Last week I received a special invitation to sit in as part of an audience for a Live Art workshop being held at the Tate Modern. This was because I personally know one of the participants, and had already heard recounts of the contemporary dance and choreography they were learning. What I didn’t expect, however, was the sheer grace I encountered. Because it was beautiful to watch. These weren’t professional dancers, and it was not a complicated dance piece, but there was pure beauty in just the simple movements of their bodies; the way they danced around and among each other with such ease and elegance. There was also the added bonus of having the London skyline as their backdrop. But I was still amazed. Amazed at how a group of young, amateur students could produce something so simple, peaceful, and yet so stunning.

The point of this contemporary dance workshop comes in the context of a research project being carried out by Tate Modern titled: The Experience and Value of Live Art. Their aim is to look at what young people “get” out of live art, and how they react to the intangibility of dance within the context of a museum that places great value on tangible, possessive art objects. Sara Wookey, an American contemporary dancer led the workshop, teaching simple but effective dance techniques in which the participants were encouraged to move in ways that felt natural. The result was a remarkable group synergy that could be felt even by the audience.

The second half of this project will involve the students representing their experience through film. With footage they are given of the contemporary dance workshop, they’ll learn how to edit digital film so as to produce individual films that best portray their personal experience and viewed outcomes of the project. The idea is to use a different medium – in this case film – as well as conversation and written text, to talk about the cultural experience these dancers had. It is a complex, but interesting and enriching research project, which has value to both the participants, teachers, and researchers alike.
I am so fortunate that I was invited to get a small glimpse into this workshop, and experience with the students the power that visual and live art can have. And then there were the incredible views over the Thames to be enjoyed afterwards.
[Photo credit: all images are taken by me unless otherwise stated here]