Since January 2019 Louise Klarnett has been dance artist in residence one day per week for The Magpie Project in partnership with Dance Art Foundation, funded by Awards For All.
Here she explains her practice.
“What do dancers do that other health workers don’t? They see pure movement as language and they reply in kind. They are happy to conduct conversations in movement so that it speaks for itself, without the need for any words of translation.”
“A significant benefit of this residency is the flexibility. There is no fixed timetable within my morning and I am able to move freely to work in various ways.
Sometimes a specific group session takes place between 1-2pm, this has been both with mums, their children and volunteers/staff, as well as specific workshops just for the mums.
My approach is broad and when working one-to-one with the babies and children includes, but is not limited to:
- using improvisation,
- intensive interaction and
- movement conversation techniques.
I look for the connection and usually begin with an invitation, a prop, a movement or touch.
A movement, a sound, a way of playing or being with, can then gently be amplified and expanded upon, moving into an appropriate physical, playful, engaged experience with the individual.
This might be just working with – for example – fingers, eyes or full bodies. Through these interactive and creative experiences, the work supports and develops communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and more significantly, physical development. It can work towards strengthening muscles, encouraging balance, coordination and spatial awareness among other things. With babies, this might be extending tummy time through creative ideas.
A dance can start, or be, anywhere, wherever it needs to be and for however long. This means the work can benefit the babies and young children when it is the best time for them and in response to them. This could be on a mum’s lap while she’s in conversation with a professional or member of staff, encouraging visual tracking and facial expression; or dancing a baby into peaceful sleep while a mum has a moment to get a cup of tea, or make an important phone call. It can be big and bold, directing boisterous energy by sliding a child around on fabric, or exploring pathways of colourful tape around the space. The one to one work is broad and in the moment.
Time to gently observe or see the children operating in the environment as well as speaking to staff and volunteers can be helpful but basically, ‘meeting them’ where they are, works.
Group sessions include specific movement experiences to support attachment and relationship, both between the mum and their own child/ren as well as building a shared, joyful experience among the whole group.
The families have choice around staying for these sessions, and once they have made that choice, they are warmly encouraged to immerse themselves, with all physical needs supported. Movement is a universal language and though often English language is limited for the mums, gesturing and demonstrating aids access and therefore experience.”
Magpie Project Founder Jane Williams says of Louise’s work:
“The circumstances in which our mums and minis are living can make play, movement, freedom, and joy difficult to come by.
Mums are under pressure, there is no clean floor or space to play on at home, movement can sometimes seem chaotic or risky when a mum feels she is only just controlling her environment anyway. So our minis can end up spending alot of time in buggies, in sitters, or otherwise constrained – to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.
Louise encourages them – gently, kindly and always respecting boundaries – to start to take notice of the world around them, and to roll around, to jump, to run, to twirl, to stop.
Knowing what some of these families have been through, seeing them relax and have fun with Louise often takes our breath away. It is nothing short of miraculous.”