Reflections - Untitled: (Inside the Tide of Many Flowers)
Spiderflower opened dances for Stockholm in June 2017. Here, I want to share reflections on what has opened out into an unexpected, significant and polarised journey.
ON THE TITLE BEING UNTITLED
The medicine is in the title. This is something I always say.
The gateways and rhythms that make up external holding structures for Spiderflower are by now very well developed. They anchor this work through a dependable rootedness into the natural cycles and patterns we find in all life.
There is a usual set of titles for dances that appear over and over again . . . as a rule. But this time, a new title pushed its way to the foreground for our first evening dance. It was one that I initially rebuffed. 'You can't start a new cycle of dances with the title of . . . Untitled'. But, as all things organisational were put into place - 'Untitled: (Inside the Tide of Many Flowers)' became insistent.
When this happens, I know it is best to listen. A title has an energy, a life of its own. Within Spiderflower they are quite often odd, lyrical - poetic we might say. I struggle with them . . . but they will have their way in the end. Call that what you will, over time I have found they act like a set of keys and as we progress along a particular path - act as great teachers, taking us into new territory - or will provide a perspective that we may not have ordinarily seen.
Untitled: (Inside the Tide of Many Flowers) was quite a departure from any former Beltane or Summer Solstice title for Spiderflower - and was dropping onto the page as being incredibly specific.
When titles arrive, I do have a good insight into the choreography we need to work with. But I may not have the whole picture. There is often something locked within that will unfold in time. It is always a great adventure to follow that path into the unknown.
As Spiderflower is about entering into dialogue between body and earth through movement, our initial focus is on the relationship between human being and natural world. In its own right, Spiderflower is a form of storytelling. In this way, we cannot divorce ourselves, and should not divorce ourselves from the story of the wider whole. We are all a part of that narrative.
As a director, I keep my finger on the pulse and take into account the reflections we are working with in real time.
BELTANE THROUGH TO SUMMER SOLSTICE: A TIDE OF MANY FLOWERS
So, we are rolling into the tides of Beltane and through to the Summer Solstice with this new block of work. Indeed, this is the tide of many flowers and in this sense I set up dances for Stockholm.
My understanding and my knowing are all about how we reach a gateway that is an explosion of life, of love - of outrageous and unashamed beauty. See how those flowers dance about us - and as the great teachers they are - show us how it can be when we strip away all the conditioning there may be that will make us small and uncreative. They have no problem in sharing every ounce of lusciousness they are and it makes our world a beautiful place.
Here we are working with love, falling in love, with intoxication, with union and fusion - in the very fact that creation makes love every single day. At Solstice we arrive at a place of marriage, of joy - the lovers archetypically become mother and father as all hearts of all worlds beat together on this day so we celebrate a point of conception that leads us into new life.
UNTITLED, THE DANCE & A POULTICE FOR HUMAN NATURE
This we work with, explore and we dance. Sometimes, this framework can provide a stark, and difficult mirror. When we consciously place ourselves as human beings against this level of beauty, where and how we are disconnect will show up on the down-side as well as the up-side.
This is normal, this is usual - and is all part of the work. It has been this way for a lot of years.
This time around we dropped in that bit deeper. Take off the titles. Take the lid off the box. Get out of the straight jacket. Leaving an empty space - a place that is untitled. So that possibility and potential have room to move and breath.
Flowers are a wonderful and natural poultice. They will, absolutely they will - powerfully, beautifully and gently draw out and away all that is toxic and ignite that deeper, insanely delicious beauty within.
And so this was the dance, and this was enough.
The image for 'Untitled: (Inside the Tide of Many Flowers)' is by LiLiRoze - a French fine art photographer residing in Paris. I found the image back in March as the title settled in, and fell in love with it and her work.
The Stockholm terror attack occurred early April, and we needed to think again.
Was this the right image to use?
Would it cause offence as we began to see this image in a different way?
Beautifully, LiliRoze gifted the image to the dance.
We decided. Together. It should be used.
At once we could see many things within it now.
Spiderflower's work will carry a double entrendre. There is always a flip side.
It is important to observe the truth sitting along the blade of a double edged sword.
A DIFFERENT TIDE OF FLOWERS - THE GREAT INVERSION OF OUR TIME
As this tide rolled on, we have been met with more of the same in terms of violence and death.
On the outside, a different tide of flowers becomes apparent.
On April 7th as we saw the Stockholm terror attack we witnessed a city awash with flowers. May 22nd Manchester, 3rd June London Bridge, 14th June the Grenfell Tower Fire where scores of men, women and children perished, 19th June a further attack in Finsbury Park on a mosque.
Each time a tide of flowers roll in.
From where I sit, all of these incidents are terrorist attacks in one form or another. What I am specifically watching is wave after wave of flowers. Hundreds of them. I am watching a tide of many flowers . . . accompany a tide of violence, death and grief.
This is the antithesis of Solstice, this stark and powerful symbolism cannot be ignored. It speaks of the ultimate dislocation and great inversion of human relationship with all that is life giving in our times.
For Grenfell Tower, there is massive inversion around 'The Children's Fire'. This I have to point out.
For those who don't know what The Children's Fire is, it is an ancient heart-based way of life and governance that understood the wisdom observed in nature should be reflected by institutions of power. Rooted in the americas, it is observed by many indigenous cultures throughout the globe. It inspires a system of deep democracy that places the children at the very centre of all a culture, tribe or organisation is. The children's fire is often literal, a community will have a fire to honour this first promise: "No law, no action of any kind, shall be taken that will harm the children".
Instead, we are watching babies and children trapped inside a sky-high building in flames, that fire a result of corporate and governmental greed and neglect. We watch on as they scream for their life. We watch on as they are thrown from insane heights by parents in the last desperate attempt to give them life. We watch on as they burn.
This. Is an inversion so utterly extreme, it is nothing less than horrific in what it symbolises.
This. Is where we are.
In this context, now listen to this extraordinary speech about the children's fire from Mac Macartney.
Layer into this the refugee crisis.
Layer into this the crisis in Syria.
Layer into this Gaza.
And continue . . . . . into the bigger picture.
Untitled. Because we have reached a place where there are simply no words.
Untitled. Because inside that chasm. There is the potential for new beginning and a different way.
THE LIFE CAIRN & LIVSRÖSET STOCKHOLM
Onward. After our first dance set for Stockholm we found our way to Livsröset (The Life Cairn) in Stockholm. Laying flowers that were now thick with prayer as they had travelled through 4 solid days of dance upon the Cairn.
Livsröset Stockholm is a memorial to all the species in the world that have become extinct. That we will see no more. That have left. Forever.
This is not the first time we've laid flowers or visited The Life Cairn. The last time was back in May 2012 where we took flowers from The Avebury Cycle's Beltane dance to Mount Cabourn in Sussex, UK.
There has been a 5 year passage between then and now, so enough time to see patterns unfold.
At the moment I move back and forth to Sweden on a regular basis. I am in a dance of perpetual exchange between 2 very different cultures. Although Sweden and the UK are not so far from each other geographically, I personally feel they are poles apart in terms of attitude when it comes to respect for life.
Here, I want to bring into these reflections the words of Andreas Kornevall - one of the founders of The Life Cairn in both the UK and Sweden.
"Since we started the Life Cairn (a memorial for extinct species at human hands), we have stood on the hill as broken-hearted scarecrows laying down stones in memory for countless extinct species: we have gathered there to remember how they flew, how they reared their young, swam, built nests, or how they could see in the dark.
But the journey has been difficult, in England, the memorial has been vandalised many times over, forgotten, always unmentioned, ridiculed, belittled and pushed to the side. I can say that over the years the Life Cairn has been treated precisely in the same way as we culturally treat our own grief: with a silenced abandonment.
The ice melts at the poles from this silenced and forgotten grief for the Earth.
But when I see a picture of the world’s leading lawyer for nature’s rights, Cormac Cullinan, laying a stone on the Life Cairn in Stockholm, I feel that every heavy step we all have made up that cold hill over the years has been worth it. And yes, the monarch in Sweden has now sanctioned the Life Cairn in Stockholm, it is protected and will be there for countless generations in the future to see and witness."
Andreas Kornevall - April 2017.
The wild and raging grief that lives here, that I see well up and spill out of so many people - is our best hope.