dlr Primary Arts, 3rd Class Carysfort National School 7th Dance Session, 16th March – Abstraction as a Take-Away!

Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland
Assistant Artist:  Joan Somers Donnelly

Leaving our choreographies to the side for today, the first part of our session today was classroom-based. Robert asked some questions to start.

What is a collection?
What is a curator?
What does the word abstract mean?

We said that a collection is a group of things that someone has chosen, and that a curator is the person who chooses what goes into a collection. Ms Barry pointed out that a lot of people in this class are curators of pokemon card collections. We talked about what the word abstract can mean – taking something away, or showing part of something (in art) but not as we see it in the world. We can do that in dance as well, abstracting an idea, so that we’re not necessarily telling a story but showing images or movements that represent different ideas.

We had a sneak peek at some of the paintings that we will see in the exhibition in the Lexicon library gallery in Dun Laoghaire in May, and talked about what things from the natural world were represented in them, in what way those features were abstracted, and what the artist might have been trying to say through that representation. One was this painting, by Elizabeth Magill, “Roches and Rooks” which features a flock of birds. We talked about why birds fly in a group (for protection), and said that when geese fly in a V they take turns to lead the flock so that no one bird gets too tired.

We tried to come up with words that related to movement, specifically the flying movements of birds:


For the next part of the session we got on our feet, and after a short warm-up we divided into two groups and practised ‘flocking.’ To flock, everyone in the group had to be close to one another, without touching, and the person at the front led the group in the direction they were all facing. Once the group found itself turning, for example when it was approaching a wall, the person who happened to be at the front, now that everyone was facing a different direction, became the new leader. It took some getting used to, but being attentive enough to be able to change direction and leader as a group, communicating with the body rather than through discussion, made for a more fluid and efficient movement through the room, which was also beautiful to watch.

We finished the session by playing a game called Signatures. Standing in a circle, with music playing, one person did a short dance move. The person beside them then took something from that move, for example the shape or the body part used or the quality of the movement, and created their own move. Then the next person took something from that second move and created their own, third move, and so on all the way around the circle. We did this a few times, so that the group could practise allowing themselves to be influenced by the move that came before as well as adding something original or new. It was lovely to see a ripple of evolving movement go around the circle, a common thread influenced by different movement ‘signatures’ of individuals in the group.

Joan Somers Donnelly

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