Dancing through the Elements

Earth Seed WomanI went to a new drop-in movement session on Monday evening run by Caroline Carey founder of Alchemy in Movement. It’s called ‘Movement Medicine’ or ‘Medicine Dance’ and has grown out of the 5 Rhythms. We were taken on a dancing journey through the ‘elements’, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. There’s something special about the elements that never fails to ignite me, something profound, something simple, natural and, well, elemental!

Earth is heavy, I imagined it encasing me like soil, sticky, fertile, moist with moss, wood and roots. I have had a thing about roots recently, a need, perhaps, to refind mine. We sent imaginary roots down through our feet for stability and grounding. To dance earth I think of strong, low movements and trees with only their upper most branches swayed by the breeze. At first my legs were stiff as cinnamon sticks but soon it felt good and I liked the idea of drawing up sustenance from the depths. The music was deep with digeridoos and natural sounds; I bathed in it. My picture of Earth is of a seed harbouring an embryo self, like an insect imago, roots reaching out.

We moved to Fire. Looser music, looser dancing; I travelled the length of the room, to dance with the fairy lights and candles. I cared less about how I moved, fire shooting up within me shredding the overlay of Winter. Burning, smouldering flames, the gentle creep and heat of lava. That did me good.

Swim to the Stars

Water transformed me into waves, moving back and forth, bobbing with flotsum and jetsum. I was adrift, tumbling with breakers, moving constantly. Then I became a weed, tethered in a stream, helplessly flailing in the clear rush of torrent, washing debris away downstream.

And Air, the zephyr, feather light and soaring, a floating miniscule pulse. Air was for me, still, quiet, paused, a tired sigh. I was happy to lie and roll on the floor while Caroline took us through a closing meditation. The evening had been gentle, but alive with imagery, music, sounds, subtle and not so subtle dancing by everyone. It was good to be dancing freely again with other people.

I felt inspired to create so I’ve worked on a couple of pictures in mixed media – acrylics, collage, scrim and stitching – Earth Seed Woman and Swim to the Stars. However, other people’s artworks come to mind. For example for Water, Bill Viola’s films like The Messenger or Brighton based Mim King’s lovely dance film, ‘Dust’ an excerpt of which can be seen here.

I think of Ana Mendiata for Earth and for Fire. I’ll work on my own Fire and Air creations soon :)

Ana MendiataDust by Mim King

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The presence of something…

This year I’ve ventured into the Pyrenees to where the clouds trawl the ground. I worked my body, hiking, freed my mind and created space for myself out of all that mountainous space. I’ve craved simplicity. Driving back up through the Dordogne, we visited prehistoric caves — Gargas, ‘the cave of hands’ and Cap Blanc, a frieze of reindeer, horses and bison carved into a cliff of limestone. It’s a while since I’ve thought about caves and cave art, but making the visits rekindled my interest. Cap Blanc was so well set up I felt as though I was witnessing a performance from the past. At Gargas, I tried to take photos, but was caught; I pretended I hadn’t understood.

capblc20.jpg

The caves were moving, so long ago….

I’ve been interested in cave and rock painting for as long as I can remember, it’s one of the things that has influenced my painting. I like mysteries. I started sketching outlines, figures with no faces. My ‘buddess’ paintings evolved. They’re not ‘good’ art, but somehow they represent something very primal and important to me. I like to think of them as ‘embryos’, art in an unfinished form like the messages of cave paintings locked in stone forever.

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One reason I like cave art is that it’s part of nature. Ana Mendieta must have felt a compulsion to create in nature (see her ‘Silueta series’ and the photo below.) Her work inspires me, body prints and outlines of figures in mud, sand etc. Footprints, traces, clues, the essence of something or someone left behind, a fleeting glimpse that cannot be grasped fully. And so the mystery lingers.

(I have a similar feeling when tracking animals — paw prints, broken branches, hairs caught on barbed wire, rucked up fresh soil, a scuffling of feathers. What does it say? Someone, something was here.)

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