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  • Writer's pictureBecky Horne

I turn, you grab

A research project with Anna Dighero funded by Jerwood Arts.

The aims were to develop as collaborators and see how bouldering techniques could influence a contact improvisation practice. Taken from our initial project page:

What drew you to each other’s practice?

We have different backgrounds in training but are driven to work together due to shared interests, in practicality, physical efficiency, the outdoors & Contact Improvisation. We like dancing and other forms of moving. We also share an acknowledgement that our dance practices sit within a wider personal context and value a lightness in the way that we work.

We reflected so frequently throughout the process, it has taken a while to filter what may be relevant or vaguely interesting for others. I can’t speak for Anna, but some of what has stayed with me most includes:

  • Enjoying falling on the soft earth – delighting in the joy and specifically unexpectedness when genuine uncontrollable falling happens.

  • Satisfaction in the rhythm of scrabbling; what if finding the smooth ebb and flow of seamless contact work is not the goal?

  • How bravery and navigating fear coexisted with our conquest to make things less serious.

  • Safety and the unpredictability of improvising: borrowing the mentality of ‘the climber’ in lifting work – where the lifted party has greater autonomy and responsibility for themselves. The wall doesn’t drop you or pick you up against your will… (not that this necessarily frees the lifter from their duty of care, but rather questions what can occur if their primary role is to offer resistance and places to hook and hang from, as opposed to control or manipulate).


At the end of each research session, we had an open dance (encouraging us to let go of tasks and perhaps any techniques or strategies – placing the value on exploration and well, dancing).

To learn what we had absorbed or held onto most.

Which we filmed, to see what that looked like.

At one point Anna mentioned that this research ‘isn’t accumulative, but it accumulates’. Which is actually highly representative of other durational and nonlinear patterns of research I gravitate towards.

Here are some snippets: a video diary:


I became more emotionally invested than usual:

What I love about this project is the hopes and dreams; the possibilities, the strengths and heights – the potential for bravery. It is rare in how it fits the criteria of the dancing I wanted to do 10 years ago and the dancing I want to do now.

I found myself mourning my younger self’s fearlessness.

Until I remembered that I was never fearless. And moreover, that fearlessness and bravery are not the same thing. And that it is almost impossible to compare your bravery with others, as everyone has different fears – going further does not automatically make you braver if you are not scared of doing that.

We always worked on Fridays. Sometimes Fridays and Saturdays and this meant we were tired, exhausted by the week – so although it felt like it should have been more about strength, for me it became about stamina. Of physical, emotional and concentration.

Without being too dramatic…

What is it to carry someone’s weight at the end of a long week, on top of the rest of it? What is it to be higher in space when you’re tired?

It refuelled a desire to get stronger and develop different ways of being disciplined. The strength, joy and struggle required felt empowering. Maybe in a similar way to how experiences of consuming or participating in feminist work are often described as?

Finding beauty in unflattering function, the aesthetics of pragmatism.

It was somehow more trivial and more profound than usual too.


Other things I might have written about includes:

  • The range of settings we worked in, flash and coloured routes, the images taken for documentation and how we met an aesthetic of being over exposed and a bit tacky.

  • Physical robustness when you’re fairly small, fairly young women – this was perhaps reflected in the desire to not be picked up, carried around and put down.

  • Sharing responsibility: being the climber, the wall, the route, the landscape and the team.

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