A choreographic career
Siobhan Davies believes in dance. She believes that it is an art in its own right, one that is every bit as articulate, expressive and productive as music, or drama, or visual art. She believes that dance can be as intellectual as it is sensual, that it can be both technical and emotional, metaphorical as well as immediate.
That conviction is the one constant in a career that has been as varied as it has been long and lauded. It began in 1967: Davies, an art student, discovered a new world when she began to take classes with Contemporary Dance Group, founded the same year and soon to become London Contemporary Dance Theatre. By 1969 she was already performing with the company; by 1972 she was choreographing for them. In 1974 she was appointed Associate Choreographer; in 1983, Resident Choreographer.
Alongside her work with LCDT, Davies also worked more experimentally in the independent sector, first as a dancer with Richard Alston and Dancers, then as artistic director of Siobhan Davies and Dancers, which she founded in 1981. The following year, she joined forces with Richard Alston and Ian Spink to form Second Stride, one of the most influential independent dance companies of the 1980s.
From the beginning, Davies sought to explore and to exploit the possibilities of her medium, dance itself. Her work was less theatrical than most of LCDT's pieces, less musical than Alston's, less narrative than Spink's. Her main early influence was American abstractionist Merce Cunningham, but she really began to forge her own path in Sphinx (1977). Here she began from a “blank slate”, consciously stopping herself from thinking of style, technique or meanings; her resulting solo seemed to emerge organically from inside her own body. Another landmark was Plain Song (1981), in which she sought to build and sustain an intricate composition from its own dance phrases.
In 1987, Davies once again needed to wipe the slate. She left LCDT, left Second Stride, and left the country, taking a year's sabbatical in America on a Fulbright Arts Fellowship. On her return, she joined Rambert Dance Company as Associate Choreographer (until 1992) and founded the Siobhan Davies Dance Company. Her first works in 1988 displayed a renewed vitality: the liquid energies of White Man Sleeps (SDDC) and Embarque (Rambert) showed a new-found freedom, while Wyoming (SDDC) explored scale and setting, and the interplay between inner and outer worlds.
For the next decade, Davies forged ahead. In Bank she discovered rhythmic variety, in Wild Translations she deliberately fractured any sense of confluence or unity. In Wanting to Tell Stories she created an emotive drama entirely through movement and framing, and in Different Trains and Make-Make she honed the expressiveness of gestures and small details. During this time she garnered a string of awards, had several pieces televised, and received commissions from English National Ballet and The Royal Ballet to make works for the opera-house stage, and from Artangel for the Atlantis Gallery in east London.
But by 2000 Davies was again looking to shift the ground beneath her feet, and she channelled her energies in two new directions. First, she turned away from the established theatre circuit: pieces such as Plants and Ghosts and Bird Song were made for non-proscenium spaces - studios, galleries, even an aircraft hangar. This gave new artistic challenges too: presenting work to be seen from different angles, or with moving rather than seated audiences. Especially in the smaller studio settings, Davies now concentrated on using rigorous compositional devices to give shape to “plain” movement - the choreographic equivalent of making poems with complex forms and simple words. And with The Collection she became both part choreographer, part curator, presenting dance as one “exhibit” within a visual arts setting.
Davies's other energies went towards fighting to establish a permanent home for her company - a goal she finally achieved in 2006 when she opened the RIBA award-winning Siobhan Davies Studios in South London. More than just a base for her company, the building represents Davies' vision of dance - as a discipline, as a performing art, and as a wellspring for ideas and creativity. Just as Davies has always worked collaboratively with composers, designers and dancers in the belief that this enriches dance more than she could on her own, so her new studios also house other arts organisations, and Davies has programmed interdisciplinary seminars, extended her creative and participatory projects, and hosted exhibitions. Siobhan Davies Studios remains true to Davies' founding belief in dance itself: here, she places her work as a vital force within the larger field of dance, and dance as a vital force within the larger fields of arts and culture.
All works are for London Contemporary Dance Theatre unless otherwise attributed.
- Relay (1972)
- Pilot (1974)
- The Calm (1974)
- Diary (1975)
- Step at a Time (1976)
- Nightwatch (1977)
- Sphinx (1977)
- Then You Can Only Sing (1978)
- Celebration (1979, Ballet Rambert)
- Ley Line (1979)
- Something to Tell (1980)
- Recall (1980)
- If My Complaints Could Passions Move (1980, London Contemporary Dance School)
- Plain Song (1981, Siobhan Davies and Dancers)
- Standing Waves (1981, Siobhan Davies and Dancers)
- Free Setting (1981)
- Mazurka Elegiaca (1982, Linda Gibbs)
- Rushes (1982, Second Stride)
- Carnival (1982, Second Stride)
- The Dancing Department (1983)
- Minor Characters (1983, Second Stride)
- New Galileo (1984)
- Silent Partners (1984)
- Bridge the Distance (1985)
- The School for Lovers Danced (1985, Second Stride)
- The Run to Earth (1986)
- And do they do (1986)
- Red Steps (1987)
All works are for Siobhan Davies Dance Company unless otherwise attributed.
- Embarque (1988, Rambert Dance Company)
- White Man Sleeps (1988)
- Wyoming (1988)
- Sounding (1989, Rambert Dance Company)
- Cover Him With Grass (1989)
- Drawn Breath (1989)
- Signature (1990, Rambert Dance Company)
- Dancing Ledge (1990, English National Ballet)
- Different Trains (1990)
- Arctic Heart (1991)
- Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (1992, Rambert Dance Company)
- White Bird Featherless (1992)
- Make-Make (1992)
- Wanting to Tell Stories (1993)
- Between the National and the Bristol (1994, CandoCo)
- The Glass Blew In (1994)
- Wild Translations (1995)
- The Art of Touch (1995)
- Trespass (1996)
- Affections (1996)
- Bank (1997)
- Eighty-Eight (1998)
- Wild Air (1999)
- Thirteen Different Keys (1999)
- A Stranger's Taste (1999, The Royal Ballet)
- Of oil and water (2000)
- Faun (2002, David Hughes)
- Plants and Ghosts (2002)
- Bird Song (2004)
- In Plain Clothes (2006)
- Endangered Species (2007, Cape Farewell)
- Two Quartets (2007)
- Minutes for The Collection (2009)
- A Series of Appointments for ROTOR (2010)
- To hand (2011)