I have been present at the festival What Matters for 3 days. I was given the delicious title of thinker in residence. Which truthfully meant that I needed to become porous to the many activities that filled the whole building and suspend landing my thoughts too early.
It was immediately easy to see and feel that Lucy Cash and Becky Edmunds had curated a thought provoking collection of events and films which mattered to them and which scratched at all of those who came to experience them.
One of the scratches on offer was that a common rootage in all the works could be found in dance, choreography, and movement. The collected works, in the context in which they were seen, made the larger concerns and appetites of dance more present. Dance can and has expanded into other terrains without losing its original DNA.
The quote that headed What Matters, from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, helped me to keep the scratch present. It asked us to keep noticing the patterns that connect what at first may seem distant, e.g. the lobster, the orchid. This initially unexpected pairing brought Lewis Carroll and “cabbages and kings” to my mind that then led me to Carroll’s quote “It’s no good going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” A wonderful way of thinking about the alterations that learning and experience can bring. I certainly encountered things that I had not seen or felt before and the learning that went with these encounters helped me to reflect on the notions to do, to un-do, and to do differently. While being with the works I would internally shout for joy as I found connections, or the potential to parry between the powerful, the beautiful, the absurd, the moving and the disturbing worlds that were present. But I also needed to dwell on the unique intentions that each author brought to their work, separately conceived from the rest, their lobsterishness, their orchidness.
The people that came over the weekend included, students, curators, other artists and those who are already contributing to a groundswell of thoughts and doings that shift dance into different, more challenging perspectives. Ones that allow dance to be tempered by others and that promote the values of dance as an investigative art, able to expand its terms of reference.
I hope that festivals such as this one become more frequent, that this groundswell of stuff will reach more people who can scratch back at it.
What Matters 2012 will become a marker to remember and be an influence in the future. Independent Dance invited Lucy and Becky who in turn made such an enormous commitment to this festival, when they could have been at work in their own fields. I appreciate and learnt a lot from their focussed work.
I also want to mention how much I enjoyed the very wonderful, far more voluble than I, co resident thinker Marlon Barrios Solano as well as the concentration of all the artists, the generosity of their performances and everyone else who made this such a forward looking experience.
I think that Gill would have loved What Matters, I can sense her cheeky grin and shiny eyes.