Écriture Corporelle. A Future In Dance Poetry With Helen Calcutt

Here at House Of Coco we love to learn about new movements. One such happening that’s caught our attention comes from published Poet and successful Dancer Helen Calcutt.

Écriture corporelle ‘a bodily writing’ combines two of Helens biggest passions, writing and dancing. The project itself is, to Helen, as precious as giving life.

We’re looking forward to seeing how this develops and as it spreads its wings nationally, we can’t wait to get involved and witness a future in dance poetry with our very eyes.

We caught up with Helen to dive into the mind of someone who has a dream, turns it into an idea and manifests it in success.

For events and project info click here.


Tell us about yourself in a few sentences.

I’m a poet, dance artist and journalist. Dance is my first love, writing is my obsession. I have a 7 month old baby daughter, so my artistic attentions have been challenged somewhat. But she’s like Ariel. She’s just there in the corner of the room, constantly glittering and evolving. She inspires so much…

What is the new project and who is involved?

Écriture corporelle – ‘a bodily writing’ focuses its energies on the physicality of words, and the potential dialogue between language and contemporary dance.

There are several spheres of exploration, such as rhythm, contact, shape, translation and transposing of energies. It started off small, trying out ideas alone in the studio and at home. But the launch at The Southbank Centre & Poetry International made a bit of an explosion, creatively and in a social sense.

I took a lot of way from that experience, and since everything has expanded. I’m now working alongside choreographer Marie-lou (Marie Louise Crawley) and poet Hayley Frances, and already there’s a serious shift in dynamic – which is a good thing.

How did it come about and what are its aims?

The need to bring poetry and dance together has been in my system for a while. But this particular idea came about after meeting Marielou at the Four Squares dance festival last year. I mentioned my ideas on doing something with language and movement, and she quoted Stéphane Mallarmé, where he speaks of dancing as ‘une ecriture corporelle’, corporeal language that is never actually written. The ‘dancers text is thus’ a poem that is never inscribed. For him the dancer was a metaphorical figure, and in dancing she writes.

The aims? Firstly to explore this idea fully, both physically and intellectually, bringing everything we have from the body and the mind, and in communicating, create a sort of interconnected sound map of ideas and directions. Secondly, to connect with it individually – find ways of identifying with it on a mythic and personal level. Thirdly, to connect with whatever poetry or text we choose and transpose this into movement.

I hesitate to use the word translate, because from my experience (though limited) there is no actual translation going on. It’s more about feeling, and understanding. Hearing the poem and then answering to it in series of echo-waves through the body.

There are two ways of looking at it, essentially. The first, to choreograph and design a series of professionally executed movements from what is read. The second, to take the poem in full, digest it, and let whatever regurgitates be a stamp on the movement.

With this project I would prefer to put my energies into the second, as a process that is. It’s an earthy subject, and needs to be handled as such. If we get this right, then we and anyone else we involve in workshops or performances, can stride with the knowledge that they’ve encountered something that goes deeper than simply engaging with a task and completing it, or enjoying something that looks good. It can speak to that integral animal part of us, and enrich it.

Why does it mean so much to you?

It combines my twin loves – dance and poetry. I’m a better writer when I dance, and a better dancer when I come away and write. They’re separate, but channelled from the same place. Both are electric, both are sublime. I can’t do one and not to the other, or serious problems occur.

So the fact that I’ve touched on something that allows the two to intermingle is wonderful. It’s also brought me closer to the dancing world. I shut it out for a long time. But it feels good to be back.

What’s in the future for you and the project?

We’re in the process of planning a series of touring workshops.

We’ll present in Birmingham, London, Leeds, Edinburgh, York, and take it to festivals such as Shambala, Glastonbury, Poetry Int, anjd Womad.

It’s a sacred project, to me anyway, but it’s also something we want to share. Devising the workshops will bring us closer to the subject, and delivering them evenmoreso.

From here there are plans to devise a 2015 touring performance – a three piece, so very intimate in the sense that the outcome will a direct thread to our emotive forces.

But it’ll be explosive all the same, combining dance, theatre, language and live music, perhaps. I can’t divulge too many details, but we’ll keep everyone up to date.

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