An introduction to Wild Wander

Wild Wander started with two very simple questions: What do we like to do? and What do we need?

These questions probably arose whilst we were touring in 2019. Very often Sarah Lewis (fellow co-director of Glass House Dance) and I have many hours to chat whilst we are touring our show Time Machine Disco. Sat in the van for hours, or in-between shows in a tent refuelling, our imagination is allowed play, picturing what might be next for us. It is something I have missed with last years summer of Covid restrictions and cancelled festivals. Perhaps it is all the dancing, or meeting lots of people, or simply because it is full of joy and play but touring really does allow time for Sarah and I to get creative.

The answer to What do we like to do? and What do we need? was walking, connection to nature and connection to other humans. It was clear and simple. Both Sarah and I spend a lot of time outdoors both for work and pleasure. Walking is a way for us to clear our heads and allow creativity to flow. Sometimes we walk together but more often on our own or with family. We have built a reputation for making work in outdoor settings. Sometimes working with specific communities or making work for street festivals. With our participatory work we have used the natural world as a source of inspiration, but to date we have not made a performance piece about our landscape. But we want to, and this was another driving factor in the creation of Wild Wander….it’s time for us to look at our natural environment and our connection to it.

We conceived and planned Wild Wander through 2019 and applied to Arts Council England for support in early 2020. Then, well…. you know what happened. Everything went on hold. Originally the plan was to meet with a group of artists and walk, meeting up 3 times over a year. A group of artists from various disciplines who would nurture, spark and support each other.

It was clear to us that the aims of the project were still if not more relevant in a Covid-19 world and so we set to reshaping the project for these new times. We narrowed the time frame, reducing the project to 3 months, with the walks happening in October, November and December 2020. We felt people were needing the structure and close connection that a more focused period could give. Many of us have lost work during this time. Originally it was planned to be over a year to fit around busy work schedules and project commitments. That didn’t seem so relevant now. What was important, was that everyone felt supported and that the group could enable each other to be artists again.

On reflection I can’t think of a better time for Wild Wander to happen. As the end of the year was getting closer and the days were getting shorter we were giving space for some introspection. As the natural world began to quieten we went inwards through walking outside. Giving ourselves time to reflect on our own artistic practice and ask that question again What do I need? And perhaps What do I want?

Winter is a time for gathering around fires and telling stories. This was our equivalent. Grouping in a socially distanced way to see, hear and feel. Winter gives us time to prepare before going back out in to the world and the light. A time of healing and working on ourselves rather than doing stuff Out There. By listening to the rhythm of nature I hope that Wild Wander did this for the group (from feedback it seems it has). Usually we don’t have this time. We keep up the pace, keep regular time. Even through winter, hours of work rarely change. Wild Wander felt very precious at this unusual time, and although I don’t want this pandemic to continue and I am deeply saddened by the loss of life, it has made us reflect on where we are going. A pause. And I am grateful for that.

This third lockdown has felt more appropriate to the season, a deliberate slowing down. It felt such a contrast last Spring when we would normally be emerging and doing more. We are now getting our first glimpses of the light and spring returning. Hopefully soon there will be a gradual emerging and waking up from our lockdown slumber. And perhaps Wild Wander has played a part in preparing us for that.

Wild Wander is an artist development programme created by Glass House Dance and funded and supported by Arts Council England, Dance East and Norwich Arts Centre.

Written by Laura McGill, Co-Director of Glass House Dance

Space to move

In August 2013, we hosted a 3 day yoga and dance summer school In North Norfolk for adults over the age of 50. Our intention was to create an environment for creation, exploration and play. A space to take time and slow down in a beautiful location.

The aim was to facilitate an environment in which the dancers could achieve a state of flow and presence in which the aim is never to arrive at a future event, but to be ready and present in every changable moment.

Dance Scientist, Elsa Urmston writes about her research on Flow and the Dancer on her blog here;

We decided to host the summer school outside of Norwich for several reasons. We wanted to get out of the city! We both really enjoy being outdoors and in beautiful countryside; this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it. We are keen to take our work into communities rather than expect people to come and find us. We are also really keen to make more work for outdoor spaces so the more time can can spend working and creating in these environments the better. There was another unforeseen outcome of taking our place of work to the beautiful village hall at Swanton Novers and this was the feeling of a retreat. Taking ourselves and the participants out of the hustling city and to a more secluded environment physically and metaphorically created space for ourselves to play and explore more freely. The ‘free’ time was spent together in the communal areas and in the glorious weather we were blessed with and as such, a lot of the ice breaking was done in these times too, making a close and cohesive group of individuals.