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The Kingston Shebang (August 2014)

If you will allow me – I am going to do a free association – I have pages of data – notation, interviews, reflections – that I will wade through -and it is good to just share my experience – see the ripples?  

Kingston was a “wow!” It held a warm confident welcome feel. From the meeting of a friend from 31 years ago (how is that for a ripple?), to the time traveling experience of working with the weavers.  Participant Ebon Gage and I were at Ryerson together and never saw one another after graduation – life, work, paths taken- here they are crossing again. It was wonderful to dance and laugh and share with him again. For me, time fell away and I just said “hello old friend.”


This was a very familiar process for me with a different intent (that being therapy, or imparting a particular kind of information – Laban/Bartenieff material). For me, I see the point is to get in touch with inner and underlying creative possibilities that may rise up from our sensing, feeling, intuiting, places (to use a Jungian typology), to understand our perceptual filters, to gain new perspectives, all to be in clearer relationship with oneself, to bridge to our environment, and be in relationship with other (to use a Laban typology).


The Meta process, that of creating relationships amongst artists to be creatively collaborative and respectful and creating relationships with community – people and their work and play life. And that the Shebang process can continue in the community once Dreamwalker has departed. The artists were open to share their spirit and point of view from an intellectual, emotional, and bodyfully conscious place.


“The Wall” performance, presentation, invitation on Saturday held so much joy and I wonder where that will ripple into the participating public this week? We tagged people and invited them to dance – I have a feeling one young skateboarder really had his worldview piqued. He did not join in the moving- but participated by watching a long time ( he then he saw us again the next day moving in the streets – again shifts in connectivity- seeing how movement evokes emotions and connects us. )


The Shebang uses spatial configurations to explore expressive possibilities. A wall as a configuration is 2 dimensional, it has limitations – up down and side to side. People were invited to be on the other side of the path to ‘direct people on the wall’ reminiscent of Laban’s movement choirs, or a kind of Follow the leader game, or they may choose to copy people on the wall.  At times a kind of “Keystone cops” hilarity occurred, as people played with movement that is available along a wall. Standing side by side, arms or legs moving sideways in abduction or adduction, rising and sinking, cartwheeling – flattening out, or moving in a file. The planal quality of a wall lead to many other interpretations. Firing squads and people being chained up.


Ebon Gage, reflecting on walls he was thinking of mentioned Egypt, and Afghanistan. For here he was outside dancing along a wall in a peaceful country, he noted how grateful he was “you get to do and be what you want to be [here in Canada].”  He was clearly moved by his freedom.  Walking off one side of the wall, he returned to the other side to join a former student who was now working as a professional dancer. The two shared a pas de deux gently rocking side to side, expressing a deep pain of all who had been forced onto a wall. I wondered at this ripple of the shift of teacher and student. The Shebang providing the opportunity for the teacher to see a student’s development away from ‘technique’ to become a sensitive expressive artist!


The next morning Andrea did a workshop with a group of weavers. For me, this was particularly transcendent of time. The women arrived with their spinning wheels and spindles and sat down and began to spin and talk. Their articulate hands so intricately involved with the process of making yarn. The rise and fall of their arms, the drop of the spindle, the gentle peddling of their feet and the soft whir of the wheels contributed to the timeless quality and the ongoing connectivity of it all. We could have been in the 16th century – the 12 century or the eighth century.


Andrea was so gentle in gathering up the threads of the mind of the group and creating a movement experience that was available and not foreign to them. Using principles of her gyrotonic practice, she seamlessly helped people to move into a more physical place. A place that was familiar, not ‘dancey’  – they had been spinning and embodied in their practice. Andrea was able to shift the awareness from functional hand and arm actions to include actions of the pelvis, feet, legs, and spine.


Using imagery from their skill set “Your spine as a spindle – dropping” – she brought a new perspective to their practice as weavers. Adding sound via inviting a small hum like the humming of the wheel, encouraging us to get a little louder – the song of our bodies rang into the centre of the seated circle. All felt safe, and any moving was possible and shared and beautiful.


We progressed from this place to standing and shifting with the awareness of the spinning and circling inside, our songs within an internal music – moving familiar functional gestures into larger expressive ones, walking spiraling pathways through the space shifting levels and connecting with one another. Lives lost and voices found. Equilibrium disturbed, unknown emotions underneath released and the emerging worldview rebalanced in this magical step in and through time. This was dancing in a way they never knew possible. An incredible piece of choreography emerged from the group and was complete. I felt profoundly privileged to witness and participate.


Then the singers and other dancers arrived. Alison connected the weaving with the music of her hurdy gurdy – her viella a roué (wheel fiddle) She shared her personal history with the history of her instrument and then spinnning and sharing a French madrigal of a weaver. The song was sung in harmony – the weavers invited to join in. The experience held a mystical quality- voices rising and falling, wheels whirring and spinning, droning of medieval musical instrument. Spiraling to the heavens the exultation of voices rising blending and weaving together. Spiraling to the earth a stillpoint in time at the end of the song. The moment was numinous.


There was a shift – as the weavers departed and the second song was practiced – a country and western feel – again in harmony – The movement experiential echoing the weavers in the morning. Andrea as ‘the instigator’ processing and holding the morning in her body – Jessa and me too – having it in our cells we shared with the others by being there with the morning moving into the space spiraling with the new song.


We took the feeling to the street – the task was to let the architecture of the community speak to us -we were continuing the conversation without words – without our thinking self if you will – but continuing to awaken and access our sensing, intuiting and feeling self. We let the community, the street wash over us, and in us, and emerge from us. For me this was a ripple, historically a very Judson Church, “happening”.


We spent about an hour in the street – Jessa photographing made it not such an ‘odd’ event for the pedestrians – we were pedestrians too – but responding more expressively – which made people stop and look and think – “weirdos?”


“What’s that?”




“Oh it is some photographic event, oh they are doing something” Our movement had a purpose – or were we street people? The texture of the buildings, the sound of the buildings, the peeling paint, the mannequins in the windows, the marble, the wood, the plants, the glass, the signs, the sounds they made -the responses of the people- all awakening possibilities – we practiced presence and beingness in the street – it was shared and deepening.


The rest of the afternoon was spent responding and discussing the event and the difference between the ‘wall’ performance. A discussion of January – community politics also ensued – shared fears – and fears alleviated or assurances provide.


Kingston was, INTENSE, Exhausting and exhilarating. Full of courageous and generous artists who are willing to be vulnerable with each other. This willingness translated into the community and the ripple of that is yet to be known.

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