THROUGH THE CRACKS: Serena Chalker

See EVERYWHERE/NOWHERE by Serena Chalker at #CTF2017!

CTF: Why do you make experimental performance?

I started working with Quindell Orton as Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre officially in 2008 (although unofficially before that), and originally we were really interested in taking dance out of the theatres and into public space almost as a marketing tool. Of course, this led to a whole process of investigation into site-specific performance, which deepened our understanding and engagement with why we made work in non-theatre venues. There is something about the tangibility of the space that, when done right, creates an atmosphere that I really think is impossible to recreate in a theatre. Not that theatre is a less transportive way of presenting work, because it can be, but there is something about the relationship between performer, audience and site that is very special and holds a lot of potential to me. I have always also been interested in writing, and writing has very much been a part of my practice as an artist. Actually more and more the work I make uses way dancers think about and conceive of space and how that translates into other mediums. I am working more and more to the limits of how these various elements work together in the production of an experience. That is what it is really about for me, this notion of experience, and particularly transformative experience.

CTF: How is your work ‘sited’? Why is this term apt to describe everywhere/nowhere?

This was a very conscious choice when making this work. It didn’t make sense for me to be making a work at that time in a place that I didn’t have any real relationship too (yet), and the idea of making a work in some kind of arbitrarily chosen location was not particularly appealing. So I began to think about how the places I have been in previously affected how I thought about and experienced the place I was in at the moment. So I began to ask people to send in things that were representative of places we had shared together. I collected a whole pile of really great responses, and the work started to build from there. The work is a negotiation that is grounded in where I am at any one point, and its relationship to what has been previously. So I have performed the work now in many cities, and the work is presented in a relatively neutral space (but what is neutral… but anyway) to allow the audience to build associations between past and present space. But the work came from very real locations. But they are recreated in your memory. Or the audience creates it in their memory, based on their association.

CTF: A highlight of developing and/or performing this work so far?

Well, it has received some very nice and unexpected praise along the way, which is always good considering it was a really low budget thing. It is always interesting for me to see how audiences react or interpret moment in the performance. I was really concerned about why one audience member’s personal journey was taking so long, and then I realised that when I had made the suggestion to “retrace your steps back to where you entered”, they literally retraced with great care every step they had taken in the work thus far (in retrograde)! That was great to be able to observe from the inside.

CTF: Three words/phrases that describe your body of work?

reflective, intimate, generating awareness of the present moment

CTF: What can audiences expect?

There are only 10 slots per show, and you will enter one at a time at 2 minute intervals. You can expect to be taken on a journey (cliche, but true), and hopefully discover something about yourself and about the other people on the journey around you. My ultimate aim is always that the audience needs to go away and think quietly for some time by themselves after the experience.

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