Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Dancing in Caves Project

With support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, from 2015 we will continue researching a new strand to our Dancing in Museums project, creating a new piece (with the working title Beneath Our Feet) that will be designed for performance in caves and other underground spaces.

Photo by Jo Forrest; Dancers Robert Guy and Lucy Starkey
For tens of thousands of years, people have ventured underground in order to experience something out of the ordinary: to find sanctuary, reflect, create, participate in rites, hide or do something they should not be doing, to excavate and to build new spaces using new technologies. Beneath Our Feet will aim to continue this tradition of extraordinary experience through a unique performance event that will transport the audience back in time as they move further underground and further away from the natural sounds, temperature and light of the current world. It will explore the traces left by our prehistoric ancestors, but also speak about our most recent past, and the world as it is now.

The movement for the new piece will respond to the structure of each underground space, embodying the way it has been carved out of the landscape naturally or created by human activity. It will draw inspiration from some of the oldest known artworks that have been found in caves, reflecting on the persistence of the creative impulse and the desire to make sense of the world around us, celebrating the tenacity of the human spirit and our boundless curiosity.
“Alone in that vastness, lit by the feeble beam of our lamps, we were seized by a strange feeling. Everything was so beautiful, so fresh, almost too much so. Time was abolished, as if the tens of thousands of years that separated us from the producers of those paintings no longer existed. It seemed as if they had just created these masterpieces.” (The Mind In The Cave, David Lewis-Williams)
Four performers (three dancers and a musician we hope) in Beneath Our Feet will act as guides for the audience. They will play, speak and dance as they journey around the particular site, but, unlike in The Imagination Museum, these guides will not be of this world. They will take on mysterious, shape-shifting characters that seem to appear from and vanish back into the fabric of the cave or underground space. Sometimes they will wait, motionless, watching, so they are barely discernible. Sometimes their voices will fill the space and they will rush past in an excitement of movement.  The pathway of these characters will be enthralling to the audience, and at times they will be compelled to follow them as they rush on ahead, carrying the only light source further into the cave for example, or the music temporarily hypnotises them into following a particular path. However, in Beneath Our Feet we also want to facilitate the audience’s autonomy in experiencing the performance - giving them time to explore the environment for themselves, and choices about how they engage with the performance by putting them in control of the headlamp or torch that might be their only way to see what is happening for example.

We want to learn everything we can about the cave environment from experts, and our research will bring together artists (writer, composer, animation/projection artist, designer), experts from 8 initial cave sites, geologists, archaeologists and cavers for example. As with the Dancing in Museums project, we will also provide opportunities for young people to be involved in the Dancing in Caves project from its earliest stages.

We have already collected our first 8 potential sites for this project; please contact us if you can think of a cave or underground space that we should explore. 

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