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Review: Siobhan Davies Dance Event

The renowned British choreographer, Siobhan Davies, brought her work to St Hilda’s College, Oxford for an inspiring event on a sunny Thursday afternoon in 3rd Week Trinity 2014.  Davies has created over 60 works to critical acclaim: twice-winning an Olivier Award, and others including Digital Dance Awards and a South Bank Show Award. Founding Siobhan Davies Dance in 1988, she has consistently worked closely with collaborating dance artists to ensure that their own artistic enquiry was part of the creative process.

At this event she spoke about and illustrated her core philosophy in her work, Manual, at the JDP. The event was no ordinary ‘dance performance’. It began in the auditorium of the JDP, when Davies briefly introduced her practice in conversation with her colleagues, Eckhard Thiemann, a curator, artistic director and international arts producer, and the dancer, Helka Kaski. Davies explained that the practical work to follow should be viewed as an art gallery installation. Helka then invited the audience to follow her out into the foyer, where she lay down on the floor and everyone gathered around to watch audience members instruct Helka on how to get up from the ground, and then how to get up from a seated position on a bench. Sounds simple – but far from it! The activity proved fascinating, as we began to realize just how sophisticated ordinary movement can be, how difficult it is to articulate to another person the most basic of physical activities, and how the process creates a stimulating dialogue between dancer and audience members.

The evening continued with a showing of an excerpt from Davies’s film (made with David Hinton), ‘All This Can Happen’ – inspired by the Robert Walser short story, ‘The Walk’ – another exploration of quotidian activity. The film was magical, showing its debt to expressionist cinema, and the role of the ‘flâneur’. Siobhan, Eckhard, and Helka then opened up the discussion to the whole audience – generating a stimulating and lively interaction between all present before we repaired outside for drinks on the lawn and more informal discussion. Davies’s extraordinarily articulate and thoughtful responses approached at times the level of the poetic. It was a truly engaging and mesmerizing event – a stimulating continuation of DANSOX’s enquiries.

- Dr Sue Jones (DANSOX)