Storytelling & the Age of Things
Updated: Feb 7
The world and life are full of stories. We know when we sit around the fire at the foot of a gifted storyteller there is a great comfort here, we are held spellbound and are transported by the magic of story. Within the world of fables there dwells a great place of meaning and of learning as a mirror to our common-unity.
Story is a foundation and gateway. We know nothing of anything or anyone until we know their story.
This is how we come to know each other. This is how we come to understand our world. Everything has its own story.
Spiderflower is interested in this . . . and the age of things.
Within the age of things sits the roll call of events.
The long unfolding story behind what we see at face value. The story that goes way back and beyond living memory, yet still breathes within the fibre of the being. That still informs and imbues, who we are, what we are and how we dance on this earth.
That person sitting . . . that pebble resting . . . that child laughing . . . that leaf falling . . . that man crying . . . that bird nesting. . . . that wave crashing. . . of a sudden the world is alive with colour and complexity in and amongst the rhythms.
Within the story of our ancestry, although there are blood parents and the lines that extend way back and beyond there are also parents within creation. Ones that foster and nurture life after life. In the wind, in the earth, in the trees. These are constants. These are relations. Part of our story. We a part of theirs.
Part of our work within Spiderflower is to re-ground into these relationships.
To translate them in the dance through the fibre of body. The bone. The muscle. The flesh.
Going back to what I discussed in THE FINE ART OF CONNECTIVITY – the body when engaged with the natural world in the right way will understand this archaic language in a split second and can translate through movement.
In practice this happens through gesture, and as gestures build one upon the other over time we are witness to an unfolding story between dancer and the source they are connecting with. This element of the work is mesmerising, and is the edge where Spiderflower really sings as a unique dance movement theatre form. In those moments, and in all truth - neither the dancer, nor I as facilitator, nor anyone in the room will know what is coming next. The art of 'getting out of the way' is paramount here. The challenge for the dancer is to allow story as it is – to flow. No interpretation. Trusting that it will be transparent. It will be. And it is. When that happens - the dancer is able to step into storyteller and storytelling - unearthing phrases, sequences and whole stanzas that have been buried and sleeping for perhaps a long long time. Nevertheless - they are there.
So why is this important and what are we meant to do with this?
Sometimes I am so gobsmacked, it actually goes beyond me. I'm writing this after watching this process develop over 20 years now, so have the ability to reflect after seeing plenty of repetition. At the moment, this is what I think . . .
The emergent stories are initially an important as dialogue happening between the dancer and that which they are in connection with on a personal level. For them, bridges as we've discussed in THE FINE ART OF CONNECTIVITY are forming, a conversation is in play - which will lead to a developing and deepening relationship between the dancer and earth. This in its own right is very good news and so often proves to be life changing. Why? Because once this fundamental relationship shifts out of a state of separation into connection within an internal landscape - so does everything else from relationship with self, to close others, to community - to work, environment, home, money, creativity and ultimately - the spirit. That's what happens.
But what of the stories that want to be told from the side of nature?
In all honesty - I don't know exactly. Other than the fact this happens, and is intensely beautiful and moving to witness. From what I have seen, I do know it speaks of something tender and real at work between the connection between dancer and the place we call home. There is a care and a communion I perceive with the natural world - I inuit a desire for it's beauty and intelligence to be seen, heard and felt. Whatever is happening here is much more than 'getting close' to nature - as here we literally step inside the partnership between human and earth. It visits the relationship we could have, we should have - and probably did have way back. In motion, as the story unfolds this connection is being remembered through story. . . and it does get emotional. Deeply so, for what I see is that longing we hold as human beings to belong, to find home is finally being met.
In these moments, the age of things become apparent. That delicious connection between dancer and natural source exhibits an incredible transparency and can only be described as timeless.
For the dancer, this is deep level work and will have an impact. It will usually be long lasting - and one that is centring, balancing and empowering. For myself as facilitator and witness, after 20 years of watching this unfold I feel this element of story emerging between dancer and earth is a possible key in providing solution to the current climate crisis.
A bit random there? How so?
Because this work actually steps inside the relationship between human and earth. It opens this out and explores. It goes beyond us as humans grappling with it, struggling with it - and understands that through this level of connection there is so much more to gain and to understand about the experience of being human and being here. Once that relationship comes in to alignment, and those understandings are made solid - then we are looking at a core shift between human, natural world and how we exist here.
A story in motion will reach inside the essence of a connection, and like a red hot blade through butter will cut through perceptions around our humanity and relationship with the planet that are disconnect, stuck and downright inaccurate - in seconds.
Spiderflower was initially formed out of 2 questions - "Why do we (as humans) have the relationship we do with the environment? What has happened along the way for us to wind up where we are?". Yes, it's understood this is as a result of human behaviour, but what is the root cause of that behaviour? These questions have driven Spiderflower's work for 2 decades and we are now seeing the results.
For now, it is time to stop allowing these emergent stories evaporate on the dance floor. It's time to spend a while chasing butterflies - as this is what they are like to capture - and move this area of Spiderflower's work forward to write them down, and take them into the realm of theatre where what is found can be shared on and explored further.
It is vital this work is made visible.
For now. This level of shared storytelling is something that happens within Spiderflower's form, it's important for dancers within the work to read over this, reflect and think about it clearly - and we'll discuss and take it forward in action.
Photography: Mud Bird - Portfolio for Earth. Gemma Burleigh © 2012. All Rights Reserved.
All text appearing on this site for Spiderflower: Contemporary Earth Dance Theatre are copyright of the author and artist Rowan Jacqueline, unless otherwise stated. © 2018. All rights reserved.