Reflections from Mothers and Daughters: Painting the Canvas Together

Ayesha and her daughter Naya (6years) and Tonya and her daughters Dara (9years) and Mira (6years) have recently come to the end of the first phase of ‘Painting the Canvas’, a project, in its initial stages, developed via a Zoom collaboration with Maria Svensson. They concluded the 4 week intensive research period with a performance-in-progress at Echo Echo’s Studios for a small ‘live’ audience of family and friends, and a wider zoom audience.

We got a chance to chat to the children and find out more about the project:

“It’s all about painting with parts of your body as if they are tips of a paintbrush, with different colours” exclaims Dara. Naya nods “Yes! we are painting the space with different body parts”

“In the beginning we were in a circle and one person was dancing with no crayons, just painting the canvas and then passing the ‘Hey’ to the next person” says Mira. Dara continues “Basically just dancing across the circle, but when you are dancing you imagine that you are drawing something in the air, but not like a house or anything, more squiggles, imagining that every part of your body is leaving a trace.”

“You can dance with your hands, you can dance with your feet, you can dance with your head, or even your bum, with your eyes and your nose, your mouth and your tongue – anything!” Laughs Naya.

How does it make you feel?

“Excited!” Naya shouts.

“A bit like we are in a different world, a colouring world, an imaginative, calm but exciting world” says Mira.

“Like you are drawing your own world in your own little place” says Dara “In your own little gingerbread house” adds Naya.

How do you think the piece changed over time?

“Now we are actually drawing whilst dancing, your limbs are dancing and you have a crayon in one hand and when you go down low, it makes a mark on the canvas” says Dara “Its like click and then you know it, you know everything” says Mira. “If you do a swirly thing, you could turn it into a snail or a firework!” exclaims Naya.

What did you think about the process and all the technicalities of making a piece?

“I was quite surprised at how many changes were made. We’d decided something and then it was like, actually this part should be completely different and I was like …ok…..we’ve only got a day left!” Says Dara.

“and its going to be really weird if you just get used to one bit, and then it gets changed into a completely different thing!” adds Mira.

What is it like working with your Mums?

“I think we are really lucky to be able to work with our Mums” says Dara “Very lucky” adds Naya “as most people don’t even get to work with their Mums” exclaims Mira.

How has it been working on Zoom with Maria ?

“Great!” They all shout

Dara continues “Maria is a very good watcher and listener, she is good at understanding the movement and emotions that people put into movement”

How are you feeling about showing your work to a few people?

“Excited and nervous all jumbled up” says Mira.

“I always like to have little performances that i’m in, I love doing performances it feels really great” Dara smiles.

”I think I feel nervous and a little bit excited” adds Naya.

Now we turn to the Mums!

We asked Ayesha to tell us her interpretation of the piece

“The idea is that the mover is leaving a trace, painting the space with movement whilst thinking about colours and the energies and textures the colours can have.”

What has it been like working with your daughters in this professional capacity?

“This project has been a gift and a surprise coming out of lockdown. It’s been great but also very challenging as you play the part of mum, instructor and colleague. Because of how we make work, the girls have been very much part of the creative process. They are holding the work, alongside us.” says Ayesha.

Tonya added “I realised that my mind goes into two different states. On one level I am thinking ‘What can we try? how should we play – what can we discover?’ – This is the playful experimental part of the process. The other side of me is like the mother ‘How do I keep their focus? are they in a bad mood today? are they hungry?’ It is double the mental work! But because we are their parents I feel like we can ask for more things, be more direct with them as we know each other so well – and they know the way Echo Echo works, so in that way they are quite advanced. On the first day I was quite nervous as I thought they would think – oh it’s just Mummy, and they wouldn’t play ball, but instead they were really, really on it! – so I was very impressed. I think because it is two adults leading them, myself and Ayesha, it gives them the feel that this is not just like being at home with mummy – there is another person to help bring their focus about.”

We asked Ayesha what she felt about working virtually with Maria?

“I kind of felt, well at least we have zoom!! It would have been much better if Maria had been in the space with us, but it was a way of her being able to observe, check in, talk to us. We have a really good working relationship with Maria, we were able to bounce backwards and forwards workshopping ideas with not too much bother – we are all on the same wave length.”

What are your thoughts about the process over time?

“We had to go through different phases of the project. Firstly the practicalities and researching the right materials to use, in terms of the canvas and the paint and cleaning products. This was a bit tedious for the kids – they kept asking ‘when are we going to dance?'” laughs Ayesha “We came across many problems getting the right materials, we still need to do a lot of research in this area” Tonya added.

“Then we got the kids into the studio and we had to remind them of the basics like movement, phrasing, clarity, focus and how we connect through movement. They hadn’t been in the studio or in a kids class for 18 months and this is a long time especially for someone who is 6 years old! But they remembered so quickly – you just had to remind them once and they were alright. So we initially tried lots of ideas and then returned to a few of them. They don’t have any issues making sense of movement. They are just so quick and natural which is great.” Tonya said.

“We now have a loose structure for the piece – but that’s far from the final version. We have many, many elements that we would like to bring into it. For example audience participation and engagement. There are different possibilities here; it could become a piece that the audience are invited into – a bit like the work of Tanzfuchs or perhaps we could run family workshops associated with the performance” says Ayesha “It has been 4 weeks altogether now adds Tonya “but it feels like we have just covered one part of the process. We have many more ideas to work on – like we want to bring a musician on board, but again we will have to look into this at another time.”

The girls are planning to meet up with Maria in ‘real time’ for the next phase of the project in October and there has been some talk of performances for primary school children and within some theatre settings. Watch this Space for the next instalment.

To read more about earlier stages of piece and the work of Maria Svensson go to our earlier blog at the following link:

Click Here

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