Following a call out for bursary applications, Dance in Devon supported Dance Artist Kane John Mills to attend Plymouth Dance’s International Inclusive Dance Summer Intensive with Adam Benjamin in September 2019.
Here, Kane reflects on his experience at the intensive and how it will affect his work in Devon…
In truth, prior to Summer ‘break’ (I say ‘break’ loosely because I didn’t stop that much haha but I did slow down a bit, thankfully) I had been feeling quite burnt-out, I had been running on empty for quite some time and I had found myself powering through days/weeks because I needed to despite not always feeling well enough to.
I felt like a fairly empty beaker that needed to pretend to others that it was full and sometimes this really took its toll on my health.
I knew that I was probably one of many who felt that they badly needed some fuel and restorative space/time as soon as possible and so I was super grateful to receive the Dance in Devon bursary to allow me to partake in Adam Benjamin & Plymouth Dance’s 2019 ‘International Inclusive Dance Summer Intensive’.
I knew it would be an amazing 6 days and was likely to provide me with time and space. Having been fortunate enough to have attended workshops, classes and intensives of Adam’s before, I was intrigued as to whatever could possibly lie ahead. All I really knew to expect was that we would be improvising (a practice I love) and I was very excited by that. It’s too rare that you get the time, space and opportunity to get to play with others.
I entered the venue (Exeter University) on day 1 and realised that I was ‘searching for some grounding’ and I desired to just let go, enjoy myself and live in the moment… and thankfully I did exactly that.
Below are some words I’ve compiled that can hopefully give at least a glimpse of an insight into what was such an incredibly powerful and enriching experience (in and out of the studio) and what I am taking away from it. I’m aware some of it may not make much sense and some of it will make a lot more sense and I’m okay with that…
- Eyes open, eyes closed.
- Leading and following.
- A to B.
- A to B to C.
- Being a ninja.
- Being human.
- Exploring what happens if you don’t censor yourself.
- Learning when to recognise when it’s best to pause and when to end.
- Making choices.
- Investigating/researching how and when to enter and exit spaces.
- Reading the room.
- Making ‘30 seconds’ stretch with the elasticity of chewing gum.
- Gaining and losing ‘lives’.
- So many beautiful accents and languages and cultures were shared.
- Learning when your presence and your actions may shift the space and recognising when you may be able to add to something and when you may not aid or add to/compliment what is already occurring in the space and that doing something and doing nothing are both okay and equally valid.
- Shifting the weight of another person.
- Learning each others’ bodies, habits, curiosities and working with them.
- Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the space in a non-exploitative way, owning your joy and pleasure as well as your pain and being able to draw strength from that. (We silently and sometimes vocally shared in our personal pain, not because that was asked or demanded of us or teased out of us but because those things were brought to the surface by the intimate ways in which we were working and how we were enabled and empowered and made to feel comfortable enough to be able to share these things with each other. It truly was a safe space).
- Strengthening our listening & observational skills as well as our memory recall and ability to articulate what we have witnessed/experienced.
- Practicing sharing and vocalising things we enjoyed and admired about each other…
I spoke about witnessing someone’s first experience of seeing snow and I thrashed at the air with a bunch of flowers I squeezed so tightly and I let petals descend to the ground like they were droplets of rain and I embraced so many people so many times and held so many hands and enjoyed once again hearing Flatsound’s ‘The balance of being held’ and I sang and I played games and I was sometimes succinct (often a rarity for me as you probably tell from reading this reflection) when sharing my thoughts/observations and I vogued (or at least I tried to? Haha!) and I partied and I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about the whole week.
I laughed and I cried and believe it or not, I enjoyed both equally.
…I came away from those 6 beautiful days that we all shared together with so much love (new love for people I did not know prior to the intensive and continued/strengthened love for those that I did already have the pleasure of knowing and being able to call them my friends) for every other participant and Adam but also surprisingly a lot more personal love, respect and appreciation for myself too.
The experience has served as affirmation for my practice and has helped me to confirm that the ethos I employ when facilitating and choreographing/making work really does have inclusivity, accessibility, value and empathy at its core and I will always strive for that to be the case. I firmly believe you are always learning and feel it’s imperative for you as an artist (and human being: I think we can sometimes forget we’re one of those too?) that you aim to be autonomous and proactive in searching for more ways to educate yourself (and we can learn just as much from our own class participants as we can from other industry professionals) as this helps us to grow, develop and shift things for us and can help prevent you from feeling stagnant. I really do feel like this opportunity came at the right place and right time for me.
My soul feels nourished. I feel happier, I feel inspired. I think I have internally healed a hell of a lot and that I can consider my
‘beaker’-self much closer to being full again and for that I am extremely grateful.
I feel like I am entering the new academic year with more vibrancy, excitement and more personal awareness and understanding of my limits. I am going to continue to enjoy listening to others and from now on listen more (than I was before) to myself and recognise when enough is enough, when to pull back, when to rest, when to slow down, when to take the bull by the horns, when to say ‘no thank you’ and when to say ‘yes please’… I recognise now more than ever before that both power and joy can come from all of those things.
Kane John Mills.