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Capturing creativity of a slow dance
Date posted: 24 October 2017
Ruth Pethybridge, co-author of Any Age, Any Body, Any Dance draws breath to explain why she wanted to make a short film as well as the book...
Ruth Pethybridge
The film A Song in My Own Breath is inspired by just one chapter of the book Any Age, Any Body, Any Dance that I co-authored with Cecilia Macfarlane. The process of bringing the book into being was one of distilling a lifetime of dance practice into words that would communicate to others. This was no easy task and it involved regular intervals of movement away from the computer screen and into our bodies as Cecilia and I tested out ideas together in her office.

Taking the book back into the studio allowed me to experience afresh the value in sharing this practice. While Cecilia worked on live performances, I made the film to accompany the launch of the book. A Song in My Own Breath is based on the tasks and improvisations in Chapter One of the book, entitled ‘Breath.’

I wanted the film to capture the liveness and connection of a dance workshop as it is happening, rather than be a polished piece of video dance. So much of the work of participatory dance is in the moments of relating, or experimenting with something, allowing time and space to be playful with others. I didn't want to lose this in trying to rehearse and edit something that would rub these bits out. 

But A Song in My Own Breath is not just a documentation of the ideas in the book; it is also a testament to a slow dance I have been doing on building connections in a new place over the last ten years. Some of the people in this film are my family and close friends, some of them are people I have met through a fervent interest and commitment to dance and to learning; some of them are neighbours; and some are current and ex-students at Falmouth University, where I teach on the undergraduate dance and choreography course.

This film showed me that, after 10 years, at short notice I could pull together a dedicated and generous cast of dancers from different stages of life, willing to give up their time and ideas in order to be with others… dancing, playing. This gives me faith in people’s need and desire to come together. It reminds me, again, how often community dance is about the willingness of people to put their bodies where their values are and invest in dance with their time and energy because, after all, it is the participants that make participatory dance (lest we forget). 

Perhaps now, more than ever, society needs to create these temporary communities of people and, as dance practitioners, we need to be alert to the slowly evolving networks of people and place that allow us to do our work. We need to build them and nurture them so that when opportunities and challenges arise we have a task-force of people ready to take on the world…  one chapter at a time. 

You can watch A Song in My Own Breath and get a summary of and purchase Any Age, Any Body, Any Dance by clicking on the links.

Ruth Pethybridge
Dance lecturer at Falmouth University
Convener of DR@FT Dance Research at the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts