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Landscape Retreats - Marloes - Jeannie
Marloes - November 2004
(Photos: Bruno Guastalla)

St. David's Head - Steve
St. David's Head - group
St. David's Head - Marie-Pierre
St. David's Head - October 2016
(Photos: Ana Barbour/Alan Frank)


"Can we dance a landscape?"
(Min Tanaka)

At Branscombe in Devon (2002 and 2011) and in Pembrokeshire (Marloes, 2004; Bosherston 2007; and most recently in 2016, St. David's Head), Café Reason ran down to the sea to seek out the origins of dance. At the edge of the land, at the interface between sand, rock, sea and sky, we waited for the landscape to enter our bodies.

There were upended sandstone strata, testament to incredible geological forces, limestone cliffs created from the tiny skeletons of innumerable life-forms living millions of years ago, sculpted into caves, performing their own infinitely slow dance of transformation. There was the dance of the sea - the constant pull of the waves and the changing tides in thrall to the lunar cycle. There was the weather - sun and wind and temperature, and how they act upon our frail human bodies and dictate our comfort, our mood, our movement; there was the changing light, the passing of clouds, of sunshine, shadow and the cycle of day and night. There were beaches - great shelves of pebbles, slippery rocks, and sand that shifted with each storm, altering its level by meters each season. At Bosherston there was an inland landscape of water lily pools reaching down to the sea, inhabited by swans and herons, by families of coots and numberless little fish and other fresh-water creatures and plants, while at Marloes, huge flocks of starlings swept in incredible formation across the evening sky - another dance. There was flotsam and jetsam, car-wreck and sea-wrack, shells and driftwood, all moved up and down the shore in mysterious housekeeping, all subject to decay, erosion, sea-change.

On the first day we explored the environment, pausing at various 'stations' along the way. At each spot we waited, and when its energy moved us we allowed ourselves to be moved. Later we returned individually to the place/s that called us, and for many hours worked with the energy of that place and our response in movement or sound. The next day we went back as a group to each person's chosen place and witnessed their dance with the elements.

Jeannie Donald-McKim    

Rock dancing
(Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire)

When, in the end, the sun appears,
I know that winter is beginning.
The way it hangs on the horizon, bloated;
it has sucked all colour from the land.

The day rolls up and, in the space it leaves,
there is a premonition of rain.
Gas flares snatch at the sky
and starlings swirl above the cliffs like smoke.
Even the sea cannot bear this moment
and shrinks away.

I stand in a raw cleft of stone
letting the sun's long fingers brush me,
leave their prints on my eyeball,
strike the damp tinder at my core.
The rocks are intermediaries, sentinels,
Silurian chieftains;
they have squared their black shoulders
tide after tide.
They do not feel our weight, our movement,
hear us exhale.

Smoke rises like a name spoken softly.
The wood is salt-scoured, white as whalebone;
it burns without protest.
Pebbles shift beneath my vertebrae
in small accommodations.
They lie on my belly, press on my eyelids,
pulse in the hollow of my throat.
They rise and fall with my breath,
with the push-pull of the ocean,
wave after wave.
Sometimes, to dance, we need do no more.

Jeannie plays her tin whistle
and a dark head surfaces,
shaped like a question-mark.
We have called the seals to shore.

I have grazed my ankle as a keepsake -
an inter-elemental memento.
Dance and music, skin, breath, and bone,
smoke, water, wood, stone.

Ayala Kingsley   

"… a marvellous, transformational, out-of-time moment."
(Marie-Pierre Leroux, 2016)