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Människor i blickfånget: Charlotte Darbyshire

Once you are in, the creativity begins!

Charlotte Darbyshire, an independent dance artist from the UK and one of the initial members of Candoco Dance Company, was artistic director of Share Music’s summer course in 2014. Her work is about identifying people´s differences and strengths and embracing them.

IMG_0875For Charlotte the concept of Share Music is fundamental, she says, as well as the whole philosophy of everyone working together and using what they have.

How did you experience Share Music’s summer course?
– One thing I love about doing this intensive residence course is that you´re meeting and collaborating with the artists you never met before. It’s a crash course in collaboration. You don’t have time practising or you don’t have time hang to your own ideas, you have to put them forward. It becomes about a work, not about you.

On the first day it was very clear that someone was much more familiar with the working environment than others. But in the end of the week it became really hard to determine. The fact that we were working and living altogether in the same environment means that we could quickly find a way to know where we were and to trust one another.

One of the great qualities of Share Music is that there is an evening concert where anyone can perform anything. A lot of boundaries got broken and we had a lot of fun. We got to know each other. I was always surprised in the evening concerts – what people initiated themselves was better than something that I could facilitate.

IMG_0782What was the theme you worked with during the course and the stage performance?

-I wanted to look more closely at the body and what the body is made of. The different qualities of skin, muscle, bone. Then we went even deeper: we chose the heart and worked with personal stories associated with the heart. We worked with the different pulses, rhythms of the heart.

We worked with the lungs, with expansion and a volume of the breath. We worked with rhythms around the breath. I feel better and happier when I am more aware of my body. I think to give the opportunity to find sensation in the body is really positive. Therefore my first motivation was to invite the participants to experience these different qualities and feelings. I did not know what would come out. But actually a lot has come out. So we had a duet exploring muscles. Another two participants were exploring touch through skin. One more participant got his bones organised and stacked up and then fell down again. Then we had some more personal meetings around the heart and the breath.

Equally, the same with the music. We had a number of ensemble pieces, which were: paper, related to the skin, bones sections, represented by wood instruments. Then we had a whole group section where we made the sounds from the body – they were tribal, physical and percussive.

We had a really rich collage of work with some very funny bits, some quite moving and personal connections, some very personal song writing from lyrics that came out of interviews and people´s responses to different parts of the body. The performance had a whole palette of different colours!


What are your previous experiences of collaborating with Share Music? And how did you get involved?
– This is my third time working with ShareMusic & Performing Arts. I did some shorter workshops for 2-3 days before and in 2003 I did a residency course like this one. I also worked in England and Belfast on Share Music projects.

My grandfather opened one of the first schools for the disabled people in the UK in the 1960’s. I was born and lived there until I was five. My uncle had Down’s syndrome. When I started training professionally as a dancer, I really missed that kind of difference in people´s bodies, the humanity of working with different experiences and different physicalities.

Then I met CandoCo Dance Company – UK´s first integrated dance company that was just starting. I actually left my training and joined them in 1991, we worked together for 10 years. We were very lucky, we travelled a lot, performing, teaching and conducting integrated workshops. Then I decided to try an independent dance and for 5 years I was dancing with different companies. This is when I met ShareMusic & Performing Arts. I also have been teaching in the University for 10 years.

The last 3 years I have been looking after my son. Thus I am very excited to come back to work. I didn’t realise how much I´ve missed working in this environment and also the challenge of creating a new piece in one week. Working with other artists, the intensity meeting people you don’t know and very quickly putting your creative minds together. For me it’s the most stimulating and inspiring environment to work in with the most possibilities. So I feel very at home with Share Music.

For me the concept of Share Music is fundamental. The whole philosophy of everyone working together and using what we have, finding unique strengths and differences is very natural to me.

IMG_0929How do you think dance will change in 5-10 years?
– It’s hard to say. When I started doing it twenty years ago, it was a very new idea to have disabled people on stage and performing. Now, especially in UK, it´s not radical at all. There are disabled people in mainstream regular state-funded companies in different art forms. The challenge is a different today. There are questions more about access to training. There is a thought now that maybe we don’t need to go to a formal university but we can train through sharing experience.

What is your advice to people with disabilities who don’t dare try dancing, singing or performing?
– The first step is the hardest. I would just encourage anyone to try! There is definitely something for everybody when you work creatively. Getting in the room is the biggest challenge. Ones you are in, the creativity begins and bubbles up and suddenly you´re doing something!

Människor i blickfånget: Charlotte Darbyshire