Georgia Simms – Invisible Hands – Friday, May 31 at 5 PM

Dance choreography and performance by GEORGIA SIMMS
in creative collaboration with context artist TANYA WILLIAMS
featuring dancers LISA BUSH and ANDREA LAMARRE
and spoken word artist KEVIN SUTTON
A shared reflection will be facilitated by DR. ERIN NELSON

What could transition in local democratic culture look like?

Borrowing the metaphor used in traditional economic theory, this performance explores the many unseen but influential forces that govern our collective decision-making and actions. Three dancers and a spoken word artist investigate a shift from persistent patterns of conflict and blame to ways of being that can truly hold complexity and foster empathy and understanding. The process has been guided by two overarching questions: How can we move past entrenched beliefs and assumptions about the way things are? How can we improve the quality of relationships that exist between people who engage in making challenging decisions?

The inspiration for this project began with ideas of transition, motivated by the Guelph-Wellington Rural-Urban Program (GWRUP), an urban research initiative by Musagetes and Cohabitation Strategies aimed at revealing what is in transition in Guelph. The research methodology was based on community participation and conversation, and engaged residents from various neighbourhoods and backgrounds. An emergent theme in these dialogues was the current state of local democracy and the shared desire to create thriving systems for citizen participation in decision-making to refresh those that feel stuck, adversarial and reactive.

Led by choreographer Georgia Simms, this group of artists has been kinesthetically exploring experiences ranging from conflict, blame, avoidance and defensiveness to active communication, empathy, opening and an embracing of change. The movement vocabulary is informed by gestures and metaphors collected during the GWRUP conversations. A further intention behind this project is the investigation of the idea of “policy theatre”.

In other words, rather than having a group of people who are wrestling with the challenges of decision-making sitting around table, can you instead have them sit together as an audience to share in a theatrical experience, and let that experience launch ideas and discussions in new, unexpected directions? Can engagement in decision-making processes be more attractive, fun and generative? And can creative processes actually help to develop skills needed for civic literacy? A unique feature of this project is the connection with the University of Guelph’s Research Shop/Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES), linking artistic initiatives in the community with cutting edge qualitative research, and refining techniques for mobilizing knowledge through embodied interaction, creative exchange and performance. The audience will be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity for shared reflection, comments and questions following the performance, facilitated by ICES Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Erin Nelson.