I think I hear the hills

Following on from the ‘Into the Light of Things’ residency that we ran in September, we’re sharing a second blog from the series that is being contributed by the residents. Emmie Coxey used the time to explore ideas for dance related to place … and here’s what happened.

During a blissful 4 days in the Duddon Valley with 6 incredible and considerate artists, I got a bit lost. The kind of lost none of us usually have time for in our busy modern lives and yet we really should make space for. I lost all sense of deadlines and to do-lists, I lost myself in not knowing and I got geographically lost on a few occasions wandering the landscape. I see all of these as positive and meant I had somewhere to come back from. Since the residency I have tried to untangle some of the things that I came across while in this lost state. To attempt to make my thoughts readable and vaguely understood, I have streamlined things into three main threads that each inevitably fork off into many other tangents which I will resist getting into.

The first of my main thoughts is how much I began to listen to the landscape. To truly stop and notice. I haven’t had that chance for a long time. As a freelancer riding the forever bumpy road of surviving while being creatively stimulated, we rarely have the time to stop and listen. I have been astonished at how much there is to hear from the space and place around me. ‘Connecting to nature’ is a phrase I have heard a thousand times and mostly I have had to resist an involuntary roll of my eyes. This, I think, is down to associating this phrase with a lack of action. I now feel, that this couldn’t be further from the truth. To understand something, in your soul rather than in your rational mind, is the beginning of change. You have to be moved in order to move. This also obviously resinates with me as a dancer and could be considered a mantra for why dancers make work.

This residency allowed me space and time to listen properly, connect to nature truly and to be moved by the landscape. This is what has made me both move as a dancer during various improvisations, and also move to take actions as an environmentally conscious human being. Sitting amongst the majestic yet humble hills, I could feel their sadness. Nature has a silent voice which ricochets across the land and if you stand for long enough with an exposed cheek, it slaps you round the face.

My second thought leads on from the last and to the product which will be presented next year as part of the residency exhibition. Ideas come in flashes of images which I frantically scribble down into a notebook as and when they come. These all create a mess of images which I am slowly forming into a storyboard. I hope to create a sense of urgency in this film to reflect the panicked people taking to the streets for nature’s cause. The climate change emergency is frantic and yet the fields look peaceful. This contrast fascinates me. Ironically, environmental issues have never felt so far away as when gazing over a still and peaceful landscape, the very thing we are fighting to keep. Have people who recycle and and use bamboo straws been for a walk in nature recently? What are we fighting for? Perhaps we know academically but do we know spiritually? Does nature care or notice? Is this our fight and if so do we truly feel what it is we are fighting for?

I hope to touch on some of these questions in the film. I’m currently imagining the main image in the film to be running across the natural landscape holding an unearthed and vulnerable tree. The desperation of youth, running, lost, carrying with care – where to put this exposed life force? The dancer wears a white, working-man’s boiler suit which is the perfect paradox. This suit will inevitably become muddier over the course of the film as nature leaves its mark. The image of white against green, degeneration by nature, care but chaos all shown through movement and struggle. Having learnt from stopping to listen during those 4 days, I intend to listen to the work in order to let it develop. Furthering this idea, I have invited Harriet to create some words, thoughts or poetry while in the space during filming. This way the words will be unique to the direct experience of the interaction with place and hopefully be influenced in ways we cannot expect.

The third thought which surfaced, is more personal and reflective on the path my life is going on. Although I came into the project as a dancer, this process has had a dramatic effect on my career as an artist more broadly. I have always had a keen interest in film however now I have allowed this interest to blossom. This previously denied or unrealised dream is something I am now looking into professionally. Perhaps the rings in the trees knew more about me than I did and they had little word with my soul. Whatever it was, I am so excited to be following this new direction. I will be starting a short film-making course in January and am currently looking into various MA courses in documentary making. I will also be having more involvement in the editing/ directing side of the dance film due to this interest. This residency intended to keep young artists in the Lakes as a place for creatives to work and develop. I’m surprised to find myself wanting to stay based in the Lakes due to the opportunities and people I have met. Well done SomewhereNowhere, I am an accidental success story with regards to the intention of the project!

To find out more about Emmie and the other residents who joined us, check out the earlier blog here. And you can read what Melissa said about here experience here. Blogs from the other residents will be posted later this week.

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