The first practice research workshop on was held on 1 October at The Anatomy Museum, Kings College London It was an inspiring afternoon full of dynamic and provocative conversations.
Below are some of the key points from the discussions at the workshop that informed the content and direction of the workshops we are delivering.
Feedback from research practice workshop:
How do we choreograph with people living with the effects of stroke?
1. We should be aware of each participant’s experience of stroke – they may feel angry at their lack of/ loss of mobility. They may feel that they are inhabiting bodies that don’t belong to them. We must think about who each person is before each session and be in contact with multidisciplinary teams wherever possible
2. It is vital to focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot do.
3. There is a culture of risk aversion in health care, while dance offers expects risk taking. With due awareness of safety, dance interventions can build confidence, aid balance and trunk rehab. Dance can offer a new way towards psychic freedom through the guided exploration of sensation, feeling, body image
4. Clumsiness is undervalued in our culture. We should not allow too much value to be put on the agility and beauty of the leading dancers in the project – this can feel intimidating to those living with the physical consequences of stroke. We should think of developing an aesthetic of clumsiness
5. In this context, There is a danger that as you get more healthy and mobile, you feel less healthy, less competent.
6. Depression – is not just ‘psychological’ – for those living with depression post stroke there is a neurological element. After stroke the capacity of the brain to explore unused neural pathways temporarily increases. Dance/movement initiatives within stroke rehab could explore the potential of this understanding of neural plasticity in the recovery of body, language and identity that is the goal of stroke rehab.
7. There is an opportunity for this project to offer participants the learning of new creative skills. Might Creativity also offer a pursuit of curiosity and adventure, optimism and hope?
The ethics of intimacy and public performance
1. Consent is an evolving concept. There is a need for continual reevaluation of whether participants are comfortable – consent is a continuous process. Stroke Odysseys is an evolving, dynamic project / process and it is difficult to consent to something that is in development. Our consent forms should anticipate this.
2. A consent requirement can lead to high levels of exclusion because of what participants may fear they are committing to. There is a real need for engagement and reassurance with people on this to ensure that they are included and can opt out at any time.
3. We should allow for decision-making time between asking for consent and the participant giving it. Use visuals / film references in establishing consent, and as much info in advance as possible
Levels of intimacy
1. Contact is a core principle of a dancer/movement artist’s practice but how do we know participants are consenting to touch? The project needs a framework here that outlines acceptable parameters without inhibiting curiosity and an element of risk.
IDEAS TO TAKE INTO WORKSHOPS:
1. The culture of dance is quite distinct. We should build up the capacity for touch gradually. Perhaps start with awareness of touch – the way the skin is touching clothes, the way the body is touching the chair. And work with inanimate objects – stones, personal belongings – a process that may develop sensitivity to touch.
2. Look to breathing as a common point and how central it is to dance/ movement/ music/ storytelling practice and personal stroke narrative song/ stroke recovery and balance
3. Try working with eyes closed to reinforce listening and balance
4. We should focus on ‘who I am’ and the process of regaining a sense of self – not by getting back to ‘who I was’ but celebrating and embracing the new person. Carnival dance is good for trunk movement – it favours joy and beauty. Stroke Odysseys dance should be different to normal care – an escape, a discovery and a release
5. Spontaneity is often beneficial – people can surprise themselves and this counteracts the ‘learned helplessness’ of being a so-called ‘stroke victim/sufferer.’