Monday, 11 January 2016

Interpreting the Hancock Museum collection through dance

Yesterday I spent the day participating in Icon Dance’s workshop at the Great North Museum, Hancock.

It was billed as "a fun and creative exploration of the Great North Museum’s Ancient Greek Collection", and certainly delivered this.

Jilly, Karen, Helen and Niki

There were three other ladies taking part, all of whom were lovely and had very interesting backgrounds. Niki has recently completed a PhD at Newcastle University and was researching the Social history of festivals in rural communities. She is just about to start a position as a Research Associate at the University. Prior to this career path, Niki was a visual artist. Jilly is a friend of Niki's and they are bee keeping partners. Jilly is a dance enthusiast. Karen completed her Archeology Masters course in 2015, and her aim is to work in museums. We made a really good team.

After briefly meeting choreographer Martin Joyce, dancers Alex and Emma, and the Creative Learning Producer, Laura, we spent the morning doing various exercises with Laura.

She took us to the Ancient Greek Collection and we viewed the specific vessel that would be the main focus of our dance.

One of the first group activities was for one of us to stand in the middle of a circle and make a pose. Then one of the other participants had to make three changes to the pose that they thought would make. We repeated this so everyone got a turn at making the changes and being in the middle.

Another exercise was to work in pairs, and mirror each others actions. We were not allowed to speak to the each other to say who was leading, and so had to watch closely. At times it was very difficult to work out who was leading and who was following.

Thinking about the vessel in the collection, we had to think of words to describe how it looked, felt, tasted and smelled. We then devised short dance routines that in relation to these words.

Evidence of me dancing!
After lunch we met Andrew Parkin, the Keeper of Archaeology, who gave us a short introduction to the Greek Gallery/Collection, and spoke in detail about the history and purpose of the vessel we had been examining. It was a vessel for mixing wine and water and was used in symposiums that were meetings for men only, and involved lots of drinking and treating each other brutally; often fighting and causing harm to each other. Following the stories of it's history, my opinion of the object and what it referenced was changed drastically.

We then went back to the dance room to discuss words that summed up the vessel, and then, in pairs, developed a sequence consisting of 3 static poses and transitions between them. Throughout the sequence we had to maintain some form of physical connection to each other.

The dancers and choreographer then joined us, and they watched what we had developed and we watched what they had developed. They had devised a dance routine working its through the room, and had included references to the entire Ancient Greek collection. They had left a short part of the dance for us to choreograph, so we pooled our ideas together from the whole day, and provided instructions for them.


The day ended with the dancers doing the full dance to the members of the public.


The whole day was a totally unique experience and it made me appreciate the collection in a way I would otherwise have not been able to.

Thank you ladies!

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