hinterlands – body/environment workshop created and run by Ailsa Richardson

Workshop created and run by Ailsa Richardson

May 2012 at Penpynfarch creative retreat centre www.penpynfarch.co.uk

My intention for this workshop was to explore and widen awareness of the intersections between bodies and environments. The environment here includes other bodies as well as the natural-managed environments we move through and are placed within. I was also attempting to find an integration of three practices which I wanted to utilise/share/offer to this end. This integration is becoming a practice focussed on strategies for the investigation of the ‘inter-sections’, the in-between, the shared surfaces and places of touching of bodies and environments.

One of these strategies is a seeking/hunting of correspondences (or co-respondances). Another is the interplay between belonging and displacement, between familiarity and unfamiliarity. This strategy of interplay inherently necessitates a disrupting of habit, of our habitual modes of sensing, moving, perceiving. The three practices are the ‘groundwork’ and philosophical approach of Bodyweather, the collaborative structures and approaches of Goat Island Performance Group and inhabiting of some specific places on the Movement Medicine ‘map’.

The site consists of a steep sided wooded valley with a small river. The woodland is varied, mostly deciduous on one side of the valley and old coniferous plantation (with its typical barren-ness of vegetation on the forest floor) on the other. There is a small lake a short way down the valley and some meadow land in the base of the valley and a few fields around and above the house and buildings. These fields were inhabited by a group of young Icelandic ponies whilst we were there.
There is a spring and a cottage ruin in the woods and the path of an old mill leat runs parallel to the river and there remain many other hidden secrets to discover. There are also the traces of many previous dance and performance investigations and workshops. The buildings and land (including a small and beautifully formed dance studio/barn conversion) have been beautifully restored and cared for with a high regard for sustainbility by Eeva and Andy who have lived there with their family for 10 years.

Memory fragments (facilitator POV):

Four bodies are deeply engaged, each in their own movement exploration, a soundscape cross fades from inside recorded music to the outside’s live score and back again as Icelandic ponies run through the frame of the high barn window.

A walking blindfolded man finds the measure of an overhanging bough, the upright body perfectly measuring the height and the top of the head touching the bough. He smiles.

She sinks her hands and weight deep into the moss : tears come at the memory of it,  “it’s like coming home”.

A small damsel fly has alighted on the back of her hand and travels with her without her knowledge.

A walking man drags a branch behind him, later he gently hangs its branches with grasses.

A woman clenches her fist around a bramble stalk, she has her eyes closed and turns her head away sharply, followed by fast, blurred repetitions of turning towards and away.

Another woman’s body, her arms flow(er)ing above her head, appears to continue the falling and curving toward earth of the branches of a willow tree.

The green, undisturbed grass on the promontory by the lake.

There is only the movement of a body of water beneath my feet, one body of water balancing on another body of water, I feel the surface tension of changing water body shape, a rolling back and fore yet not over…yet.

A single fresh green leaved sapling grows from the wall of a ruined cottage, the only deciduous growth in the dark dankness of the tall thin conifers.

She leans her weight out from one of these tall thin trunks – she is feeling for the motion of the trunk from the wind in the high branches, is it really there or beyond the reaches of perception? What we see and expect may not be what we can feel through touch. Where is the reach of our senses and sensitivity?

“I had a bit of an epiphany” (oberving the left and right sides of the body in ‘bisoku’/1mm per second walking)

The particular ‘song’ of  one foot square of the river near the footbridge. Can we use a quadrant for sound sampling?

Being led without words and having three visual frames in the landscape revealed to me.
First frame: foreground - the uprooted earth and roots of two trees, middle ground - the rusted metal frames of two children’s chairs facing me, a few feet apart, and the fallen, straight tree trunks on either side angled towards one another and receding into the distance -  bright, green forest and filtered sunlight.

A few testimonials from participants:

Above and beyond the fact that it was glorious to move freely in a wonderful environment, Ailsa Richardson's leadership really made this weekend for me. Ailsa was able to nuance her approach and tailor activities according to the evolving needs of the group: I really appreciated this. I thoroughly recommend her Movement Medicine workshop!

The Hinterlands workshop in West Wales was absolutely brilliant. The location and venue were beautiful and perfect for the purpose of wandering, exploring, investigating - both our inner landscapes and the external one. Ailsa held a beautiful space for us throughout ...  it was a transformative experience and one which left me energised, enthused, and feeling centered in my body and in my world. 

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