A community collaboration in Hawkwood’s woodland during the lockdown
Dancing in nature has been a tradition for many cultures from the tribes of our ancestors to the traditional folk dances of nations. There were several reasons for these dances to occur: 10 souls.
Ritual (religious) – These were used to call on their ancestors, honour death, control weather, andbring health, peace and prosperity.
Ceremonial – To celebrate weddings, anniversaries, coming of age the arrival of visitors and successful hunts.
Griotic – This was used to tell stories and oral history of their tribes.
These all resonate with me when I dance around Hawkwood. I’m so conscious of the history behind the woodland, and the stories that the trees must have to tell, the events they have witnessed and the fashions they have seen, along with conversations they must have heard.
There was one occasion whilst moving around a Beech tree that was probably between 80 and 100 years old, situated on the border of the woodland leaning towards the open field on the other side of the boundary. I was drawn to it due to the configuration of its roots, which splayed out like our own feet. I planted my feet between the roots and found myself being drawn up towards the trunk and the strength it displayed. I wrapped myself as far as I could around it giving it a huge hug. To my utter surprise, I suddenly found myself shedding a tear as I sensed the history it had witnessed and the possible trauma it had experienced, perhaps in itself but also in the surrounding community. Despite this, the message I received from it was “all will be well”. Which gave me great comfort for our current situation with the pandemic. This highlighted to me the comfort that trees can give us as human beings, especially in these strange times when we have to maintain so much distance from one another.
During the journey of the last 6 months in Hawkwood I have had several companions and when working on our own have asked for people to write down their experience of each session. I would like to share with you other people’s feedback:
“I moved for 10 mins, trying not to use my arms too much. I responded to a tiny pool of rainwater in the curve of a leaf. I moved with palms cupped carrying this sacred resource. My attention was caught by a flash of green on a brown beech leaf, which changed my movement to working with direction and clarity; more staccato, more about being seen.”
“I created a ritual. I just can’t help myself! Stories just want to be told!”
“I found the portal – a pair of slim, ivy embossed young beech trees, about 18″ apart. I asked permission to enter. I stood between the trees for a while, sensing their dimensions and my shape in relation to that. I made my way slowly to the low shelter, made of laurel branches. I needed to crawl round the interior space several times, clockwise, to mark the space and find my place in it.”
“Being in the middle of everything. Letting things unfold, not leading with my sharp eyes and my mind. Making rituals. Enjoying the visual sense, as well as smelling, touch and hearing.” – Katie Lloyd-Nunn (Hawkwood Ad-hoc Programme Curator)
Jemima Bennett trained as an actress/dancer at the London Studio Centre of Dance and Drama. She worked for 10 years touring schools in UK, Australia and New Zealand. She taught dance to special needs children and 10 years ago started running an improvisation dance group here in Stroud. With this group she has made four films and created a piece called Life Force in remembrance of her parents with Nicola Clark and Bartholomew Mason.
© Main image and videographer Harvey Bennett