Current research and lectures
Suzie West has been digging into the pedagogical benefits of site specific and outdoor performance this year and has spent time develop theories and methodologies alongside Exeter University, Cornwall College, Mounts Bay Academy and Chhaya Collective. The Action Research studies how dance partnership projects with an outdoors focus can forge new identity and connections with places.
Stomping Ground has just completed its first cycle of research with 4 Outdoors Dance projects: Inside Out in Plymouth, The Soul Birds in St Austell, Midsummer in Liskeard and Wild in Penzance. Each project weaves together significant spaces in the community, schools and professional dancers to explore and develop a creative outcome that brings the community together. SpiNDrift have brought together over 200 participants and performed to over 550 members of the public in 8 difference sites across Devon and Cornwall.
SpinDrift will be working closely with Exeter University and a national collective of schools to study the creative possibilities between partnering arts and science. SpinDrift is partnered with Mounts Bay Academy and sistered with PSCA to specifically study the use of investigation, cross- arts partnership and identity shaping.
Suzie regularly visits the The National Danish School of Performing Artsto work with the Choreography and Pedagogy students for one week. As a guest lecturer Suzie introduces and the students to co-creation and choreography with young people. This opportunity to develop a dialogue with professional dancers in Denmark and to meddle with the theories in the UK with other European scholars was really interesting and has strengthened SpinDrift's visibility in the academic world.
Co-creation and Co-construction is integrated in to every project SPinDrift develop, giving every participant an equal and valued creative and performance role. The empowerment and shared repertoire experienced in each project with strengthen the committees of practice in the local communities and deepen their connection with the locations we dance int
The ‘Wild Investigators’ Project was conjured up as a vehicle for students to explore the creative and scientific process of investigation. We have found as teachers that more and more these days there is a fear of mistakes, a tendency of ‘googling’ to find an answer and a predisposition to categorise knowledge. The Wild Project challenges the students to use themselves as a resource, a starting point and an interdisciplinary learner.
The activities were guided by introductory workshops, trips, sensory walks, tours, and performances leaving the students curiosities to be the driving factor in the personalised investigation. For example
The students outcomes were open ended and continued to be developed as the year went on, after the initial exhibitions and sharing some took on leadership roles running workshops with primaries in their investigation topics. Some developed poetry and choreography for other venues. Others continues to investigate new sites, psychology and make new films.
As a dance teacher the CREATIONS project has been a really interesting bridge for collaborating with new departments and exploring inter- disciplinarity. I have been able to focus my projects on ‘investigators’ as a process and collaborating closely with science teacher Nikita and the Cornish landscape. Its been really interesting to innovate methods of practice that are open ended and risky, but still tangible for the science curriculum, arts award evidence and BTEC Performing Arts course. The activities and format trialled have been the most useful resource for future inter- disciplinary work in the school. Some activities have been adapted to science and arts lessons particularly, as ‘starters’ for investigations and project week topics. I have a strong opinion that actually this action research should not be squeezed or sterilised into a particular lesson. Taking a much looser structure like a relaxed timetable day, after school project or independent study values the time and freedom of the process and shifts the students attitude to the learning that happened. It also encourages them to continue the investigations, creation and experiments in their own time, setting up a new learning habit.
A year on from the project starting I can see the real changes in the students adaptability. capaciousness and curiosity. Some of the arts award students have developed their own dance company, door have created independent pieces at local gardens, and some have collaborated with others on music, art or poetry. The action research advocated the need for students to ‘own’ their learning: to make their own decisions, mistakes and conclusions. Whether they are studying geology, kinetic energy, archeology, biology or psychology they engage in their own personalised learning journey.
Im a trusting, optimistic and perhaps a slightly lackadaisical teacher. `I enjoy messy learning and acknowledge that a little confusion, fear or risk, is a good thing sometimes. I really enjoy supporting the process as a ‘meddler’ and have learnt that this method can be useful in science too. There are always compromises to be be had and I have learnt that a certain amount of careful planning, curricular kudos, and persuasive benefits for science teachers allow them to access time off curriculum and an opportunity to collaborate. As teachers, dialogue is the key reason why simply redistributing this project back into solitary lessons, isn’t beneficial. The shared observation time, conversations and problem solving that happened between Nikita and I is the most valuable part for teachers. Planning and completing a project of any length or complexity together has made the biggest impact on our practice. Our presence in the projects also a visual, sub-conscious cue for the investigators to blend two subjects simultaneously. Interdisciplinary has to be experienced by the teachers and the learners in order for a gear change to occur in the pedagogy of the school.
Written by Suzie West
Read about the pedagogy and outcomes of our research in the pdf documents below.... an inspirational read!
Stomping Ground Update
As the director of the collective Suzie West has just completed cStomping Ground which is a partnership project linking local schools creatively with their outdoor spaces.
Clay Walks in St Austell This large scale community performance project used the developing methodology of shared repertoire and co -creation to weave many chapters and community groups into one show. The site became the shared repertoire and slowly, with a little creative meddling and many melting pot workshops the core concepts floated to the top. The flattened hierarchy and co -creation remained on a sliding scale, so that Suzie West could make legit and artistic decisions when needed and give over control and responsibility to other practitioners during rehearsals. This took a great deal of trust, faith and communication but was well worth it, to keep the production unified and with collective intention.
Site for Sore Eyes: Two smaller but perfectly formed projects also occurred at Restormel Castle this June and Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens in July. Looe School students attended the beautiful castle for two days with Lois Taylor, Lauren Syrett, Isolde Allen and myself. They all explored the contours, architecture and perspective of the castle to devise individual groups pieces. Devising in parallel with each other the professionals and the BTEC Students spent a month away from the site refining and designing before returning for a final day of sharing. The weather was glorious and the work looked stunning parading across the turrets and inviting the public into the pockets of derelict rooms.
Mounts Bay Academy students worked intensively over June and July to devise solos and duos for a dance film based at Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. The one day of filming with SpinDrift apprentice Immy Starr and Shelley Claxton, Performance for Camera lecturer at Falmouth University was an inspirational day. This was a ‘hands off’ project which the students took full responsibility for. They devised, selected sites and led the day co-creating the concepts with each other. This is fast becoming my favourite way to teach- its fascinating to just loosen rules and allow total creative freedom. The site becomes the structure for their decisions and the camera helps them to make the best creative decisions as it works as a ‘silent author’. Footage for both projects coming soon!
Following on from the huge success of Merge8, SpinDrift have been continuing to bring dancers of all ages and dancers from all sectors together. We firmly believe that there is a need and hunger for more joined up thinking and capacious practice within education and cultural settings and will continue to research how aspiration, training and access is facilitated for everyone.
Mergecology focused on fortifying the local dance ecologies in Devon and Cornwall by running Mergeology Platforms and Mergecology projects that encouraged collaboration. Dancers of all ages performed in the same work, co-created the same work, danced with students from other schools, other universities and other countries. We visited over 20 schools and colleges engaged all three Universities in Falmouth, Plymouth and Exeter and averaged 100 dancers per Mergecology project.
What has been fantastic is that out of the initial Mergecology projects, new collaborations and relationships have been formed, old partnerships from last year strengthened and the health of the dance ecology has been maintained. New people have been in touch, new venues have stepped forward, more dancers have joined the collective and new ideas just keep springing up!
We thrive on new connections and new solutions so can't wait to see where 2017 will take us after such a successful pilot.
Suzie West also knows how important it is to reflect on what we have achieved and what the journeys of the dancers have been, The data is being collated and the repertoire created this year is being developed into legacy projects that will reconnect the younger dancers with the professional work they experienced.
The next Mergecology is Saturday 3rd February 2018 at AMATA Falmouth University.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to work with you all. It has been a fantastic experience for both staff and students and I look forward to the future.