by Claire Elizabeth Barratt
INTRODUCTION BY WAY OF A RATHER POETIC ARTIST STATEMENT
I am a transformer – I transform
I metamorphosize, I change, I transcend, I disappear, I become
I am raw material
The Self: body and psyche. My Self: as medium for art
Art as Life / Life as Art
I am in relationship
With space, time, light, sound, colour, texture, form, concept, entity
I alter the environment and the environment alters me
I improvize, I compose, I plan, I build, I destroy, I re-build, I release, I let be
I explore, I discover, I create
I am created
I am firmly rooted in the foundations of classical western tradition
From which there is no escape
But, given time, nature will re-wild any man-made structure
Pushing tendrils through its windowpanes, weathering its pristine towers and
Reclaiming the architecture for its own set of aesthetics
My work is interdisciplinary, often collaborative, usually improvization-based. It utilizes any mediums that can be incorporated into a performative context.
These include, but are not limited to:
movement, dance, choreography, sound, music, composition, text, poetry, spoken and written word, moving and still image, visual arts, installation, environmental interaction and public intervention.
I am invested in the experience of the audience member as participant and of the artist as observer
I am conscious of opening possibility for their journey
I play a dual role as artist / facilitator – whether directly or indirectly
I challenge conventions – not for the sake of anarchy per se, but for the sake of what seems most appropriate for the work itself
I will push boundaries; yet still hold artistic integrity as priority over experimentation
However, in cases where the experiment IS the art, there can be no conflict
I have developed a practice I call Living Art
A performance methodology evolved through years of work
It serves as a pedagogy, a daily practice and a method for creative development
“Which came first, the method or the art?”
The art is in the method and the method is in the art. It is only once I begin to deconstruct my process that I am able to define what has been evolving as a unified system in life, work, creating and facilitating for as long as I can remember
And even then I don’t claim to have invented any of it
“… It is impossible to say where these ideas actually originated, because they are timeless and belong to the natural principles of movement, time and space. Over the years we have simply articulated a set of names for things that already exist, things that we do naturally and have always done …” (Anne Bogart)
HOMEGROWN SACRED DANCE
My introduction to Sacred Dance was completely homegrown!
Actually, that’s not altogether true … there was one Sacred Dance conference my family attended that inspired the beginning of the homegrown project (if I remember correctly. I was very young)
Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, in the small but historically significant city of Chester, England, my family established Shalom.
The Shalom Fellowship – out of which came the Shalom communities and the Shalom ministries. This lasted over the ten year period of my childhood and teens between the ages of 8 and 18.
It would take a book to fully describe all the aspects of Shalom and of my own experience growing up in such an incredibly unique environment of spiritual warmth, communal commitment and support. So for the sake of brevity I’ll jump directly to the Sacred Dance part.
Led by the Holy Spirit, my Mother – Janet Barratt (a professional musician who already had a steady Christian singer / songwriter ministry with a partner and would regularly perform in churches and other community institutions around the country) started a group called The Shalom Singers and Dancers. This also extended to theatrical projects, such as short sketches and dramatic readings and recordings. (These were mostly written by my Father – David Barratt, his profession being in the literary arts.)
The group was comprised of members of the Shalom Fellowship; most of whom had no previous training and experience with dance what-so-ever. It really was the most unlikely assortment of individuals to suddenly embark on creating, rehearsing and performing dance in public. But when something is divinely initiated it just works!
The Shalom Singers and Dancers met together weekly to collaboratively create dances and also some original songs. My Mother also started a Christian exercise class for everyone to keep body and soul in shape – and was giving many of the members vocal tuition too.
We were invited to perform in churches and at special events on quite a regular basis.
What stands out to me now, looking back on that time, is just how liberating Sacred Dance can be. For a group of individuals who never considered themselves as possessing any talents in the performing arts to have that door opened for them, so they could dance and sing in public – unselfconscious, unhindered, confident!
To be given that freedom as a spiritual gift and in turn, to touch the hearts of those witnessing is an incredible blessing.
Oh … and we had so much FUN too! So much laughter and playful teasing.
I don’t think I recognized how exceptional all of this was at the time. Of course I knew that none of my schoolmates had this kind of life, but as a child it was just “normal” to me.
IN WHAT WAYS DO I CONSIDER MY PROFESSIONAL ARTISTIC PRACTICE TO BE SACRED?
First of all, what does it mean to be Sacred?
In looking through the various dictionary definitions, one will find a number of fairly obvious one word or short sentence descriptions. For example: Connected with God or Consecrated or Divine.
The Britannica offers something that goes a little deeper:
The power, being, or realm understood by religious persons to be at the core of existence and to have a transformative effect on their lives and destinies.
Wow! – The core of existence. A transformative effect. This speaks to a profound experience, something we can relate to on a deep, human level.
It is in these terms that I want to address my artistic practice as Sacred.
Existence and Identity.
Transformation and Destiny.
Speculations on existence are often connected with our sense of identity – who we are. When the Divine is truly at the core of our existence we cannot keep anything aside, or secret, from God. When nothing is hidden there can be no sense of shame, only co-existence with the Divine through every experience. We are not alone in facing problems of the self.
From this place of deep recognition, dance is Sacred and can become a vehicle for self-expression and self-exploration.
The Divine Spirit is an agent of change. With this spirit at the core of existence our imaginations are liberated to pursue and embody transformation without fear. Here, dance is Sacred as a vehicle for metamorphosis – of transcendence from our earthly identities.
Dance as pure embodiment.
The body in the act of dance becomes a vehicle for expression and exploration in terms of:
Identity. To understand the personal, political and cultural.
Transformation. To seek possibility, to become, to evolve.
Many performative dance and movement theatre methods are akin to most spiritual practices in that they employ the dichotomous philosophy of: Knowing and mastering the Self in order to transform and transcend the Self.
My training in the performing arts includes such methods as Classical Ballet (RAD), Contemporary dance techniques (Graham, Humphrey/Limon, Wigman, Cunningham and others), Butoh dance, Acting methods (Stanislavski, Chekov, Viewpoints) as well as some Jazz techniques, traditional world and folk dances.
Every method I have studied holds this duality. The awareness and mastery over the self in order to transcend that same self.
It is this very duality that I draw upon and expose in my own practice Living Art.
Self = Body and Psyche
To address Self as raw material – to be refined, to be transformed.
Living Art is divided into two branches of inquiry:
Body Tuning develops self-awareness through a series of rigorous explorations, each one investigating a single concept of the body in motion.
Creative Response promotes transformation via interpretations of relationship and imagery.
In this practice I try to deconstruct the precepts I have learned down to a “molecular” level. It is a practice I developed with the intention of sharing and facilitating – to provide an unbiased substructure on which each individual is free to explore, discover and create.
The dance that evolves from my practice is a Sacred dance that embodies all the struggles and empowerments of selfhood and identity as well as the liberation of transcendence. These experiences are all interwoven and are integral to my divine journey.
For more information about Living Art, please visit: http://livingartcvla.blogspot.com/
Claire Elizabeth Barratt (aka Cilla Vee) is an international inter-disciplinary artist with a performing arts background. She is the director of Cilla Vee Life Arts – an arts organization with a focus on cross-media collaboration. Her work utilizes artistic disciplines of dance, movement, music, sound, text, media, visual arts, installation and performative action.
Claire has presented her work in venues as diverse as Jacob’s Pillow, the New York Botanical Gardens, Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center and Art Basel Miami.
She has performed and taught throughout the USA and in Canada, Europe, Japan, Israel and Pakistan.
Claire received her professional training in London at The Laban Centre For Movement and Dance and at the London Studio Centre For Performing Arts. Her pre-professional training includes the Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Schools of Music examinations.
She also served an apprenticeship with the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation in New York and holds an MFA in Creative Practice from the Transart Institute for Creative Research with Plymouth University, UK.
On moving to the USA in 1992, Claire held the positions of Dancer for Unto These Hills drama on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and for Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater in North Carolina, as well as serving as a Co-Founder and Director for Circle Modern Dance and as Choreographer for the Knoxville Opera Company in Tennessee.
Once based in New York in 2002, Claire founded Cilla Vee Life Arts and, with the support of arts advocates such as Chashama, Bronx Council on the Arts and Arts for Art, began to develop and present her signature modes of work – including Motion Sculpture Movement Installations and The Sound Of Movement projects.
She has received a number of awards, including project sponsorship from JP Morgan Chase, New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
She is the creator of the Living Art pedagogy for performance, accredited by Plymouth University.
Claire now uses Asheville NC as her home base and tours frequently to connect and collaborate with a variety of international artists. She is currently in the process of establishing a creative community space – The Center for Connection + Collaboration.
Cilla Vee Life Arts
The Center for Connection + Collaboration