An ode to the studio: where other than a home of sorts do you take your shoes off?
On the 1st October I visited a dance studio for the first time in 199 days; I was unaware of how momentous it might feel. This is by far the longest that I haven’t entered a dance studio or rehearsal space with intent to dance in over 20 years - I’m 25.
Unoriginally and predictably I was most excited about the floor. Struck first with a desire to slide and spin, I remembered how unsatisfying these actions are in comparison on grass, concrete and rugs. I’m not sure that I even attempted to slide in these other locations.
And then there is the lying, the opportunity to be supported horizontally without explanation or judgement.
Immediate questions included: how does simply being in a studio bring more awareness to my back surfaces? Why have I found finding places of complete rest more challenging when not in a studio space? Will buying waterproof trousers really make me want to lie on the floor outside in the rain? Why doesn’t everyone lie on the floor at the start of their working day?
I’ve always enjoyed and benefitted greatly from working site-specifically so these thoughts surprised me - perhaps it was purely due to the length of time I had gone without visiting a studio?
Unusually, I want to be unapologetic for my nostalgia:
For me a dance studio is a space that is extremely familiar. It is safe in the way that my other homes are. There is this consistency; a history of everything I have learnt in that environment; as well as years of experiences (physical, academic, emotional…), conversations had and people met. The stability of this environment and with this there comes both positives and negatives, could be attributed to the unwritten code of conduct that exists here.
On this day back in the studio, I was dancing with Anna Dighero. She spoke about previous thoughts including: not needing a studio as we can dance anywhere, especially when it comes to making work, why limit ourselves to always being influenced by the same space? I couldn’t agree more, and yet we both admitted that being in a studio was exciting.
It is not necessarily the most accessible place – I would guess that a large proportion of the population would not feel particularly comfortable there, in the same way that I might feel anxious in an office block. But it is an efficient, purpose built, working environment, and that is significant in itself.
As I’ve said a few times now, I have been pleased by being and working so frequently outside, and so this studio joy has drawn further attention to the importance of place, and how I have often ignored that.
I have many homes. Not multiple properties but comfortable places where I don’t have to think about how I present myself. Often I associate home with the people that I have the closest relationships with, but the place is maybe more involved and important than I ever acknowledge. There is both the place and the environment that inhabits that place.
The place/environment/atmosphere includes physical elements (I am happy in kitchens and dance studios which both tend to be warm in temperature…) as well as the atmosphere created by others (which is where trusted relationships becomes relevant); in places of comfort there is a knowledge of what to expect or what any surprise will be within the realms of, or perhaps knowing how occurrences will be dealt with.
Returning to the consistency of the studio, provided familiarity and a reminder that in this location there is freedom and respect – and topically it is a location which has always promoted gaining the skills to respect other’s kinespheres.
It is a location where you frequently experienced physical contact with strangers.
It is also a place where spacial awareness and attention are trained.
There is comfort in the familiar, patterns, traditions & repeated acts. A practice or even just the act of entering a studio is close to a ritual. I certainly have a set sequence of activities:
I take off my shoes, open the door (whilst holding many things: coat, scarf, bag, shoes…), take a look around to see if I know anyone inside already, find a place to put down all the things I’m carrying, take out multiple hair bands and my water bottle (usually have a drink, contemplate how thirsty I am whilst regretting not drinking more earlier in the day), find a space (either close to a friend or as far away from everyone else as possible), and then I lie on the floor.
When often the aim is to push boundaries or go beyond, whilst living with the irregularity of freelancing, comfort and consistency are well earned. And perhaps for me that is where the studio is of great help.
Since the 1st of this month and a few weeks after starting this post, I have now worked in the studio a handful of times. I hope to not forget how influential spaces and settings are, not just choreographically or for performances, but for learning and explorations. To think about the options, making choices with the awareness of how different places can be challenging or beneficial.
It really is like returning home after a period of being away. By leaving and returning I want to leave more and return more; visit and dance in other places more and visit and dance at home more.
I never realise how much I want to take my shoes off until I walk through the door.