Like many artists and performance venues, the view from the beginning of the year was very different for ICEBERG collective (comprised of Zoe Katsilerou, Eilon Morris, Penny Chivas and Nicolette Macleod). Their fourth Weekend of Improvisation in Glasgow (WIG IV) – weekends which combine peer to peer exchange opportunities with workshops and performance events – was due to take place at the CCA in July. Instead of rescheduling, ICEBERG decided to move the workshops online as well as split into groups with other improvisers to create new screen-based collaborations. I speak to each group about their practices, their collaborations, and what ideas or reflections have emerged.
living in rooms: Penny Chivas with Sky Su and Skye Reynolds
3 different spaces, bodies. lives. Penny, Sky and Skye stare out but not directly at each other. Delineated yet bound together as they try figure something out collectively. They gravitate to the centre; elbows rest on top of chairs on top of ceilings. Time speeds up. Skye leaves the room. Sky is in bed. Penny waits. A negotiation.
Penny: We’ve met pretty much every Friday afternoon at 5.30pm. Initially, when you put Zoom on and see the square that you’re in, you think, ‘I’ll stay within my square.’ We’ve had to come back to our physical intelligence: it’s important that I respond to the other dancers based on my kinaesthetic response, rather than centring myself within the screen.
In a dance studio, with its bare walls and light-coloured floor, the body is framed really well. I remember Janis Claxton always moving all jumpers from the sides of the room so she could see the work better. Now, with our couches and ladders, our body becomes part of the environment: it’s a reminder that our physical body is not always the most important thing at stake.
We’re really asking this community that we’ve been trying to build to come behind us, but I’m also aware that not everyone will feel comfortable opening up their personal spaces for people to enter virtually. As a wider artform, improvisation hasn’t truly grappled with what it means to be “accessible” and “inclusive” in our online practices or recognised that not everyone is able to participate in its current form.
Sky: Lockdown has helped reveal my practice. I have searched less outwardly for things to learn and gain; I have put things aside and looked at what is here. It’s what you avoid doing the most: spending time on your own and seeing what is inside of you.
I think a lot of being out ‘there’ and taking class centres on this idea of the dancer we’re trying to become. It can be a consuming relationship. What I’m describing is also related to a lot of things happening right now, which is about addressing a great imbalance. There is too much focus on individualism, professionalism, whiteness, patriarchy. But this has been a place of possibilities.
Skye: I came into lockdown in a burnout: I’d had a really busy year and I don’t think I had any days off. My improvisation practice got pushed way out, I wasn’t feeling it anymore when I was improvising. Lockdown has allowed me to reconnect with my practice, which I’m excited about.
There’s no going back. I think the world has changed and the values we hold as artists have come more to the fore. Whether it’s valuing how we sustain ourselves moving forwards, or you support Black Lives Matter, or you’re a feminist, or realising how poverty is affecting people. What we have been doing is negotiating changes through our practice.