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Oprimido Development

  • Initial thoughts on Phenomenology

    It was suggest to me that I look in to the philosophical movement of phenomenology in relation to my work.


    Phenomenology: the study of phenomena

    Phenomena: stuff that happens

    So, in layman’s terms:

    Phenomenology: The study of stuff that happens


    This initial research has brought up some interesting questions for me. Thinking about my piece and the starting point or founding thoughts for the piece, my experience and mental health/illness, I was becoming more curious about how they all linked.

    When explain the founding principals of what phenomenology is Lewis and Staehler state:

    “Phenomenology focuses not on what appears but on how it appears” [Lewis M. & Staehler T. 2010]

    So it is a look in to how experiences or things present themselves in the world.

    This is really looking at the area or idea of the ‘lived body’. I mentioned Merleau-Ponty in my reflection of my last rehearsal. His work built on the initial phenomenological movement of Husserl and whom I have been researching further as he looks at the idea of the lived body.

    Merleau-Ponty believes, in order for the thing to be able to appear they have to appear to something ie a person which also means that person has to have a consciousness. The movement talks about how in order to experience this thing, this experience, the person has to have a physical body or they would not be able to experience or receive the thing that is presenting itself.

    We wouldn’t have experiences if we didn’t have a body, at least not in the same way.

    So, our body has to experience it in order for our mind to. Our body is the receiver. But more than that it also has feeling, a nervous system an intelligence in its own right. Another part of phenomenology is that the body and the mind are not two separate entities but they work together as one, which as a dancer I already know, understand and embody. Both parts need the other in order to experience.

    From this my thinking went to mental health. My mental health issues came in part because of my experience. If we apply what has been explored above, the experience was experienced by the body which was then process by the brain in a way in which was not healthy or caused trauma. I also know, from experience, that mental ill health is not just something we have in the mind but is experienced by the body as well, this connection of mind and body, and can create an output, usually in the form of movement. Therefore, there is this connection running from the world through the body to the mind then back to the body and out in to the world.

    However, I have another question. What happens if the mental ill health started before the experience? The experience happened the same way and had the same connection through the body and mind. Did the mental ill health affect how the experience was experienced? Or how the experience was received and processed?

    Then what if that mental ill health was started by another experience? Maybe it is just a cycle. And how does that fit with phenomenology? Does it fit?

    As you can tell I still have a lot more research to on this and look further in to the connection of this philosophical movement and mental health. These are just my initial thoughts on my research so far.


    • Lewis, M., & Staehler, T. (2010). Phenomenology: An introduction. London: Continuum.



  • Solo Development Rehearsal 3

    I wanted to continue this rehearsal to look at building the sense of struggle. The feeling of being confined as well as out of control. I felt like the sense of narrative and building to climax that then drops to a feeling of compete and utter loss of hope and strength.

    I decided to add in more movement to extend the period between starting to the moment of collapse. I feel this has really added something to the piece. I am still using the dynamics authentically and exploring the sense of self empathy.

    One thing I did notice when I was watching the video back from the last rehearsal is a motif that was not intentionally put in but appeared. It is the one of trying to fit though spaces created. Analysing this I can see that is how I was feeling in the moment. An authentic expression of being made to fit in to spaces that weren’t right and having to mould myself to fit.

    Ponty talks about the reaction and understanding of gestures.

    “The gesture does not make me think of anger, it is anger itself” [Ponty M. p214]

    He is saying that a gesture that shows, in this case, anger does not make him think it makes him feel, he feels it with a connection through his body, he understands the movement as emotion itself. This is what I want for my piece in general but is specifically linked to this motif I have been describing. I don’t want the audience to think ‘oh, she is trying to fit through awkard spaces that don’t fit’, I want them to feel that. I want them to connect on a bodily level to understand how it felt. This is a hard thing to try and get right and also hard to know if and when I elicit that reaction. I think this will be a question I pose when asking for feedback on the piece.

    For now I want to continue to develop this idea and movement, put more of it in the work and make it as awkward as possible. Press references Ellen Dissanayake when discussing aesthetic in her article Self Psychology and the Modern Dance Choreographer (2009) she looks at how mothers act with young babies saying they exaggerate movements and facial expressions. She goes on to talk about how through this the baby is able to respond and understand as it has not developmentally learnt to recognise small nuances of human behaviour but does understand this exaggerated form. Linking this to art and dance Press states

    “Art brings forth what is primal to our existence and our intersubjective relations from birth onwards”[Press M, p 221]

    Therefore, through more exaggerated movement aesthetic there is the potential to elicit more of a response from an audience or viewer.


    • Merleau-Ponty, M. (2002). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge Classics.
    • Press, C. M. (2009). Self psychology and the modern dance choreographer. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1159(1), 218-228. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04354.x




  • Solo Development – Rehearsal 2

    During this rehearsal I really wanted to focus on the dynamics and feeling the piece portrayed. After watching the piece back this was the one thing that really stood out. There wasn’t enough feeling of frustration, confinement of feeling out of control.

    I only looked at the first section of the solo. I thought more of the experience and the feeling whilst going through the solo rather than the movement I had already created. I found it interesting to see how the movement change, although kept to a similar structure, the change in dynamics and thought developed the movement. I can see there is still more to work on on this section but this a first step in that development process and I can see how to press forward with this line of thinking. What really struck me was how much more authentic the movement felt.

    This feeling links to Carol M Press’s thought on self-empathy.

    When I first came across the idea of empathy and how it related to my work I was very excited but also a bit wary. I wasn’t sure whether self empathy would become another way of disassociating, which is something I have struggled with in the past. However when I read this and started to explore the idea in my rehearsal, it felt right. I was doing the opposite of disassociating.

    “We establish a relationship with movement, and in doing so we establish a self-empathetic relationship with ourselves, for we (or our dancers) create the movement” [Press, C M, page 223]

    I found it almost a self-therapy to go back on this traumatic experience and explore it though movement. I found I was being more compassionate towards myself and the experience I had. I was relating to it in a completely different way to when I was in the moment, which as I said earlier was also when I was creating the work. I also discovered that because I have had more time and distance and have started talking about the actual experience in a narrative form outside this process, I am really able to explore how I felt and what was going on internally as well which helps the healing process.

    Press also talks about empathy in regards to an audience. This is something I really want to consider moving forwards with the development process. I don’t want to the piece to become so self-indulgent it is all about me and my experience. I want the audience to be able to relate to what I went through, what I experienced, what I felt. Whether that is because they have been through a similar feeling or experience or whether it will help them relate to someone else they know who has felt like this.

    Another thing I introduced was music. I went away and spent some time looking for a piece that would work choreographically with the structure I had but would also represent the emotive aspect. The piece I am working with is November by Trentemoller. This piece has helped with the dynamics of the work whilst still being able to use the breath as a major part.


    • Press, C. M. (2009). Self psychology and the modern dance choreographer. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1159(1), 218-228. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04354.x




  • Solo Development – Thoughts

    I have been thinking a lot about the direction I wanted to go with this solo. After seeking some advice I was looking at going down the route of Somatic Practices. I wasn’t wholly convinced it was quite the right direction but at least it was a direction that I didn’t have.

    I did some research in to somatic practices and found that a lot of it was relevant to dance in education and dance training rather than in a choreographic process. Although I didn’t think this would connect I pursued this and found some interesting thoughts.

    “Feldenkrais believed that movement was the ‘language’ of the brain” [Somatic Studies and Dance (2009)]

    This is an interesting concept that I will take in to my next rehearsal. My understanding is that the movement will come and through studying the movement we might be able to better understand the mind. Linking this to the experience and emotions I want to explore in the solo it may be a good idea to do a short improvisation just thinking about the experience and see what comes out. From this I will be able to study and develop the movement fitting it in or changing sections of the solo.

    Another idea bought up during my research was that somatic practices are about breaking the habitual movement, noticing what is repeated. I find this a lot in my own choreography so is something I would like to challenge.

    At this point, although these thoughts I had are relevant, and they will be used, it wasn’t what I was wanting from this solo. It has taken me a while to sit with this discomfort of not really knowing what it is but absolutely knowing what it isn’t. Upon further research and discussion it became apparent that what I want to look at is the theme of identity. This is something I will be able to do further research in to looking at practitioners such as Miranda Tufnall, Carol M. Press and Soili Hamalainen.

  • Development of my Solo work

    Rehearsal 1

    This rehearsal was really a re-cap of the original solo.

    The solo I want to look at is one I first created during my residency in Peru in 2016. I was initially looking at the question ‘What is beauty?’. During my training I was told many times that I dance too beautifully so I wanted to challenge this. It was a piece that was aesthetically driven.

    During the initial process the feelings then came up from past experiences that brought up the wider concept of what beauty is and who tells us what beauty is. It brought up feelings of when I was back in school and feeling ugly or different and being bullied for it. The feeling of oppression and not being allowed to be who you really are.

    Interestingly, during this time I was also going through a difficult experience. One of feeling trapped and becoming something someone else wanted me to be. It wasn’t until this rehearsal and a lot of personal reflection on this period that I realised the solo isn’t just reflecting and exploring the experiences of a teenager but directly being influenced by the experience I was living.

    During this first rehearsal I went over the material I had already created. I didn’t really want to change a lot at this point as I wanted to have the framework before I started the development. I also wanted to do some reading and research in to what this could be about that I knew would heavily influence this solo. What I did do though was take away the original music the solo was choreographed to. Although I liked the music a lot, it contained lyrics that didn’t really like to the piece. Instead I focused on using breath.

    I did adapt some sections a) because of memory and b) to make the movement flow.

    Whilst going over this movement there were many sections that I knew would change over the process. I was developing more of an idea about what I wanted to express and how it would come across.