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Kavina Pound’s Live Archive: Reflections by Lucy Bennett

NAC member Lucy Bennett reflects on Kavina Pound’s Live Archive: Waiting, Relating and Coordinating, which took place at SDS on Saturday 24 February 2024 as part of Artist Archive.

Siobhan Davies Studios’ first Live Archive of 2024 was a highly anticipated event in the dance social calendar by many as we all resonate with the questions of, “what is an archive and who gets to have one?” (Kat Bridge). The event consisted of a monograph, solo performance and panel in which Kavina shared her transformative journey. A disability activist and artist with arthritis and dyspraxia who found her way into the dance world through inclusive arts spaces later in life.

Kavina Pound | Image: Lucy Bennett

“I have lost count of the number of people who tell me that they can’t dance, and it always makes me smile. I can remember being one of those people and yet, here I am today.”

Something I always keep an eye out for, as someone with a physical disability, is inclusive practice and spaces. Rather than treating access needs as a box to be ticked -to appease how a venue is perceived in the public eye – inclusive practice actively provides compassionate and considerate care. SDS is quite the opposite. We all know about their wonderfully accessible building and the incredible support and community they provide for disabled participants and staff; however, it was great to see the use of low lighting, the offer of masks, hand sanitiser and earplugs as well as the use of large print programmes and a BSL interpreter. I was immediately able to relax and enjoy the event because I didn’t have to go in with any worries – as Rolande Carline said during the panel:

“The hardest thing for people with disabilities is getting in the door.”

but I am getting ahead of myself…

I begun my evening in the Library, which had been transformed into a small, cosy, silent space, where a selection of films from Kavina’s career were screening – including Freestyler’s ‘Everybody With Me, Always’ (2022) and community projects ‘LANGUAGE’ (2022) and ‘POWER’ (2023). I watched actively it in its entirety and saw evidence and echoes of community and collectivity, sharing and relating, activism and the body as political protest, the beauty found in mundane moments during rehearsals such as talking, singing and sharing as well as pure unadulterated joy.

“I’m not going to let my disability get in the way”

Monograph | Image: Philip Pound

The audience gathered in the Roof Studio, set up to accommodate a relaxed performance setting and eagerly awaited what Kavina had to offer. She started by presenting her monograph told through a fantastical fairytale lens starting with ‘once upon a time’ and continuing with the tale of a little girl persevering whilst up against medical and societal prejudice. Luckily, she found her path through artistic rebellion and gradually built a village of supporters around her. Some of the organisations praised were Candoco, Tourettes Hero, Mind Body Spirit, Biodanza, People Dancing, SLiDE, Freestylers, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as well as many named individuals from these organisations. Kavina’s monograph truly felt like a beautifully crafted love letter to disability inclusive arts. Luckily, the tale ended with:

“The little girl found her happy ending! This is the end of my talk but it is not however, the end of me.”

Solo | Images: Philip Pound

Soon after, we were given the absolute honour of watching a live performance of Kavina’s solo from ‘Everybody With Me, Always’ (2022). As someone who has crossed paths many times with the Freestylers through SDS’s Next Choreography programme, I was familiar with the film they had created. I cannot begin to express how incredibly special it felt to recognise the image of Kavina I had seen, and connected to so strongly, on film; holding her hands to her chest and stomach with her eyes closed. Seeing this moment in the flesh, right before my eyes, goosebumps ensued. Throughout the performance, I translated some of movement shapes, dynamics and pathways onto paper which is a tool I often use to be an active observer when experiencing a live encounter.

“No one could hear or see me unless they wanted to have a laugh. I think they see me now!”

Drawings: Lucy Bennett

Finally, the evening was bought to a close by a panel in which Kavina Pound was joined by Ellis Legg and Roland Carline. Both Ellis and Roland introduced their connection to Kavina. This included references to blossoming friendships, a flourishing love for dance, authenticity in practice, embodied storytelling, risk taking, integrity and broadening the scope of possibility. The conversation progressed to overcoming challenges, being a change-maker, empowerment, pedagogy around teaching those with disabilities and attentiveness to individuals.

“It couldn’t get any better… and then it did.”

Kavina and Ellis Legg | Image: Philip Pound

My biggest takeaway from this event was that although I felt so joyous to be in this space with all of these like minded individuals talking about something that so many of us experience, I was also reminded of how little opportunity there is to share stories of disabled people and the full lives they lead. I wonder how much more confident I would feel as a disabled artist if more of these events, platforming and giving space to disabled people, were commissioned and promoted. For this, I am grateful to Siobhan Davies Studios for always striving to be a safe space for so many of us, to these archives for giving permission to censored bodies to speak their truth and to Kavina for highlighting the beauty in extraordinary non-linear journeys of transformation.

Written by Lucy Bennett. Commissioned by Siobhan Davies Studios.
Find Lucy on Instagram @lucybennettdance.