As one of the practitioners consulted during the setting up of the MA in 2018, I am invested in the course enabling its students to acquire and refine a range of creative and practical skills that offer the possibility of finding work and / or establishing a practice in an area connected to either dance or moving image – and maybe both! Since my own practice is hybrid – involving single screen short films that have been broadcast on Channel 4 / BBC2 and at film festivals, as well as multi-screen works that have been exhibited in galleries, I know the importance of having access to and understanding what those different screen dramaturgies require. Along with the other practitioner-lecturers, I’m equally committed to a continued exploration of choreography and its potential – how it can be applied and expanded in new and profound ways.
Each year the course takes in a range of students from different creative and professional backgrounds – some with more experience in dance and choreography, and some with more experience in fine art and video-making - and creates a context where knowledge can be exchanged between peers.
This is the case both in a distinctive group project involving the design and curation of a screendance event, as well as across smaller creative filmmaking projects. It’s a joy to see that this continues beyond the end of the MA with former students continuing to collaborate and support one another through curatorial projects and film commissions.
The course will offer you fundamental training in working with cameras and recording sound as well as training in the editing of sound and image. There will be space for experimentation with a single image or multiple images. And since the course takes place within a university for dance and not a film school, whilst you will engage with narrative and documentary approaches, you’ll also be exposed to fine art moving image practice that aims to destabilize a whole range of hierarchical practices inherent within film. The course aims to offer you a technical understanding of camera and sound equipment as well as how you might chose to engage with sound and image through a sensory-sensitive way of looking and listening - to allow you to reflect the world as you experience it, or invent a new one in a radically embodied way.
Why is embodiment important? It might be more obvious to write about the importance of understanding screen-based work since we have all spent so much of our lives this last year engaging with screens for work, study and leisure. However, what this challenging time of Covid-19 has repeatedly highlighted for me, is the importance of understanding the role and value of touch in our lives. For non-dancers and even for dancers, touch is perhaps the sense that we most take for granted until it’s no longer available to us. Going forward, as we find out what kind of repairs we need to make to our lives and to the lives of others, touch will be the sense that we might need the most expertise in re-discovering. Touch in all its forms – between our bodies and other bodies and all the elements of the world around us; touch as a kinaesthetic understanding of other embodied experiences, touch as an emotional understanding of thought and feeling - all of this will require expertise in understanding how we are haptic beings. Exploring how gesture, choreography and touch are related and training your senses to understand how image and sound can work in particular ways to evoke aspects of touch will be a crucially valuable skill alongside all the other aspects that the MA offers.
Whilst writing this post I reached out to Jo Cork – a student from the 2019/20 cohort – for a thought about her choice of this course:
At first I was considering MAs in Film, but on further consideration I realised that only at The Place’s MA in Screendance would I get the opportunity to learn from practitioners whose work I already admired, and within a building full of creatives who share my fascination in dance and movement. I was given space to explore singular ideas and aspects of filmmaking and screendance - delving deep into them, and all the while exploring how the use of them interacted with my own ideas and practice - or more accurately - what I wanted my practice to become. I unlocked a mystery that had been gnawing at me for several years and finally found the clarity to understand my obsession with sound and its impact on the viewer and viewing experience - something that had influenced my work to date, but which through the MA, I was finally able to acknowledge, articulate and direct with clear intention. With a great sense of care for - and legitimacy given to - the individuals’ artistic interests among the course staff, I’ve been able to apply my learning to hone my personal practice and develop methods of working which feel more deeply rooted, enriched and with which I feel more grounded. I’ve gained professional skills and confidence enough that I now regularly take client-based work alongside my own projects, and am able to generate more income using my skills and working in the field I love.*
Movement and moving image have a long-entwined history, with some of the very earliest films from the beginning of cinema depicting everyday movement and gesture. This next chapter in moving image-making will be no less extraordinary and no less exciting to be a part of.
* You can see more of Jo’s work here: https://www.jocorkdancedigi.com @jocorkdancedigi
Click here to find out more about the MA Screendance Course.