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The Body Recall: A Mini Documentary

The Covid pandemic was tough. Somewhere I heard that it was all going to collapse one day and when it does we will have to go back to the basics. I then I thought: yes! There would be a violent solar flare, a meteor strike or a tsunami; something caused by an outside force. But it was to be a ‘tsunami’ from within! A tsunami of our own creation or a byproduct of our living - the Covid pandemic!

The pandemic was especially tough for artists who already live on the edge. A dance artist’s primary medium is their own body. For this reason, they have the extra dimension of keeping fit physically, so getting stuck in a small space was tough. The square world of walls, tv screens, computer screens and the Zoom calls all contributed to a compression in the mind. Going outside to shop was like engaging in some kind of quagmire. There were no words to express what we were going through! The many ways of covering, hiding and compressing the space around us. The feeling of constant suspicion was new.

As a performer, breathing was important till then! Breath to express, breath to move, engage your breath while moving, breath to connect with your feelings and to each other and so on! But now breathing was a crime in the public space. I could breathe freely in isolation but what about the mind which is in the shape of a cube by now and is being compressed further, metaphorically speaking?

I always felt the body is the doorway to the ‘mind’; whatever the mind may be! So dancing in solitude was a way to engage my mind during lockdown! Maybe the mind is a bigger charged area around our nervous system - bigger than our physical body - a bit like the charged area around a wire that carries electricity!

Dancing can charge the mind further. I thought, while dancing. Me and my mind love social interactions. So this self imposed solitary confinement was very tough and made me think of all those in prison.

I was searching for hope and pleasure. I thought of creating dance as a response to the compression I felt during the lockdown. After 20 years of working in the field of dance, I felt that it was all collapsing right in front of me and there was nothing to show for my work and contribution to the dance field!

Personally, the only hope was to connect back to my own body, to find my own body which is my only home! So I thought I would make ‘The Body Recall’ if I ever made it out of the lockdown ‘prison’!

I was lucky to receive ACE funding to research the first phase of The Body Recall. My friend Lise Smith helped me to produce it. I was lucky to collaborate with Renu Hossain, a fabulous musician who plays Tabla.

I was also lucky to collaborate with dance artists Tia Hockey, Deepraj Singh, Harrison Claxton and Subhash Viman Gorania. I wondered what their experiences were during the lockdown.

What they said:

"Fragility and uncertainty" - Tia Hockey

"An opportunity" - Subhash Viman

"Over analyzing" - Deeparaj Singh

"Ingenuity" - Harrison Claxton

And I felt that the individual and society were collapsing into itself.

We had a great three weeks in the studio, researching to physicalise these ideas and we showed what we came up with at the Rich Mix London on 12 March 2022 to a great reception.

We gave out some forms so people could express what they felt. I've included some reactions below. We were very happy with these responses.

I feel that we must talk about the pandemic and lockdown as much as we can and keep the memory of it alive so that we will never take what we have for granted. To remember that the stability we have is fragile; to remember that the idea of society and life can be ephemeral!

Therefore I have been thinking about the next phase of ‘The Body Recall’ and potentially touring this work. I feel like we should always reflect on this collapse which was a jolt in our continuum. Sadly we are carrying on as if nothing happened although the pandemic trauma was an intergenerational one!

I will focus on the idea of the ‘Fragility of our Stability’ in the next phase, reflecting deeply on the lockdown and what happened to our body and mind.

The choreographic ideas developed in the first phase of research will make the base for the next development. I will interview members of the public who would be willing to talk about and share their experiences of lockdown. I will seek permission to use their voices in the piece, to create a soundscape. I will start in my local area of Waltham Forest. I will build the full piece with the help of these interviews.

I imagine a soundscape that is built with these actual interviews and build the choreography to these interviews and stories. In that way, I can further locate feelings and emotions accurately in the final piece. Almost a verbatim performance style work is what I am imagining at this point.


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