A brief description and outcome of the activities under taken within this Project follows, with a fuller account given in the main report only available in hard copy.
Extant formally began the Stage Language Laboratory research project in October 1997, after raising sponsorship from six separate funding bodies. The next three months were dedicated to planning the Project's practical content and structure for the year ahead.
Initially six one day workshops were held, with the aim that the group would work exclusively together, forming an identity through the sharing of their experiences of visual impairment and exploring basic drama and movement exercises.
The outcome of this period was an awareness of the immensity of the Project, the group creatively drifting and the need to fix a simple focus to establish a bearing for practical work. Also the development of irreconcilable tensions within the group could not be ignored and resulted in the loss of two members from the Project.
An alteration in the original programme was made and the group attempted to resolve its creative issues during a five-day residency in the Wye Valley.
The outcome was a honing and refinement of a core hypothesis, leading to a keen development of group movement strategies that practically explored this. Additionally Extant jelled as a group, a feeling that lasted throughout the rest of the project.
The practical discoveries of the 'Bonding' period were further explored and developed. This happened in workshop exchanges with out side practitioners of other art forms. The aim was to assess if input from certain disciplines could expand and solidify the group's ideas. The areas of artistic practice were, Dance, Sound, Eurhythmy and Physical Theatre. Film was added mid way through the Project.
Katrin Margowitz ran a workshop based on the teachings of the Indian Kathakali dance, which aimed to enable the performer to access a physicality entirelydrawn from their own impulses, shapes and rhythm.
The outcome was a recognition of the particular benefits of Feldekreis warm-up exercises. Also that an inherent inability to move vigorously together as a group might be better served by Contact Improvisation.
Roland Quinell introduced the LABAN analysis of dynamic movement in weight, space, time and flow. The aim was to find out about perception of space, how to negotiate it, and an idea of how image appeared within it.
The outcome was learning the basics of a technical approach to movement. This could be applied to the personal patterns of moving, identified during the second bonding phase.
Guy Evans facilitated the experimentation with specific items of sound technology. This enabled Extant to use them and extend the boundaries of spatial awareness.
An out of focus shot showing head and shoulders The outcome was that sound beam offered an innovative guiding tool, object indicator and devise for creating an environmental aesthetic akin to the visual impaired persons experience.
Lindsey Butcher lead the group through a series of counter balance, acro balance and harness work that aimed to build trust in taking the body further than it's ordinary limits.
The outcome was that fears were challenged and that adventurous movement and postures were achieved that had particular reference to a simple yet dynamic expression for visually impaired performers.
Extant invited Raina Haig, a visually impaired film maker, to video material at both Guy and Lindsey's workshops.
The outcome was that a short video was produced, highlighting some aspects of this project. Also a discussion was held about the possibility of film acting as a creative interpretation of visual impairment, and the ethical and practical issues of using the medium.
With extra funding, Extant expanded the Project for one weekend. A director and dancer, both visually impaired, were invited to work with the group.
The outcome was an exchange of work practice and ideas. Certain relevant theatrical styles were focused on, such as theatre of the Grotesque and 'Description' Theatre.
Smadar Bunzel lead a four day residency to explore if the basic philosophy of Eurhythmy, i.e. working with sound, movement, rhythm, gesture and the spaces in-between people, could assist the visually impaired performer.
The outcome was that in the very short time available to discern the complex and spiritual nature of Eurhythmy, Extant did gather some significant elements, especially for grounding the performer's walk and for intuitively moving together in space.
Katherine Hunter joined Extant in a workshop that aimed to use certain physical Theatre approaches to aid the visual impaired performer in a more energetic and spatially focused application of the stage area.
The outcome was pinpointing and permitting a heightened theatricality that issued from the need to move in particular ways, and also the practical implementation of ideas around Description Theatre.
In these laboratory experiments, syntax from different performance languages were adapted and fused. Through this alchemic process we have attempted to create a new language for the blind performer. Whether or not the brewing mixture has gelled into a solid enough compound to allow performers to communicate
with one another, and to their audience, only the testing ground of a stage production will reveal.
Extant feels that the babbling of the raw elements so far, with the right development, honing and fusion, can articulate into a new compound language to use as a powerful communicating device for the visually impaired person in performance.
A video of work carried out in The Stage Language Laboratory has been produced alongside this report.