways.
“Can we try it faster? Should we face another direction?”
It’s a game of trial and error. We laugh and we try again. There is a constant conversation between artistic director Emma-Jane, Jackie and the performers. We start to expand the travel sequence and include sayings that are often used to play down abusive experiences, such as “This could happen to anyone.”, “He didn’t mean it.” or “It could have been worse.” Does that sound familiar? We notice that it is not easy translating these words into movement as Duja, Christina and Elsabet create individual responses to them. The performers share their responses and together with Emma-Jane and Jackie integrate them with the traveling sequence. Again, we try out different variations until agreeing on one version. After practicing it a few more times it is time for a well-deserved lunch break.
“Great job! Thank you for your patience, ladies!”
After lunch break, which includes a production meeting for Emma-Jane, we regain our focus with the ball game. We don’t set a new record, but we all have a big grin on our face afterwards. After Duja leads a warm-up for everyone, we jump straight back into the piece. The part we work on revolves around the common voices of society doubting survivors of sexual abuse, for example “You were drunk, babe, are you sure you remember it right?” While speaking the phrases out loud, Christina draws attention to how heavy these words can sit.
“It doesn’t feel right to say this. I feel terrible”.
Towards the end of the day, we bring together movement, spoken word and props. Our focus drifts away from time to time, forgetting words or misplacing the props. Like in our ball game, we take these moments to share a laugh as the creation day slowly comes to an end.
“I failed to catch the ball, so what? I don’t care.”
Reflections from the Author
Hello, my name is Elena (she/her) and I am currently completing my MA in Dance Leadership and Community Practice at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. My strong interest in Hip Hop and gender issues led me to Body Politic, where I support the marketing and production team of THEM as part of a student work placement.
Attending the creation process in Swindon has given me such a meaningful insight of THEM and left me truly inspired. The knowledge that I gained, enables me to dive deeper into my research and work around the piece. I enjoyed experiencing the strong team effort and seeing that the process is a constant conversation between all creatives. What really interests me about the piece is how issues of gendered violence are communicated through the art of dance. I am curious about how the younger audiences engage with the piece and of course look forward to seeing the final product myself!
Thanks for reading!
Description: Pictured is a portrait photo of me, Elena, a white woman in her 20s. I am smiling towards the camera with my teeth showing and it looks like I am outside. I have brown, wavy hair that reaches my shoulders. I have brown eyes. In the picture I am wearing a bright red knitted sweater. The background is blurred out, but you can see the yellow and green of leaves in autumn.