Exploring Dance through War

Candoco Associate Artists Jemima Hoadley and Welly O’Brien have recently choreographed ‘Traces of War‘,  a unique dance performance created by an intergenerational cast of participants including veterans of war and young people, in association with Kings College London. Workshop participant Nicola De Maine writes of her experience.

Military veterans. Students from King’s College London. Dancers. Girls from London secondary schools. Ordinarily these people wouldn’t be in the same room together talking about their lives, sharing their aspirations and quite literally picking each other up from the floor when they fall. However, this is exactly what is happening this week due to a unique collaimg_5044borative dance project exploring the impact of war on everyday life.

Traces of War is an art exhibition at King’s College London curated by Cécile Bourne Farrell and Professor Vivienne Jabri that seeks to locate war beyond the battlefield and the brutality it is usually associated with. Instead, war is examined within spaces where it is least expected and its intersection with the ordinary and the everyday placed at the forefront.

The dance piece we are creating mirrors the artists’ work, contributing a sense of immediacy to their installations by combining real-time performative with visual art. The evolving choreography is drawn from the body movements of the different dancers who are responding to the artists’ work, bringing with them different perspectives and experiences.

The idea of war leaving a ‘trace’ is arguably more easily explored through movement because the body can sometimes reveal what the mind struggles to put into words. War affects all of us, whether this is directly through trauma, injury and memories–as is the case for several of the soldiers who are dancing–or whether this is indirectly through media coverage and the changing political landscape. Bringing together an intergenerational team of war veterans, King’s students and young teenagers (ranging in age from 12 to 50) allows knowledge to be shared and ideas to be debated. It encourages conversations that wouldn’t usually have a platform, helping the younger generation in particular to engage with the topic of war, which whilst difficult and unpleasant, cannot and must not be ignored.

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I am dancing in the piece myself and am amazed by everyone’s openness and willingness to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. Contemporary dance can be daunting. It involves letting go and being vulnerable. Even though there is no right or wrong this can be challenging in itself, particularly for ex-military personnel who are used to structure and order. But it is more than a dance that we are creating. We are creating an environment where individuals feel safe to question each other and share their feelings. Although the subject we’re exploring is war, it has led to conversations about wider politics including racism and immigration. We are not just learning to connect with our bodies, we are learning to connect with people we wouldn’t usually find ourselves with.

Each person has their own reasons for wanting to take part in the project. Some of us have a dance background, some of us previously baulked at the idea of dancing. Some of us have an academic background in war studies and social policy, others have real life experience of a war zone. What’s becoming clear is that it doesn’t matter why people are taking part or what their background is. Each individual is integral to the piece and will emerge from this experience changed in some way.

The dance is fluid and will move through the exhibition space along with members of the public, creating an immersive experience for everyone involved. The audience are as integral to the project as the dancers and it is hoped that a dialogue will be established. Sometimes people can feel like they are not qualified to talk about war because their only experience of global conflict is what they have watched on the television. This piece seeks to readdress that. War leaves its imprint on everyone and everything and understanding this is crucial to moving forward towards a more peaceful future.

Watch the work in creation…

The free dance performance can be seen on Fri 28 October at 13.30 and 14.45 at the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand, London.

Please follow this link to express interest in attending the free dance performance.

The Traces of War exhibition can be seen from 26 October – 18 December 2016 at the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand, London. Opening hours are Wed & Fri 12.00-18.00, Thurs 12.00-20.00, Sat & Sun 10.00-18.00. Admission is free.

The Traces of War dance performance has been put together by Candoco artists Welly O’Brien and Jemima Hoadley and produced by Amanda Faber from The Charlie F Project, Jayne Peake from Department of War Studies, King’s College London and Ellie Douglas-Allan from Candoco Dance Company. It has been generously funded by The Charlie F Project, Community Covenant Funds and King’s College London.


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