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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Moments and memories
Animated, Summer 2001. On the 10 March 2001, there was a memorable wedding in the Universal Hall Arts Centre in the community of Findhorn, on the north east coast of Scotland. Nine people danced down the aisle in order of height. The family photo included 200 smiling faces and the preacher was a karaoke queen. Spoken vows passed between father and son, niece and aunt, two friends and a husband and wife. There was a lot of dancing; quirky and tender double acts, a stripper and a very tall cake. Ruby Worth details moments and memories from The FAmily Project
'Getting frisky' The boys shout out from the back of the auditorium. There are 14 couples on the floor, learning a revised version of a traditional folk dance full of jolly burees, pacy polkas, show off moves, chat up lines and flirty looks... It is a wedding dance and members of the local community have turned out on a sunny Sunday to learn it and in the process rename themselves. Deborah becomes Bronxie, Bernice, Bodicia Ballbasher, Richard is David, Andy is Enrico Cadillac Junior, and Karl is just god. Playful irreverence is rife in Findhorn.

Jake is eight years old and is graciously giving up his after school playtime with Robin to come into the auditorium and play with Karl, who is 38 and his dad. I sit in on one of their sessions: 'It's a matter of working for seven minutes and then taking a break while Jake roasts around on his scooter, climbs the ladders, and then there's the trick to focus his attention again for another seven minutes.' They are creating a dance together taking their inspiration from contact improvisation, animal moves and a wonderful walking egg motif that came from a moment of 'I don't want to dance, dad, leave me alone.' It is a tender experience watching a father dance with his son, the level of caring, ease and trust in their contact duet is very moving. It is fundamental and yet all too rare. Jake is on the abacus again, obsessed with counting. He has worked out the combined age of all the duet groups in the FAmily Project: 'We're 339' he shouts. 339 = Karl 38 + Jake 8 + auntie Ruby 32 + niece Danyelle 10 + the friends, Lesley 36 + Sitheag 10 + wife and husband Christiane 44 and Bruno 48 + their children Aljocha 14 and Olivia 12 + Joan 47 and her son Zac 11 + Sitheag's dad Brian 39.

Lesley 36 and Sitheag 10 are working on a Roald Dahl story Sitheag bought in. They have freshly scripted a new version of Cinderella. Lesley's training is in commedia del arte and she is passing on her skills to Sitheag, they work as equals, as partners, with Lesley as the creative coach. They are matched well, and the result is a quirky, very funny double act. Cinderella does not marry the prince, as he chops off heads, but instead goes off with the villagers, marmalade maker (hand picked from the audience) and of course, they live happily, ever after.

Sitheag's dad, Brian, is the technical and design director. He is working with a team of seven youths. Together they design and build a giant nest, where the children will gather for a bedtime story, they rig and light the show, and work on stage, setting up aisles and assisting in the moving of the audience throughout the event. They join in with us during some of the rehearsal process too, participating in, and contributing to the development of the choreography, the family photo's and the men and boys dance.

Two of the crew are the children of Christiane and Bruno a couple who are working on a duet, which is growing out from the theatricalizing of an old dispute. Bruno tells me before they begin working: 'I will shout, and Christiane will cry'. In a later rehearsal I watch as Bruno, distracting Christiane from her tears creates a simple and mesmerizing puppet out of a sheet. Am I learning the great parental art of distraction? Together they dance with the puppet between them a new creation, a new life.

It was a moment of personal triumph when my niece Danyelle's headteacher agreed to give her a day out of school each week for the duration of the project. On that memorable first day Danyelle and I improvised movement and text on an all too common family trait - huffing. The huff then became the basis for our duet, a dance of heightened moods and movements set on the roller coaster of love and fear. Stomping huffs, screams of excitement and terror, girl band moves that transformed into fights and then back into friends. The women in my family are renowned for saying: 'I'm fine', when they are not, and for going silent when we really want to say something that might be difficult or challenging to hear. All change!

Prior to our rehearsal process the great clown and mother Lesley Quilty and I sit in her living room, she asks me again: 'Are you sure you want me to co direct with you.' 'Yes' I say. 'Won't that get confusing?' 'I hope not.' It is a big project - I can feel it kicking - we have thrown out the idea of working with up to 12 people and now are open to work with anybody who wants to get involved. The duets are to be developed autonomously; with outside eye assistance and group showings, as at least one of each of the couples is an experienced deviser. Then there are duet group pieces to develop and the larger community dances to choreograph. And, our lists grow bigger - there is the sharing out of logistics, PR, hospitality, budget and production coordination.

I have an ideal image of artistic collaborations, and that is modelled on how geese flock and fly together. The bird at the front of the V, silently guides the others, forging the way, backed up by the gabbling flock. Then with great fluidity, a new leader comes to the fore, and the flock adapts itself, aligns to a new design and a fresh energy. Just like that.

Interchanging leadership, co directing, flocking, this is what we worked with in the FAmily Project. And sometimes it did flow fluidly and sometimes it did not. There were clashes, there were things we thought each other were doing, there was overwhelm and there was order, and there was always something else to do. Eat, sleep, walk, talk, dream, FAmily Project. And within this process, there was an incredible energy that was harnessed. And, out of this energy, grew a fired up and empowered cast and crew. As the respective mothers-in-law, we flocked, we pecked, we fought, we laughed, we cried and we worked hard, very, very hard.

I believe in the process of collective creation, of shared leadership, of creating a structure where different people and skills can come together, where multiskilling can create something new and innovative. For each new project, there is a time when there is nothing but empty space and creative awareness - an empty field where dreams are built. Each person that steps into it will bring something, build, invent, create a part of it, unique unto themselves. Witnessing and guiding this process takes trust, openness and a strong commitment to the collaborative vision.

And the inherent difficulties in this process? Well they can sound a bit like this:

'This bit could do with more order.
I like the chaos, it looks great
Well I'm not doing this bit unless there's more order.'
'You were meant to.
No, you were meant to.
No you were.
You were.
'It's not what I would've made.
It's not what I would've made either.
Do you like it?
Yes, I do actually.
Do you?
I don't know yet'
'Who's our stage manager then?

Alongside all this collaboration, there is a time when it is necessary to stick your fingers in our ears and hum your own tune! By week one, we had 30 people involved, by week two there were 47. We had created structures in week one that we used in week two to involve more people. The wedding dances, the hen night, the PR and the designs for the space, all created opportunities for new people to come on board...

I am outside, underneath a pine tree. 'Are you OK?' 'No.' 'Can I help?' 'Yes.' 'What can I do?' 'Everything.' A budget cut left us without a project manager, and this fell heavily on the shoulders of the core creative team, bless our capacities to expand. Trust is a lilo, just to the left of the whirlpool of activity.

All around us people are going about their daily business in the thriving community of Findhorn Foundation. I grew up here, from the age of two until I was 12. I returned two years ago, fresh out of a performance residency in the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. Findhorn was heaven - peaceful, full of birdsong - by the sea and I loved it. So, I stayed and began working for the Foundation in the Universal Hall Arts Centre. It is the basic things that keep me in love with this place, the people and the level of care, support, enthusiastic participation and encouragement they provide. And it is the place, the nature, the buildings and the magic that surrounds them all. Including the Universal Hall.

Designed by local architect George Ripley, it was constructed in the 70s and into the 80s, taking the community nine years to build. During this time, thousands of people voluntarily put their skills and energy into this building, creating patterns in the stonewall facings, mosaics on the path and stained glass for the windows and doors. The Hall holds a 340-seat auditorium, dance studio, recording studio, music room and cafe. For the wedding, we removed all the seating from the auditorium creating a huge performing area for us to manoeuvre the audience around. Brian and crew transformed the space with colourful materials that draped the walls and hung from the ceiling. With satin banners and fairy lights, the Universal Hall became the marquees of all marquees to be married in!

On the big day 240 people came out, dressed in their best, invites in hand. 'Are you with the Bride or the Groom?' Cast and ushers escorted them to one side of the aisle, or the other. The piano kicked in with a Here Comes the Bride and in we stepped from either side of the great hall, '3ft 4 to 6ft 4'. 'I was crying during the commitment ceremony - after all that's what folks do at weddings This was community building at it's most finest and must froliksome.'

Last night I watched the video for the first time, and underneath the voice that said: 'Too long, too short, cut, expand' was a fluttering heart and a great sense of purpose and pride in the young people, and their dazzling debut performances; in their families and peers, who acknowledged and supported their creativity to really shine through. And in the community members, young and old, who engaged and participated so fully in the event. At that moment, the purpose of the project really shone through, to celebrate the interconnection of family, art and community, in a creative, playful and generous way. Wahey! 'As tears ran down my cheeks I was reminded of closeness and what can be.'

Ruby Worth, independent dance artist. Email

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001