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Life in Lockdown: Rosalind Holgate Smith

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#GDLifeinLockdown 2.0

Life in Lockdown is a blog series initiated by Greenwich Dance which features community and professional arists close to the organisation sharing how they are staying creative during these isolating times.

My name is Rosalind Holgate Smith, I am a British born Dancer, Artist and Choreographer. For the past 4 years I have been working on a project called Groundwork concerned with our physical relationship with the earth, roots, connection, weight and belonging. Due to the pandemic I unexpectedly found myself stuck in the Rainforest in Australia. Surrounded by the biggest trees I have seen in my life I discovered new dance partners, great listeners and teachers. My journey was one of deep connection to the land and its life patterns, which I felt intimately through my movement, embodiment and in the creation of dance, story and song I found resonance with the aboriginal dreamtime and indigenous ways of thinking and being. I stayed in the rainforest for 7 weeks where, moved by the trees my legs and feet rooted and with their branches my arms swayed. There I slept besides the Yarra River and also weeded, harvested, and ate from the land that I lay to rest on. Besides realising for myself a strong sense of belonging I met also my colonial history as a British born adventurer in Australia. In seeing native forests being intentionally logged and burnt I realised severed realities of disconnection from place, stunted growth and traumatised relationships. The images that follow include some of the work I made during my 4 month journey in Australia, including performances made in collaboration with other Australian Artists, paintings, photography, dance-film, and poetry that in particular respond to my experience of dancing with trees, including stumps, driftwood, burnt and logged forests across the country.

As I now transition back to Europe, amid the pandemic waves, mounting death tolls and a hovering climate crisis I feel that my work involving touch and a sensory engagement with the ecologies within which we exist, urges to question of what we could lose? and what can we celebrate?

I am currently an artist in residence this summer at GlogauAIR in Berlin, where I am working further on this project Groundwork and will be presenting an exhibition and performance here on 18-19th September. Please get in touch if you would like to attend the opening, I will be pleased to send you an invite.

Whilst in the rainforest for lockdown, I everyday slept and woke beside the Yarra River. I walked through the bush and swam or sometimes just floated downstream, the current too strong to resist. Moved by the trees, I felt a central current rise through me and anchor back down in the earth, my legs and feet too rooted and with the trees branches, my arms swayed. I came to experience nature, the bird sounds and weather that surrounds, no longer outside but inside, blowing through me and through my dancing with trees, I reflected on new possibilities of directing my practice…

I feel that I am finding a new way of dancing here and a new understanding of what it means to dance in nature that is perhaps more akin to the indigenous people of this Country. I notice at times I dance from nature- that is to feel inspired by and to be moved by. At other times I dance with nature-in that I feel supported and accompanied by the essence of one plant, just some part of it, and this can be developed to dance with many surrounding elements. More recently I find myself dancing for nature, to dance with the feeling that I give to, that I gesture to, an offering of my energetic state, and a kind of dreaming that comes about through being and moving with the feeling in my body and my bones. As I move these sensations, I forge something becoming a dance that I give to this land. You may call it imagination, yet it exists both in the imaginal
and the physical all be it ephemeral.

What is in your hands?

What are you waiting for?
What da yu know?
What is in your hands?

I am asking for some help here
Don’t you see…
I am crying out for help

Is this life?
Why I can’t afford it?
I cannot
I have nothing left to give
I have nothing to feed my children
I who am black who have many in Africa, Asia, and France
As she who is white bears none

Sinders shave off my sides
As I feel my skin
I am becoming invis..
I have almost … disappeared

And of course, you do not see me for you cannot enter here,
Where the barriers are closed and the exits are controlled
Though mostly you do not see me
because you have not time
…but one day, when they light me up
I will roar through your bones
and you will smell me, hear me.
see me
As I am
black as hard as stone
And pick me up
As brittle burnt wood
I am dead
I died a thousand years ago and a thousand years ago again
What are you waiting for?
What do you know?
What is in your hands?

I am asking for some help here
Don’t you know…
I am crying out for help here

Is this life?
I can’t afford it,
I cannot
I have nothing left to give
I have nothing to feed my children
I who am black have had many in Africa, Asia, and France
As she who is white bears none

Sinders shave off my sides
As I feel my skin
I am becoming invis..
I have almost … disappeared

And of course, you do not see me for you cannot enter here,
Where the barriers and the exits are controlled
Though mostly you do not see me
because you have not time
…but one day, when they light me up
I will roar through your bones
and you will smell me, hear me
See me
As I am
black as hard as stone
And pick me up
As brittle burnt wood
I am dead
I died a thousand years ago and thousand years ago again I die

The photographs and text above developed in response to improvising in a logged area of native forest known as Big Pats Creek, in Victoria.
Through my own explorations I worked with a further group of local women to choreograph and edit a dance-film, currently in development.

‘What is and what is yet to come’ is a short prelude to this dance film, made in my early investigation of the site : https://vimeo.com/412183628

Part Two Here