Talking to people in Archway today about 'being seen' has been surprising. Nearly everyone spoke about how they enjoy being less seen in London than in other places they have lived. One woman talked about the freedom she feels now that she is older and feels less visible. Where I live I stick out like a sore thumb so I too enjoy slipping into the crowd as I get off the train at Euston. But then on the train home I read that section in the metro where people talk about "catching the eye of the tall man eating the blue shirt and carrying a Mantell novel." Anonymity has its attractions but exchanging glances with others can be startling, conspiratorial and delightful.
We thought about why we want someone to watch us dance. We quite like the attention. We want to share our understanding of the world, such as it is. We thought about what we are best at and then we tried to do these things and found out that we don't know our dancing as well as we thought we did.
We thought about how we can use our bodies to help Archway to become more visible. Using stillness to highlight the busyness of the site. We worked on finding functional ways of moving. We thought about giving someone permission to see us dance. It worked better when there was a clear separation between different ways of engaging with the site and viewer.
We have been trying to find a performance score that can hold all eventualities. This has been rather tricky. We need the piece to be precise in terms of the experience of the viewer and yet still allow for the very different things that people from the area want to do, and say, and the different moods of the dancers.
Some people have gone a bit shy on us nearing the time but others have stepped forward and asked if they could join in. It is all very changeable and all very delightful.
Most days so far, I have had a moment where it feels like we are just dancing around on the pavement for no good reason and a moment where someone turns round, and stops still, to watch an unrepeatable moment created by the dancer and Archway.
The final score (approx 20 minutes long)
Viewer is guided to their seat by the host
Host talks them through everything that will happen
Host wait a few minutes then calls local to let them know to 'enter'
Local walks into view, unfolds garden chair and brings in; projector/book/elaborate ostrich feather hat/highchair/easel/tie-dye equipment or baby
Local acknowledges viewer and starts to; show films/write/read/tidy hat/feed baby/sketch/tie-dye/eat cream cheese sandwiches
Dancer comes into view on opposite side of road, acknowledges viewer and holds up sign saying 'this is for you'
Dancer marks the space over the road using two/three still images
Dancer crosses road acknowledges viewer, marks space on this side of the road
Dancer begins dance
Dance crosses small side road and ends the dance in a held weight bearing position
Dancer crosses pedestrian crossing
Local calls viewer, viewer answers
Local talks about who they are, what their relationship to Archway is and what they are doing
Local asks the viewer how they would like the piece to end and the viewer chooses
Host starts playing 'Bailero' from Joseph Canteloube's 'Chanson D'auvergne'
Local tells dancers what ending the viewer wants
Dancer dances the ending down the street towards Archway tube until the viewer can no longer see them
Viewer invited to have some time to reflect on the performance in Bread and Bean cafe with a cup of tea9/7/2013
A response to the work:
"This was for me - rich and strange. So touching that artists will conceive of such unusual and imaginative experiences. The time flew and when my dancer faded away I and a profound sense of loss and I wept because I was moved. Such courage. Such grace. Thank you."
This was a rich and strange experience for all the artists involved. Strange because the work was almost always just about to take off (rather than descend) into chaos but somehow we always just managed to keep hold of it. Reaching the 60th performance felt a bit like the triumph one feels when running to get a fly-away carrier bag and determinedly managing to get your foot on it. Rich because so many people from Archway ended up being in it, either as part of the performance or as part of our everyday experience of doing it. The shop and restaurant workers along the road began to know the patterns of the work and would let it interrupt their day, stopping to watch another dancer dancing past them and then clocking the next dancer who they knew was warming up round the corner.
To our 'locals' - thank you so much for giving your time and stories so generously.
Lead Artist: Anna Macdonald
Dancers: Anna Macdonald, Rachel Rimmer, Genevieve Say, Orla Shine
Host: Charlotte Burnett
Artists Assistants: Charlotte Burnett, Kat Buchanan, Sam Van Strein
Film Artist: Danny Williams
'Amazing flower' chairs hired from 'Little Paris' Islington
Space and tea provided by Bread and Bean cafŽ.
Locals: Annika (from Dowes Gym), George Hathaway, Suzzi Loppas (from Resurrection Boutique), Harrison Moore, Michelle Purcell, Roya Rahmanzadeh, Ellie Reese, Tim Taylor, Richard Thomas (Thomas Brothers), Peter (from Second Chance Charity Shop), and Mili (from Stasi hairdressers).