Memory and Place: Sensory improvisation within nursing homes. David Slater describes visiting the work with intro from Rebecca Swift

Ambient jam dance artists and musicians are currently embedded in different day centres and nursing homes in Southwark for a project called ‘Memory and Place’. Commissioned by Siobhan Davies dance studios the project explores the communal response across generations to complex changes and re-development within Elephant and Castle. Through Memory and Place buried bits of history are surfacing, shared by the older generation, that have a powerful potential to make sense of the present, and the future. Through words, movement, music and gesture, a communal tapestry of thought is emerging that cuts across the walls of different organisations, day centres and groups to form a different map of Southwark through the knowledge, vision and stories of the community. However, equally importantly the project heralds the building of new relationships with older people in a Southwark nursing home.

The essences of an Ambient jam approach developed and deepened over decades through the collaboration between musicians and dancers and people with complex and profound disabilities can be very naturally applied, translated and adapted into co-creative, sensory led work with older people living in nursing homes.The integrity of improvisation, body -led intelligence, sensory response to site and buildings, and relational practise remains the same, however stories and narratives emerge verbally as well as non-verbally, and sometimes other structural approaches are forged.

Entelechy’s director, David Slater, recently visited the work at Tower Bridge Nursing home animated by dancer Shakti Gomez and musician Jai Channa:

“The sign on the door says library but in truth there aren’t many books in the room. Not that that matters. It’s full to bursting with a kind of expectancy. I met a woman once in Minneapolis and she said that cities were like libraries and all of the people were the books. She said that it would be a much better place if everyone had time to read each other. And that’s what seems to be happening here as we all sit in a circle around the walls of this small and comfortably crowded space. There is this quality of being together, and anticipation. A quality of listening.

The man sitting beside me leans forward and takes me into his confidence: –

“I’m pretty shy with people but since I’ve been coming here I’ve been building myself up”

The chat and the business of arrival segues into an invitation for each of us to fill the space with a word, a sound, an expression. The opportunity is being created for anything to happen. That is no tyranny of expectation:

“I love you for sentimental reasons” a woman sings.

We start moving gently in our seats:

“I dream of you every morning and think of you every night”

There is an atmosphere of reverie.

“I feel I’m on top of the world.” One woman says. It makes you wonder what the view is like. ”

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Dance artist Yolande Bramble Carter , Tinker bell the rabbit, and Eileen – emerging dancer and resident at Tower Bridge nursing home.