Friday, 29 November 2013

Sophie Fitzsimmons and Kitty Hardman review Tuesday night's conversation 'Anatomy Acts'

Sophie Fitzsimmons

This ‘conversation’ event brought up fascinating points that really made me think differently about my medical education and practice.

The first speaker, Dr Gianna Bouchard, an academic who lectures on drama, gave a brief overview of the history of anatomy (specifically dissection) as performance – from the ‘anatomy theatres’ of the Enlightenment to the modern-day spectacles of Gunther Von Hagens. This talk brought me back to my time in the dissection room at the start of medical school – how privileged and excited I felt not only to be carrying on a medical tradition hundreds of years old, but to be allowed to explore this body which had been given for the purpose of my education.

The second speaker, Prof Roger Kneebone, a surgeon, brought up two themes that really captured my interest – firstly, the concept of surgery as a carefully choreographed dance or show, with the patient as both participant and audience (a concept that could indeed be expanded to the whole of medicine); and secondly, of the importance in medicine and surgery of learning through experience. No real body will ever be as perfect and tidy as the glossy images in our textbooks; the cadavers we encounter during dissection (though imperfect, messy and ‘real’) are not the same as a warm, breathing, living person. The practice of medicine is impossible to communicate fully through words and images – the real learning we do through our hands and the co-operation of our patients.

The final speaker, Brian Lobel, a performer and writer inspired by his experiences as a cancer patient, gave an account of his experiences and feelings while going through various medical investigations. It was eye-opening to hear about a patient’s changing view of their body in illness as well as their feelings of passivity while in the hands of the doctors – a viewpoint that is vital for doctors to understand (but one that is sadly rarely discussed) and one I am keen to explore further. 

These absorbing talks brought up many more issues than can fit into one blog post! I’ll just finish by saying I am very much enjoying thinking about medicine and the body from these new angles, and I’m looking forward to continuing this alternative exploration of anatomy during the main event (An Anatomie In Four Quarters) this weekend. 

Kitty Hardman:

Last night’s conversation between Dr Gianna Bouchard (principle lecturer in drama at Anglia Ruskin University), Brian Lobel (play write and performer) and Professor Roger Kneebone (surgeon, clinician and educationalist at Imperial College London) saw a great convergence of medioscientific and artistic minds.

I was fascinated by the points made on focus and perspective. In one regard the patient is the principle focus, as depicted by images of surgeons huddled around the boxed off fleshy square of the patient but in another sense the personality of the patient is completely out of focus; unconscious with no voice. Discussion about the patient, their body; their illness continues without them being involved or even aware. However, as Professor Kneebone pointed out, the advancements in medical technology will see a shift in this perspective. A patient receiving vascular treatment under interventional radiology may not only be awake with a voice but also conscious of the instantaneous benefit that the procedure can bring.  I am fascinated as to how the medical profession will respond to this change in the patient-physician dynamic and am intrigued to see if my future medical education will reflect this.

I can’t wait to see the performance: An Anatomie in Four Quarters to see the coming together of music, performance and art under the spectacle and wonder of the human body.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Suzy Willson and Paul Clark discuss An Anatomie in Four Quarters

 Artistic Directors Suzy Willson and Paul Clark spoke to Nicola Heywood-Thomas on BBC Radio Wales Arts Show about An Anatomie in Four Quarters. 

Click the links below to listen!

The Performance

The Musical Score

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Kira O'Reilly, speaker for Artists Talk Anatomy, gives an insight to her work ahead of the event

Kira O'Reilly

‘We keep our Biologies Intimate.

As an artist I have worked with ideas that concern anatomy on different scales and aspects. Early works, influenced and inspired by the sculptural practices of artists such as Louise Bourgeoise and Eve Hesse, approached the Body and as sculptural material, malleable, plastic and mutable. But bodies are time based, they exist as complex processes in time, space, society and culture, so I made performance art works that explored those subtle and intriguing connections but played out on my own body. I worked with a number of old blood letting practices, but removed the instrument from the medical ‘expert’ and instead held it myself of with a self proxy, as a gesture of autonomy and as an exploration of power relations. ‘Who can do what to who where?’ was a reoccurring and guiding principle in finding and occupying the edges of societal and cultural anatomies.

These works led to the microscopic anatomies of working with cell cultures and tissue engineering within both bioscience contexts and DIY domestic set ups, and included working across kingdoms, with the bodies of some of the other species we use as models, stand ins for the human, in our biomedical and bioscientific places of research. In my case pigs, mice, fruit flies and chicken embryos. With each I engaged in research activities and made art works that tried to position the ethical, aesthetical, affective excesses and complexities of the research. These have mostly been performance art works because the engagement that is sometimes possible in live, actual scenarios seems to allow and facilitate the non conceptual, sensous encounter that is so vital in responding to these scenarios and the wider backdrop of the accelerated techno-scientific contemporary that is altering our notions of body, anatomy and place.

Artists Talk Anatomy takes place on Saturday 30th November, 3pm at the Wales Millennium Centre: Full details can be found here:

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Body Rhythms

How closely linked is the body and the mind? How might movement of the body effect the mental state? 
Former dancer and Touch Trust Session Leader, Yvette Halfhide, reflects on how Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season might enhance and inspire the charity’s creative movement programmes.


The human body is an amazing piece of science and art combined into one.  It has been studied by so many different professionals throughout time and even now after centuries of examination coupled with inventions and discoveries it still continues to marvel and inspire. 


As a former dancer now working with Touch Trust, a charity working with challenging behaviour, profound and complex needs and those individuals on the autistic spectrum.  I was immediately drawn to not only the performances but also the workshops and the chance to explore perhaps some of the ideas that were touched on in making the dance piece.  Touch Trust's founder, Dilys Price OBE was lucky enough to be taught by Rudolph Laban, the father of modern dance. Laban believed that the human body and mind are one and inseparably fused.  Touch Trust's work stems from this belief that by focusing on and treating the person as a whole and not just the sum of parts you are creating a holistically healthier and consequently happier person.


The body has two natural rhythms, the breathing and the heartbeat.  Near the beginning of our Touch Trust sessions we focus on the breathing, encouraging our guests to breathe slowly and deeply.  Deep breathing encourages a person to relax their muscles, focus in on themselves and to become more aware of their own bodies.  During this calmer energy our sessions moves into energy stroking and massage.  For those guests that do tolerate and enjoy touch this basic connection can prove to be so rewarding.  The physical connection again promotes relaxation of muscles (particularly in those guests who have cerebral palsy) as well as heightening awareness of their own bodies, their relationship in the environment and with their partner.  A positive picture of themselves is nurtured through this gentle and peaceful connection.


The other natural rhythm of the body, the heartbeat, is focused on in our 'enlivened section' where we encourage everyone to feel the lift in energy through dancing, smiling, singing and feeling joyful!  For our guests that have limited mobility we encourage partners to tap the rhythm on their guest's body, use materials, ribbons and/or feathers to help lift the energy.    Bodies are encouraged to move freely during this section – to explore and express without any inhibitions. In our Authentic Movement section, we encourage guests to explore one movement, if possible three times, so that their muscles' memories are stimulated.  As one of my dance teachers used to say, “Practice Makes Permanence!”  It is incredible to see how some guests, through repeated actions, physically supported by their partners, are able to perform the same movement by themselves through sheer stimulation of muscle memory. 


Praise is an essential aspect of the Touch Trust session – clapping, naming, smiling, positive body language and a total commitment to the support and encouragement of each of our guests.  Who does not enjoy receiving praise?  It reiterates our purpose of being and in turn encourages us to push ourselves both mentally and physically that little bit further.  Each day we can perhaps discover something new about our own selves, our bodies and our minds if we are just given that little bit of encouragement.


 Exploring new ways to perceive (and appreciate!) the human body can only help to improve our understanding of what perhaps many of us take for granted.  I look forward to discovering how The Anatomy Season can inspire me in my work with Touch Trust!



Friday, 22 November 2013

Exploring the rapport bewteen musicians and the audience

Sinfonia Cymru manager, Sophie Lewis, looks forward to the unique opportunity An Anatomie in Four Quarters affords to find new ways of building a rapport between the audience and orchestral musicians.
How important is the rapport between the audience and orchestral musicians during concert performances?  How do you recognise it and  how do orchestral musicians respond? These are all questions that really  interest our performers and the team at Sinfonia Cymru and this is one of the reasons why Anatomie in Four Quarters is such an interesting project for us right now.


When I experience live performances of drama or dance, I feel very involved in it all.  I might laugh out loud if it is funny or weep if it moves me, sit on the edge of my seat if I am totally engrossed and of course show my appreciation for it at the end with my applause.  Either way, I consider this a two way thing between me and the performers, as if the way I and my fellow audience members react has the power to create a rapport between both parties which can influence the success of that individual live performance and how the performers felt about it. In many ways, I guess it can do just that. Imagine a stand-up comic getting no laughs or a stunning pas de deux igniting no physical response from an audience whatsoever.


How does this work in classical music, other than the applause at the end of a piece and does it matter?  That is what we are trying to find out at Sinfonia Cymru and through our collaboration with Clod Ensemble next week we might get a little closer to finding out some answers.  Breaking down the physical barrier between stage and audience, getting up close to audiences, moving around, and exploring something new like this will give us the opportunity to understand ourselves and our audience more.  So let’s see what happens.

Integrating the arts in medical studies

Third-year medical student Kitty Hardman looks forward to The Anatomy Season and its attempt to bring together the worlds of arts and science to reveal new ideas, perspectives and understanding.

When I began medical school I felt like I had to wave goodbye to the arts to fully embrace the scientific world…This didn’t go well for me and I had continual pangs for my former days as an English literature student and found myself going increasingly to the theatre!

When I heard about Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season I immediately felt compelled to get involved and learn more about this unique season of events that seems to tackle the conception that you must belong to one or the other camp; arts vs science, science vs arts.

The interview on this blog with Suzy Willson, Clod Ensemble’s Co-Artistic Director, really struck a chord with me. She spoke about how medical institutions can sometimes ‘[brutally reduce people’s bodies].’ As a third year student, I am relatively new to the clinical medicine world, but I too have been taken a-back at how pragmatic and removed the profession can be. I’m sure some may respond by saying it is a necessary consequence to ensure non-emotive and clear-cut practice but I think that perhaps a greater respect for the human body as an expressive and emotional form could lead to clinicians who are more understanding of their patients. This may lead to better communication on a small scale, between doctor and patient but could also establish communication between the seemingly two so separate worlds: the arts and the sciences. 

Clod Ensemble already work in association with Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London, delivering courses and workshops for medical students across Barts and The London, King’s and Imperial Colleges. I certainly hope that in attending the forthcoming workshops in Cardiff, and in seeing the performance, An Anatomie in Four Quarters, I will be given ideas and some tools as to how to integrate the arts into my medical training and hopefully future practice.

I’m just really excited to see what The Anatomy Season will bring and grateful that this great event has come to Cardiff!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Performer Laura de Vos gives an insight into rehearsals for An Anatomie in Four Quarters

After two years we are back in the rehearsal studio for An Anatomie in Four Quarter’. 

The first steps in the studio on Monday morning felt like we have never left - same rehearsal space, familiar faces, and drawings and pictures of bodies hanging on the wall. But we can’t ignore that two years is a long time where people, life, way of thinking and daily routines and bodies change.  

In the first days Suzy took the time for us to understand the material again through long improvisations and exercises working on group dynamic.

Today, there are 10 performers on stage of which four are unfamiliar with the piece. Nevertheless, they engage greatly with the work and the new group dynamic refreshes the piece, taking it to a different level. 

An Anatomie in Four Quarters still exists in the same framework, but filled with different stories and knowledge we have now and didn’t before, which will evolve the piece.

In the first week we gained understanding of the structure of ‘An Anatomie’ and the movement vocabulary of each quarter. 

Next week, we will focus on giving the piece more ‘body’!  Deepened improvisations, solos and group work will flesh out the piece. Developed music, new improvisation tasks, different group dynamic and the times we live in now will all have an influence on the performances. 

Not forgetting Cardiff itself, which will play a major part in the performances – a different country, theater, culture and language. 

Laura de Vos

Laura trained in Holland but lived in London for 3 years where she worked as a freelance dancer, recently she moved back to Holland. 

She has worked with choreographers such as Hofesh Shechter, Fernando Hernando Magadan and Akram Khan for the Olympic Opening ceremony in 2012. Laura joined Clod Ensemble in 2011. 

She did her Master of Art at the London Contemporary Dance School and wrote her dissertation about the performance of Clod Ensemble; An Anatomie in Four Quarters. 

Besides performing she enjoys teaching dance, choreographing and exploring various facets in the arts. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

How Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season might benefit medical students


Final year medical student, Sophie Fitzsimmons, looks forward to Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season and the new perspectives it will bring to her medical training.

I'm Sophie, a final year medical student at Cardiff University, and I'm looking forward immensely to Clod Ensemble and Wales Millennium Centre’s Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season here in Cardiff. There's a wonderfully broad range of events, bringing together some very diverse fields, and I think they will give an invaluable new perspective on my medical training.


A great example of this merging of fields is the Inside Information workshop with Prof Judith Hall, Dr Tracey Wilkinson and WNO singer Ros Evans. As a musician myself, I have to be particularly aware of my own body while performing, so I'm excited about learning about the anatomy of the human voice and seeing the application of anatomy to clinical situations - improving my anatomical knowledge, clinical skills and musical performance all in one evening!


In more broad terms, I hope these workshops, conversations and performances will help me improve my appreciation of the body from the two opposing viewpoints necessary in the practice of medicine. On one hand, as medical students, we learn to understand the body from a detached, anatomical point of view - the name and course of every muscle, bone and nerve, what is 'normal' for form, posture, and gait - so we can detect problems at a glance. This structured, clinical appraisal also allows us to depersonalise the body during those most invasive of medical acts, dissection and surgery.


On the other hand, we must also learn to appreciate the body as something deeply personal and private. During my recent placement in a GP surgery, I saw how awareness of my own and my patients' body language is a skill vital to successful doctor-patient communication.  I also learned how wonderful and important the 'laying on of hands' is. Patients who had only just met me would trust me with their bodies, and merely by examining them and finding no problems I was able to allay their fears and anxieties. We must earn that trust by learning to respect the human body and people's connection with it, as well as knowing its intricacies from an anatomical perspective. Even if must detach ourselves sometimes, we should always make sure we are able to re-personalise the body.


The use of the arts during the training of medical students - whether with literature, film, music, dance, the visual arts - is a technique that is sadly under-used in the UK. Not only is it an ideal way to communicate the human experience (helping us to understand both our patients and our response to them), but it is also a way to enrich us students as human beings and make us more approachable in the clinical environment - not just fact machines. I am hopeful that having The Anatomy Season here in Cardiff will stimulate further events exploring the relationship between art and medicine in the city and at the medical school.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Introducing our Anatomy Through Movement workshop leader Leon Baugh.

We are very excited to have Leon delivering this workshop, as part of The Anatomy Season.

Leon trained at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where he was awarded the Principals Award for Outstanding Achievement in Performance.

As a dancer he toured internationally with Frantic Assembly, Jasmin Vardimon, Stan Won't Dance and most recently Hofesh Shechter.

Choreography credits for theatre include ‘Suckerpunch’ at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court for which he won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer and ‘Wild Swans’ at the Young Vic. For Opera, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House.

He is also training to be an Osteopath.

Workshop details:
Anatomy Through Movement
Sat 7 Dec | 10am – 5pm | NDCWales Dance House

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Founding Vision

Conrad Lynch, Producer for The Ambassador Theatre Group, previously Artistic Director at the Wales Millennium Centre until Summer 2013, discusses his enthusiasm for bringing Performing Medicine: The Anatomy Season to Wales Millennium Centre.

I first saw the Clod Ensemble in 2003 in Edinburgh with their piece GREED a perfectly formed, fun, witty and magical show which takes its inspiration from the silent melodrama of 1920's cinema and the slapstick of Keaton and Chaplin.

Since then I’ve kept my eye on their work and when I went to see AN ANATOMIE IN FOUR QUARTERS at Sadler’s Wells I instantly knew that the show had to come to the Centre. It was only when Suzy (Clod’s Artistic Director) came for a site visit did our vision blossom, she was blown away by the beauty and grandeur of the building and we both felt that we had to not just present the ‘show’ but bring the Performing Medicine season of workshops and events to Wales.

It is thrilling that the project is about to happen and at the end of this month audiences and participants will experience this company’s great work – I can’t wait!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Clod Ensemble's Co-Artistic Director and Composer discusses the score of An Anatomie in Four Quarters

Clod Ensemble's Co-Artistic Director Paul Clark, Composer for An Anatomie in Four Quarters, discusses the performance's score and the themes the music explores.

There’s a lot of different ways of looking at An Anatomie in Four Quarters – as an anatomy of a theatre, as an examination of how we look at the body and how we look at each other. Another way is as a  kind of history of medicine – each quarter of the piece loosely reflects an era of cultural history.

I used this last theme as a way of structuring the score for the piece – each quarter has a different group of musicians and uses radically different compositional styles and techniques, although they actually share a lot of melodic material.

The first quarter is rooted in a pre-scientific world and my score, whilst it employs a lot of very contemporary computer techniques, is rooted in early music – it is heavily rhythmic and uses a lot of drones. I managed to fulfil an old ambition of writing something for an ancient Bulgarian bagpipe, here played by Galen Nikolov, as well as a huge range of percussion.

The second quarter is radically different and plunges itself into the enlightment – the music is heavily rule bound (there are two fugues) and inspired by baroque music. In Cardiff it will be played by string players from Sinfonia Cymru.

The third quarter takes us into the 19th and 20th century. Things get a lot more psychological and the music gets more emotionally raw – we have Melanie Pappenheim singing a solo song live and, later, the recorded voice of Natalie Raybould shrieking over the sound of live electric bass and drums, here played by Clod regular James Keane and brilliant young drummer Vanessa Domonique.

The forth and final section is the hardest to describe – it is takes us right up to the present and perhaps into the future.  I’d only be guessing what music will sound like in the future (!) but in our piece the music has absorbed all of the previous themes and techniques and  spun a new musical fabric out of them.

Listen to a sample of the score on the An Anatomie trailer