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Discovering SprialArts: the dance theatre encouraging enthusiasm, creativity, and confidence

By Bryony Williams

“Dance is an expression of life from the uplift and joy felt in the rhythm and flow of dance to the still confidence present in good posture; the body becomes the vehicle through which imagination takes form and creativity is born” - Bryony Williams

SpiralArts was created through a partnership between two women. This journey began back in the late 1990s with a meeting between Bryony Williams (myself) and Elizabeth Blake, two trained dancers from different backgrounds with a shared passion for creative dance and choreography. We simply began meeting on Wednesday mornings in a dance studio to share our ideas and experience, and we continue to do this periodically to this day. My training was in European Expressive Dance and Martial Art, as well as many styles of dance along the way, while Elizabeth trained in Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance and Drama. Like so many dancers and other performing artists, we were searching for a place to explore and experiment with our own ideas and experiences, unfettered by style, conditioning or judgement. There are so many talented, creative people who, after training, find they do not necessarily ‘fit the box’ and become disillusioned or lost. Consequently, we aim to provide a safe and supportive environment where inspiration can spark, creativity flower and people can explore their art freely with gentle guidance. In our experience this ignites a fresh sense of enthusiasm, creative courage and confidence.

As we searched to find common denominators, it seemed to us that nature itself is the fundamental and infinite source of creativity. Through this we realised that spiral movement is inherent in most movement forms, is in our DNA and everywhere in nature, so for us the spiral has become an endless journey of discovery and fascination. We have often worked outside in nature, by lakes, beaches, hilltops and woodlands, dancing in and around the spiralling trees. The sea, sky, sun and moon are major sources of inspiration for dance, choreography, music, song and poetry. We also use the elements - earth, air, fire and water - as creative inspirations and have built a body of work around them. For example, earth suggests weight, grounding, support, structure and form, which requires particular movements, dynamics and musical choices. On the other hand, air suggests lightness, allowing more breath and space through the body to bring a sense of clarity, freedom and flight. We believe that there is a danger that art forms can lack depth or dimension when losing touch with nature, the root and source of creative vision and growth. We are aware none of this is new, but aim to bring an awareness back to this natural source, to encourage growth based on the organic principles of movement.

Once we had established some clear and accessible ways of working with dance and movement, we opened our Wednesday morning sessions and began to attract a colourful and diverse group of people that was mainly, though not exclusively, women. We then also organised themed ‘Improvisation Evenings’ as a safe space for creative exploration and experimentation, and ‘Platform Evenings’ for developing artists to show their work. This attracted some great characters, for example, a poet who read very slowly, deeply and loudly or the young man who felt inspired to spontaneously strip naked in his performance, without letting us know! Over the years, we have also worked with some truly talented artists who have all added their unique thread to the rich tapestry of our work. Among them have been classical musicians and singers, as well as ‘khoomii’ throat singers and musicians, actors and artists. We currently work closely with an abstract artist who has created paintings based on her observations from our sessions and has brought a new perspective to inspire our choreography. She also incorporates drawing and painting into the workshop sessions, and her work has been displayed as an integral part of our shows.

We have a diverse performance history, which began exploring myths and legends such as the story of King Arthur and Guinevere. We explored this legend as a creative process, with particular focus on the feminine side of the story. As a group we spent time at both Tintagel and Glastonbury to soak up the atmosphere, as well as spending three weeks living together in France to devise, create and rehearse for the performance. Overall, we aim to ensure that dance can be enjoyed at all ages. There is no age limit on creativity and the experience of the older dancers balance the enthusiasm and exuberance of the youth. We have explored this successfully, collaborating musical theatre students from London Universities with older members of the company, creating three cross-generational dance pieces: The Lake, The Mountain and The Desert. Dance and movement are the essence of our work, but they are an art in themselves, acting as a common denominator between all forms of creativity. We feel it helps artists embody and express their feelings and emotions, creating a deeper communication between artists and audience. We have grown to appreciate the benefit of mixing the arts and artists, in age, experience and diversity. This ensures that the practice is natural, accessible and effective.

We are largely an unfunded company, evolving and developing our work according to the different influences that arrive at our door. We have had highs, lows and made mistakes along the way. We have learnt the hard way how to maintain integrity by setting effective boundaries that enhance freedom of expression without allowing it to run into indulgence, as well as allowing artists to be nourished and work to remain focused. We feel now is the time for a new initiative and, alongside our improvisational sessions, would like to establish courses focusing on creative choreography. Although we are not specifically a female group, and men are more than welcome, we would like to support and encourage women as developing choreographers, as they are often underrepresented.

Fundamentally dance is our prime passion. We can offer fresh perspectives, drawn from our rich experiences and focus on the creativity of the dancer. We acknowledge dance as an art form and the body as a vehicle of expression, energy and powerful communication. In brief, we aim to:

  • To create a crucible for dancers, creatives and innovators, who do not find their ‘niche’ in commercial theatre, as well as those who want to develop their creative and choreographic skills.

  • To explore the ‘artistry’ of dance and what this means.

  • To teach and facilitate quality movement, eloquence and focused intention.

  • To use technique as a tool for creative discovery.

  • To enable participants to find the inner dancer and communicate effectively with others.

  • To work closely with other artists for the benefit of all.

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