Laila’s Reflection – Impressions

Impressions – April 2013



April 2013. A long time has passed since Helen and I spent an intensive period together in the studio last summer. Since we both agreed by the end of the residency that we would like to continue working together, it feels like the project hasn’t really stopped in a sense. It’s simply had to find a new pace and shape. Thoughts keep simmering, we talk, we work from a distance and some time in proximity. We’ve often missed spending time together in the studio and the way to continue will certainly imply setting up the conditions in which we can soon again share a space to work alongside and together, a shared ground on which to move and think.

It is an interesting point in time; one where we look back, from a distance, at some of the things we did during the residency, rediscovering some stuff, seeing some things for the first time or from a new perspective through the lens of a camera. Words, still images and film meet with imprinted, embodied memories. We are using all those to focus back on what we did and we use them to consider what the possibilities for our work to come might be.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations”               – Anaïs Nin



Here’s a list I started writing during the residency and that I keep coming back to and adding to since. It begins with the word frame, a word that kept springing up in various conversations along the way.



Frame of reference

of language

of assumptions

of what we know

of our specialisms

Frame of the page

of the stage,

of the room.

Frame in terms of the context within which we choose to show our work
What if we flirted with the edge?
What if things spilled over the edge and out?
What if all that was left on the page, or in the space, were remnants of a presence, traces of activity?
What if this project was an opportunity to open up our thinking to how and where we choose to share work?

And at what stage in the process of making might we choose to invite an audience?

Now I also want to add:

When does the performance begin? When does it end?



During last year’s residency, our research was probably in equal measure a process that was witnessed and a private one. There were often other people in the room, whether working on things unrelated, passing by or observing our work, contributing to it and probing. Some times we invited this, at other times it wasn’t intended or wanted. In some cases these interactions (or co-existence) proved wonderfully re-energising and focusing, and they provided a helpful distance from the matter at hand. In other instances, the additional presence felt like it somehow interrupted the flow, broke the rhythm. I was curious as the residency was unfolding about how all that influenced, shaped the process. In a sense it feels important simply to acknowledge those interactions as part of the process, as an actor within it. How does an awareness of being watched, heard, recorded whilst thinking alter the thought process?


I carry this curiosity to performance. I have for a long time been fascinated with the role of the spectator, how it provokes change in the performer; a shift in awareness (of self, space and time), a shift in one’s ordering of thoughts. Side by Side brought these considerations right up to the surface. In watching back some of the footage of our work in the studio, I am touched by the quality of movement and by what I perceive to be a specificity of attention at points when Helen and I are searching, when we are in the process of understanding something or building something. How can this be captured? What of this can remain and be performed?

At what stage in the process of making might we choose to invite an audience?

 When does the performance begin?



In the first few days of the residency we papered a wall up and took it in turns to write there words that we use in our respective practices. It was fascinating to discuss our use of language. And it was extremely helpful not to assume that a shared use of certain words equalled shared meaning or understanding. Then, in my view, the opportunity through out the residency to try out, to experience some of the ideas described by those words we shared with each other allowed a deeper understanding, a greater resonance and potential of connection. For example, I could understand something more about what sketching might mean for Helen through doing some exercises around this with her. Or quick-making. Or score. Or marks. I could understand something more about what it might mean for her and then about how/where it connects or might connect with me and with what I do.


Just imagine what could happen if we all had more opportunities to do a little bit more of just that: share something of what we do with someone else – a neighbour or someone from a distant place, from another field, another profession, another generation, another culture, another philosophy – share something of what we do with them, join them in doing something that they do and, in the doing of those things together, understand something more about one another… making and revealing connections…














For the most part, in the experience of dance, for the performer as for the spectator, all that remains when the show is over is internal, invisible. It is held in the body, held in memory.

And now I am also thinking… in the creative process, for me – from day to day, from the time of leaving the studio one night to coming back to work the following day – much of the process is embodied, carried in memory, mostly intangible. I make notes, use film, some times use props, – all of which help to bring the thing we were doing the day before (or the week before, or a year past) back to the surface, and none of them summing up the experience of the day before, the feeling of it.

I am not completely sure what my thread is here… I guess in part it is that I am fascinated by the impermanence of the ‘transaction’ between spectator and performer in dance. Recently I have been experimenting with bringing stuff (materials, props) to my process that might mark traces of activity, traces of a presence, reveal a sense of transience or absence. Through out the residency the work Helen and I did with materials that she had brought in, and particularly the work we did with paper, fed this curiosity a great deal. I loved noticing how traces of presence and movement were held in paper, memories of particular moments, layered imprints of our transient activities over the course of our six weeks together.

There is so much more… So much more to reflect upon. So many more thoughts yet to grasp more fully and to attempt to articulate. Let’s continue to unpeel. And let this be it from me for the time being.


Laila Diallo

April 2013.


29 May 2013


Laila Diallo



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