FRAME OF MIND: Representing the psyche through choreography

A Look Inside directed by Shara Weaver  Dancers: Surraya Aziz, Amelia Griffin, Bella Bowes Photo credit: Andrew Balfour

A Look Inside directed by Shara Weaver

Dancers: Surraya Aziz, Amelia Griffin, Bella Bowes Photo credit: Andrew Balfour

by Shara Weaver, Propeller Dance Co-director and Choreographer of FRAME OF MIND.

Working on FRAME OF MIND has been the most personal Propeller Dance creative process for me and one that traversed from “the inside out”.  Some of our early research questions were  “how do you celebrate madness in your everyday life”,  “what societal pressures impact your health, cross the floor while telling a story about this”, “how do you physically stim/soothe yourself”, “how does anxiety live in the body”. 

For example, when I feel anxious I notice a “flashing” in my right periphery.  My eye gaze is drawn there momentarily and then it is gone.  How can I let this momentary flash lead my dance across the floor?  We began both community and professional company processes using Authentic Movement exercises… moving with our eyes closed in response to a question… and witnessing each other.  Authentic Movement is an expressive improvisational movement practice that allows a group of participants a type of free association of the body.  It was started by Mary Starks Whitehouse in the 1950s. The purpose of our exploration was not to process emotions or therapize… rather to witness our lived experiences of mental health conveyed through the body—without changing/transforming anything. We took the movements that resonated for us and developed choreography from these.  

Process then shifted to focus on our environments living in the city, in the office, in the dance studio… and how aspects of these exacerbate health. I have never been so aware of our continued use of ableist language that deeply hurt folks with mental health diagnoses before.  I began counting the times I heard words like “crazy”, “neurotic”, “wild”, “manic” and “OCD” every day. Usually my average was 25 times daily.   My awareness of stigma increased.  Most people in the process at some point were concerned with being identified as someone with a mental health diagnosis.  How could we convey these discoveries via dance theatre?

I’ve changed dramatically as an artist through this process and have discovered new ways of working.  I am delighted to share these discoveries with each and every one of you!