Jess – Week 8 – France to farm

We arrived back at Longlands late last night, and already Rachel and Trevor-with-the-tractor are putting the rig back up as I write, ready for us to return to the ropes on Saturday with the Malvern Special Families group and then the public performance and workshop day on Sunday.

Today is a moment to reflect on what has been an incredible month away in Brittany – surreal and profound by turns. It was a little strange for me ‘disappearing’ in the midst of the Le Fosso residency to walk across Herefordshire for the walking festival (a performance as part of my PhD, booked before I knew about this amazing opportunity) but I was very grateful for Rachel’s inventive and adaptive choreography (a speciality of an integrated company!) that allowed me to still be involved – the other dancers creating a trio to be performed in my absence.

But going and coming back did allow me to see, with a bit of distance and perspective, how important the work of the company had become to community in Gomene and how quickly the company’s work can facilitate a sense of connection and inclusion, confidence and possibility.

The ‘lakeside’ performances at the drained hydro-lake at Caurel were the most surreal part; outside of an arts context, it seemed that our ‘audiences’ didn’t know how to receive the work as an audience (by giving the work their full attention!) though also it was really very hot out on the sand (away from the shelter of the lakeside trees) to get close enough to watch and become more involved in the ‘story’. And from too great a distance, it does perhaps become an abstract spectacle of blue-clad dancers flying around! But it was also an amazing luxury to stand on top of the rig and perform in this expansive, desertified landscape – that won’t be exposed again for another 100 years – under soaring blue skies.

For me, my own ‘lightbulb’ moment happened on Thursday last week, when we had a day of slow and gentle – but also very intense – one-to-one work with two visiting PMLD adults. We worked with different kinds of sensory stimulation – touch, sound, visual – with the participants in the cocoons, or working on ropes around and over the participants on the mats and in their chairs, finding ways to connect and animate space and place, allowing space for expression and new movement and states of attention.

At the end of the day, a different (residential) workshop group arrived back from a busy day sailing on a nearby lake. The participants enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks and cocoons and after a day of finding different ways to communicate and reciprocate with our visitors, it felt like a gift when the participant in the hammock, extended her hand for what became an intricate ‘hand-dance’…

It was only coming back on the ferry that I remembered that Thursday had been the first official day of Glastonbury (festival, back in the UK) – and thinking back to some of the magical experiences I’ve had there in the past, I felt that the moments of connection I’d experienced that day at Le Fosso had been much more profound and much less hedonistic than anything that might have happened at the festival, had I been able to go and I felt grateful for the experience of being in that place (Le Fosso) at that time.

It’s hard to encapsulate the multi-layered work of this company and why it’s important – to participants, or equally to us (employees/dancers) as individuals – but in this sliding together of memories in the sunset the ferry was sailing into, something fell into place for me….

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