Rehearsal with the dancers and my reflections afterwards

I met Helen and Maeve at Maitri Yoga studio in Belfast on Monday 26 September 2022. The studio is large enough for the dancers to move comfortably.

Maeve had brought an assortment of clothes to see what I think would work. I didn’t want the clothes to take away the attention from the body, the felt experience. We settled on a loose white top with straps and short nude colour leggings. Enough of her petite frame visible to see the flesh of her arms, upper chest, and legs.

I played for them 4 tracks:

Immediately I felt that Ruby Mandala was the right feel for what I had in mind and they were happy to start improvising with it.

We talked first about the process, a ‘becoming’ with water. I asked them to think about the sensation of flowing water, very slow movements, no torrents, no sudden jerks or violence, but a gentle flow, almost in slow motion, allowing the sensation of each movement to be felt, their bodies becoming that water and see how they responded as I played the 10 min track repeatedly. Without further direction, they followed and moved to the slow and almost hypnotic rhythm of the music.

They began to move without hesitation, at first it was a warm up but soon I felt they are so in the zone, each making very slow movements individually, a couple of meters apart.

Camera and shooting experiments: I began to film them, experimenting with extreme-close-ups, close-ups and mid-shots as I moved around them. I wanted to the shot to feel close enough to feel the sensation of the body, the skin, almost as though the screen is touching it, at one with it. At first the camera felt heavy and I was very aware of its weight and presence against my body.

After about 15-20 mins of them dancing uninterruptedly, I ask them to have a break. And then to think about two streams of water that come together and become one. Again, they both immediately fell into moving and coming together for another 20-25 mins.

I asked them to stop then and immediately while still the experience was fresh in the mind and body, to write in the note-books I had provided their reflections on the experience and how they felt, including the experience/impact if any, of my being around them, the camera, and where in their bodies, if at all, they felt any particular sensation associated with how they felt emotionally, in their psyche, etc.

To keep the sensations and allow us all to remain in the same moment of reverie, I played the same music track another few times.

Our private writing took about 15-20 minutes. I gave no time limit to this, just waited until we each stopped writing. This too felt part of the creative process and it was important to have the freedom to flow where it needed to.

My written reflections (transcribed) immediately after the filming while still in the studio:

The bodies moved so fluidly, I felt lost at times in their flow. The weight of the camera felt heavy, adjusting focus and panning in and out, trying to get shots that mirrored the feeling of certain areas, the limbs, the coming together, at first interfered with my complete immersion. But then there were moments when I felt the movements, but not completely. I was conscious that I was witnessing something very intimate, private, exposed and their immersion caught me, held me and my attention. When they danced, and moved alone, it felt like they were ‘becoming’ with each movement. They seemed entirely at one with their own bodies. Their bodies seemed to be physical manifestations of their stream of consciousness. When they came together and intertwined, moved with each other, the flow seamlessly, uninterruptedly, ran and moved through one dancer’s limbs to the other. They felt like one person, one consciousness in two bodies, one ‘becoming’, a ‘becoming’.

The music worked perfectly, it mirrored their flow, or did they mirror its flow? Sparse ghostly long notes held, like a distant call.I felt it when I first heard it and the dancers seemed to respond to it. It felt as though when they moved and I filmed and moved around and with them, we were all in the same flow of a dialogue. It was a very physical, sensorial dialogue between us. I suspect it will be in the editing when I feel entirely immersed and feel a ‘becoming’ with the dancers.

While filming, I felt conscious of my camera, its weight, the handles of the rig against my body, holding it in my hands. What I saw on the screen, at times carried me, caught me, switched between looking at them and looking at my screen as I filmed them. Saying I captured them doesn’t seem to be the right word or what happened. I wasn’t recording, capturing what was taking place, I was witnessing and at times becoming one with them. It was utterly mesmerising to witness how fluidly they improvised and moved together.