Garden State (8 – 11 June) is an art installation made up of hundreds of houseplants lent by local residents taking place at Midlands Arts Centre as part of BE FESTIVAL. The garden hosts a number of workshops and performances, including 4 Legs Good from Claire Cunningham. We caught up with Claire about the performance
Tell us what your show is about
This performance, 4 Legs Good, is part lecture part demonstration of my specific dance technique that I have created working with my crutches, sharing the history of that – what influences I had – and sharing how my perspective as an artist is shaped by my crutches and the lived experience of disability. It touches on questions of what we may be considering is “dance technique”, and aesthetics and shares broader experiences of how an artistic practice grows over time.
It’s described as a ‘lecture performance’, how much is lecture and how much is performance?
Well…it’s all performance as far as I’m concerned! Even the lecture part, but if you mean moving around etc, there’s more talking than moving I won’t lie about that. This show is me talking and sharing about the evolution of my dance technique and aesthetic, along with sharing images and photos, mixed with some sections where I physically demonstrate the concepts.
You’re performing inside the art installation Garden State, do you think performing among hundreds of plants gives your show a different perspective or mood?
I’m really looking forward to this! It is incredibly pertinent to the direction that my work is going in and what I talk about in the performance to be in among living “natural” plant life,I’m really interested to see what it brings to the performance and what it adds to the framing of the ideas I’m sharing.
Are you a gardener? Do you have a favourite houseplant?
Yes! I am a new gardener! I just moved into a new home with a garden 6 months before the first lockdown and I have been revelling in creating a garden. I don’t feel very knowledgeable, but my garden and being out in it makes me very happy. I do also now have houseplants – that only started really with the first lockdown. Until 2020 my working life really meant I was travelling a huge portion of the year and not home often so houseplants were really not an option because they had no-one to look after them. With the pandemic I was home for almost 18months and so got myself houseplants which I’m loving, and in my new home I have lovely neighbours for the first time who look after them when I go away now. My favourite houseplant is a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) I love the colours of it and its grown so much it makes me hope it feels quite happy. When I got it I had no idea it changed its leaf positions between night and day. I only realised after a year! It’s amazing – you really know it’s alive.
What do you want audiences to take from your show?
A really important realisation as a theatre maker for me was that you cannot define what people will take from your work – everyone meets it from a different lived experience and different things will resonate with each individual. My hope is that people feel that they had a comfortable and engaging evening. Perhaps they might learn and see some things that make them think about dance, and disability, in some new ways.
What’s next for you?
I go with this same performance to Cyprus and also do some teaching with dance students there, and then will be collaborating again with my friend and colleague Jess Curtis to perform our duet; “The Way You Look (at me) Tonight” again in Germany – I’m looking forward to that so much, it’s been so long since we’ve seen each or danced with each other. This year is made up of moving between these 2 shows – the lecture demo I will share in Birmingham and the duet, while quietly thinking about what the next work may be.
4 Legs Good is at BE Festival macbirmingham.co.uk/event/be-festival-garden-state-4-legs-good-presented-by-claire-cunningham