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  • Writer's pictureBecky Horne

Lentils & letting go

I’ve really enjoyed the exchange that happens when people have asked what I’m working on at the moment, because I can say that I have been developing and delivering workshops with lentils.

There is a great moment when they repeat ‘lentils?’ and you can see brief panic - they think they are missing something, is it a word of multiple meaning?

But because nobody really knows what it entails, there are less preconceptions. And this is a fun place to start because there is already openness and a small step towards the unknown. Dance is like marmite – people either run away or flock to it with a very specific idea of what will happen next. I usually want to use the word movement instead, but I am learning how vague and uncertain that can feel for people outside of the movement world.

I’ve been thinking about how we create, meet and challenge expectations.

Next, they ask for some clarification – more often than not that is ‘why lentils?’

And I want to reply with: it is fun and extremely satisfying, you just need to try it. I wonder if we will get to a point where we are trusted enough, that this reason is sufficient.

When I first started with the lentils, which was a few years ago now, in my first reflection I said ‘it was time to work on something new and less precious’. (I also described the sensations and types of lentil in this first post).

Less precious isn’t automatically careless.

I think there is value in holding less tightly to worth.

Even though that does feel difficult when you are required to articulate and justify yourself and your work’s worth and direct contribution to society, at any given moment:

I am also working with large quantities of lentils because on mass they become a material that support me in exploring impermanence, collective and the in-between. The sensorial feedback is powerful and simple to connect to.

And every time we pour them onto a clean floor, it feels exciting and a bit limitless.

You could see some glimpses of awe in the participants, perhaps a combination of surprise at the situation and fear of making a mess?

I find awe a powerful emotion, so this was very rewarding. But what interested me most, was that this was produced by something as humble and mundane as a lentil. Its circumstance and quantity made it something else entirely.


I hope to introduce large quantities of lentils in a creative movement context to more groups of people – so if you are interested in booking workshops, please get in touch!

I’d like to give a big shout out to Lucy Grainge, who assisted me in balancing the space, translating and sweeping. Also a big thanks goes to Lucy Cran for her guidance and The Minories Gallery for sharing their gorgeous studio with us.


I have been testing how I might hold space in a lighter way.

I’ve often found leading a process or rehearsal, teaching & facilitating unsustainably draining. I felt like I was working in a democratic way and approaching these meetings as exchanges, but this didn’t seem to make a difference to my headaches or the exhaustion I’d feel afterwords.

A tipping point for this, was a suggestion by dancer & activist Katye Coe (who was supporting me for parts of this project) to remember that responsibility is simply the ability to respond.

I then had a conversation with artist-activist Beccy McCray about leading workshops. We wondered if the question we are always working with is what can we let go of?

Beccy also mentioned that she works as a guide, which relieves the pressure of having to facilitate.

I am slowly starting to learn how I might let go in these contexts.

Or at least link facilitation to improvisation a little more.



A few weeks after the lentil workshops I had a chat with dance artist Emma Zangs about play, and how it is present in my practice. (For some further context, I wrote about tension, rhythm, hiding and being seen last year in PLAY.I.E.)

We spoke about where there is space for play, who values or prioritises it, and how parents fit into the equation.

During the lentil workshops we mainly invited children and parents to play together. But one week, which was primarily designed for children without their parents, we set up activities in another part of the room for the parents. They were reluctant to have a go on their own, until an enthusiastic one dived right in, the others then followed.

I should acknowledge inhibitions, and what it takes to let go of those too.


This conversation initiated a rummage around, where I began thinking about where my play came from.

I can attribute a large amount to my upbringing, where I spent a lot of time playing outside with friends who lived on our cul-de-sac, collaborating, inventing rules, creating games.

Alongside this, my parents used to say ‘be g-whizz, not so-what’. (I don’t know exactly what the origins of this are…) but I’ve understood it to mean, allow yourself to get excited about stuff.

It is joyful to be entertained, and maybe that is not entirely the responsibility of others. At times you have some control over the extent to which you are, or the possibility to entertain yourself.

I am not able to define coolness, but I reckon it is a relative of ‘so-what’, and can be the enemy of play.

I also don’t think play is about naughtiness or always breaking the rules – anarchy is not really playful.

What can you do within the framework, or right on the edge of it?


Rules and parameters are the basis for games, culture, law and improvisation.


This got me thinking about how I approach improvisation.

Improvisation not just as ‘a making up the moves as you go along’ but as a:


Technique class

Method of devising

Means of facilitation

Creative process


I wonder:

What structures/frameworks/parameters do we need?

What can I let go of?

What can be disrupted?

What can be repeated?

When is enough, enough?

This work was carried out as part of a DYCP grant, supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

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