There has, perhaps, been no other single external influence that has impacted on my work more than education. Before training as a dancer I had begun to train as a teacher, then stopped when dancing landed me in the place I really wanted to be. But wanting to share my passion for dance – the ideas, the means to shape those ideas, privileging the body before words – has meant that I have been teaching after all. I have to say that I have been less interested in teaching regular classes – those at the Arnolfini in Bristol between 1977 and 1979 were the first and last of this kind – and far more taken with our imaginative ideas for the creative engagement of the body. Through a single workshop, a series of sessions, a devised scheme, or a university module, we can go somewhere and arrive with a dance, a choreography, an event. Here teaching gathers together a passing on of skills, a pollination of ideas, a sharing of experiences, and a cultivating of critical faculty, and integrates them into much valued human experience.
More and more in recent years I have been working with the notion of our body being like a bridge that connects our inner world of imagination, reflection and ambition, with the outer world of our surroundings – the place where we find ourselves. As a dancer there are times when I want my body to be like an open medium through which changing forces and shifting dynamics can be channelled, reflected or absorbed. Here the body itself is inspirational and expressive.
But there are other times when I am aware and want to focus on working as something – as somebody – as object, material, stuff – where the imaginative body explores, comments and edits ideas, current affairs, and all manner of diverse information.
I have often accompanied my performance work with educational activities, workshops, etc. During the 1970s and 80s this was a pattern developed throughout the UK – schools, colleges, universities, community centres, hospitals, adult training centres, and prisons – and in Holland, Switzerland and Germany. In the 1990s I moved to live in Northumberland which is a combination of really wild upland landscape and in the south east of the county numerous post-coal mining towns and villages. I worked and traveled all over this very northerly part of England with a whole range of activities and events – dancing, teaching, organising – to a wide range of settings and situations. I learnt much.
During the last 10 years in addition to countless workshops, my focus has been attached to the cultural exchange programme with South Africa, Creative Partnerships, being Visiting Fellow in Performing Arts at Northumbria University 2008-2011, and the invitation to share my practice with dance students at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, USA.