Preparing for my first practice

I began to think about my first practice almost as soon as I started the Ph.D. I felt tangible excitement at the prospect of creating screendance works which could be completely immersed in the creative flow and then explore and analyse the whole process.

October 2021

21/10/21: I met the dancer Helen Hall to discuss my research. I had already photographed her in 2018 and felt a real sense of flow/peak-experience both during taking shots as I moved around and with her and even more intensely, during the week of my residency in Tyrone Gutherie Centre in Monaghan, when I worked on the images and created a test hand-drawn animation based on her movement. Helen is partially sighted and seems to be particularly attuned to her sensorium and senses. She was engaged with the idea of my research. I told her about documenting the creative process and she is already used to writing about what she feels when she dances.

15/10/21: I emailed Nicola Currey, director of Maiden Voyage, Belfast, Dr. Aoife McGrath, Dance Studies lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast, for any support in finding other dancers, etc. Both showed interest to meet to discuss my project, but neither responded to further emails.

22/10/21: I spoke to Eileen McClory, Artistic Director of Off The Rails Dance, Belfast (choreographer of Epilogue screendance installation). She is interested but is on maternity leave now and will be having her baby in a couple of weeks. She’ll be interested to meet and chat about my project in 2022.

November 2021

9/11/21: I emailed Niamh Flanagan, director of Theatre and Dance NI. She is very interested in my research.

25/11/21: Met  Niamh Flanagan and Meeting her and Molly Rose Street, Project Development Officer. Niamh was very supportive and they would do what they can to help. They asked for info about my research to put in their bulletin to dancers and will send me the secured link to Catalyst Dance Platform (not to share) to see films of various professional dancers in NI 

25/11/21: Moly Rose sent me link to Catalyst Dance Platform. I thought Clara Kerr, Janie Doherty, Maeve McCreevy and Rosie Mullin may have the right feel for my research. Ayesha Mailey also could work. 

December 2021

1/12/21: I sent Molly Rose the following to put in their bulletin: 

“I am an artist based in Belfast and doing a screendance related PhD at University of Brighton.  
This is a practice-as-research Ph.D in the state of flow and transcendence in the experience of embodied film and screendance.  
Along with my academic investigations into related areas of consciousness, philosophy, psychology, neurology, I will produce experimental creative film works to accompany the research which I hope to screen in a number of innovative ways in various locations, including Brighton. 
You can see an example of my work here:   
If you would like to collaborate/take part in my research, please email me  at and tell me about your work with some clips of your performances.”

March 2022

7/3/22: I attended the Techathon in Dublin to explore possibilities of collaboration with new dancers/digital artists – It was disappointing, very little experimentation, more about planning dance projects that supported communities

8/3/22: I had a zoom video call with Helen Hall to explore creative experimentation, as I shares some of my academic findings about the senses of the body and mirror-neurons

8/3/22: Contacted Theatre and Dance NI again and asked about use of their space and if they know where I may be able to get wind machines in case I needed one – They don’t have a space for practice and not sure of wind machines

9/3/22: Emailed Dr. Simon Mawhinney of Music department at QUB if he knows PhD students in the music dept that may be open to collaboration – No reply (He replied to my later email some months later) 

9/3/22: Messaged Darren Ferguson to see if he knows electronic musicians that may be interested to collaborate – No reply

13/3/22:  Meave McCreevy ( emailed me, she saw the recent call out for dancers in Theatre and Dance NI’s newsletter, showing expression of interest.

22/3/22: Met Maeve McCreevy. She is very interested in my research and seems to have the right approach to suit collaboration. She knows Helen Hall and regards her highly.

22/3/22: I emailed Helen Hall to see how she feels about dancing with Maeve McCreevy. She was very happy to as she regards Maeve one of the best dancers in NI

May 2022

On 1/5/22 I sent Helen and Maeve links to screendance films which relate to my research and I feel a sense of flow/highly immersed as I watch them so they have an idea of the kind of feel I’m looking for in my first piece:

11/5/22: I emailed Helen and Maeve to say that I’ll be in touch once I hear back from the committee 

August 2022

21/8/22: I wrote to Dr Brian Bridges head of Music Ulster Unicersity and Dr Simon Mawhinney head of Music at Queen’s University (again), to see if they know any student musicians who may be interested in collaborating with me. I also emailed musician Conor Scullion who wrote music for my film Tapestry of Colours (no reply) and Toby Marks  (aka Banco De Gaia) who I produced two tracks with for the film Ancient Skies, to see if they would be interested. 

24/8/22: I wrote to Prof. Stepaleton, Rebelo, Tomita and Hellawell of QUB to see if any musicians would be interested to collaborate – Reply from Prof. Tomita and Hellawell, they will forward to colleagues to see if there is interest. 

26/8/22: Emailed Richard Davis, the technician at DAS who is also doing a music PhD at Queen’s. He also does animation and has worked with Paula Guzzanti.  

27/8/22: Met Tessa Ann from Sound Bath and she is interested in my research. I sent her a link of my work and asked to let me know what she thinks and if interested to let me know and we can meet to discuss. No reply

30/8/22: Reply from Toby Marks, very interested to collaborate, depending on practicalities

September 2022

1/9/22: Met Helen Hall and Maeve McCreevy to discuss ideas for my first film. Planning to work around the idea of ‘becoming’ and flow of water. Looking to do some prep with them in a studio space before filming, after 18 Sept. 

1/9/22: Emailed the Vault, Accidental Theatre and Tony Sherwani about possibilities of a few hours of use. 2/9/22: Vault replied, Hourly £10, Half Day £40, Full Day £65 and they need me to have public liability insurance.  Accidental replied to contact them with dates and times and they will give me costs. But it is £10 hourly for their upstairs studio 

1/9/22: I also messaged Gemma Halligan artist friend at Vault Studios and she offered their space at Vault for free if I needed it 

1/9/22: I put a post on NI Freelancers Surviving Corona, asking for ideas of free or minimum cost premises for practice. Dr. Ali FitzGibbon , QUB lecturer in Arts and Ethics messaged me to contact Dr. Aoife McGrath. I emailed Aoife again on 3/9/22 to see if we could meet. Again no response

2/9/22: Claire Ferry owner of Maitri Yoga Studio offered use of any of her three yoga studio spaces for free, while not in use. She emailed me their calendar. We have agreed on Monday 26 Sept from 11am.

2/9/22: Richard Davis of DAS replied, busy writing up his thesis but happy to meet on Mondays or Tuesday when he is in Belfast at DAS. I emailed him with possibilities but he didn’t get back

5/9/22: Toby Marks emailed asking if I want him to compose music based on my input or film of dancers, or will I choreograph to music?

I replied that “I think it might work better if I choreograph to the music or elements of it. I’m thinking of the feeling of slow flow of water, rather than rapid torrents, almost hypnotic sense that holds you in its form, in its movement. Perhaps sporadic at times, maybe repetitive. But always emotive. I’m seeing all this in the dancers, in the sound, in the edit. The length, go with your gut and what flows in you. Is that possible? The film I anticipate will be anywhere between 5-10 mins. So I may loop the music, have silent moments…

5/9/22: Contacted Riddlers Warehouse for possible filming. Marcus Patton of HeartNI replied and said they would waive the £250 fees  if I can make a donation and have public liability insurance and can work around the limitations of the building work happening with agreement with the contractor.  

5/9/22: Emailed Brighton Uni insurance to make sure I will be covered. If not I will join A-N and will be covered – Reply: Yes I am covered and insurance policy doc attached  

7/9/22: Toby Marks sent me an existing track of his Intro-Endure as a possibility until he gets back from his holidays in two weeks, but it was very harsh and not what I’m looking for. I replied saying: “It’s not quite what I’m looking for. I’m looking for more fluid sounds, without the prominence of drums etc, more tender. I’ve been listening to Sigur Rós’s Valtari and it’s the kind of sound that I think would sit really well with what I’m trying to do. There is fragility and power and I feel myself carried in the ‘flow’ of the music. The same sense I get with our own Acquiescence and Lamentations.” I also sent him the same tracks that I sent to Hannah and Matt Curran, to check out the “cello-ish music I’ve come across that I find really emotive.Something about the stripped back sound that could work with the stripped back feel of my film experiment that is going to focus on embodied sensation of water by the dancers, skin, breath, body as the focus.”

12/9/22: Met Marcus Patton at Riddel’s Warehouse. I can have use of it during the day on week-days while building contractor is working there. There are Power points for lighting. The staircase was especially interesting and corners areas under the top floors

12/9/22: Brian Bridges of UU replied asking for a brief description to circulate among their PhD students – I emailed him a description on 20/9/22 

12/9/22: Sonya Whitefiled (fine art photographer) agreed to help me with lighting for filming and will bring her Bowens Esprit 125 lights for filming and

16/9/22: Met Simon Mawhinney of Queen’s University. He played me one of his own piano compositions, and it may work well for my first film. A stripped back piece of music to complement the stripped back and focus on the body in the film. I left it with him to consider the option. He would have to record it. I emailed him on 20/9/22 to see if had any further thoughts. He suggested Hannah Harvey, an MA music student as a possible collaborator.

20/9/22 – I emailed Hannah Harvey. She replied on 21/9/22, was moved by my video and music and on 23/9/22 sent me two examples of her work- They were not right for me, with a jazz feel.

20/9/22: potential filming schedule Thursday 13 or Friday 14 October at 10am – 12pm suit Helen, Maeve and Sonya

20/9/22: I emailed Marcus Patton to see if we can use Riddel’s Warehouse on Thursday 13 or Friday 14 October at 10am – 12pm.  He replied: Thursday 13th Oct, 10am-12pm confirmed 

21/9/22: Matthew Curran, a music PhD student at UU contacted me, his research has also involved Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of optimum experience for his practice and he would be happy to support my research with music. He sent me two tracks that were very classical and didn’t feel at all right.

21/9/22: I research music tracks and like the feel of Sigur Ros’ Valtari, also haunting cello music that have a sense of flow, a caress of the senses, like:

I replied and sent him the above links and said “My film is going to be focusing on embodied sensation of flowing water, stripped back and focusing on movement of the body. I’m looking for a less classical sound, more an experimental sound that is very emotive, moving and reflects sensation, I’m waving between a kind of haunting Sigur Ros sound or a very sparse sound of strings like cello perhaps.” – It doesn’t seem like this of the kind of music I’m looking for is his area.

23/9/22: I sent Hannah Harvey the music links above for some direction. She replied: “I’m starting to gather what type of soundscape you’re looking for and I have the tools in order to do so. I’m not the best cellist myself however I do have a good midi input that includes the cello sounds you are wanting. The musical examples you sent me reminded me of Ry X’s music: that flowing, slightly electronic sounding, warm string soundscape. What way are you wanting to work this collaboration? Are you going to create the film first then send it my way or give me a rough description/stills to start working with? It would also be greatly appreciated if you could give me a rough timeline to work with.”

26/9/22: Mari McKee from Riddel’s Warehouse emailed me their information sheet which covers risk assessment and use of generator requirements.  They are happy with my donation of £30 for use of the place and asked to send them some images/footage for their social media/site and funders and link them to my social media. They do not require me to fill in a risk assessment and will allow me to use their generator for power points at no extra charge. I will meet her at 9:30am on 13 October before the filming to do my own risk assessment and have things read

29/9/22: Toby Marks emailed, he has some personal things to deal with and isn’t sure when he will have time to produce anything. I replied not to worry this time, I’ll manage.

29/9/22: I emailed Hannah Harvey: telling her that the track Ruby Mandala worked really well for the rehearsal and I’m looking for something similar to edit with after 13 Oct and if she could produce one or two pieces around the same feel (and length) before my filming date.

October 2022

8/10/22: Sonya Whitefield dropped her lights to me, she is missing a lead, I ordered it from Amazon 

10/10/22: Hannah sent me her unmastered new track to see. Some parts work really well. Perhaps less melancholy and minor notes in some parts to lift things. She said she will to take out a good bit of the minor section and make it freer flowing and atonal then into a more major sounding harmony. We have arranged to meet on 12/10/22 to work on the track.