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Disability Arts Online

Autumn 2008 / 26 September 2008

David Bower of Signdance Collective during a rehearsal of Travelling. Photo by Rob Walker

David Bower of Signdance Collective during a rehearsal of Travelling. Photo by Rob Walker

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After Turkey, having created three of the pieces for 'Three Films + one', we set off to join Carovana in Sardinia to work on our final piece. This work, rather appropriately came to be called 'Travelling'. We had comissioned Carovana, a long time collaborator to create the work. They are based in Sardinia's capital, Cagliari. photo of performer

The first problem we encountered was how to make the work in just a period of four weeks. As both Carovana and ourselves usually take two years to create work. Both having come from the ensemble tradition as opposed to the repertory process. So the result of that was to literally become a part of Carovana's ongoing schedule, and by grafting ourselves onto their 'journey' we were able to achieve a kind of condensed reality of a long term schedule. We had already been working with Carovana for several seasons over the past seven years or so, so this obviously worked in our favour.

Carovana's work holds a particular fascination for us, as in essence they seek to reconcile two seemingly disparate disciplines, one, comtemporary dance theatre and two, behavioural anthropology. Hypothetically speaking by studying the one, its possible to gain insight into the other. The both disciplines inform, question and inspire each other on into new avenues of discovery.

The fundamental challenge for us, was how we could apply our experience of being in that environment, namely Sardinia, and use that as a solid basis for inspiration. We decided not to lock ourselves in a studio and divorce ourselves from 'out there', we needed to immerse ourselves into the community, and thus in turn respond to that artistically. photo of performers

The east coast of Sardinia, is perhaps the most successful economic region in Sardinia having being heavily promoted and well visited by the tourist industry. As a result other parts of Sardinia are left unheard of. A new initiative, focusing on the gastronomic culture of Sardinia is underway and as a result traditional festivals held throughout the region are acting as vehicles to promote Sardinia as a whole. A lot of these festivals have been held since pre-historic times and thus have an incredibly rich historical significance.

One such village, Baradilli,to the north of Cagliari, wished to celebrate the opening of a new agri-tourist restaurant that will hopefully attract and in turn generate much needed revenue for the village and surrounds. Baradilli sits in the centre of one of the highest densities of neolithic ruins in Sardinia and much of the local traditions retain a direct link with this epoch. They had timed the opening to coincide with their annual festival. We had to create something to perform at the opening. The work that we made would essentially evolve into 'Travelling'. Carovana would also go onto create their own piece that would become 'Travelling's sister piece. So therefore by researching the history of the region and creating an authentic actual journey, we would in-turn create a set of actual experiences with which we could mine for concepts to devise 'Travelling'. We fused this journey with other journeys we have made as troubador artists. 'Travelling' really is at once autobiographical and a commentary on human migration, the latter being a hugely topical subject in our time.

Bruce Chatwin, an author, now sadly deceased, proposed in his picaresque journal The Songlines, that humans by default are ultimately travellers, that essentially our nature is to travel. He also suggested interestingly that by communing in one place for too long as a mass of humanity is ultimately anathemic to our nature. How in this day and age is it possible to travel as we once could, without prejudice, without boundaries.

The end result of Travelling, despite the levity of the subject matter, is a madcap, anarchic dance theatre piece that tackles quite deep and difficult themes with irreverent humour. We have also been fortunate to have been joined by Liran Donin who has composed and set up a live sound score, that reflects and builds on the irony of the work.

All this is Three films plus one, wow four dance theatre pieces in one year. A massive body of work to choose from, to refine, develop. Some times we can do one or two, or if we wish all four. 'Travelling' for example can change and evolve, we can add stories relevent to wherever we perform. It was an incredibly challenging process that has been massively rewarding. None of it would have happened without the support of all of those involved. Next I'am going to write about the events that folllowed on from Sardinia.

Please see Colin Hambrooks review of Three films plus One

Till then best wishes David x