Life in Lockdown: Sally Marie

Life in Lockdown | 30 March 2021

A woman facing the sky with arms outstretched

#GDLifeinLockdown Part 3

Life in Lockdown is a blog series initiated by Greenwich Dance which features community and professional artists close to the organisation sharing how they are staying creative during these isolating times.

MONDAY

7.30am – 3.30pm / Mondays are always non stop admin. Then a walk in the sunlight that tastes of Spring, and where I find out that little yellow butterflies fly really fast. New signs have appeared in the park telling people not to feed the ducks, because it encourages incest. The ducks look quite disconcerted. It’s been a feast a year. Yet apparently the constant snacks don’t encourage them to fly away and so bad things happen. Quandary. ‘Shall I fly thousands of miles to find food, or shall I stay here and stuff my face?’ : /

At 5pm I watch back some rehearsal footage from a lovely woman called Kate Taylor, who is making a new work about what it’s like to be a mother and dancer. My mentoring tends to go through me re-reading Liz Lerman’s mentoring technique, followed by simply saying what I think : / But then there’s so much wonderful stuff happening in the studio, it’s easy to pour excitement towards her. I’d love to see more mothers making work about motherhood; it’s fascinating. And then lastly, a call with the producer I work with / always a joy / he’s such a laugh / so brilliant – and that takes me to 7pm.

I’ve actually recently fallen off the bandwagon of my new years resolution.  Not to not apply for commissions for a year. But they hang like hopeful baubles; it is so tempting. I wrote these laughing at New Year and promised myself to stick to them.

Ha : /

The 10 Commission Commandments:
  1. Never Ever Apply to Anything if you do not know someone on the panel.
  2. Never Ever Apply with what you want to do. Make you sure apply with what they want you to do.
  3. Never Ever Apply for a commission during a world wide pandemic.
  4. Never apply to a Live Art Commission. You are Dance, it is not your tribe, they will not let you in.
  5. Never Ever write an angry letter in response to someone refusing you a commission. I have only done this once. Yet I think it’s safe to say that Sweetshop Revolution will not be appearing at____ any time soon 😉
  6. Never apply for commissions abroad because yeah, refer back to 1. Unless someone offers you a residency from Facebook because you’re friends, I am not sure it’s worth the hope/ful/less effort.
  7. Be really wary of British Council applications to go to glamorous places, because applications are a real ball ache. That said, even though our one for Canada failed, the programmer paid for me to go anyway, which was nice. And also, everything the British Council stands for is profoundly brilliant #soft politics. It’s an organisation full of passionate extraordinary people making equally extraordinary things happen. It just all that strategy stuff in the apps that’s a downer. They also have a thing where they prefer artists under 35 – but it’s not dead set, so that’s also nice 🙂
  8. If you can’t write, are dyslexic, yet still dance intelligent – find a friend that went to a posh uni / or can really Write and give them dinner / money / anything to help you. Don’t let words stop you / find someone who can. Also ACE applications are meant to be getting simpler from April #hope.
  9. If anyone wants to start a therapy group called ‘I can’t stop doing pointless commission applications’, give me a shout.
  10. Only write the application if it makes the hairs on your arms stand up. And then, just as you’re about to start, STOP! Because the two weeks in full time preparation, two visits to the museum, another to the site, talking to historical societies, emailing 30 community organisations, speaking to 25 mermaids, arranging everything, the team, the schedules, the COVID, and then the 10 hours of non stop inputting it into their portal that crashes 14 times until you’re literally hysterical will not have been worth it… Because as they say ‘one of your permissions was not in place.’  Boom. Also, they are almost two weeks late telling you from the date they said you were to have heard, by which time it would have been too late to start the project anyway. I’m not bitter yes I am. #freelanceD.
  11. We could be making dance or cake or love in tiny magical new ways, and within new  structures that the faeries are imagining as we speak. And who will whisper quietly to us over the coming months. Do not worry, time isn’t finished yet. We will dance again.

p.s ACE is ace / even with double the number applicants and half the chance – they remain / to me / ever heroic. Because no matter what new tiny hoops through which we must jump, they are truly the only people that can make larger projects past the £500 commissions possible.

No disrespect is meant to the people whose job it is to create and then administrate these commissions, btw. It comes sincerely from the heart no doubt. I am just on sabbatical.

Or I was.

Before bed I watch an interview with Edith Sitwell where she says her hobbies are music, reading and silence. This is followed by a documentary on Shakespeare’s mother, who was apparently a very good storyteller. I also learned that in Tudor times a third of children died in the first few years of life. There were books written then telling you how not to grieve. Yet of course people still did. At one point, Shakespeare’s family lost all their money and his dad got really depressed. That was until Will went to London and did quite well. Buying his family a new house in the centre of the village and happiness ever after.

Anyway, here’s a picture of a puffin and also a dance studio database we made. Thought it might be useful for people.

An illustration of a puffin

TUESDAY

We start rehearsals soon so I try to think of everything we will need as eight of us are forming a bubble. I start with four shopping trips and spend £300 and gaze now at 24 plastic bags plus a suitcase of food. That’s along with the two online shops. I didn’t want to miss anything, but now I think like I have everything. : / I’ve even packed sushi mats.

I know from a zoom about Covid that when we eat, we have to try to eat outside and that we must take a test before we go, and another 3 days later. I’ve bought a temperature gage and lots of us are trying to cadge free lateral flow tests wherever we go to get tested. You can usually get seven at a time.
Each person must be picked up individually by private transport, and so we’ve hired a 17 seater minibus bus that will pick 5 of us up one by one, and then on to Liverpool. We’ve just found out though that the driver has asthma, so can’t wear a mask : / Still testing, testing eh – and he is testing the day before.

For rehearsals we plan to work at 2 metres apart for the first week, and then have 3 weeks in a safe bubble. One of the dancers is finishing at the opera house that night so we’ll pick him up from there. Everyone else will have been in self isolation as much as is possible for the previous 14 days. I am still deciding whether to buy a fumigator for the space. When I zoomed with the covid co-ordinator from the Royal Shakespeare Company, she said that even a ‘natural one’ made her chest hurt. hmm.

We have an older person in her late 70’s in rehearsals, so I am very much hoping everyone is being careful. And we’re working at The Higher Space in Liverpool, the home of Wired Aerial Theatre. Wendy Hesketh has given us their space and accommodation as in kind support. It’s the most tremendously generous thing – worth thousands.

Three of our dancers we met when we auditioned by zoom. In the first auditions a long while ago, we were able to pay the dancers to return on days three and four. Yet on zoom we really only saw people for an hour. I think some auditionees found it hard. We ourselves did it really. Overall, we found that having four to a screen or even three was best. I do think zoom can be way to see people if they live abroad or at the other end of the country though going forward though.

I know three dancers with long Covid, and three acquaintances with it, one of whom is now registered disabled. And my friend knows two musicians who are now seeing neurological and heart specialists. So it’s still something to be taken really seriously by choreographers, because lungs are good for dancing eh. I also know of a well known musician btw who was very careful with food delivered etc. And then went for a socially distanced walk with her brother in law in the park. He had it, didn’t realise, and gave it to her. He died, she didn’t. So still be wary outside hey.

Inside, in terms of transmission, it’s about the tiny micro aerosol sprays inside the atmosphere that infect, which is why crowded rooms are so devastating and thus why I think dancers need to be so careful, especially in crowded open classes.

I think endlessly of the young dancers out there during this time, trying to stay strong. Must be so hard. And then all of us in this strange underwater silence and suspended state of grief.

In the morning as I wake I’m filled with unease. As if above me is a large thin layer of ice, breaking as all my fears coming crashing through. But then I get up and get on and it’s ok.

I walked in the park this evening; the dusk all soft. I felt happiness there amongst the people – as if they could see the end. The air seemed lighter.

Here is a link to the latest government advice on the Covid situation for performers if you are interested.

www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/performing-arts

And this is a picture of Ann Louise Wall by Anthony Grant one weekend in early Autumn on the beach, when we went to make a dance film in Eastbourne. It’s still being edited 🙂

A black and white image of a woman on a beach at night

WEDNESDAY

I want to make movement made out of feeling as much as steps. Movement which hugs us in texture, honesty and risk. Work that is made out of moving, but not for movements sake. Coming from the abstract physically, yet deep in conversation with the person dancing it. And I want to see thought, people, relationship, and story the at the heart of something.
The new piece surrounds me like a tree of petals / in all sorts different colours. Everything morphing from day to day. I’ve had dreams which suggests the piece needs to start as still as earth and then move upwards /  through the layers of leaves and vegetation, and then up / higher still, some kind of silver chiming state. When I watch dance, I want to drop into another world. One where the movement sings in its phrasing like music might and the sound lives on in equal conversation with it all. Am also curious about how can we bring the outside world into our interior bodies and our internal selves back out out into the open.

A scientist said to me once, that finding the right questions to ask was the hardest part of his job. And so what is our own essential question in relation to each work? And what are the questions that open ourselves more deeply into the personal and hence the universal?

Our piece is about death. Or maybe right now, more about how to live. We’re wanting something tender and provocative, about love, devotion, loss, memory and resolution. And also something funny. Because I really think we need that right now…
We started on it before the pandemic and as a subject right now it’s either a bad idea or culturally really relevant; I’m going with the latter 😉

In the research so far, I’m fascinated by the afterlife. Yet less so about decomposing bodies. I literally run away from the book I have about cadavers. The most profound book I’ve read so far and one which I just can’t recommend enough is a very slim volume called Life After Death by Elisabeth Kugler-Ross – an early leader in the hospice movement. It’s extraordinary and you can buy it anywhere.

I’ve always like the words, ‘death is but a night in the life of a soul.’
I mention it, just because I just thought it might be of comfort to some of you out there.

Moving on..

What’s great about dance on film is that it let’s us in to new perspectives. It has an immediacy and a depth due to it’s closeness. There’s a the pull between the digital revolution and the live experience for sure, yet I think they can work so beautifully together.

Still, here’s a toast to our return to the live experience. To that beautiful time, when once again we’ll find ourselves sitting in theatres / waiting there in the darkness / for it to begin. There’s something in live work / the brink / the edge of something / the only once and only that dancer on that night tat I love. Also, a chance to choose where your eyes look as well, rather than the camera’s. For me, there’s a profundity of communication shared live that digital will never reach; a different focus, an intimacy.

I’m suddenly remembering an email I send to some dancers on the eve of a new work. The words seem to speak of performance somehow, and how precious and special it is what dancers have to give us.

‘In each of your performances, have fun, be free… let yourself pour sadness / be lost / hopeful / take flight / with possibility. And let yourselves be dark…so dark, and so glittering… that I no longer know you. And remember too, when looking into that audience, that you’re talking to each and every open broken heart as well. You’re dancing for all those who sit there, hopeful in their pensive silence; awaiting some illumination / some answers perhaps to questions perhaps not yet formed.
And so the piece is a little bit sad and a little bit funny. Be sincere, go far, take the audience with you. Each of your journeys through it can be totally different and yours alone, as each audience member’s eyes will seek out something or someone they recognise within themselves. And because it’s a story, you can surf it and be the waves as well.
I’m simply amazed how much deeper and further each of you go with every rehearsal. As dancers, we just need to actually feel it all I think, with our imaginations and with our experience. Ask yourselves over and over – how might I react to this, how might I feel about that? Because you can make your own choices certainly, yet sometimes the moment itself suggests something back… another thought, another truth perhaps.

For each part of the piece, whether it’s the endless saddened loss on the way to becoming ice, or the dark malevolence towards Giselle, to the joy and elation when your friend makes it back – surprise yourself with hate and hurt and heaviness. And then, at the end, fly like sunlight so bright it’s sparkles almost white.

Lastly, realise that you will never be more perfect than you are right now… you’re ready.

A short while then… till the velvet darkness drops around the shoulders of that 7.30 hour..

I’ve loved watching you, I know the audience will too.

Sal x

A black and white image of a woman running along a beach

THURSDAY

When the sky is grey I am sad. When the sky is blue I am happy.
Today it is blue.

Here are some dancers I love just now – first a few from the new research and secondly, various ones from Instagram.

A dancer I met on zoom for the new show
www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFmoxshZ_ZM&feature=youtu.be

And another I met at the live audition
instagram.com/p/CMzkJevnpK6/

And another dancer I worked with before, also part of the piece – kind of summing up what lockdown may have felt like for some.
instagram.com/p/CKg1NQ4HQUx/

This is one of my favourite show reels this year. From a wonderful dancer called Flora. She gave some of the best performance at audition I’ve seen. Can’t recommend her enough if you’re looking a dance artist for your work. She’s such a wonderful mixture of intelligence and honesty, as well as being great fun.
Flora Wellesley Wesley vimeo.com/357313875
And here are a few of the other dancers I love just now on Instagram / from all over the world.
instagram.com/p/CLAOeBkF1Xw/ Audrey.
instagram.com/p/CMr9Or1rXmN/
and more of her
instagram.com/p/CNSmUb-LBqL/

instagram.com/p/CNGhHRfnwcG/ – Julia form House of Absolute

instagram.com/p/CLutKxanDEV/ Swimming / have a look at her other posts

instagram.com/p/CEZHNa5A95V/ What ballet / musicality can do..

instagram.com/p/CH0RgbDn_UD/ Love everything she does / she becomes the land: Lucy Fandel.

This moment: instagram.com/p/CG8MsO9IydI/
And this dancer:instagram.com/p/CF7l_RKgrbX/

A unison that makes sense of the why: instagram.com/p/CMUSa51oK78/

The mad mentalist joy of ballet: instagram.com/p/CGZ4cS1AuNj/

Favourite performer from Edinburgh: instagram.com/p/CGCeeTcnvOM/

This guy: instagram.com/p/CF0oPkeAsht/

This video of this girl: instagram.com/p/CMPdWeyn7Da/

Always her: instagram.com/p/CLm5-DoIv8_/

The essential: instagram.com/p/CLh10SNHtWy/

I love her! instagram.com/p/CLMMylJH1jl/

16 instagram.com/p/CGIWK5nA_HZ/  Makes me smile.

.instagram.com/sweetshoprevolution/saved/all-posts/ : such nice contact / dancers

instagram.com/p/CMSdcKHn1b0/ love this song and everything this group do.

instagram.com/p/CIk1EVKncyf/ Tania Dimbelolo / so much sunshine in this.

Lastly, here is a new favourite pasta recipe! Raw tomato ( lots ), shredded basil, capers, some red chilli, garlic, leave to marinate for an hour and then sprinkle in some grated goats cheese and then the hot pasta. yum.

And yes, the wheel is good, really because we need it to get us there. Because really, isn’t going out in the evening the most brilliant thing ever invented by human beings!? 🙂

A black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe at a roulette table

FRIDAY

Please do not read this if you feel you may be triggered by discussion of sexual violence.

Violence. I find it so difficult to write about it, especially sexual violence. I suppose many people don’t want to believe it’s happening, and then once they realise, they still can’t talk about it – both men and women. Rape conviction rates this year were 1.7%. And 80% of porn is apparently rape porn.

I once went to a talk at Kings Place by some survivors of the holocaust. The women there explained that from their own experience, no one in the history books talks about the mass rape of women in the camps. Because it’s almost easier to talk about death than it is about rape. Violence lives on so many levels and manifests in so many different kinds of ways doesn’t it, yet the extreme of something like this is unimaginable.

In terms of our perception of rape, I thought this was useful in terms of language – sent to me by Adriana Pegorer.

instagram.com/tv/

Violence isn’t all towards women of course. The worst article I ever read was about rape used as a weapon against men during war. I stood up after reading it and my knees collapsed under me; it was just such a devastation to their lives. Their sense of self and masculinity demolished. Heartbreaking.

When I think of domestic violence, then I am not only thinking about men as perpetrators either. The are statistics that domestic abuse is 50% women to men apparently, though as one-man I know remarked – ‘physically women often come off a lot worse eh.’ Still, there is almost no space for men to talk about the violence that they experience, and almost no narrative as a reference point culturally either. Culture is important isn’t it, as a place in which we see ourselves reflected isn’t it. And so how masculinity and courage is framed is also important.

I watch a film about men training for Vietnam, and the message seems to be, that to be a real man in that environment is be to be the psychotic, fearless and violent, yet with a witty turn of phrase. They think the pressure on women is huge, but what about the pressure on men in terms of what it means to be a ‘man’ in popular media as well as the patriarchy generally. Women get to talk their emotions as they grow up, yet men seem only to have anger as a legitimate place to put theirs. And so vulnerability and fear all seems to end up in the anger file for them and it’s not fair.

I think we need to be more specific culturally, to clarify what violence looks like too. So that we can recognise it in our lives and call it out. Lived boundaries can be complicated to negotiate and people are easily shamed into thinking it is their fault. The film Slalom is interesting on MUBI It’s about a ski coach and his protégé and has the most shocking scene in it; abuse in all it’s brutality. I also just watched season 2 of Big Little Lies on Amazon. There’s a moment in the courtroom, when the violence between her and her husband has only been talked about. Yet the night before the hearing, the women who is defending herself is looking through her son’s i-pad and finds something. When she presses play in court on this tiny clip, filmed through a half open door, we see what violence really looks like. Vicious, unpredictable and terrifying. The violence smashes out through the screen, past words, past empathy, and everyone in the court is deeply shocked. For those of us who have not experienced domestic violence, I think something often within us cannot really imagine it until we see it. I love that more and more women are coming forward and refusing to put up with it in this country. It was the one great things about Trump. He was such a deeply hateful misogynist, that it fired a lot of women in to action.

I wonder sometimes about the manifestation of women’s violence and how men experience it. A friend of mine said last night that I can be passive aggressive. I’ll take that. Coming from a family where conflict was never verbalised, I think I prefer to try to solve things with warmth and energy. But yeah, when I am angry I might not be shouting.

Someone asked me the other day what can be done about violence towards women. I think it needs to happen at a government level as well as the personal. And then also educating children growing up about violence too. Especially in terms of porn and young men. If you’re a parent, don’t give your son a mobile phone until he is fifteen ok! For numerous reasons, detailed in a book called Portland if you are interested. And also because, as one young friend of mine said of sex, ‘I feel like an accessory in men’s porn fantasies’. Here is a link about what is going on for young women in schools right now.

www.everyonesinvited.uk/read-testimonies

Sex was never simple. We worked with an older dancer in the last process – who said to me that her own grandmother in 1888 had asked whilst pregnant, ‘where is the baby coming out?’ She had thought it was her belly button. Things are better in so many ways. But as we move forwards, let’s not move backwards at the same time.

I personally have to remember all the glorious men I’ve met and worked with. So many individuals that were so extraordinary. And I luckily never had a problem with any choreographer. I want to end with that. Not a single man in dance ever let me down in any way on stage when working with them. Quite the opposite.

And so, may the men step up to both own their violence, ( 90% of all of it ), and heal from it. And may their heroic be in the courage to fight for women’s lives and safety as much as their own.

This was just sent to me. It’s an incredible listen.
thewowfoundation.com/latest/watch-now-another-pandemic-violence-against-women

Also, here is a document from the Women of the World Festival about steps that you can take, and the organisations working to try to end violence towards women:

And are a few moments from our last company show about women and sexuality. www.sweetshoprevolution.com/videos/

And here is a photo of Daniel Whiley covered in paint, during the making of Everyday People. Photo by Pippa Samaya.

Daniel Wiley covered in paint

Pippa Samaya

SATURDAY

It is day two after my jab. I avoided all symptoms by my deep scientific knowledge; cough! 😉 I took lots of vitamin C the night before, drank lots of water and then swigged an entire litre of fresh orange juice on the way to the appointment. I also had a chat with my body when I woke up, which went something like this… ‘something is going to happen today, but don’t worry, you can totally deal with it. We’re not going to get ill ok, because who wants three days of vomiting and fever? Neither of us. So I am with you, let’s just trust it’s going to be fine.’ And it was.

I had expected one of those long deep needles where there mixture feel like it almost fills your bones, but it was a tiny pin prick, and straight after I walked for three hours in the sunshine to avoid blog clots and to try and kind of trick my body into thinking nothing happened. It worked.

Everything was pink and white and blue and yellow / the daffodils in happy clumps of gold and the blue sky all full of hope. I saw some tiny Egyptian goslings / just as a seagull swooped down to try and grab one / a disconcerting sight within the idyll – and a reminder that it’s bird eat bird out there! The walk let my body think nothing had happened. And the idea came from something that happened in New York a long time ago. I was doing a grand jeté, when in the corner of the studio, there was a small unnoticed one inch step – which took me by surprise. And down I crashed over on my ankle and into the door like flying goose gone wrong. It was dramatic and embarrassing, even by my standards. As I quickly tried to stand, I realised it was a bad twist or maybe a sprain. Suddenly, looming into vision is this guy I’ve never met before, who grabs my foot as a sit gingerly down and starts moving the ankle joint forward and backward, backward and forward, round and round. All the while my eyes as gobstoppers gaze back blink-less in shock. He says, ‘just trust me ok, just trust me ok.’ And I’m like, ok… so this is New York. Maybe it’s different here. I imagine England then. The call for a bag of frozen peas and concerned looks from dancers stood at some a distance as not to crowd. And so then boom! On go my shoes no tights, and out into a freezing New York winter as I limp across town to a show at New York Fashion Week – where the girls sashay  / so thin are they / they look not far from death. But then this is the 90’s and heroin chic is in and so it’s cool / though perturbing. That movement and the cold and the moving through it… Well I was back in class fully functioning three days later and I just never forgot it. Because somehow the body had kept moving, absorbed it and along with a climatic icepack on the way to the show –  it was almost like the injury never happened.

Tonight I spoke to an old friend, Alessandro Magania. He was there in New York when I was and stayed. We used to bump into each other all the time at the Lincoln Centre Library and although so much friends at the time, I don’t know why but we had never stayed in touch. One day I was looking at his Instagram and messaged him to say just that I was thinking of all the friendship we had missed because we had lived our lives in different cities. And that I still thought of him and hoped he was well. At almost exactly the same moment he messaged me to say something of the same. Yet literally a synchronicity, not in reply. So here are two people who have barely spoken in years thinking the same thought at the same moment. We’re all so oddly connected across time and space aren’t we. And so tonight we caught up properly for a couple of hours after literally twenty years. I thought to myself then, that connectivity is one of the most precious things we have. This has definitely been proven in the last year hasn’t it; how beautiful will be this summer when we can be together in person again.

I asked him why he stayed in NY after London. He said that in New York the energy felt circular – it moved around. Everything felt possible and people were up for stuff. Alessandro has worked as an actor a great deal over the years. Yet always comes back to dance because he loves the sense of the non linear and physicality too.

I was thinking just now, how devised dance theatre studios, with great dance artists, can be one the freest places I know artistically. Such space for intimacy, honesty, revelation / revolution.

Here is a picture of Alessandro when we first met.

A young man in a trucker cap

SUNDAY

I wake early and am in the park not long after six am. This could be construed to appear that I am an early riser. Considering I have spent much of this year going to bed at 3am, that wouldn’t be entirely true. We start rehearsals soon though and I’ll likely be awake every day at 3am so am trying to pull myself into the other way round 🙂

Actually, sleeping 3am-9am and then doing Isolation Consolation, a Feldenkrais daily lesson from Ed Woodall is great. His Facebook group which has been offering free morning classes almost everyday for a year now is changing into The Flourishing Body. It will launch in the next few weeks and I can’t recommend it enough. There’s something about Ed’s voice, in fact his entire being, which makes me move into the day all lightly grounded and happy.

Insomnia eh / so many ways to quietly fight it / or in my case during this time / embrace it. From cherries, bananas, lettuce before bed, to dimmed lights, hot baths, no alcohol – they all have their place. But the utter revelation – given kindly to me by a psychologist who I was talking to about working with Sweetshop Revolution suggested this: You breath in for 3 and out for 6. Or in for 4 and out for 8 or in for 5 and then out for 10. Deeply into the belly. If you do this while you lie in bed / it literally takes you to sleep. Doesn’t mean you won’t be awake two hours later mind, but still, it’s a wonderful start 🙂

The park is all empty silence and branches reaching like black veins into the sky. I long for blue. The weather has seemed stuffed with dullness for months. I can’t wait for the opening up can you? For people, thoughts, ideas, connections / all swirling around. Being with people…I don’t suppose we will ever take it for granted again.

Love to everyone out there..
Here’s to a peace about the past,
and an excitement about the future.
Sal x

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