Dance, Intimacy and the Civic

TiLTING VERTICALITIES by Margarita Zafrilla Olayo, performers Laura Doehler & Claudia Tonietto at Park Fête (2021) photo Nikki Tomlinson

Dance, Intimacy and the Civic is a new programme of research by Independent Dance with a number of related activites and partnerships.

This programme explores dance in relationship to the civic realm, the potential for dance to influence social change, and the ways that relational body practices can play roles in social care settings. It also seeks to understand how we can translate and bridge between diverse civic contexts and communities of dance and movement practice.

We are conscious that this is by no means a new field within dance. Expertise in this area has been built over several decades. But with this strand of work, we are aiming to research ways in which ID itself might be placed to support artists to work in civic contexts in nuanced ways, and how we might better advocate for the value of embodied practices beyond the dance field.

The programme stems from a desire to extend the reach of the work ID supports and an awareness that many artists who are involved with ID often work directly in the civic realm. It also stems from a reorientation during the pandemic when we started to hold classes and performances outdoors; feedback from participants and audiences encountered through this work in public space has informed our approach to this avenue of research.

For us, ‘intimacy’ implies a porosity of the edges between self and other, bodily and emotional entanglements, lines that become knotted. It provokes notions of care and kinship but also risks the potential for transgression. The ‘civic’ meanwhile implies social organising, boundaries, mechanisms and rules, but also shared spaces holding diverse cultures and functions. With consciousness around both heightened by the pandemic, we are curious to see how these notions, seemingly at odds with one another, might meet.

The incalculable losses of the pandemic period coexist with an urgent need to pay attention to our civic structures and social responsibilities, and to social justice; a widespread desire to make change and not to return to ‘normal’, or how it was before. Considering the place of dance in public life, we ask how dance and creativity can enable social cohesion and repair.

So far, Dance, Intimacy and the Civic has included public talks produced in partnership with Sadler’s Wells and the University of Roehampton, a Park Fête of performances during our International Festival of Learning (2021 & 2022), a Roundtable (2022) with ten invited practitioners from a range of fields and a lab led by Alexandra Baybutt at University College London.