The Walking Project. Jo Parkes

A series of solo and tandem walks in which the rhythm of walking supports the rhythm of thinking about participatory dance practice.

As a mid-career artist in participatory dance in my late 40s, I look back at more than two decades of co-creating dance projects with different communities of people and forward to (hopefully) almost as many working years in front of me. In summer 2020, I co-created “The Walking Project,” a collection of tandem walks creating a space for people to reflect upon their experiences of lockdown and activate hopeful energy. Building upon this practice, for my DIS-TANZ-SOLO project, I proposed and completed a series of reflection walks for myself.

“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.”

Rebecca Solnit

I am a mid-career artist from a working-class background, with children. My working life has thus been categorised by a need to produce to earn money. The time to draw back, reflect and consider has been somewhat elusive. After almost 20 years of working from project to project, building and sustaining structures in which hundreds of other artists have worked and advocating for the field of participatory dance, I chose to create myself a space to critically reflect upon my work as a way to step towards the next phase of my working life.

I completed three cycles of reflection. Each walking cycle had the following phases: time to read, walking practice (solo or tandem), time to write.

Cycle 1: Months 1 and 2
Critical reflection upon my practise – Where have I walked? How have I walked?
Examining the co-creative relationship; decolonising my practise and practising critical whiteness; reflecting upon the intersection of my artistic practice, curation, activism, organising and therapeutic approaches.

Cycle 2: Month 3
Self care and regeneration – How to nurture my walking body?
Coping with the rigours of holding participative projects with heterogeneous groups; caretaking my ageing female body; working through the menopause; balancing responsibilities.

Cycle 3: Month 4
Walking towards…?
What does this mean for the future?

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